Whether you recognize it or not, you're at war with yourself. There's anxiety. Selfishness. Self-sabotaging tendencies. Narcissism. The black dog of depression. The inability to do the great things you long to do because you spend so many hours mindlessly drifting through the internet.
It is war, but all is not lost. You can win—if you choose to engage.
In I Declare War, Levi Lusko candidly shares about his struggles with moodiness, bullying, suicidal thoughts, night terrors, and difficulty managing himself. He identifies four weapons you have at your disposal—thoughts, words, behaviors, and power—and illustrates how to use them to achieve ongoing victory. These practical tools from God’s Word will help you learn to
- retaliate against your anxiety by filling your heart with truth and making it inhospitable to terror
- stop being victimized by your bad behaviors and become the victor you were born to be
- overcome self-imposed isolation by learning to think right so you can live right
- spare your family unnecessary heartache by confronting your dysfunction so they don’t have to
It’s time to stop being your own worst enemy. Declare war and become the person, the spouse, the parent, and the leader God intended you to be.
Praise for I Declare War
“We are all created in the image of God. We don’t have be chained by our feelings. We don’t have to do the things we don’t want to do. We don’t have to be defined by our failures, mistakes, or sin. This is powerful! Yet how often do we not live based on this truth? One of the reasons I admire and respect Levi is his transparency and search for truth. He doesn’t shy away from the hard or ugly stuff. Through his own story, he strives to help others get out of their own way and into the truth of who they are in God. This book will help you do just that!”
—Tim Tebow, Heisman Trophy winner; New York Times bestselling author
“Levi personally understands that the hardest battle is the one we’re fighting against ourselves. That’s why I’m so thankful he’s poured out the biblical wisdom he’s gained along the way into the pages of this book. The practical tools, scriptural teaching, and trusted guidance found in I Declare War are invaluable to anyone who wants to embrace victory in their own life!”
—Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author; president of Proverbs 31 Ministries
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
THE WOLF YOU NEVER KNEW YOU WANTED TO BE
I want to be alone and I want people to notice me — both at the same time.
— Thom Yorke of Radiohead
In Las Vegas, the escalators and moving sidewalks seem to move in only one direction: toward the casinos. Getting in is as easy as finding a Ding Dong in a truck stop. On the other hand, finding your way out is, by design, much more difficult. The intention is to trap you in a maze of distraction that will cause you to spend as much time and money as possible.
When I find myself struggling with moodiness, I feel as though I'm being carried along on a moving sidewalk, headed to a place I won't like and that I'll have a hard time finding my way back from. I started experiencing this sensation in high school. Something would happen to set me off: feeling excluded, being made fun of, embarrassing myself with something I said or did. The next thing I knew, I felt like the ground was moving under my feet.
There was almost always a moment of clarity when I knew I was at a crossroads. In the direction I was heading, I could see storm clouds brewing, vultures circling, the bones of bleached wildebeests that had been picked clean shining in the last moments of sun. This is where my moving sidewalk was taking me, and I hated it.
In the other direction I would see Candy Land — vivid colors, warm light. People smiling and jumping rope, explosions of joy radiating across their faces. If I wanted to be where they were, I would have to make a decision and make it fast, because each moment that passed took me further away from the village of joy. If I did nothing, I would be taken straight to the badlands of gloom.
More often than not, I just stood there. Eventually the movement would end, and I would be left in a world of gray too far from the color to see it, with no idea how to get back. I was officially in a bad mood. Well, some people call it a bad mood. I call it being held hostage by the version of me I don't want to be. You can rearrange my name to spell evil, so I call him Evilevi. He might have my fingerprints and blood type, but he is the worst.
Whether it set in after lunch, during second period, or in the car on the way to school, once I was in it, I was in it. A wall went up, and my enjoyment of life went down. It's impossible to be at ease when you're clenched up on the inside. After an hour or two, whatever originally set me off was no longer the issue; self-pity and self-loathing were the real problems, and they hardened into a mask I felt unable to remove. Eventually I'd give up on the entire day. I'd get to a place where I'd think, This day is spoiled. I'll just have to try again tomorrow.
You've felt that way, haven't you? As though so much of the day has been wasted that there's no use trying to make good decisions. Tomorrow is a new day. This one's no good. We do the same thing when we've made a bad choice about eating: I fell off the wagon for lunch, so I might as well binge at dinner and have a cupcake at bedtime. I should have had a healthy breakfast, but since I didn't the whole day is shot. I'll do better on Monday ... or next month.
Where did we get the idea that one bad decision must be followed by another? Maybe it comes from failing to understand the true meaning of an often-quoted verse written by the prophet Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:22–23 NIV)
What a Bible verse doesn't mean is as important as what it does. Jeremiah isn't saying that a new morning is the only time you have the opportunity to receive mercy; there isn't anything mystical attached to the clock striking midnight. That's not when God's mercies replenish. Your AT&T data plan might roll over at a specific time, but that's not so with the devotion God has allocated for you.
Rather, what Jeremiah emphasizes is that you always have a new shot — because God is that good. You have the option to go to him morning, noon, and night — once a day, nine times a day, every hour if you need to — and claim the help you need for the present struggle you are facing. Hebrews 4:16 says, "So let us boldly approach God's throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it." You don't have to wait for the start of day; you can seek the grace when you need it.
Astronauts on the International Space Station orbit Earth every ninety minutes, which means they can watch the sun rise and set sixteen times a day. Why? Because they're moving quickly around the earth. How quickly? My friend Shane Kimbrough, who has spent 189 days in space and was the commander of the ISS, told me that when you're on the space station, you are moving 17,500 miles an hour, or 5 miles per second, 200 to 250 miles above the surface of the earth. The picture of an astronaut siting in the Cupola, watching the sun rise and set sixteen times in one day through the enormous window, is key for you to remember as you lean in to the reset God wants to give you: as the heavens are high above the earth, so God's ways are past finding out. The higher you go the more sun rises there are. You needn't write off a day that has been tainted. You can start over on the spot. Shake your internal Etch A Sketch! There are brand new mercies waiting for you. Only pride and silliness allow a bad decision to turn into a bad day and make you defer until tomorrow what you need to do right now.
I love the convenience of calling for an Uber. (I always say "call an Uber." I know you don't literally call them, but I don't have any intention of stopping.) A few clicks of a button, and a car shows up where you are, ready to take you wherever you need to go. It's Amazon Prime for traveling across town.
Quite a few times I have mistaken a vehicle coming to get me with a car on its way to get someone else. Once at an airport I hopped into the back seat of the Uber I had ordered only to discover it wasn't an Uber at all. The driver was even more surprised than I was! The truth is, you don't have to stay in a bad mood any more than you have to stay in the wrong Uber. If you got in, you can get out.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
A bad mood exists only in your mind. That's why the first of the four cards to flip over when you declare war deals with your thoughts. You can't live right if you won't think right.
My senior year, I had art class last period. The class was in a metal barrack on the far end of campus. A gravel path snaked past the cafeteria and gym, the sagging chain link fences, and the area where buses picked students up before winding its way to a row of portable buildings. It has been seventeen years since I was a seventeen-year-old making my way from sixth to seventh period, but I can still hear the gravel crunching under my feet and feel the weight of my backpack loaded up with books. (Whether I would crack them that evening was another story.) I can vividly recall how it felt to walk to art class in a bad mood. It happened regularly enough that I haven't forgotten those angsty feelings churned up by near-leathal doses of self-loathing and self-pity.
My shirt was usually untucked. We had uniforms at my high school — you had to wear a polo shirt or an oxford button-down with khaki or navy pants. You received a write-up if you were caught with your shirt not tucked in. I usually had it tucked in only above my belt buckle — just enough to claim it wasn't technically totally untucked. What a rebel.
Sometimes a friend who could see the funk on my face would walk with me and ask what the matter was or how my day was, and I'd shove down my emotions and lie through my teeth. "Everything is fine," I would say, even though inside I wanted to admit it wasn't.
Luckily the day was almost over. Maybe tomorrow will be better. This day is doomed.
The funny thing is that even though I can remember walking to art class in a bad mood, I can't recall a single occasion when I walked out of art class grumpy, angry, or wound up.
We each had a little cubby where we would paint, draw, sketch, or color for forty-five minutes. My teacher was a kind woman named Mrs. Losey, and on occasion she allowed us to bring in music in listen to while we worked. I'd slip the headphones of my Discman over my ears, press play on a worship music CD, and fill blank pages with lines, colors, and shapes. Before I knew it I was shuffling back on that same gravel road but in a completely altered state. Miraculously, the spell had lifted, and the funk I had been in less than an hour ago was gone.
I didn't have the self-awareness to realize then what I understand now: It wasn't coincidence that I was in a different emotional place by the end of the period. That art class was like the calming phrase used to soothe the Hulk's rage and transform him back into mild-mannered Bruce Banner: "The sun is getting real low, big guy" (when Black Widow said it, not Thor). The combination of music, art, and the quiet place were a lullaby that took me to a completely different head-space. My heart rate dropped, and with it my levels of cortisol, the hormone that wreaks havoc on your system when you're stressed. It was as though the bad mood was a six of clubs, and the music and art were the king of hearts. And no numbered card of emotions can overcome Jesus — the King of your heart! I've learned a lot about what makes me tick, but I still struggle to control my mood. My ability to respond well to external battles has everything to do with my ability to fight the internal war successfully. I'm reminded of Joshua fighting the Amalekites while Moses stood on the mountain above the battle, raising his arms with the rod of God in his hands (Exodus 17:8–13). It didn't matter how much effort Joshua expended; when Moses' arms sagged, Joshua lost momentum, and when his arms were steadfast, the tide turned. Hear me loud and clear. Nothing so influences your life as your ability to control your spirit in the midst of volatile feelings and the madness of life.
Proverbs 25:28 tells us, "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls." In the ancient world, walls were everything. A city without walls was the equivalent of a hotel room without a lock, deadbolt, spy hole, or flippy thingamajiggy that lets a door be opened a couple inches. You wouldn't feel secure in your hotel knowing you were completely vulnerable to invasion. That's why Nehemiah's crusade to restore the walls of Jerusalem was so important. When we neglect to control our spirits, we leave them vulnerable to attack.
When God created Adam and Eve, he sculpted their bodies from the dust with God's fingers, but it was his breath that gave them their spirits. Your spirit is the part of your being that responds to God and receives his power.
The word spirit shows up hundreds and hundreds of times through out Scripture. Here are some of the highlights:
When you are saved, your spirit is the part of you that is most affected: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).
When you sin, your spirit gets off kilter and needs recalibration, like a compass near a magnetic field: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10 esv).
You must learn how to control your spirit, and then practice doing so, especially in times of anger: "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city" (Proverbs 16:32).
Your spirit can have good intentions, but it can be overcome by sinful desires and needs to be fortified by prayer: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:38).
A calm spirit causes you to have a quiet confidence: "He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit" (Proverbs 17:27).
We can ask God for a spirit marked by generosity: "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit" (Psalm 51:12).
An extraordinary spirit leads to open doors and promotion: "Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom" (Daniel 6:3 ESV).
God is drawn to those who have a spirit marked by humility and those who lift their eyes to him when in pain: "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
Learning how to steer your spirit by managing your thoughts is incredibly important. If your spirit is out of control, it's difficult to put your life under God's control. And a spirit under God's control is key to the wolf rising in your heart.
Hold on! I can hear you objecting. I'm not really sure I want to rise up like a wolf. In the Bible, aren't wolves described in a negative light? Not to mention all the fairy tales — even Little Red Riding Hood and the three little pigs know that wolves are big and bad.
Thank you for bringing that up. How like the devil to want to completely own the image of an animal with attributes we desperately need. Yes, the enemy does attack us like a wolf, but he also likes to dress up as an angel of light, a serpent, and a roaring lion. We don't seem to have any problem appreciating angels and lions, and Jesus told us specifically to be wise like serpents. So why would we write wolves off? If anything, the enemy's interest in them should tip you off that there is something powereful about them.
Wolves were created by God and are truly remarkable creatures — known for loyalty and strength. In addition to being highly social, and smart, they also have other lesser-known qualities you should want in your life. They have been scientifically proven to be susceptible to contagious yawning (did you yawn when you read that?), which is believed to be linked to empathy. And this is my favorite: wolves are very rare in that they're willing to adopt orphaned wolf pups even if they belong to a rival. Among apex predators this is not normal. Even lions (and I have a lot of love for lions) who take over another pride will almost always practice infanticide, killing all the lion cubs to end the blood line of their predecessor. But not wolves. The new alpha male and female will tenderly care for the pups of their enemy and bring them into their pack. How touching is that? It's a bit of cliché to speak of someone with bad manners as having been "raised by wolves," like Mowgli the man-cub. But there is some truth behind this expression it, as these ferocious hunters also willingly play the part of foster parents.
Read this excerpt from The Wisdom of Wolves and tell me if you don't find yourself wanting to channel your inner wolf:
They care for their pups with a familiar devotion and share our reflexive instinct to care for youngsters, related or not. They hold a place in society for their elders. They push boundaries and explore, then return to visit their families. They care what happens to one another, they miss each other when they're separated, and they grieve when one among them dies. ... They are benevolent leaders and faithful lieutenants, fierce mothers, nurturing fathers, and devoted brothers; they are hunters, adventurers, comedians, and caregivers.
To be a wolf is not just to be a brave warrior; it is also to be a loving nurturer, and that is your destiny.
Back to the story in Exodus 17. Moses eventually grew exhausted, and try as he might, he couldn't keep his arms in the air. Luckily, his friends Aaron and Hur improvised a couple of hacks: they stuck a rock under Moses like an old-school bar stool, and they stood by his side and each held up one of his arms. Moses was in the exact same position he had been in before, only now it was much easier to keep his arms raised.
We can be creative in involving the help of other people and even props to keep our spirits in check. This is true whether your struggle is losing your temper with your kids, interacting with a rude or condescending customer service person, or dealing with an unprepared coworker. Or, in my case, seeing someone on our team yawning or showing no enthusiasm in a preservice huddle. (My Hulk side flashes to life on this one.) Something as simple as where you sit, what you bring with you, or the way you prepare yourself for a complex encounter can be the difference between a controlled response and a response you will regret. For example, I heard of one person who brings water with him into conversations where he knows he will be tempted to lose his cool. Before shooting off his mouth, he takes a sip. No one blinks an eye at someone drinking instead of talking.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "I Declare War"
Copyright © 2018 Levi Lusko.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: When the Wolf Rises xv
Card 1 Declare War On What You Think
1 The Wolf You Never Knew You Wanted to Be 3
2 (+) or (-)? 17
3 TSA on the Brain 37
4 The Secret to a Miserable Life 49
Card 2 Declare War On What You Say
5 Mind Your Words 67
6 If You Say So 83
7 Being Rude Is Not Cheap 97
Card 3 Declare War On What You Do
8 Take Back the Controls 119
9 Start Before You're Ready 133
10 The Game Before the Game 147
Card 4 Phantom Power (The Help You Need To Win This War)
11 Never Bring a Horse to a Tank Fight 169
12 Butterflies and Eagles 183
13 A Trip to the Dump 197
Conclusion: The Ace of Spades 211
Appendix A Scripture to Memorize 233
Appendix B Compendium of Useless Tidbits 239
About the Author 255