[Please note that the links to the endnotes don't work yet. If anybody wishes to help with that we would sure appreciate it. It's easy to learn how--just takes a long time!]
Seeds of Strongholds
Let’s start by making the point that fears and other infirmities
do sometimes have low-tech solutions. There are simple ways in which you can—without help from anybody else—access grace, which is the ultimate medicine to deal with these weaknesses
. On the other hand grace isn’t a magic potion—no pain, all gain.
As we have explained, in the spiral towards a stronghold, thoughts become pretensions (things that make a claim to be truth) and in turn become the basis of logical arguments and that’s only one step away from a stronghold.
If the process can be stopped when there is still only the seed of a destructive thought, that has to be good. A stray thought can be pushed away. You can’t stop a bird landing in your hair but you can stop it from making a nest! You may not be able to stop pornographic email arriving but you don’t have to click. You can’t stop a passing hunger for chocolate but you can park the car at the other end of town from Thorntons.
? I am weak
? I will always be subject to fits of temper
? It is too difficult for me to change
? There will never be enough money
? Life is too difficult for me
? I am in the wrong marriage ? I do not have a future
We have suggested that key to understanding this idea of strongholds is that each of us have spiritually significant weaknesses which can have a number of causes
. These thoughts are expressed in words. Can you have a thought without a word? People in the ancient world didn’t think so Take an example of a thought that has all the potential to spiral into a stronghold.
Many of these are fairly common thoughts but it is easy to see how debilitating they might become. There are ways of of dealing with these things without accessing the throne of grace; simple things like developing thought awareness—identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with rational and then positive concepts. Here’s an example.
That’s a common sense process and it works—for me at least unless its one of those mega-stressy days when you feel so neurotic you just have to check. Common sense comes from God and as long as you only use common sense in common situations, it works.
It’s the basis of lots of talking therapies, some used by the NHS because they seem to work at least as well as drugs for many people.
Unfortunately these sort of approaches don’t always do the trick, particularly if our thoughts are the result of gaps in our defences caused by our infirmity-type weaknesses.
These weaknesses quickly lead us into destructive/sinful thoughts, from self-pity to rage and all points in between. And of course the things we say to ourselves in these situations are false—sometimes mixed with true stuff—but if you combine fiction with fact, you don’t know what to believe.
The goal is to replace our destructive, false thoughts with truth. Lies like those we listed at the start do not shift easily and in any case we are often too weak to deal with them though common sense thought awareness. So we need help that can only be found at the throne of grace. We get a clue to the particular sort of help we need when we remember that ‘Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’
and later on that the truth will set you free.
Two kinds of word
The problem is that truth in the abstract does not help. Just think of how many metres of the Word you have heard but don’t actually change anything—even when you try to take what it says very seriously. The issue is in truth becoming reality and there is more to that than swallowing a truth pill or reciting a true formula.
In the Bible there are two main words for word.
The most popular
but there is also rhema
. A lot of the time their meanings overlap, but there are are crucIal differences.
? Logos is the objective, for all time, word.
? Rhema is the subjective, now word, the word for me.
We read about the logos
and the rhema of God
. In one it is a sword and in the other it is sharper than a sword. Some people think that’s proof that they mean exactly the same. But the difference can be seen in the diagram below.
We need general principles. But when struggling with our weaknesses, we need to hear/ know/ feel/see/discern or otherwise sense how God sees the muddle that is our life. Logos may be more about teaching and principle. Fortunately, rhema is more about immediate reality.
Luke is particularly keen on the term rhema
in his gospel. He uses it twice as often as the rest of the New Testament and half of those occurrences are in the two chapters that contain the nativity story. That’s significant. For the shepherds and even more for Mary, the events of those years were—almost—unbelievable. It was only the rhema
word in the immediate situation that made sense of them and protected Mary from being overcome with fear. The way in which the rhema
works is summed up in Gabriel’s final words, ‘No rhema
from God will ever fail’ and Mary’s response, ‘May it be according to your rhema’.
So what is the process. We are conscious of a weakness in our thinking. Take the example above. Thinking that way can easily lead to giving up. We know what God says to Jeremiah about a hope and a future but somehow it doesn't stick. The thought keeps coming back. Our next step is to approach the throne of grace and ask Jesus for help. Then we rest in faith that God will send his rhema. We still keep declaring the logos while we wait. The word may come through so many channels.
Steps to renewed thinking
KEY FEATURES OF RHEMA WORDS
PROPHETIC—they have inherent power to be fulfilled.
ACTIVATING—when declared they initiate change.
NURTURING—together with the logos they sustain us.
PROTECTIVE—they are a crucial weapon in spiritual battles.
FAITH BUILDING—Obvious, given that they are truth against lies.
PURIFYING—It is God’s word applied that keeps us clean.
The idea has never been to grab a Bible when it all goes pear shaped. If you have read it an reflected on it the logos word will has the chance of coming to mind as a rhema word.
Recognize: when you are in danger of believing a lie.
Repent: We end up with destructive thoughts because we believe some other source than God. Unbelief is a sin. No excuses.
Rest: Relax in confidence that Jesus will help. Wait for the rhema. It may be that the Bible comes alive And of course there are other channels for God’s word—prophecy, preaching, dreams and praying are some of the more important ones.
Replace: When the rhema comes, make a conscious effort to put the truth God has shown you into the place of the lie.
Respond: Saying it out loud as often as you need to is the minimum. Writing it on a post-it could be good, too.
 An infirmity is simply a spiritually significant weakness. This may turn out to be the subject of another article.
 Sin issues, uncontrolled desires, generational or other inappropriate ties, or abuse or trauma of any kind suffered in the past.
 This is an example of what theologians call ‘common grace’—the help that God provides to the whole of creation.
 A good example is given by Paul, ‘"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold’. Ephesians 4:26-27.
 Coming in with 318 mentions
 The difference is one of presupposition. If you don’t believe that God often speaks to us today on specifics, then rhema and logos have to be synonyms. Most charismatics make a case for difference but you can argue either way.