Next Steps

Whether we realize it or not, spiritual warfare is all around us. If you choose not to engage in it, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt. It simply means you’re undefended (click here for more info on spiritual warfare). There are three levels of spiritual warfare that you need to engage in on a daily basis:

Personal – You need to saturate your mind with truth (belt of truth). You need to live right (breastplate of righteousness). You need to wield the word of God (sword of the Spirit). When you engage in spiritual warfare, you do so to protect yourself first and foremost. But this is only the first level of spiritual warfare.

Defensive – You have a calling not just to protect yourself but those you love. You have a responsibility to defend your family from spiritual attacks. How do you do that? By engaging in spiritual warfare. When you pray continually for them, you cover them in armor. When you express and live out your faith in front of them, your shield of faith begins to cover them as well.

Offensive – Spiritual warfare is not just a defensive game. It’s offense as well. As believers we have the high ground, and we’re called to take ground from the enemy. We’re called to engage in spiritual warfare on behalf of those who don’t yet know God. We’re called to do spiritual warfare for the lost. When you walk in the Spirit, you’re putting on the shoes of readiness and allowing the Spirit to direct your steps to the daily conversations you need to have. When you invite others to church, to community, you’re inviting them to the safety and protection of the herd.

Christians are called to engage in spiritual warfare on three levels: personal, defensive, and offensive. Let’s get to it!

Our prayers tend to always finish the same: In Jesus’ name, amen. But what does it actually mean to pray in Jesus’ name? That doesn’t mean if we use the phrase “in Jesus’ name” as some type of magic spell God has to give us what we ask for. To pray in Jesus’ name means to pray in his character. To pray for what Jesus would pray for. To be passionate and ask for the things Jesus is passionate about. Here are three surefire things you can ask for that are guaranteed to be in Jesus’ name:

1. Pray for something that brings God glory and advances His KingdomFor most of us this will eliminate 85% of our prayers. For too many of us (myself included) our default mode of prayer is to pray for something that brings us glory and advances our kingdom. We know what we want, we just need God to give it to us, so we bring our plans, our desires, our will to God and ask Him to bless it in Jesus’ name. But when Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the Lord’s prayer, what are we supposed to say to God? “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).

2. Pray for something that loves and blesses others. A lot of times, we pray for things that will hurt others. When we harbor bitterness, envy or unforgiveness in our hearts, we ask God for things that will hurt others or we’ll ask for things that will benefit us at the expense of others. If one of my children hurts their sibling and the offended sibling asks me to punish and inflict pain on the instigating child, it puts me in a tough spot. Sure they may be legitimately in the wrong, but both kids, the hurt and the hurt-er are children I love. That’s why Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). If you want to pray in Jesus’ name, pray that God would give you an opportunity to love and bless someone today, not harm them.

3. Pray for something that reaches the lost, as opposed to something that entertains the already found. We as Christians are really bad about this. If we’re not careful, our collective prayers will begin to sound like we want God to neglect the lost and put all of his attention on the already found. But as a parent you realize it doesn’t work like that. If you’ve ever lost a child (and I have, by the way, for fifteen agonizing minutes), you become laser-focused on what is lost. You love the kids that are already found, but your eyes are searching for the child that is lost. Go read Luke 15 and you’ll see the heart and the passion of our Heavenly Father: on those that are lost. If you want your heart and passion to begin to line up with God’s heart and passion, begin to pray prayers focused on reaching the lost.

My wife and I have the privilege of leading a marriage enrichment group with over 20 couples involved utilizing the Deep Love Marriage Assessment. It’s been a great time of reconnecting and strengthening between spouses. Recently we had the “sex talk,” which is always a bit awkward, even among a bunch of married people! One of the exercises we did was to have them write (anonymously) any questions they had and I answered them the best that I could. Here are some of their questions, and my answers:

1. What does I have a headache mean? Tonight is not your night :).

2. Is it okay to cry afterwards? Possibly, if it’s tears of joy. If it’s an overwhelming feeling of sadness, that’s an indication of something deeper going on, either a dysfunctional way your spouse is approaching sex, or lingering grief associated with past sexual trauma (which is common).

3. Is it normal to be still be shy about sex even after years of marriage? My answer was the same as number two. Sex between spouses should be celebrated. Shyness might indicate past sexual trauma. This spouse came up afterwards and indicated that there was past sexual trauma (abuse) in their life, although to this point they had never associated shyness with the trauma.

4. How often is it normal to have sex? This was the question asked most frequently. The most common answer given among the married spouses among our group was once a week, but like a good coach I challenged them that we could do better than that. There is no magic number, but here’s how I put it: every month, if you were counting how many times you had sex (between 1 and 10), it should be closer to 10 than it is to 1.

5. How do you address opposite sex drives between a couple? Basically, one spouse wants it, the other not at all. The answer is to drill down and find out the root cause between the differentiating sex drives. Is one being over inflated through something like pornography? Is one being suppressed by something like past sexual trauma? Those underlying issues need to be dealt with. Since sex is much more than just physical, addressing the mental, emotional and relational needs of the spouse will help increase their sex drive as well.

6. Is it normal to equate sex and love to the amount of help you receive from your spouse? This is similar to the previous question. Because sex is more than physical, other things (like help with household chores) can impact a sex drive. It’s important to know that men and women are wired differently. I put it this way: men are microwaves. Give them a thirty second notice and they’re good to go. Women are crock pots. It takes longer, they need to warm up over a longer period of time. Which is why I tell men that sex starts in the kitchen, with how you interact with your wife hours before the sexual act itself ever takes place.

7. Is it wrong to lust after your wife? Interesting question. If it means that you’re physically attracted towards your spouse and you have sexual urges for her, then it’s not wrong at all. In fact, that’s the point.

8. As long as a couple stays within the confines of marriage, how exploratory can you be in a Christian marriage? This question was asked multiple times as well. Basically, how freaky can you get? My answer was: as long as it’s not illegal or immoral (like involving other people, etc.) and as long as it’s consensual, knock yourselves out!

9. I’m not physically attracted to my spouse anymore. What do I do? This was a very honest question. Age, kids, lots of things can play into this equation. I struggled to answer this because there’s not a quick or easy answer. I talked about engaging the will and making a choice. When we choose something (like to be attracted to our spouse), then our feelings will follow our will. It’s also important to avoid anything that might be a false comparison for our spouse (like pornography). Ultimately, when we focus on what’s good and best about our spouse, whether it’s personality, spirituality, things that we respect, that inward attraction tends to bleed over to the outward attraction. So, if the outward attraction isn’t there, be sure you’re not looking at anything else for outward attraction and focus on your inward attraction for your spouse. The outward attraction will return in time.

We have a commitment issue in our marriages today. Too often we’re conditioned to approach marriage like a cell phone contract. You agree to pay a certain amount for goods and services, and the cell phone provider asks for a two-year commitment, which you happily sign because you’re still in the honeymoon of your relationship. But when a newer phone comes out, or when another cell phone provider offers a better deal, or when you simply get bored and want to move on, you figure out a way to wiggle out of your contract, paying a fee if necessary. Contracts are made to be broken.

Too often we approach marriage the same way: as a contract. Each side commits to provide for each other, love each other and serve each other. As long as both sides hold up their end of the contract, life is good. But when one spouse feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick, when the other spouse isn’t holding up their end of the contract, you start looking for a way out. Even if the divorce gets messy because there are kids involved, if that’s the fee you have to pay to break the contract, you do it.

The problem with this approach is that it fundamentally mistakes the nature of marriage. Marriage is not a contract, it’s a covenant (Malachi 2:14); and those are two completely different things. Here’s a quick look at the difference between the two:

A contract is based on mutual distrust.
A covenant is based on mutual commitment.

A contract protects rights and shirks responsibility.
A covenant surrenders rights and assumes responsibility.

A contract has personal conveniences in mind.
A covenant has the interest of the other in mind.

Now, here’s the twist: because the idea of a covenant is foreign to many of us, God gives us another picture of what a covenant looks like, and this one hits a lot closer to home. At the Last Supper, here’s what Jesus told his disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). Salvation is a covenant like marriage is a covenant. Think about it this way: do we really want Jesus to treat salvation like a contract? How would that conversation go?

“Hey John, we need to talk. I know you asked me into your heart when you were a kid, but these last couple of years haven’t been going so well for you. You’re not reading the Bible, you’re not in church, all those addictions you promised to give up are still hanging around. On top of all that, you’re kind of a jerk. Sorry buddy, I’m going to break my contract of salvation with you, it’s just not worth it for me anymore. Good luck with the whole heaven thing.”

We don’t want Jesus to treat his relationship with us like a contract. Our assurance of salvation is because salvation is not a contract, it’s a covenant. In the same way, marriage is by design a covenant. That’s why God takes such a strong stand for marriage. Treat your commitment to your spouse the same way you want Jesus to treat his commitment to you.