The Sword of the Spirit

The Scripture was so accurate, I laughed aloud.

Psalm 119:25
I lie in the dust;
    revive me by your word.

I saw the picture immediately — me, lying face down in the dirt, too discouraged to even move. Just about as low as I could get. Almost ready to throw in the towel.

Yup, that’s how I felt that morning.

OK, I confess, before that morning, I don’t think I had ever read through the entire chapter of Psalm 119 at one sitting. Sometime long ago, I had learned the obvious fact that this is the longest chapter in the Bible. That could be why I’ve avoided sitting down and reading it, beginning to end.

I also know that every one of those 176 verses has a reference to God’s word.

God certainly got my attention by throwing that verse at me on that blue morning. As I read through all of chapter 119 (yes, I did) I began to notice all the things the Word of God does in our lives: It is a light for my path, it makes me wise, it guides my steps, it revives me (I needed that), it brings encouragement, renews my life, and leads me to joy and freedom.

Why not saturate myself with the power that does all those things?

And then my ten-year-old grandson wanted to teach me to play a new Wii game. When we were young, my siblings and I sat in front of the TV and watched Bugs Bunny blow up Yosemite Sam or Roadrunner smash Wile E Coyote. Now, two generations down, the kids are blowing up droids with a lightsaber. (Do I have those terms right?)

So on that day, I picked up the little white control thingie, trying to understand which button or movement makes me, the good guy on the screen, jump, twirl, kick, run, or change into some super-hero.

And then I discover a secret. One push at the right time on the right button shoots a shining, pulsating stream of light that looks like a sword (to my old-fashioned mind) straight toward the nasty creature advancing to attack me. I flick my wrist and … slice! slice! slice! I’ve chopped up the menace and dispensed with that danger. On to the next alien!

I was grinning as I sliced and chopped all advancing threats. (Oh dear, that’s a horrible thing for a Mennonite pacifist to admit!)  But I was smiling because, in the middle of that Wii game, the Spirit was reminding me:  “This is exactly what the Scriptures can do to all those things that attack you.”

Eph 6:17
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Spirit lives in me, and His weapon, that with which He does battle against my enemies, is the lightsaber of the Word of God. When I am under attack from things without and within, the Word can slice up and dispatch those threats.

The Word fights our discouragement, our doubt, our fears, our tendency toward envy and jealousy and anger and malice, our insecurities, our pride, our lack of faith, our blindness, our stubbornness, our bitterness, our hunger, our cynicism, our forgetfulness of God … I could go on and on.

All of those things that Satan, hoping for our defeat, sends to attack us, the Spirit can vanquish. His weapon is the Word.

Put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil … Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.




Scripture: Ephesians 6:13,17

Recommended Read: Psalm 18 is one of my favorites. It begins with the writer entangled by the ropes of death, overwhelmed, caught in a trap, helpless. He cries out to God, who dramatically comes to save him, and then God arms him with strength, trains him for battle, gives him a shield of victory. The psalm ends with the writer saying he chased down his enemies and struck them down, put his foot on their necks, ground them fine as dust, and swept them into the gutter like dirt. What a victory story!

Spirit, give us those victories, too!

Rattling the Latch

I know why the Psalms are so popular: The writers were just like us. They knew all the ups and downs of faith and trust. They often felt weak and tired and overwhelmed. They lived times of great joy and praise, and they were occasionally swamped with anger and desire for revenge. Sometimes they were certain of God’s love and care, and sometimes they wondered if God had forgotten them. They stumbled and sinned horribly. They were broken and contrite and longed to come back to God.

Psalm 18 is quite a read. It starts out,

I love you, LORD; you are my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior;
   my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
   and my place of safety.
I called on the LORD …
   and he saved me from my enemies.

The next sixteen verses give a description of the Lord thundering from heaven to rescue one who was entangled by the cords of death, caught in a deadly trap, overwhelmed by floods of destruction. It’s no wonder the writer starts his psalm by saying the Lord is his strength, his rock, his protection, his shield.

But what about the days YOU feel entangled in the cords of death and overwhelmed by floods? What about the times you long for his strength but you can’t seem to find your way to his fortress and you are completely out of touch with his power? What do you do when it feels as though God is too busy to come charging out of the heavens to aid you?

I am certain of one thing:

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.

The only thing to do in such times is rattle the latch.

A friend gave me a Christmas gift, a squat, ceramic lighthouse, blue and white, holding a small candle inside. Hand-painted letters wobbled along the bottom edge proclaiming, “God’s Love Lights Our Way.”

I set it on the sill above the kitchen sink and felt warmed by the brave little flame that danced against dark winter evenings outside the window.

Then one night as I washed dishes, I read those wobbly words and wondered, “What in the world does that mean? It sounds great, but what does it mean?

Instantly, unexpectedly, I was a five-year-old on a dark night.

We lived in a tiny four-room cottage just below my grandparents’ big farmhouse on the hill. Our sidewalk led to the base of their house, where a door opened into storage space under a long porch; then a second door led to a windowless cellar. From the cellar, we climbed a flight of stairs to Grandma’s kitchen. The front door was on the other side of the house, so going through the cellar was the most direct route to Grandma’s.

The big house was only steps away from ours; but when I traveled the path alone at night, it was a nervous journey through the darkness. I’d take a quick dash down the sidewalk, eluding unknowns waiting to pounce from the shadows, running for the safety of under-the-porch.

Then I’d stop at the threshold of the black cellar. The old planked door had an iron latch, and I stood there and clattered that latch— up-and-down, up-and-down, up-and-down— until an unseen hand above turned on the light that showed me the way to the stairs and Grandma’s safe kitchen.

Yes, God’s love does light my way. Running through this world’s darkness with its truly scary shadows and lurking unknowns, I often stand and clatter the latch, longing to know God’s presence in my life, hungry for His words to me, needing to hear the voice that loves me.

So many times, the only thing I can do is rattle the latch.

And the wonderful thing is … His light comes on.


Scripture: Psalm 18:1-3 (NLT), Psalm 18:28 (NIV)