Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘battle’

trumoet

The people of Israel had been through hell and high water – literally.  They had been slaves in Egypt specially delivered right through the sea.  Finally, after forty years of stubborn, rebellious, complaining wandering in the desert, Joshua led them into the land God had promised.

In Joshua chapter 5, we find Joshua circumcising the sons of the Israelite slaves.  Mom and Dad didn’t make it out of the desert, but their children did.  The kids had been born on the way and had never been circumcised in accordance with God’s law.  Just afterward they eat their last provision of manna and remember the Passover and God’s deliverance and mercy.  Their new leader, Joshua, understands the order of importance when it comes to victory.  First, his men must be physically and spiritually obedient and prepared, then they must listen to the Word of the Lord.  Only after all of that is done do they begin to take what God has promised in victory.  It is not until they are physically healed and spiritually prepared that someone important shows up.  Joshua 5:14 tells us that the commander of the Lord’s Army comes and speaks to him about how to conquer the people living in the land God was giving to them.

Up until the point they arrive at the town of Jericho, all the people in the land have been in fear knowing what God had done for the Israelites in marching them through the sea.  Rahab the prostitute had even said as much to the spies Joshua had sent (Joshua 2:9).

They were afraid, but it did not cause them to obey God or befriend God’s people.  Instead, it caused them to shut themselves up inside the walls of their city.  The people of Jericho had resolved that Israel would not be their master.  No one could come in to their community and no one could go out to make peace or otherwise.  “Thus were they infatuated and their hearts hardened to their own destruction – the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty.” ~ Matthew Henry

Those silly walls, as strong and mighty as they were, were no match for the Commander of God’s Army.  Those walls were destined to fall flat despite how fortified and exclusive they were built to be.

The angel gives some rather bizarre instructions for this first military conquest in the promised land.  He tells God’s people to take the ark of the covenant (symbolizing His presence), march around the city, and blow trumpets continually every day for seven days.  The seventh day they were to march around seven times blowing the trumpets and then shout.  That is what would make the walls of Jericho fall down.

There were several reasons why this was going to work and several reasons why God chose to do it this way.  It was going to work, firstly, because it was God’s sovereign will, but, from a practical standpoint, the blowing of the trumpets from outside the walls of this closed city served to intimidate those therein.  By doing so, God’s people were declaring war.

 “They proclaimed war with the Cannanites and so struck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits, they were to be conquered and subdued.  Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid.  They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, ‘We shall have peace, though we go on.’ “ ~Matthew Henry

The trumpets themselves were least impressive.  God loves to use the foolish things to shame the strong.  Good news for me!

Another reason this worked, from an earthly standpoint, is that, while they may have feared firstly, after seven days of this ridiculous, noisy parade and no attack, the insiders doubtless began to think it was all a laughable show.

“Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came.  Wicked men think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgement; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late…The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people…That which they trusted to for defense proved their destruction…they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them.” ~Matthew Henry

We all know how the story ends.  The walls fall down flat at the shout of God’s people and Jericho is the city chosen to serve as an example to their enemies and an encouragement for the further conquests in taking over the promised land.

There were some practical and spiritual reasons why God chose to have his people conquer the city of Jericho in this way.

It made God’s glory known because only he can be credited with victory when a walled-in city falls at a shout.  This parading around also served to honor his ark as well as his priests who were carrying it and sounding the trumpets.

There is not too far any of us can get in spiritual victory apart from the presence of God going with us.  That’s why Jesus said, “…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”

Furthermore, this was meant to test the faith, patience, and obedience of God’s people.  Wonder what they were thinking.  Wonder how they felt when they had to march around thirteen times.  Thirteen trips around this city with nothing but a promise and their dull and meager instruments.  Yet, the purpose of this slow going-round served to test as well as encourage them heartily when victory came.  This was only the first battle.  Many were to follow.  This was for them to look back on and remember how strong and wise their God really was.  He keeps his promises.

God is in the business of tearing down walls.  So many times we find ourselves building them up, though.  The weapons he gives have divine power to destroy strongholds.  Jesus himself came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility and make one man out of two.  He came to bring unity between God and man as well as man and man.  He came to demolish strongholds.

Pray. Fast. Repeat.  God will take care of the walls.  They will fall when he is obeyed and honored by his people.

“The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies…Thus, shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.” ~Matthew Henry

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Throughout Ephesians, Paul has set forth standards for life and relationships for a people who are living in a very corrupt, idolatrous, and ungodly city.  He concludes the book with some important instructions on how to dress.

Armor.  When is the last time someone told you to prepare for war?  Maybe an athletic coach or a drill sergeant has prepped you in the past.  But how about your pastor?

Paul tells the Ephesians to put on armor.  Armor!  His focus is strength and his goal is winning the battles and attacks every Christian is sure to encounter.  So what makes us strong?

Truth.  Paul calls it the belt of truth.  We must know the truth of God because it is our very foundation.  Our belt supports all other garments and keeps them in place.

Righteousness.  Paul refers to this one as a breastplate.  He is not referring to a righteousness gained by works or by any means of our own.  He is referring to the righteousness of Christ. Trusting in his perfect righteousness protects our hearts and gives us the right to stand up to the enemy’s constant accusations.

Readiness.  Like shoes, Paul likens the peace made by Christ through his death on the cross to a readiness to do whatever God calls us to and even meet him if it is our time.

Salvation.  This is our helmet.  The saving power or Christ protects our thoughts and minds from evil.  No one ever acts out sin they have not first thought upon.

The Word of God.  Otherwise known as the Bible, Paul insists that the scripture is our sword.  A sharp, double-edged sword is what we have been given.  Not only that, but also the Holy Spirit to illuminate these divine words and inspire, convict, encourage, and rebuke.  The word of God is both offensive and defensive.  Knowing and doing what the Bible says is a fail safe weapon against Satan’s schemes.

Prayer.  Perhaps the single most important ingredient in this whole soldier suit is prayer.  Jesus himself said that we can do nothing apart from him.  Some of us learn the hard way how true this really is.

Paul concludes the book of Ephesians by urging the people to stay alert, persevere, and pray for all things including him.  He promises to send an informant to them about his work for their encouragement and offers peace, love, faith, grace, and Christ’s incorruptible love to them.

Read Full Post »

Image

Just so that everyone is clear about what sin actually is, Paul makes a list for the Galatians in chapter 5.  Herein, he also lists the fruits of the Spirit.  Again, this is not so much intended to be a list of dos and don’ts (although it is), rather, a plumb-line to gauge where we really are in regards to Christ.  

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~Galatians 5:16-24

Little wonder why Paul begins and ends with sexual sin.  Think about that for a moment.  Really let it sink in and consider the implications.  

Four of the actions listed are related to the 7th commandment.  You shall not commit adultery.  We are so severely inclined to do so that Paul wanted to ensure that we could not miss this in regards to our spiritual health.  He wanted Christians to understand that our very salvation hangs in the balance of the choices we make about our sexuality – not just in deed, but most certainly in word and thought as well.  He isn’t just pointing at homosexuality or fornicators here like so many Christians seem to do.  He’s pointing at each and every one of us enjoined in holy matrimony as well.  Surely, nowhere are men and women more impure than inside our own minds.  This warning is sobering, heavy news for the culture in which we live. The sexually impure will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Paul didn’t stutter.  Hear him.    

Two of the actions listed (idolatry and witchcraft) are related to the 1st and 2nd commandments.  Clearly, one cannot worship God if he is actively worshiping something else – namely self, Satan, or stuff.  Again, quite sobering news for we who live in this self-serving, indulgent generation of surplus.  The idolatrous will not inherit the kingdom of God.  

The rest of Paul’s list has to do with offense given to others by us (save drunkenness which is primarily against oneself but can and does certainly lead to offense against others as well.)  We who claim to love God cannot hate our brothers.  Hate-filled abusers will not inherit the kingdom of God.  

These are fearful, sobering warnings.  Oh, how we need the Lord who saves and keeps us to enable us to heed them!

 Matthew Henry writes, “It is not enough to cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well.”  

Paul gives us the alternative to these actions.  We are not simply to avoid sin.  We are to exhibit spiritual fruit in its place.  The question is not “Why?” or “What?”  The question is, “How?” How do we love like Jesus?  How do we have peace in strife?  How do we do good when we are altogether bad?  How do we offer kindness when we are angry?  How

As pleasant and beautiful as they are, these actions and attitudes are neither automatic nor blissfully easy.  Paul tells us to live by the Spirit; walk by the Spirit.  These are his instructions.  It isn’t do and don’t; it’s live and walk.  The only way we can live and walk in the Spirit is by daily death to ourselves.  It is a bloody war complete with compound casualties and corporate crucifixion.  Therefore, the answer is only through Christ.  We cannot do these things apart from him.  We cannot do anything apart from him.  Nor can we stop sinning.  

Live by the Spirit.  Walk by the Spirit.  These are Paul’s instructions regarding proper human behavior, complete with his referral to Our Counselor.  But doing it Paul’s way takes faith, prayer, and a whole lot of full on fighting with a side of blood, sweat, and tears.  Without the Spirit of God we will fail despite any future victories in morality.  With the Spirit of God we will succeed despite any past failures in morality.  

The proof is in the pudding.  Let us consider which list characterizes the gist of our lives and run to our Savior.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Image

Paul elaborates further on his opening statements in Galatians 1 and 2.  He wants his hearers to understand who he is, where he came from, and why his accusers are bogus.  He gives ample reason why they can be assured that he is trustworthy.  Paul gives a detailed account of his travels and experiences both with God and the church.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus…(In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) ~Galatians 1:10-17, 20

Why would Paul so adamantly state that he was not lying?  Apparently there were more than a few who were spreading misleading information regarding he and his reputation.  So much so that he felt he had to vehemently declare his own innocence in the face of those he cared so dearly for.  But as he defends himself, he insists that he has only one opinion in mind – God’s.  Ironic, huh?  A man defending himself for the sake of the truth he is teaching and the God he is serving.  While his accusers may charge his defense self-righteous,  2000+ years of study has proven otherwise.  

Paul defends himself and restates his motives because he recognizes the great potential for men to misunderstand, misrepresent, and malign him because of them.  Let’s face it, when you’re working for God, people don’t always understand.  He wants his brothers and sisters to recognize that, too.  So, he reminds them who he is working to please and where his authority comes from.  Paul wasn’t flaunting Pharisaic degrees given by rabbis.  He wasn’t pointing to his strict upbringing or his noble birth.  Never once do we see Paul boasting about his worldly accolades – even though we are certain he had more than most.  But, no.  When Paul pointed to his qualification, he pointed to God alone.  When he pointed to his past, he pointed only to his own failure.  (Galatians 1:12-14)

Little wonder why Paul’s emphasis is stayed upon the sufficiency and supernatural calling of Christ alone.  (Galatians 1:15-17)  No doubt this is why these false teachings and bogus accusations are so concerning to him.  He knows the mission of these men is not just to discredit and discount him.  Their mission is to discredit the true gospel and replace it with a false one.  Can someone say cult?  Yikes.

So Paul regards not anything of his own making or doing.  He relies not upon himself or any worldly credentials.  Yet, he proves that he has everything.  Paul had what the religious authorities of his day did not.  He had the mighty hand of God Almighty laid strong upon his very life. (Galatians 1:15-24)  No one could miss that, unless, of course, they needed to.

Yes, these men who claimed to be the authorities needed to discredit Paul.  They wanted people to disbelieve him.  His true doctrine did not fit with their destructive practices.  From self-promoting, self-made rituals to regulatory impositions upon other people, they wanted to stay right where they’d always been – in charge.

Why would the Christians follow, though?  Why would they allow these guys to enforce their man-made rules?  Why would they mix works with faith as a prerequisite to salvation?  Why would they mix the law with the gospel?  Didn’t they know better?  What was the motivation for such unpleasant penance?  And why was it so important for them to make sure they followed these guys?  

Well, not surprisingly, they did it for the same reason men and women today do just the opposite: persecution.

Today, most religious authorities do not persecute for lack of ritual observation (although a few still would have us all working for salvation, abstaining from marriage and meat, and wearing what’s most out of style.)  But, no.  Now, the most destructive heresies come as a result of what many claim to be a “lack of tolerance.”  Oh, yes.  This is our cultural creed.  Where the Jews’ cultural creed was don’t eat, don’t associate, don’t include, and don’t dare forget your fast and sacrifice (even though Jesus finished all that) or else we’ll ostracize you, ours is don’t judge, don’t discern, don’t debate, don’t question – even if – you guessed it – heresies are prevalent within the church (because, well, Jesus wouldn’t want anyone spitting hairs over things like sin or exposing it for goodness sake…and if you do, we’ll ostracize you.)  

Both errors result from missing the imperative balance between law and grace.  Love brings law and grace together for the good of all, not self-interest.  

We must recognize our time and refer to Paul and Jesus who both rightly refused to bow to the bosses with the biggest britches.  We’ve simply got someone else to please.  Fight on, Christian soldiers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mG78M7g9wRo

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Image

“A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.” ~J. C. Ryle

There are only a few instances wherein I find it fitting to watch movies: In the case of a kid’s movie, when I’ve agreed to a non-communicative style date (and read the review), and when I’m sick and have absolutely no ability to do anything else.

Before I go into a full discourse on why reading is far superior and how modern entertainment has robbed this country of critical thinkers, demoralized most to a state of accepted indecency, and contributed to a culture who can quote more movie lines than scripture texts, let me suffice to say I’m not into movies.  At all.  I can count on one hand the movie titles I’d actually enjoy watching ever again.

Last night I was sick.  A mere fifteen years after it premiered, I watched Saving Private Ryan for the first time.  As everyone knows, it is about war.

As I consider war, and all the hell that goes with it, I wonder – just how many Christians still 1. know they are (and should be) fighting one, and 2. understand in graphic detail what a war even looks like.

So far removed are we from the battle (hence the ubiquitous prioritizing of entertainment over biblical knowledge — all three Jeopardy contestants last night knew every answer except the one which referenced the Bible) — that when hardship comes, either to us or another, we grossly lack both the training and the experience to properly engage.

I think many see Christianity as something much more familiar today – perhaps, a football game, if you will.

In a football game, people cheer.  They worship loudly, and often, obnoxiously.  They leave when their team begins to lose too badly and they reminisce about times when winning was commonplace.  Often, they’ll critique the actual players who have far more skill and experience than they ever could from their very comfortable arm chairs.  They’ll yell and complain when the ref makes what they perceive to be a bad call – again setting themselves us as the authority over all.  They’ll even willingly make themselves content with outrageously overpriced hamburgers, harsh weather, and horrendous traffic – none of which is healthy for them.

Not so in war.

In a war, no one cheers from the stands; everyone prays from on the field.  In a war, no one seeks to be noticed.  Doing so would compromise their position as well as their mission.  No.  Everyone tries to blend in for the safety and protection of all.  In a war, no one leaves when their side begins to lose; everyone stays until either victory or death.  No one reminisces of “good” battles because there are no good battles.  In a war, no one critiques from a position of comfort because all are fully, painfully engaged.  In a war, those who would yell back at their superior are those who would die by their own foolish insubordination.  In a war, no one is foolish enough to remain content in poor, unhealthy, unlivable conditions leading to their death.  No, but if they must involuntarily endure such things, they console one another with the future hope of going home.  These are the very rules of engagement.

That’s the difference between a game and a war.

Which are you involved in?

 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. ~1 Timothy 1:18-19a

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM8bTdBs-cw

Read Full Post »

Image

It’s four a.m.  The wind is howling like an underfed wolf.  The few dim lights which remain begin to flicker.  Sirens abound.  And then…darkness.

Darkness sets in upon darkness.

The dimness of what was left is now gone, too.

I’m left with a choice.  Do I lay in the darkness and close my eyes hoping light will come later?  Or do I forge into the darkness alone and create new light – light unrestricted by favorable conditions?

I am a creature of habit.  I am a lover of light.  I will not retreat.  I will fight the darkness and create light.  I will search for light more diligently than the ravenous wolf of darkness seeks to snuff it out.

I light a candle.  I load batteries into a flashlight.  I pray for those whom the sirens are sounding.  I wait for the Lord to make his presence known as I pour over his Word.

Light wins.  The darkness may be thick and thorough, but the light is always more competent to attract.

How tempting it is to resist our call to be the unrestricted, unconditional light!  To stay in bed; to wish for dreams; to refuse the work and discipline it takes to be pioneers of the Light.

It reminds me of my daughter and her math.  She will spend hours beligerently completing what would take mere minutes with proper compliance.  She will work much harder trying not to work than she would if she’d just do her work obediently.

But the flesh is saying, “Anything but that!  Don’t touch me there, God.  I’m willing to waste time, whine, cry, sit in a chair for hours, but I will not do that.”

In the flicker of my candle, in the eye of my prayer, in the wisdom of the Word, I see myself.  When faced with whatever creates utter darkness for me, I am again a bantering eight year old.  I’ll say things like, “I’ll go anywhere except there, God.  I’ll befriend anyone but them.  I’ll repent of anything but that.  I’ll give you anything but this.  I’ll trust you for everything except _________.”

In this refusal of the Light, I cease to shine.  I give in to the darkness.  I close my eyes and I sleep in doubtful hope – which is not hope at all.  I allow darkness to overcome me and I begin to lose the battle.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. ~Romans 12:21, 13:8

Goodness.  Love.  Unrestricted; unconditional.  That’s what I have been given.  That is the mission of the Light.  That is my call as a lover of it – of Him.

Pray that no matter how the dark the darkness becomes that I stay hungrier than the wolf.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hchsGFGd24E

Read Full Post »

 Image

Job knew it was not justifiable to wish for death as he did, so, rather than justifying it, he gives his reasons in an effort to excuse it.

“Has not man a hard service on earth,
    and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?
2 Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
    and like a hired hand who looks for his wages,
3 so I am allotted months of emptiness,
    and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
4 When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
    But the night is long,
    and I am full of tossing till the dawn.
5 My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
    my skin hardens, then breaks out afresh.
6 My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle
    and come to their end without hope.

7 “Remember that my life is a breath;
    my eye will never again see good…

Am I the sea, or a sea monster,
    that you set a guard over me?
13 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
    my couch will ease my complaint,’
14 then you scare me with dreams
    and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I would choose strangling
    and death rather than my bones.
16 I loathe my life; I would not live forever.
    Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
17 What is man, that you make so much of him,
    and that you set your heart on him,
18 visit him every morning
    and test him every moment?
19 How long will you not look away from me,
    nor leave me alone till I swallow my spit?
20 If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?
    Why have you made me your mark?
    Why have I become a burden to you?
21 Why do you not pardon my transgression
    and take away my iniquity?
For now I shall lie in the earth;
    you will seek me, but I shall not be.” ~Job 7:1-7, 12-21

Job begins his validation by comparing human life to war.  The “hard service” he refers to in verse 1 points to military service.  Doubtless this man is indeed in fierce spiritual, physical, and emotional combat.

Job’s battle was one of not losing faith, and, eventually, winning a deeper trust in his God.  To be proven victorious, Job was called to endure a seemingly endless cycle of pain, misery, and loss, all apart from explanation or understanding.  He complains of useless days followed by restless nights.  As soon as one wound healed, a new one presented.  His lack of reprieve led to a severe lack of hope (7:7), as well as a growing suspicion regarding God’s character (7:14,16,20.)

While Job neither denies nor forgets his own sin (7:21), he truly begins to question God’s goodness and wonder just who this Creator really is.  If I’m honest, I have to say there’s been many a time where I could relate.

Every Christian who has ever lived has been called to war.  Whether our battles are plain and obvious or internal and covert, we should never fail to recognize that every single day is a battle.  Victory becomes us when we learn to trust without understanding and keep the faith when it’s most unreasonable.

How can we do that if we are in the midst of an endless cycle of pain, loss, and misery without rest or understanding? Just what kind of God has such insane expectations for weak and lowly sinners such as I?

If I knew, I don’t suppose I’d have to spend so many hours studying Job.

When we’re unsure of the Father’s heart, we need only to look the Son’s passion.  Whatever a father loves, a son hotly pursues.  God showed us how to overcome against all odds by showing us who we must look to for impossibilities.  To that end I ask, how did Jesus do this?

Jesus didn’t fight his war with an M-16;

Jesus fought his war without fatigues.

Jesus didn’t fight with fists clenched;

Jesus fought with hands folded.

Jesus didn’t fight with knowledge, power, and pride;

 Jesus fought with wisdom, service, and humility.

Jesus didn’t fight with anger, hostility, and hate.

Jesus fought with forgiveness, peace, and love.

Insane expectations?  In my honest opinion, yes.  I can totally see God diggin’ the X-games up in heaven.  Yeah.  He’s an extremist.  But extreme is not impossible.  I may be weak, but one of my favorite songs tells me he is strong.  Jesus will keep me from all wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MygR5zMia_E

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »