Monday, April 18, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

It's about time I wrote another blog post.

I don't have time to download pictures, get fancy, and give you a nice little how-to post about anything, so I'll just tell you what's on my heart tonight.

I've been thinking about spiritual warfare, and its most prevalent battlefield; the mind.

Anyone who has been a Christian for any length of time has encountered spiritual warfare, but not all of us recognize it for what it is. I know that I am often far into a battle before I realize that it is a battle. Where did I think those thoughts and temptations were coming from, anyway? Why was I suddenly depressed and anxious, without warning? Where did that sense of oppression come from?

I have learned that when I think I am strongest and most victorious, the Enemy strikes. When I have taken a major step of faith, walked in obedience, conquered a particular fear or doesn't take long for the enemies to retaliate.

A general feeling of anxiety hangs over me, completely disconnected to the circumstances around me. Temptations swarm over me, and my defenses against them are weak. Anger I didn't know I possessed will bubble up at random moments, like lava. A filmy smoke screen seems to obscure my view of my Beloved, and my prayers stumble all over the place.

Can you relate?

Those times of warfare are exhausting. I feel like a green solider, still wet behind the ears, facing Apollyon in the valley of humiliation, like Christian in Pilgrim's Progress. Every time we face each other, I end up on my back, always reaching my sword only in the nick of time.

I've found that the first step towards victory in these battles is recognizing that I'm in one. I have to train myself to watch for the signs.

Secondly, I use advice given me by a wise preacher; if the battle is major and repetitive - such as when the devil was constantly using depression to weigh me down - I go tell my spiritual authority that I'm under attack, and ask him (my father) to pray for me, ...aloud. Our enemies are alive and can hear, you know. The name of Jesus has power to strike fear in them.

Then I try to look for the lie I've believed. Satan is the father of lies, you remember, and they are his major and main weapon. He always, always, always lies. Count on it. If you're under attack, you've been lied to. It's that simple.

So where's the lie? Sometimes it's hard to spot.

Have you believed something about God that isn't true? That He doesn't love you? That His blood isn't enough to cover your sins? That He isn't in control? That He doesn't know what He's doing this time?

Have you believed a lie about yourself? Have you believed that your flesh is enough? Have you trusted in self? Have you believed that you deserved something that wasn't really yours by right? Have you forgotten that you are God's child, and an heir with Christ? Have you forgotten your access to the Father?

Have you believed a lie about someone else? Have you been looking for something in them that only Christ can supply?

Look for it. Identify it. You may have to dig deep, because they are often disguised so beautifully. Pray hard. Prayer is the fire that melts off the pretty package and allows the Holy Spirit to enter and expose the filthy lies for what they are.

Once you have been shown them, speak truth. Find verses that speak the truth about those situations or thoughts, and speak them over and over to yourself. "Take every thought captive." Remember that verse? Do it. Don't let your mind run where it will - it will take the low road. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. He is the Truth.

And the truth will set you free.

And if the Son make you free, you are free indeed.

Blessings, friends, and may Christ give us victory! His blood is our power and strength.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Starting a Web-based Business, Part 3 (Finally part)

Welcome back. This is part 3 in "how-I-stumbled-into-web-business-and-didn't-drown." (For part 1, click here, part 2, click here.)

If you haven't caught on by now, let me repeat that I'm not expert in this field. My sister and I started into web businesses with our online thrift store, Simply Modest, and we're learning as we go. It's been a trial-and-error process, but I do believe it's been an upward climb.

So far in this series, we've discussed what to think about before you get into web businesses, and traits to develop in yourself to help you in your endeavor. Today, we get more practical.

How do you actually take your business online? Well, first things first.

Let me assume that your business deals with items, rather than services. That's the type of web business I'm most familiar with, because that's what I do.

You need to set up a website. Thankfully, it's much easier to do that now-a-days than it used to be. You don't really need to know HTML to set up a site; many companies exist solely to help people like us - who don't know HTML - get websites up and running. Running a website with these companies is like blogging - you click on what you want, and the program takes care of the HTML. If you can blog, you can run a website. If you are starting from scratch, and haven't done any blogging, it might take you longer to get the hang of it, but, trust me, it's not impossible.

When you have a website, you'll be paying for two things; a web host, and a domain name. I've heard of free web hosting, but I'm not familiar with it, and, as you may have noticed, I'm trying to stick to discussing things I've actually done, here.

I investigated many web hosts before we bought our business, but in the end I didn't chose our web host because we bought an already-established business, and kept the original host.

Papa Shop is our web host. I've had a wonderful experience with them, and have nothing but good things to say about their service. I've had site trouble only twice, I think, since being with them, and both times I got to chat online with a representative, and they fixed the (minor) problem in a couple of hours or less. They are also very reasonably priced.

Most hosting companies that I've checked out charge by the month or by the year, or by several years at a time. If you're determined to be in it for the long haul, I strongly recommend going "in bulk" - it's usually cheaper. But if you're not sure this is all going to work out, don't pay for 5 years in advance! Start with 6 months or so. We pay for our hosting on a month-by-month basis, but we've committed to a long term, so we get the cheaper rates. In most cases, you can set up this fee to be paid automatically (so you don't forget one month, and shut your website down for several days!) but be sure to keep track of that in your bank account!

Your web hosting company is where you will get the tools to design your website. This is where you pick colors, fonts, and set up shopping carts. I've found most of this to be very self-explanatory. Think of Blogger. If you can blog, you can do this.

The web host you choose must have an option for an online "catalog" or "shopping cart" if you are going to sell on it. Most hosting companies offer this, but not all, so make sure you double-check that the options available are what you need to sell on this website you're creating. Once you start designing the site, you'll learn how to list items, enter shipping fees, etc. Always do a test order on your shopping cart to be sure it works!! Also, get a web host that offers free support for when you have questions...because you will have them.

You will also need to buy a domain name. Think of it as the copyright to your website; it's a guarantee that only you can use your website address. Nobody's going to steal it. This is usually paid for in 1-year, 3-year, or 5-year chunks, or something like that. It's no big hassle; just be sure to do it on time! Your web host will usually recommend places to buy a domain name (from THEM, quite often!), but you can have a domain name with a different company than your web host. It's up to you.

Hmm...what else?

- Keep your passwords, log-in information, user names, etc. written down somewhere OFF computer (as in "ON AN ACTUAL PIECE OF PAPER") in case your personal computer crashes.

- Set up a business-only email, to avoid having all the junk mail a website generates delivered to your personal email. But do check your business email every day.

- Be prompt when shipping orders.

Oh yes - advertising. This is a whole post in itself. Proper exposure for your site is crucial to its success. Send an email out to everyone in your address book. Facebook it. Start a facebook fan page. When creating pages in your site, do type words in the "keywords" box. Those are the words that will trigger your site to pop up in searches, when people type in those words. Talk about your site. Get business cards printed up professionally and place them wherever you can, all over town. Have a newsletter. Anything you can think of.

I'm running out of time right now, so I'll close this post with a hearty "best wishes!" to any of you embarking on the adventure of a web business. I'd love to hear thoughts on this matter - both from newbies in the field and those of you who know tons more than I do. What do you think is most important in choosing a web host? What will you be looking for? Companies you recommend?

I've enjoyed doing this series. I'm sure I've bored some of you, but I hope at least some of you found it to be beneficial.

Bye for now! Talk to you soon!