Monthly Archives: July 2013

Standing Firm (Part 5)

Wage spiritual warfare don’t just endure it!

Waging spiritual warfare is totally different than enduring spiritual warfare. Too many believers endure, that is they are caught up in the swirling wind of the enemy’s attacks, believing that there is nothing they can do to change it. It’s just a part of living in this sin cursed world they say. That, simply put, is a lie. God did not call us to endure (by that I mean bravely tolerate it until Jesus comes). No—no—no! A thousand times no! God called us to wage warfare, to take it to the enemy. We are to lay siege to the enemy’s city and kick the gates down so that his captives may go free. We are the superior force on the battlefield due to our position in Christ.

We are to put on Jesus (we will talk more about this in a later blog), who is the whole armor of God. Once we put him on, we never take him off. We are dressed for success in Christ. Jesus gives us the ability to stand firm, the power to hold and control the ground God has entrusted to us. Whether you believe this or not, in Christ you have the ability to stand up against the enemy no matter how or where he attacks you. Standing firm implies that you have planted your feet firmly and hold the ground you’re standing on in anticipation of taking more ground.

In Ephesians 6:13, we are told to resist or withstand the enemy. That means we are to stand face-to-face with the enemy and not blink or give ground no matter how hot the battle may get. In reality, it is often withering, seemly overwhelming. But through the power of Jesus you can stand. For too long the church has withdrawn from the battle when it got tough. We have given away far too much ground without contesting the issue and contending for the faith. God never intended for his body to retreat. Why would one retreat if the battle has already been won? That seems inconceivable, yet that is exactly what has happened.

Often a Roman legion would allow the enemy to throw everything they had into the battle. They would withstand the deadly assault of the archers and the catapults. They would hold their lines even though they were vigorously assaulted by the enemy’s cavalry and chariots. They would withstand, taking the enemy’s best shot, and then, at the optimum moment the command would be given to take ground. Now it was their turn to drive the enemy back and off the battlefield, as they took ground and control of the battlefield.

Whenever one gives up control of the battlefield a rout occurs and defeat is inevitable. No matter how tough it seems, stand firm! The command will come and when it does—step forward and swing the sword of the Spirit with all your might! Stop enduring the warfare and start waging it! You are in Christ, the victory is yours!

Standing Firm (Part 4)

Standing Firm!

When the apostle Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, he was in a prison chained around the clock to a Roman soldier. These warriors were his constant companions. As he stared at their armor and weaponry each day, the Holy Spirit presented him with a living illustration of the spiritual warfare every Christian is engaged in. As the Spirit of God impressed this message on Paul’s spirit, a command from God appeared four times in less than five verses. That command is “stand firm!”

It will help us understand the spiritual emphasis if we understand a bit of the historical background of why the Holy Spirit used this illustration and this particular command. Rome was the military superpower of the world in Paul’s day. Her soldiers had conquered most of the known world. Roman outposts would eventually stretch across the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern and Western Europe as far as the Scottish lowlands. These warriors were feared for their effectiveness, tenacity, and superior training. They were lean, mean, killing machines.

Before a battle, the Imperator (a Roman general) would call his officers in and share the battle plan with them. These officers, in turn, would call their centurions together and brief them on their responsibilities. Each centurion commanded eighty to one hundred soldiers. Every centurion had fought his way up to that rank from among the enlisted soldiers. Their appointment had been earned on the battlefield, not through political favors, well-placed friends and family, or bribes.

Once a centurion had been given his orders, he would assemble his men and give them their orders—their responsibilities in the upcoming battle. He would remind his squad that they were fighting for the glory of Rome, their families, and their emperor. The last command every centurion gave was, “Stand Firm!” Every soldier was expected at the very least—the minimum—to hold the ground in battle on which he stood, and if given the opportunity to take as much ground as he could from the enemy.

After the command to stand firm, the centurion reminded his troops that it would be better for that soldier to die on the field of battle and be carried off on his shield than to live because they retreated or ran in fear. Cowardice in battle and desertion were dealt with quickly and brutally. That soldier was clubbed or stoned to death by his own comrades in arms. If you study the armor of a Roman soldier closely you will find there is little protection on their back. Retreat or defeat was not an option to be considered.

As warriors of Jesus Christ, God calls on us to “stand firm!” Once we put on the armor of Christ, we are not to give ground or surrender. We are called to plant our feet firmly and not blink when the enemy attacks. Our ability to do this is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ, not our own strength, ability, or training. Our armor is Jesus, not leather, metal, or even Kevlar. Our armor is Jesus and our ability is based on relationship.

Are your feet planted firmly? Are you facing the enemy each day with your shoulders back and head up?

Are you standing firm or are you running for your life?

 

Standing Firm (Part 3)

What we believe governs our actions and our attitudes. In fact, what we believe, we do. Your actions up to this very moment are a testimony of your belief system. Everything else is conjecture, theory, or fantasy. Our ability to stand firm is dependent on actions that are derived from our belief system.

How effective we will be in spiritual warfare is dependent on what we believe. Most Christians would say they believe the Bible is God’s Word, but is that belief really evident in our culture and world? Is that belief making a difference that is truly measurable? Are Christian beliefs guiding this nation, your city, or your home?

We say we believe the Bible is God’s Word and that it is true. Yet, most Christians rarely read it and few have ever read it cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. How can this be if we claim it is the foundation for what we believe—that it is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God? How can we claim that it is the model for our faith and practice and never take time to read it? If we have never read it—we are ignorant of what it teaches even if we attend a service each week and give our attention to the preaching of its contents. If you ever hope to learn and understand God’s Word you must read it for yourself.

We have a manual in our hands on how to wage effective and devastating spiritual warfare against our enemy. We have the key to living a victorious life in body, soul, and spirit and we refuse to crack its pages. The early church used it for the first three hundred years of her existence and turned the world upside down and had the enemy in full retreat. But…sadly, for the last seventeen hundred years we have used it as a sword to slice and dice up one another and effectively separate an unconquerable army into a million little units intent on majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. We have attempted spiritual suicide by turning it against the bride of Christ rather than using it to evangelize the world, to destroy the works of the devil, and to do the works of Jesus. The church is wandering around in circles wondering who she is and why she’s here refusing to read he Owner’s manual

Tragically, we have come to the place where the church cannot even agree on what the works of the devil are anymore. We have now reached that place where evil and wickedness are now called good, encouraged, and pronounced legal. True righteousness (what God declares is righteous) is now called intolerance, narrow-minded, or the seeds of hate crimes and terrorism. True good is now labeled evil and evil arrogantly parades unchecked down Main Street. The church is in full retreat with only a few warriors left standing on the battlefield because it has become far more fashionable to run than to stand firm, resist, and re-capture the ground that is being lost.

This responsibility has been wrongly relinquished from the whole to a select few. We would rather hire mercenaries to do our fighting than stand united and do it ourselves. We have lost our spiritual guts—our divine courage and boldness. Spiritual warfare is the responsibility of the whole not just a few. It is your responsibility as well as mine, and unless we once again return to God and obey his Word we cannot expect to stand firm. A system of belief cannot exist unless it followers stand on a foundation that is firm.

Standing firm starts with knowing what you believe and deciding if it is worth fighting for. Find your Bible, dust it off if necessary and read it. If you believe it—then live it! Only then will you be able to stand firm!

Standing Firm (Part 2)

Many believers think of spiritual warfare as “demon busting,” somewhat like the exploits of Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray in the 1984 film Ghost Busters, except for good measure you must sprinkle in a few well-placed  “in Jesus name.” Too many well-meaning followers of Christ give top billing to the demons rather than the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Sadly, the phrase “spiritual warfare” usually strikes fear and creates an atmosphere of apprehension in the life of most Christians. And—our ancient foe continues to wreak havoc in the life of both church and community.

Spiritual warfare is nothing more than obeying God. When you and I obey God, and fulfill his instructions, the kingdom of darkness is rocked by the impact of a bunker busting bomb in the heart of their camp. Obedience to God destroys all opposition against God.

We often forget the devastating power of a single prayer lifted up in a sentence or two for a kid strung out on drugs, a kind word and a smile to a mother whose baby seem out of control, a cool drink of water to a thirsty worker, a hot meal to someone who is down on their luck, a phone call to a sick friend, or a note of encouragement to an individual navigating the stormy waters of uncertainty. We have forgotten the power of reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on Holy Scripture. Satan and his demons tremble when one unashamed lover of God shares the powerful story of Jesus with a friend or stranger.

The most effective spiritual warriors concentrate on the simple things they learned when they first came to Christ. They ingest the Word, live out the Word, pray the Word, and most importantly—obey the Word. The spiritual warriors who are the most devastating to the enemy on the battlefield don’t wear tee-shirts emblazoned with “demon buster.” They don’t bind the devil from the roof tops of city skyscrapers. No—they do the simple things God has called all of us to do. They obey and God moves!

So don’t be threatened by the term “spiritual warfare.” Don’t feel inferior just because you don’t know and can’t quote the special lingo, or have holy water extracted from the exact spot in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, or hand-squeeze and specially scented olive oil from the Garden of Gethsemane. Strap on your armor (put on Jesus), trust God, depend on the Holy Spirit, stand firm, and obey—and God will decimate your enemy every time!

A Simple Request

Sunday was a great day to worship God. What a privilege it is to gather with brothers and sisters and freely worship God in spirit and truth. We should never take that freedom lightly. We must maintain vigilance and guard it with the same tenacity that those who came before us did. Many sacrificed everything, including their lives for the opportunity to worship God according to their beliefs and conscience. America was founded on this treasured belief. Puritans from England, Huguenots from France, Presbyterians from Scotland, Catholics from Ireland and Spain, and a host of religious dissenters from other countries left their families and their native lands for a chance to freely worship God on the shores of this New World, and so they came by the thousands.

Our nation was birthed on biblical foundations and founded on the belief that freedom of religion is essential in the life of a republic. This Thursday we celebrate the birthday of our nation, but our freedoms are slowly slipping away as we sit idly by thinking it will never happen. Those early settlers and freedom fighters fought the battle of freedom for future generations. They were willing to sacrifice everything so their children could live free. What about you? Many in our nation worry only about today and themselves. If freedom of religion or any of the other freedoms we enjoy as Americans are to endure, we must stop living for today and only for ourselves. We must defend and guard our freedoms so that our children, grandchildren, and those children yet to be born may experience the blessings we have experienced.

God says, “If my people, who are called by my name humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). God calls on the believers of this nation—his sons and daughters—to go after his heart in humility and repentance through prayer. God is calling us to get our lives right (to return to his biblical standard instead of society’s standard) and then intercede for this nation. If sin freely lurks in our hearts as born-again believers, it will arrogantly strut up and down the streets of our nation. The return of a nation to God is always preceded by the cleansing of Christ’s bride—his church. The time has come for God’s people to stand up by kneeling down and confessing our sins and crying out for mercy. When, not if, we do this, God has promised to hear, forgive, and heal this nation. The responsibility for the healing of America rests on our doorsteps—not on the president, the congress, the courts, or any other group clamoring for recognition and acceptance under the law. The law of man can never bring real freedom to any man or woman. True freedom rests only in a relationship with Jesus Christ where we have surrendered everything—including our fleshly desires.

So as you celebrate America’s birthday this week, please take a few minutes and spend it alone with God. Allow him to shine his light deep into your heart. Acknowledge the darkness he shows you and then do the work of confession and repentance. If you are willing to do this, God will do what he has promised. and both revival and awakening will take place in this nation.

But…if all you do is listen to the naysayers and the gloom and doom prophets declaring judgment while screaming derogatory condemnation as you eat another barbeque rib and fork filled with potato salad, it is likely our nation’s birthdays will indeed be limited and the memory of her hallowed and glorious past lost.