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To begin the journey of finding health, go to HopeRestored.com today. What if this was happening in your marriage? You thought you married the right person, the perfect person. But over time, you began to notice some serious flaws, and your spouse isn't as kind and loving as they used to be. There's a lot of blame going on in your relationship, and you never really discuss tough issues because that's only going to lead to more conflict, and you didn't sign up for that.
This is not what you wanted. You'd wonder out loud, did I make a mistake? And you don't say the words out loud, but you're thinking, my spouse is a jerk.
But what if there's something much, much bigger going on? It might be possible that Satan is attacking your marriage and you're experiencing spiritual warfare. We're going to be exploring that today on Focus on the Family, and your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us.
I'm John Fuller. John, this is one topic we should probably address more often because there's a lot of confusion and maybe even some misdirection in our culture today about what demonic forces and spiritual warfare are all about. It's not a vocabulary even well used within the church.
It's outside of the things we want to talk about. But popular movies and TV shows have given us a warped view of Satan and the evil that he perpetuates. Many people don't know what to believe anymore. And as Christians, we know the Bible takes spiritual warfare very seriously. Ephesians 6 reminds us that we wrestle against cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil.
It's pretty straightforward. And in 1 Peter 5, the word compares Satan to a roaring lion that's seeking someone to devour. And it seems, unfortunately, that that middle ground you're talking about, that balance, is so difficult because there are some believers that would totally write off Satan's involvement in our day-to-day lives.
And then there are others who seem to find demons under every bush and under every problem they experience. Well, that's why I'm excited about today's program, because our guests have studied this topic. They apply it to their work, their ministry. They see it. They know it.
And I think we're going to learn a lot today. And our guests are Dr. Tim Muehlhoff and his wife Noreen. They're in the studio with us. Dr. Muehlhoff is professor of communications at Biola University and also director of resources for the Biola Center for Marriage and Relationships. He's an author and podcast host. And Noreen is the assistant director of chapel programs at Biola. Together, they routinely speak at marriage conferences. And today we're going to focus on a book that Tim wrote. It's called Defending Your Marriage, the Reality of Spiritual Battle. And we'll encourage you to look for a copy of that.
We do have them here. Click the link in the episode notes or call 800, the letter A in the word family. Tim and Noreen, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Thanks so much. We're so glad to be here. Explain why we Christians can be kind of clueless about spiritual warfare today. What's happening in our ability to discern?
That's really what it is, a lack of discernment. I think it has to do with what comes to mind when I say the demonic. I think most people are like, wow, the demonic. Immediately thinking to the top movies on Netflix, right? The Conjuring, Paranormal Experience, where people are getting dragged across a room.
A person is levitating, speaking in guttural Latin voices. And so you look at that and you go, ah, I don't want to have any part of that. That is not something I want to dabble in. I think that's Hollywood at its worst. So I don't deal with it, right?
If that's my idea of the demonic, then I'm staying a mile away from it. Right. And that it's something that happens elsewhere. Like maybe you hear about in Africa or in Asia, but it doesn't happen in the US or it doesn't happen in the West.
And so we can dismiss it as something that happened in the past or in another location, but it doesn't happen locally and within our own families. You've raised that. That is a question that I will hear occasionally. What's the answer to that question? Do we see it in a different form or what is the answer to that question?
Well, I think so. I did relief work in Africa, in the Mathare Valley, one of the poorest regions of Africa. And when we would go out, Simon Zermakenga would gather us all together and he would pray warfare prayers.
And I had never heard of one before. Warfare prayer was simply, we know we are sending out these dear workers out into a spiritual battlefield and God protect them. And Satan, listen to me when I say this, you are not to touch them. They're God's children. We send them out in God's power. You are not to touch them. And we pray this in the power of Jesus's name. Now go.
And first time I was the team leader. So I'm driving out going, Oh my gosh, what was that? Like, I'm going to be spiritually attacked, not even knowing what that would look like, like not having a concept of what that would look like. And so I want to say it's more in the West that we struggle with this.
Other parts of the world in different locations, they take it very seriously. And so when I started to research the book, I started to reread the gospels and then started to read what other notable Christian authors would say about this. Here's the number one fact that blew me away.
And I thought I might need to write on this. So according to some New Testament scholars, 25% of everything Jesus had to say had to do with the demonic. So I say to my students at Biola University, imagine taking 25% of everything Jesus said and just setting it aside, not paying attention to it. I'm going to pay attention to the 75%. And my students are like, well, what's the 25%?
I said, it has to do with demons and the demonic and spiritual battle. And then I asked them, do you believe in the devil? Every one of them says yes. And then I say to them, does it make any difference in how you treat your roommates? Does it make any difference in how you treat your parents or a dating relationship or evangelism?
And virtually every one of these dear students pretty much says, no, it doesn't make a difference in how I go about doing my life. Yeah. And of course, you've written this book, Defending Your Marriage. So you're taking this in the context of marriage.
And I appreciate that. I think, you know, what I've observed is our inability to recognize it. I think that's what happens in the West. Like you said, they're far more attuned to spiritual battles in other parts of the world.
I've had the privilege to travel as well. So I've seen it. And it's almost like, I think Satan's pleased with the fact that he keeps us just, I guess, disengaged with it.
You know, we just modernize everything. We don't see it. But in that context of marriage in particular, why do you think it's a target for Satan? And why is he trying to accomplish the breaking of marriage? This is a big question.
Yeah. I mean, the value of marriage is the first thing that comes to mind for me. I mean, we have the scriptures begin with a marriage.
It's Adam and Eve. It's an important institution. It reflects the image of God himself. And so wouldn't it make sense if Satan wants to attack God that he would attack the thing that reflects his image. And so to me, it makes sense that this would be an object of attack.
Yeah. Let me let me deepen this a little bit, because I think the two of you had an experience, you're going to a marriage seminar. And this is how it typically happens. I mean, Jean and I will feel this at times, especially if I'm going to speak on marriage, all of a sudden, things are just not right at home. I mean, I irritate her, she irritates me, it's kind of odd, like comes out of left field.
And sometimes we might overplay that, I don't know, but I want your input. At other times, I'm going, Oh, my goodness, this is a spiritual battle. He's attacking us right now, and stop and pray and do the things that we need to do to remedy that. But what is that balance, if we could take our Western goggles off to recognize it's a satanic attack in our marriage versus it's our triggers. So going back to the first marriage, right, which you pointed out in Genesis, well, if you take a look at how the serpent attacks Adam and Eve, what's great about teaching at a Christian university, you've got some really smart professors. So you get to walk over to them and you get to say, okay, so when it said that the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field, like in Hebrew, what does crafty mean?
It means subtle. So when the serpent, imagine the serpent walking right up to Eve and saying, Eve, on three, rebel against God. It wouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have happened. Eve would have turned and looked at him and said, No, of course not.
There is no reason to rebel. But then he comes as a serpent. And we know in near Eastern times, serpents were these glowing things, these shiny things. I mean, don't equate them how we view snakes. We view snakes now after the fall as things to be worried about. Eve would have had no reason to be suspicious of the snake. And now the snake talks.
Well, that's interesting. I didn't know snakes talks, but she is under no threat whatsoever. And then he starts to work in very subtle ways. So now shift to this, what happened when we were leaving for a family life marriage conference. Noreen has noticed for a couple of days that there's a leak happening beneath her faucet. And then she makes a tactical mistake of saying, honey, can you look at it?
And I'm like, sure. So now you know what it's like leaving for LAX. We're leaving five days before the flight to LAX is like craziness. And Noreen opens it and we're literally leaving in five minutes and the leak is happening. Now, no kids, that leak could potentially go all weekend, but we have no time. We got to get to LAX.
We can't be late to the marriage conference. So now we get into the car and there's just tension. There's silence between us. And you're kind of thinking what you're thinking.
I'm thinking, why didn't you take care of the leak? What we realized was it was a pattern of exactly what you were talking about. That irritability, the crankiness, the why does it seem like every time we go away, kids get sick, things in the house break, we end up bickering with one another. And then we stepped back and said, perhaps there's something else at bay. And I think the way you worded the question even to say, is it our pushing our triggers or is it spiritual battle? And what I would like to say is it doesn't have to be one or the other and that it can be both. Well, oftentimes the Christian vernacular, we talk about our flesh and then Satan and they tend to work in tandem. So to your point, our flesh usually moves in a direction that's satanic. I would say that is against God.
And we don't need to differentiate, really. It's just, and he takes advantage. He takes advantage of our weaknesses. He takes advantage of our sin.
So when we open ourselves to those kinds of things, it gives him then the opportunity to get the foothold and exasperate, accelerate, throw fuel on the fire. In the book, you talk about Ken and Maria and you share a story about their marriage. He, I think, was an accountant and she was a little more spontaneous, I guess. Opposites attract. We get that a lot. Jean and I are that way. She's a science major and she did well in science.
I was more marketing, but talk about these two and what happened. So this couple are, you know, they're great. He's really a penny pincher.
He's got the graphs. He's a saver, which is all tremendous qualities. She's a really free spirit. And when they first got together, we just kind of chuckled and thought, wow, I okay. But they liked each other. They made some good financial decisions heading into it to kind of shore up some things. And then they get married and like with every married couple, your strengths now can become irritants just a little bit in the course of a marriage.
The very things that attracted you, which were so attractive in the beginning of the relationship are the things that become the annoying factor. Maria was a business major. I was a theater major. She's pre-law.
I'm pre-unemployment. So, and we love that about each other, but when things are happening in our house and some things I'm not doing, Noreen can get frustrated at me. Like, honey, don't philosophize putting in a ceiling fan.
Put the ceiling fan. But saying could be in the midst of that, just getting us annoyed with each other. You know, one observation I have, we have something called that the world may know. Ray Vanderlaan has done the series with us for years. And one of the statements he makes in there is that going back to your point of the serpent and Eve is when sin entered the world, chaos entered the world and that, you know, God and Jesus coming into this chaos, he's bringing God's Shalom, his peace into the chaos.
And that's our big mission as Christians is to bring his Shalom into this chaotic, sinful world. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And today we're talking to Tim and Noreen Muehlhoff. They have studied, as Jim said earlier, this matter of spiritual warfare and spiritual battle. And Tim has written a book, Defending Your Marriage. Contact us for your copy.
It's 800-AFAMILY or the link is in the episode notes. Noreen, I want to come back your direction because you mentioned something that we didn't explore and that is this idea of a foothold for Satan. I think it's really important because I think especially in marriage, we don't stop and really understand how often we're doing that. And it's in our bickering, our verbal spats, our battles. Describe what a foothold is for Satan to get in between you and your spouse and what damage can be done because of it.
Sure. Well, you know, a foothold is anything that gives somebody a position of power and influence. So when we talk about Satan having a foothold, and this is, you know, coming from Ephesians 4, it allows him to enter in.
He has access and from there can, like I said, throw fuel on the fire and exaggerate and make, exasperate, make things worse even. So when we talk about a foothold, it can be even using that, the verse, you know, do not let the sun go down on your anger to not give Satan a foothold. So when we, and for us, that doesn't mean like we have to resolve conflict before the sun goes down, like it's not a literal, but it means we're not going to let it fester.
We're not going to let it take hold because we know that anger in and of itself is not sin, but how we handle that anger and how we respond. So if there's anger between us, if there's frustration, or if, like we were talking about, the very strengths that Tim has, if they, if I find them starting to become annoying, that's a cue to me, like I need, what's going on? Why is this thing that used to be so attractive, so frustrating right now? And what I want to do is I want to justify it and say it's because of him rather than saying, what, why is my perspective changed? What's at work? And have I allowed Satan some access to dwell on things? Am I holding things? Am I letting bitterness cement and letting those thoughts, not holding those thoughts captive to Christ, but allowing them to develop in ways that are going to continue to drive a larger wedge in our relationship rather than bringing us back together. And you thought it was just a fan.
I want some cool air. No, it's much more than that. It's never what you think it is. Tim, you also write in your book about C.S. Lewis and the Screwtape Letters, which is one of our favorites here at Focus. We did a radio theater on that. It's brilliant.
We have some great BBC voice actors in that. It's one of the it's one of the best, I think, that we did. But we love the Screwtape Letters. How did that connect for you?
Well, we love the Screwtape Letters as well. Absolutely. We got a chance to see it performed as well. It was awesome. It showed me the subtlety of it. Lewis is in the fine moments.
It's a demon working on a person for years, getting an attitude. I remember the old lady who her tea just had to be just right. And she would say, oh, I'm not a picky person.
Oh, no, not a picky person. But can I have my tea just a little bit? And Lewis goes on forever because she is now not willing to accommodate anything other than what she wants. And she would never admit to that. She would say, I just like a good cup of tea. Can a woman just have a good cup of tea? And the demon is causing her to be inflexible.
And that then will be used somewhere else with children, a church person. But the inflexibility is a great quality. So when I started to read Lewis, I realized maybe the demons that are working on me, it is such small things that I don't even notice this is spiritual attack. And he is setting a trap for me, which goes back to the craftiness.
Yeah, that's what I think. You know, the whole Screwtape Letters is such a great example. It's a creative envisioning of just how crafty it's subtle. It's subtle, it's little steps that we allow to happen. And then you end up where you're too fussy about your tea. But and then that leads into everything, you know, being fussy about everything, right, and the mastery of Screwtape Letters. It's from the perspective of Satan and his demons and how they're going to manipulate people.
And that's what makes it so brilliant, actually. When we look at those weapons, we've talked a lot about the other guy's weapons. Well, we got some weapons too. And one of the things that you talk about in the marriage relationship is the weapon of community. And I'm speaking in weapon is a positive thing, right?
You know, our weapons don't line up with the other guy's weapons. Ours is love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, mercy, community could be perceived in there, you know, relationship were made for relationship, the other guys envy, strife, jealousy, all the ugly side of humanity. So speak to the issue of community. And why is that important for married couples, particularly? Well, I think one of the strategies of the enemy can be isolation. And so when you're in community, that's the antidote to isolation. And even if you're just isolated together as a couple, and you don't have anybody encouraging you, you don't have outside eyes on you saying like, Hey, you look like you're struggling, can we help? Or you don't have other couples who are saying we struggle with that too.
You can begin to look at your marriage and go we're losers, something's wrong with us, this isn't working. He's the wrong person, I'm the wrong person, you come up with all these, again, lies, that if you're not in community, those lies can take root, and you begin to believe them. And you make decisions based on those lies. And I think community can be that speed bump to letting those lies become embedded and then taking action on those. Yeah, you mentioned community. But I think we're so illiterate nowadays, if I could say it that way, that I'm not sure that we actually know what to do in community. What you're talking about being in community and being believers in community particularly, is understanding the weapons of our warfare. And you even I think, relate that to Ephesians six, which is the spiritual weapons that we possess in the defensive armor that we have.
Talk about that component and how we need to apply those things. So here's the cool thing when you're at a university with people who study a book their entire life. I mean, think about that. So we have a gentleman at Biola, Dr. Clint Arnold, who has studied Ephesians his entire life. So I bought him many copies, many copies with a legal pad, just writing like a mad person. He said two things I will never forget. He said, you have to remind people it was a letter. We added the verses and chapter breaks just for easy reference, but it was a letter.
So if you read the letter, his point is as clear as a bell. He's talking about in Ephesians five about marriage and it bleeds seamlessly into armor, the spiritual breastplate of righteousness, right? Shouting our feet with the gospel of peace and things like that.
But in the letter, it is one continuous thought, meaning if you're going to do this thing called Christian marriage, you better get dressed because the battle's at your feet, spiritual battle. But then he made a point, but what made the Roman army so effective? Two things made the Roman army so effective. One was their shoes. They actually, they were the first to put spikes in their shoes so they could run up mountains. But when they stuck their foot in the ground, you're not pushing them off that ground. But they also locked arms with each other and knocked knees. The Persians could not move them off a spot. So the point that we make in the book is if you were to say to Paul, is spiritual battle just one Roman soldier? Is that the metaphor I'm trying to use? He would go, Oh no, no, no, not the soldier, the cohort. It's the group of Roman soldiers that were so powerful.
So I think Paul is even there suddenly saying this in families, marriages, one Roman soldier going against Persians would get obliterated, but a Roman cohort coming together is not going to be moved off that mark. And so first thing we did, we got to Biola university. We pulled together a marriage group and we've had this group for now 16 years. And it's just life-giving because you were talking about isolation, Noreen. You can just feel like you're the loser family that has a wayward teenager. You're the loser family that is having a really hard time resolving this issue.
And that gets rid of all of it. When another couple that you respect goes, are you kidding me? Our teenagers, we were going to ship them off.
We didn't know what to do with these kids. I think Satan loses a great piece of ammunition there because it's like, you're not alone. This is normal. And then Satan can't use it anymore because you normalized it. So you got to have that cohort with you.
And I get that it's frustrating and people don't know how to do it. And so I say, grab one or two couples and say, let's read a marriage book. Let's read a meal hot book. I'm thinking out loud. You're thinking in the right direction. Let me end here because our time is done, but it's something I often say that our marriages are a testimony to non-believers who are watching us particularly. And I think when you're in ministry, like I am, like you are, it's even magnified more so.
And I think in that way, sometimes we'll get maybe even more spiritual battle because if he can take us down, he wins a big, you know, big feather. How in that context do we get up every morning as a married couple, remembering that our marriages are seen by our family members, by those in church, by the people we work with, et cetera. Is that important to even keep in mind? I think it is important to keep in mind, but for me, the most important thing is that what people see in our marriage is a reflection of what's really there and what's in my heart individually, what's in Tim's heart individually, what's in our heart as a couple, because what I wouldn't want to do, and I think the danger can be, especially for couples in ministry or couples that are, you know, in the public is that you begin to put on an external, what you think it should look like, even though, and then the internal begins to crumble. So as we get up every morning, we are aware of that, of, you know, that people may be watching. People are making decisions based on what they see. But the important thing is not what they see, it's what's in our hearts that's creating what they see. That's one reason I'm actually really excited about the next generation, because I think they comprehend authenticity better than the previous generation, if I could say it that way. And, you know, of course, that's a blanket statement.
I get that. But we tended to project perfection and not live up to it, rather than project brokenness and live that so that other people could come into relationship with Christ. And I think that's what the Lord clearly says. When you're low, I am lifted up.
I mean, when you're broken, he's lifted up. And that's the story. That's the power of the gospel. Not that I'm so good, I'm doing it well. This isn't like a math test we're taking.
And I'm an A student, didn't miss any answers. No, this is about our need for him in every aspect of our life. And I hope that's where not only Christian leadership goes, but the entire church goes, because I think that's the secret to moving forward in a better direction. That's the ingredients of revival.
Yeah, I totally agree. And it's going to be the groups again, the group keeps us around, grounded. Our marriage group keeps us grounded.
Because if you start to be high and mighty, you can't do that with other PhDs. They're like, stop it, stop it. That really helps us stay grounded.
Well, yeah, because they see you're living out, when they see us living out our daily life, we can't be blowing smoke, because they're going to recognize that. I think it's great. At Tim and Oren, this has been so good.
And I so appreciate it's not a topic I don't think we've ever talked about at least my time here at focus at the microphone. So this is really good. And I appreciate you doing the work that it needed Tim to gather that research that data. And I hope people will connect with us to get a copy of the book. If you can make a gift of any amount, we'll send you a copy of Tim's book as our way of saying thank you. If you can be a monthly sustainer, that's great. There's more and more people coming on board to focus to just provide a, you know, not a lot, but just a little bit to help us month to month. And that's a great way to do it.
One time gift is good as well. And if you need it, and your marriage is in trouble, and you feel like you're in spiritual warfare, we'll get it to you and trust that someone else will cover the cost of that. So just get in touch with us. And we really do encourage you to get in touch.
If there's anything we can do to help you. We do have Caring Christian Counselors here. We've got that great book defending your marriage and so much more. We're a phone call away 800 the letter a and the word family or donate and get defending your marriage when you click the link in the episode notes. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family.
I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. When a woman discovers her husband's struggle with pornography, she needs a practical plan. The latest book from Focus on the Family Aftershock by professional counselor Joanne Condy will help you through the seven steps of self-care and you'll learn how to deal with the emotions involved in the discovery of your husband's addiction. Let Joanne Condy's timeless wisdom give you hope even while you're in your own season of Aftershock. Learn more about Aftershock at focusonthefamily.com slash store.
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