Tag Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Requiem for a Warrior…Russ Calvin

photo_20150609_AL0068019_0_russcalvin_20150609A requiem is a lament—the wailing of a heart broken—a song of sadness that emanates from deep within the soul. Throughout human history these songs have accompanied the death of a warrior. Russ Calvin was such a warrior—a man who battled and wrestled in spiritual realms so that we might enjoy God’s blessings in the physical one. He was my friend, Worship Pastor, and brother-in-the-faith. And today I choose to put my sadness in words to encourage others on their own journey. Perhaps it will push you farther, higher, or deeper in your own excursion through life.

Russ was a gentle giant, whose passionate pursuit of God leaves deep footprints to follow for those of us still chasing after God. Russ finally caught the Savior whom he had run after throughout his short lifetime. Thirty-seven years seems so young—so brief, yet Russ accomplished more in that limited span than most of us will in a long lifetime. He made time count, knowing that none of us is promised tomorrow.

Russ was soft-spoken, not loud and boisterous. But when he spoke, the volume, tenor, and depth of what he said often rang like a clap of thunder. When he spoke of Jesus, it was not the platitudes of a preacher or the clichés of a theologian, but rather the experience of a lover who had experienced the heart-to-heart connection of genuine intimacy with God. Russ knew God, not facts and figures about God. They were on a first name basis—a beloved Father and his treasured son. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake what it’s like to have been in the intimate presence of God. Russ knew—he’d spent long spans of precious time in that secret place.

Russ was also a man who knew and understood God’s Word. His grasp of God’s promises was not a shallow one. No, he staked his life, his marriage, and his ministry on the fact that God cannot lie. In the midst of the suffering he endured as he battled heart and kidney issues, Russ refused to let go of or give up on any of the promises God had whispered into his spirit. He tenaciously hung onto those promises like a bulldog. He stood faithful when many who were treating him gave him no hope. Russ believed God, and he acted on that faith. He spoke it. He prayed it. He shared it with doctors, nurses, technicians, strangers, and friends. He obeyed the words God had given him—he acted on the revelation whispered to him by the Holy Spirit. Obedience is the outward sign of an inward belief. Russ heard the Word—then he acted by obeying the Word—the promises given to him by the God who cannot lie!

Russ was a spiritual warrior. He understood the battlefield and his ancient foe. His calling was a simple, yet profound one. He had been commissioned to enforce the victory of Calvary, to destroy the works of the devil, and to be a vessel God could use to set the captives free. Spiritual warfare was not a theory to discuss for Russ. No! It was a daily life and death wrestling match to engage in. He knew what it took to snatch souls from the jaws of the hounds of hell and he was willing to engage those demonic mongrels if it meant freedom for another person. He was feared by hell and empowered by heaven.

Russ did what he could do with what he had to work with. His complaints were few—just a wish that he could do more, serve more, share more, or worship more. He was limited by the weakness of his heart—but not anymore! He fought through debilitating pain, weakness, discouragement, and frustration—but not anymore! He was limited, constrained, and unable to do many of the things he longed to do—but not anymore! Russ is now free—free to worship without restraint or limit. He is free to dance. He is free to lift his hands like an eagle spreading its wings to heaven. He is free to run, to jump, and to spin in utter unbounded joy. And best of all, Russ is free to sing with an unrestrained voice that cannot be silenced by disease, death, or even the devil.

I could sing a sad lament, a wretched requiem, but if I did it would have to be about someone other than Russ. Yes, we are separated from Russ for a time, but Russ is not dead. No he is more alive than he has ever been. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living according to Jesus. You see—God cannot lie! Russ is alive and he is enjoying the literal presence of the One whom he chased after so hard.

In the meantime, all of us need to get after it while we still can. Pursue God with all your strength. Russ did! Love people with all your heart. Russ did! Don’t worry about those things you can’t do—do the things you can. Russ did!  Worship the Lord with total abandonment. Russ did! Trust God’s promises, walk them out, and enjoy every one of them. Russ is!

Victory in the Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane was the scene of one of the most magnificent, yet mysterious moments in the passion of the Christ. Passion comes from the Greek word paschein meaning suffering— i.e. the suffering of Christ. Most of that suffering occurred during the last eighteen hours of his life.

Gethsemane was located in an olive grove just across the Kidron Valley on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. Gethsemane means “olive press.” This olive press located among the olive trees across from the Temple and the Golden Gate was the place Jesus chose to spend each night during the final week of his life according to Luke 21:37. This was a safe, quiet place out of the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, but within minutes of the Temple. Here he would rest, talk with his disciples, and pray.

This was the place Jesus chose to go on the night before he would be crucified. This was also the location of a cosmic battle few of us understand. Here Jesus won the battle in prayer that would be played out a few hours later as he was scourged and crucified. Great battles and contests are often won in the mind before they are experienced on the field. There on a stone in an olive grove Jesus went to war in prayer to prepare his mind and soul for what lay ahead.

Most of what took place is a mystery to us. We can’t fathom his grief, his pain, or the extreme pressure that was unleashed on the mind Jesus by the forces of darkness as he prayed. This was the most extreme form of spiritual warfare ever fought. The enemy of our soul always attacks the mind. One of the basic axioms of warfare is: Control your opponent’s mind and you control your opponent. That was, is, and will always be the devil’s modus operandi in every testing and temptation. It works most of the time, so why change?

Jesus responded to this attack in prayer. He did not argue or even mention the enemy. He endured the crushing weight of the accusations, the condemnations, the taunts, and the haunting questions. He fought through the images, the sounds, the smells, and the feelings his impending date with crucifixion would bring as the forces of evil launched an all-out assault on his mind. Jesus told Peter, James, and John that “his soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Luke tells us Jesus was in so much agony that the capillaries in the sweat glands of this forehead burst and “his sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44).

For many the picture is of Jesus kneeling in the moonlight with his hands clenched under his chin praying, but that is an inaccurate image that Scripture does not paint. Prayer was most often done from a standing position, but a careful reading of the Gospel texts imply that during this ordeal Jesus fell down numerous times and then after regaining his feet he would fall again under the pressure of the battle. What Luke describes with the word “agony” is a hand-to-hand wrestling match with an unseen foe whose only goal was to force or convince Jesus to stop short—to quit without accomplishing the Father’s will.

As Jesus prays, “Father, if Thou are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42), we are not witnessing a struggle between a reluctant will and an obedient will. Rather what we witness is Jesus declaring that the cup from which he is to drink is so revolting—so horrible, yet only because he knows it is the Father’s will he is therefore willing to drink it. Jesus is not asking God to change his will. No! He is asserting that because this is the Father’s will he wants it to be fully done!

Gethsemane is a watershed event. Yet for most of us the only sermons we’ve ever heard centered on a weak group of disciples who went to sleep and failed to pray. We’ve majored on the three times Jesus confronted his sleeping companions. We used it to bring guilt and condemnation on those who don’t pray long or hard enough. Gethsemane is not about apathetic, weak, or prayerless disciples. Gethsemane is about the agony of a Savior as he wars in the heavenlies to destroy the works of the devil and redeem humanity from their sin.

Be careful not to miss the short phrase found at the beginning of Luke 22:45—“And when He (Jesus) rose from prayer. . . .” Those six words alert us to a defining moment in the battle. When the struggle is over—when the hand-to-hand combat is finished, the victor is the only one who rises to his feet. Jesus has stopped praying—prayer time is finished. Why? Because his prayer has been answered—he has won the victory, so he stands up. The vanquished cannot regain his feet because his head has been crushed. The standing position is considered a sign of strength and Jesus is the last one standing!

Gethsemane is not about the failure of the disciples—none of them could secure our salvation anyway. No the focus of Gethsemane is about a powerful Savior who stands victorious!

The Hawk of Heaven and the Bush Hog

imagesBush hogging helps me clear my head (no—that’s not hunting wild hogs in the bush). It’s a farm implement one hooks to a tractor and mows the grass, weeds, or bushes that have gotten a bit out of hand. This week I climbed aboard my Ford 2600 tractor, set the height I wanted to cut, engaged the power take off, and off I went. For the next several hours it was just me, the tractor, and the field I was cutting. I had plenty of time to chill out and think even though the temperature was hovering close to one hundred degrees.

God often speaks to me during times like this from his creation. As I was grinding the imagesweeds into mulch, a rather large field mouse was forced out of his liar in the weeds and headed for a safer place. I didn’t think much about it until I made a round and headed back. Then out of nowhere I saw a reddish copper blur descending at breakneck speed toward the ground where the field mouse had fled. It was a rather large red-tailed hawk. In a blink of the eye, the hawk and his field mouse filet were headed for a private meal in a dining room in one of the pine trees that surround the field. It all happened in a matter of a few seconds.

imagesLater that afternoon, I flushed another large rodent out of his cozy condo in the underbrush and the very same thing happened—table for one and a free range mouse steak served rare off the grill in Chez Pine Tree. This hawk was racking up and waiting for me to set him up with the prime cuts.

As I pondered my contribution to the decimation of the of the field mouse population, I began to hear God’s unmistakable voice in my spirit. I had been witnessing far more than a lesson in nature’s food chain; I had been witnessing a picture with tremendous spiritual meaning. Let me show you what I mean.

Every person is like a garden or a field that must be tended or maintained very carefully. If we neglect that care—if we are inattentive to God—if we are careless and allow sin to take root—spiritual weeds start to grow. And if left untended for very long a fruitful garden or field can soon become overrun and turned into an overgrown jungle.

Weeds attract vermin like rats and field mice and allow them the cover to feed and breed without too much fear in the natural. Spiritual weeds also attract vermin of the demonic nature, and that undergrowth allows them to hide and carry out their work undetected. A little neglect, spiritually speaking, can quickly produce bondage in many different areas without a person even knowing it.

The only thing that gets rid of these spiritual weeds is confession and repentance—a high powered bush hog guided by you or me. Confession and repentance is our responsibility. Every so often, all us need to climb up on the tractor of prayer and unleash the bush hog on the weeds that have taken root in our own garden spot. (Stay out of your neighbor’s field—that’s his responsibility alone.)

“What about the hawk?” you might be thinking. “Where does he fit in all this?”

Oh, he’s there. Whenever we confess and repent, the enemy has no place to hide—no ground from which he can launch his attacks. He has to run, and when he does, the Hawk of heaven—the Holy Spirit—attacks with his talons bared and the enemy is no more. Gone in the blink of an eye.

What about your garden or field? Is it neatly manicured and mowed, or filled with underbrush and weeds? The Hawk of heaven is there—there high above your field…waiting. Why not crank the tractor and put the bush hog in gear?

Standing Firm (Part 15)

Let’s start with the most important thing first. To begin with—you must know that you know that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Do you? I am not asking you if you walked a church aisle, talked to a preacher, knelt at an altar, or prayed a prayer. I am asking you—do you know Jesus Christ personally? That is, have you the experienced the life-changing transformation he brings from the inside out from having a genuine relationship with him? Have you placed your complete trust in him? You can’t stand firm if you don’t know Jesus.

People often confuse church attendance, baptism, Bible reading, prayer, giving, mission work, or ministry as evidence that they are saved. Busyness and church activity do not save you—Jesus does! Do you know that you know that you know Jesus Christ? This is not a hope so, this is a know so. Are you intimately acquainted with him? Only you and God know the answer to this question beyond a shadow of a doubt. Make sure your answer is yes—not maybe—not I think so—not I hope so.

Secondly, do you understand what that relationship entitles you to? Have you grasped and begun to embrace the benefits of those blessings? It is far more than a free trip to heaven for eternity. It is far more than just eternal life. Have you grasped what it means to be in Christ?

Being in Christ means you have a secure position of victory. Jesus has defeated the enemy and you are in Christ, which means as long as you rest in that positional security you cannot be defeated. According to Ephesians 1:3, God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Every means all! In other words, what Jesus possesses right now is available to you because of your position in Christ.

Most believers have no clue of the power or potential contained in these blessings because they have been taught that those things are only available once you get to heaven. Listen closely, eternal life began the moment you came to faith in Christ. You need these things now to live the abundant life Jesus promised. We won’t need spiritual armor or spiritual gifts in heaven. We won’t be doing spiritual warfare up there. Much of our spiritual inheritance is available now so that we can live obediently and faithfully as son and daughters of the King.

God has equipped us for kingdom living, but we must embrace our position of being in Christ to fully experience it!

Standing Firm (Part 14)

The ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” These are wise words that every warrior should heed.

We must know our enemy, but it is just as important that we know ourselves. We must discover and come to grips with who we truly are—that is, the real me. Most of us fall into one extreme or the other—we see ourselves as abject failures who can’t do anything right, or as overwhelming successes who can’t do anything wrong. Neither extreme is true. What each of us need is a realistic, credible assessment of our own strengths, limitations, and weaknesses, as well as a biblical understanding of who God says we are. All these components reveal the real you and the real me.

The ability to stand firm on a consistent basis demands that I know who I really am. You can bet your enemy knows. He has studied you. He has the latest intelligence on who you are and what you will do in any given situation rather than the inflated assessment of who you wished you were or what you hope you will do. He is betting on your natural tendencies, your engrained belief system, your learned habits, those hidden spiritual strongholds, and those unhealed wounds from your past—as well as your physical and emotional limitations.

Each of us must take a long hard look at who we are. This is not a condemning look, but rather a realistic look. If each of us understands our strengths, limitations, and weaknesses, that information will make us better warriors because it will drive us to the feet of Jesus. It will (or should) convince us of our utter dependence on him. Otherwise, we are deceived by who we think we are. The apostle Paul put it this way, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is nothing” (Galatians 6:3). And—deception is one of the enemy’s most valuable weapons.

Therefore, the next few blogs will be a tool to help us evaluate ourselves, not some other brother or sister. That responsibility rests with them and the Lord!

Standing Firm (Part 13)

The archangel Michael binding Satan.

This blog is a word to the wise when it comes to dealing with the enemy and standing firm so that we might enforce the victory Jesus Christ has already won at the cross. A great deal of faulty or bad teaching has infiltrated our ability to stand firm against Satan. Some are lies or propaganda embedded in our belief system by the enemy to throw us off and others are human attempts to concoct a system that is always successful if one simply works the system.

Often people work out a ritual or prayer that contains precise phrasing and exact words that must be recited in an orderly sequence. Others have been taught that if you pour oil here and sprinkle holy water there and say “in Jesus name” while wildly waving a cross and tossing salt, the devil will flee. All of these items can be used by the Holy Spirit, but none of them alone or in a ritual guarantee the enemy will flee. None of them are silver bullets. They are simply tools.

God’s word tells us to “submit ourselves to the Lord and the devil will flee.”  Submission means that you bow your knee and your heart and you surrender your will to the will of God. Listening to the Holy Spirit’s instruction is the key element in defeating the enemy. He will tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. That’s how Jesus defeated the enemy. In one instance the Holy Spirit reminded him of particular verses he had memorized and read and Jesus then quoted the verses. It was the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s life and his obedience in that moment, and it will be the same empowerment of the Holy Spirit and obedience in our lives if we are to see the devil flee.

Let me say it again, it is not rituals or words strung together. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that causes the enemy to flee. And every attack is different. We can learn things through experience and study, but each time the enemy attacks, the upper hand is gained when you listen and do exactly what God’s Spirit directs you to do.

One last thing, I hear far too many Christians pray “I bind you Satan!” and they think their prayers are accomplishing something. They are not! You cannot bind something on earth that has not yet been bound in heaven. Satan has been loosed until the return of Christ—that is Bible! So stop praying ineffective prayers and start standing firm against him. Satan will only be bound temporarily when Michael, the archangel, puts him in the abyss for one thousand years, and eternally, when God casts him into Gehenna, the fiery hell of eternal torment prepared for the devil and his angels. Otherwise, he ain’t bound no matter what you or anyone else prays! We can bind the work of his emissaries and his demonic spirits when they step into the physical realm to harass, tempt, or attack us. But there is no comprehensive prayer that binds his whole kit and caboodle.

Satan is betting you don’t believe what Scripture teaches. He betting you believe the fairy tales, fables, and folk religion you’ve been taught. He is wagering you haven’t taken the time to see what the Bible clearly teaches about him. He is not afraid of rituals, folk remedies, or what Aunt Susie claimed would work. He only fears Jesus and those who are covered in Christ’s blood and know how to respond immediately and confidently in faith to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

So we must walk daily in the victory of Jesus Christ. We must understand what the Bible teaches about our enemy. We must know it, believe it, and walk it out! Then and only then will he flee from us.

Standing Firm (Part 12)

Lucifer’s personal rebellion led to an angelic insurrection in heaven as one-third of the heavenly host followed him and were banished from the third heaven—God’s personal abode. The shining one became the fallen one, the prince of demons, and his followers, demonic angels. Therefore, in spiritual warfare, we face a well-organized army arrayed in ranks—rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness.

The name Satan means adversary and devil means slanderer. He is our adversary and is called the accuser of the brethren who accuses us night and day before God. We can gain great insight into our opponent if we pay attention to the names the Bible affixes to our enemy. He is called the evil one, the tempter, the prince of this world, the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air, the old serpent, the dragon, the worthless lawless one (Belial), and the lord of the flies (Beelzebub).

Just remember the devil is not the Hollywood horned figure with a pitchfork. Instead he is a master of disguises and deception. It seems he can appear in different forms depending on the temptation or deception. The apostle Paul tells us he can even materialize as an angel of light—one of God’s elect angels. He is a powerful creature who lost his authority, but not his power or abilities when he fell.

Jesus tells us he is a cold-blooded murder and a liar. He wants to kill you and he will even quote Scripture to you in the process, but he will always twist its meaning and make it a lie. Satan is a liar. Demons lie. That’s what temptation does. It lies to you, telling you God is holding back something you should have. A temptation is nothing more than the presentation of an illegitimate solution for a legitimate need. A temptation is a lie perpetrated against us by the father of lies.

Jesus also calls Satan a thief and in John 10:10a he discloses the enemy’s sole purpose: “The thief comes only to steal, kill (the word is slaughter), and destroy. . . .” The idea that you can make a deal with the devil is ludicrous. It is laughable if you think you can outsmart him. He makes no deals except the ones that will benefit him and eradicate you.

He is a formidable foe with great power but no authority. We are not called to outsmart him or even outfight him. He is far stronger than we are on the physical level. He is mentally faster and far smarter than we are. Therefore, we must learn to live, breathe, and walk in the victory of Jesus Christ, who has given us both his authority and his power.