We Follow a Gospel Plus Nothing {Book Club}

We are old friends here in Book Club, yes? You know when you just meet someone and they ask you a question that seems too deep too early? Well, three years ago if we had discussed our January book, it might have been too deep, too early. But now? Now we can talk about Beautiful Battle by Mary DeMuth and together have meaningful discussion about Spiritual Warfare.

I know we come from a variety of traditions, home countries, and host countries. So, we are going to come to this subject from different angles. Instead of being threatened by the complexities, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to share and learn from each other. I’m especially curious what the spiritual warfare climate is like where you serve (or served) and how this has challenged or grown (or confused) you in your own spiritual life.

Today we are looking at Part one: Foundations. Part of the reason I chose this book is because of the way Mary talks about this very subject. Take the title, for instance. Instead of using inflammatory language that puts too much emphasis on all bad or inconvenient things being the work of the devil OR going to the other extreme of saying that spiritual warfare doesn’t exist today, she describes it as the Beautiful Battle.

I appreciated that Mary said the goal of spiritual warfare is changed lives (kindle reference 170) and she starts with us. How we have been changed. Love that. She wrote, “Because our raw roundedness is the primary opening the enemy uses to attack our souls. Our own bent toward filling the gaping hole will continue to lead us to darker and more insidious situations as we claw at significance.” (222) Goodness, even just today, I bet you have seen holes at work in yourself, your marriage, your family, your team, your organization, you home country, your host country . . . or in all of them!

She listed lies we might start to believe (232). I’m not sure I had before thought of those types of lies as spiritual warfare, but I can now see how it is.

In Chapter 2 Mary pointed out another three areas we might experience attack: pleasure, stuff, and achievement. Satan can “woo, entice, deceive. His tactic becomes deceptions and lies.” (484) Later in the chapter she shares that one of Satan’s names is destroyer. Maybe because of social media and being able to see bits of life all over the world, it seems like a lot of destroying is going on. From visas that have become increasingly hard to get in parts of the world, to actual attacks on buildings and cities, to ministries or ministry teams that are being destroyed.

Loved when she played with the language and said that Satan wants to de-story us. He wants to take the story that God is writing, and bring evil, not good to it. But Mary is also quick to point out that Satan is not God’s equal. He is finite. He cannot be in all places at all times.

Oh man, the title of Chapter three? Convicting. The Right Story: God’s Sovereignty. The Wrong Story: Our Comfort. This line stood out to me: “The beauty of the cross is not that Jesus relinquised all suffering there, but that He opened the door to redemption through our suffering.” (776) Suffering isn’t always because we have sinned and suffering in and of itself isn’t to be celebrated. But God can redeem anything and even suffering is not beyond his redemption.

“Our suffering, even if it is endured completely alone, matters.” (851) Maybe you need to hear that today. Your suffering matters. You matter to God.

“Praising God while the tumult swirls is true spiritual warfare. And wait in anticipation for the day you see God more clearly.” (867) Isn’t this beautiful? Praising God in the midst of the swirls, matters. You are “doing battle.” Love this. I could relate to many of the lessons Mary learned while on the field (876). Were there any in particular that stood out to you?

But later in that chapter? “Though I’m not one to subscribe to the property gospel, I realize I have a smidgen of that theology resting dormant in my heart. When the stress level in France reached a pinnacle, my reasoning went something like this: Lord, we followed You around the world to serve You. Why is this happening? Can’t You fix this? But heaven fell silent.” (909)

I bet you saw yourself reflected in this a bit more than you’d like. I know I did. Wow, and then she described being addicted to happiness and not normal, but at tyranny. I need to think about this some more. Am I addicted to happiness? Is it tyranny I’m not recognizing?

This is getting long and I haven’t even touched on Chapters 4 or 5! So, let’s talk about them (and anything from 1-3 you want!) in the comments. Also, if you haven’t gotten the book, it’s not too late!

Happy Epiphany friends,

Amy

 

P.S.

Next week we’ll read part 2, the week after that part 3, and finish up with part 4 and Mary visiting with us. So, read with an eye to any questions for her you might have :).

February 7th: Kimberlee Conway Ireton continuing with Circle of Seasons. 
February 14th, 21st, and 28th: Shiloh by Helena Sorensen and recommended by Elizabeth Trotter. Free on kindle! You can get the app and read on your computer or device.

15 Comments

  1. Kathy January 9, 2017

    Yes!!! The fact of being addicted to happiness REALLY hit me. You know, it was also the finally puzzle piece to show me I was addicted. That was only one onion layer Mary has helped me release. I am learning so much truth. I love her prayers!

      1. Mary DeMuth January 14, 2017

        UM WOW. Didn’t mean for my picture to take up the whole screen. Apologies!

  2. Susan January 10, 2017

    I am perplexed with concept that my suffering opens the door to redemption. I thought Christ’s suffering did that for me.
    Maybe this is more what is intended?….
    Piper: So this is a sober word to [cross-cultural workers] because it says: Not only will you speak the sufferings of Christ, you will live the sufferings of Christ. And in both of those ways bring people into contact with those sufferings so that they can be saved and, in that sense, complete the afflictions of Christ.

    1. Mary DeMuth January 14, 2017

      Thanks Susan. I would be perplexed too if that were the only sentence written without context. What I meant is that it is often suffering that helps us understand our need for redemption. For instance, in my own life, my own traumas made me hungry for rescue, and that rescue came inevitably from the Lord.

  3. Hadassah January 10, 2017

    Recently, I met with a member care counselor and she encouraged me to keep a list in my Bible of all the names attributed to God. I loved how Mary took these and placed them in contrast to descriptions of Satan in Ch. 4. It really put him into perspective for me! And, as a bonus, she gave me a good start on my list! My new favorite name for God is Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord is our peace. (It’s no wonder considering my favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 26:3.) I had no idea that also meant He is my perfecter. Praise the Lord!

    1. JulieB January 13, 2017

      Enjoying this book so much. I love the emphasis on looking at Who our God is. I also loved the names of God in contrast to the lies of Satan.
      Three quotes that I enjoyed thinking about in this first section:
      1. “Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth’s shoes won’t fit.” Joni Eareckson Tada – What a great perspective on suffering.
      2. “The next time circumstances don’t cooperate, make a choice to rejoice in the goodness of God.” I want to remember this and practice it!
      3. “Rekindle your belief in God’s sovereignty”. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the drama of the circumstances of my life that I forget that our God is sovereign. I need to be reminded so often that He is in control of everything!

      1. Mary DeMuth January 14, 2017

        Julie B, thanks for your kind words about the book. And I also resonate with those quotes/ideas–and need to remind myself about the sovereignty of God.

  4. Bethany Smith January 10, 2017

    I am really loving this book! It’s helping me put spiritual warfare into a holy perspective and showing me that I often accept defeat in my daily life because I do not invite God into certain battles. I have been encouraged to leave my methods for filling my gaping holes and allow Jesus to fill my dry areas. I often take God too lightly as Mary writes, “Yes, we should take Satan seriously, but more than that, we cannot afford to take God lightly. He is the everlasting, everexisting, everpowerful, everbeautiful one” (718). What does this mean for me? Mary is showing me that this means God does not take our battles lightly and is even working in the mundane moments where we might face spiritual warfare. He cares about those battles and is always calling us closer to him in the midst of these battles.

    I am grateful for how Mary explains ways we can be prepared for battle. Prayer, truth, vigilance, God’s word. At the end of chapter 5 she provides a list of questions to identify spiritual warfare (927). Some of the questions that stood out to me: “Has your peace suddenly eroded? What are your thoughts/inner voice saying? Is shame involved? Is what you are experiencing God’s discipline (is God convicting you of something)?” While these questions are helpful, Mary admits that spiritual warfare is not always clear. And that is another reason we must always be prepared (Ephesians 6:13-18).

    “Our job as women warriors it to make God’s name known and famous throughout the earth. The battles we engage in aren’t about us; they’re about the glory of God. I love how God defends His renown even in our rebellion” (901). The point of spiritual warfare is God’s glory. In my own life I have seen how triumphs over mundane spiritual battles have given me opportunities to share about the power of the one true God. It is why Satan is so quick to try and deceive us: he wants to get the glory. And this is why I am grateful for Paul’s words, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). My prayer is that we all begin to focus more on the eternal things and praise God in the process.

    1. Mary DeMuth January 14, 2017

      I’m so humbled you’re really working through this book and absorbing it into your soul. 🙂

  5. Sarah Hilkemann January 13, 2017

    I’m late commenting (thanks to traveling and internet issues), but this has been such a rich book so far! I so appreciate Mary’s perspective and how she constantly points us back to Jesus. From chapter 3 (Kindle loc 554): “That is the crux of spiritual warfare, to declare to the enemy and his demons that God is God and we are not”. And also from chapter 5 (loc 927): “Spiritual warfare is about setting things in proper order in our hearts and minds through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s about recognizing God’s supremacy, Satan’s defeat, and our humility. It’s about His renown, His ability to change things. It’s about His Kingdom and the role He allows us to play in it”.

    I think I swing from the extreme of giving myself too much responsibility (everything is my fault), to another extreme of blaming Satan for more than He should have credit for. It has helped me in reading this book to remember and focus on God, who He is, and His victory.

    1. Mary DeMuth January 14, 2017

      That is my heart, to point my readers to Jesus, so this comment makes me smile.

      1. Sarah Hilkemann January 14, 2017

        Mary, I love that you are taking the time to interact with us in this space! It has been obvious that you want us to keep our eyes on Jesus. Thank you for your faithfulness to Him, the way that You give Him the glory and for the words of this book. I’m learning much so far!

        1. Mary DeMuth January 16, 2017

          That is very true. it’s the cry of my heart, Sarah.

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