Preparation for spiritual warfare

Our culture seems to sap spiritual life from us, we slumber in entertainment, we are ensnared through poor choices. We long for the Lord to bring victory in our day, but when Jesus rides out for victory who will be ready to join him?

The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”-(Psalm 110v1)

In heaven the Father and Son await the right moment to overcome their enemies.

Meanwhile, on earth we call out, “How long O Lord till you deal with this secular society opposed to you?”

The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem; you will rule over your enemies. (v2)

We are currently in retreat with the church haemorrhaging people, especially youth, and gaining few converts, yet ultimately we have this hope, the Lord will extend his powerful kingdom through his people.

When you go to war, your people will serve you willingly. You are arrayed in holy garments, and your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew. (v3)

In the mean time, the Son sits at the side of his Father while his people are being prepared for the eventual battle of victory. That preparation work is very different from what we imagine. The questions to be answered at that time will be –

  • Who have shown themselves to be willing troopers?
  • Who joins the Son in holy garments?
  • Who is daily renewed in strength?

Spiritual Ruins

Many say, “Where is your God?” Many of God’s people are so distracted by the world’s pleasures that their spiritual lifeblood is being poured out. So, we pray –

Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes! Let the groans of the prisoners come before you… (Psalm 79:9-11 NLT)

Throughout the Bible the Lord tends to work through weakness rather than strength. It was after years of slavery in Egypt that the Lord heard the cries of his people. It was at the low point of the time of Judges that the Lord introduced Samuel and David. Are we able to become real, recognise our place of disgrace in our society and call out to God?

How long, O Lord? Will you be angry for ever? … Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. (Psalm 79:5-8 NLT)

The writer appeals to God for compassion. Often we appeal on the basis of the spread of the gospel.  We appeal out of insecurity instead of God’s mercy. Insecurity puffs itself up saying, “We are up to the task!” It looks to future glory for motivation. Humility recognises its weakness and looks to God to work both in us and in the world.

Glory shines out

I am tempted by passages of blessing to think God does great things because I am right with him. This can lead to a focus on myself rather than God ignoring my need for forgiveness and grace.

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. (Isaiah 60:1 NLT)

When we are called to arise it is because the light of the Lord shines on us.

Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. (Isaiah 60:2 NLT)

When darkness covers the earth the light of his people stands out.

It seems the Lord awaits his moment to make his glory rise and appear over us. He waits his time for effect.  Are we willing to be patient for his work to be fulfilled? The final outcome will be amazing –

All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance. “Look and see, for everyone is coming home! Your sons are coming from distant lands; your little daughters will be carried home. (Isaiah 60:3-4 NLT)

In a dark world the light of God shines out far and wide across the world, it shines to every strata of society. In this dark world, the Lord makes us into a lighthouse so that his little ones, prodigals who have wandered far from the light of Christ, come to their senses and return.

God far away

I was awakened each night to pray leaving only a couple of hours sleep.  I became sick, losing weeks to poor health.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. (Psalm 38:1-NIV)

I asked the Lord, ‘Why am I being persecuted?’  He showed me it was a rebuke.

Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me. Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; … (Psalm 38:2-4-NIV)

I tried defending myself by going to bed earlier, but I awakened even earlier. Finally, I saw the issue:  I was defending myself from God.

My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly … I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (Psalm 38:5-8-NIV)

I had become resentful. It was not as if these were good times of prayer.  Was it worth the pain? Yet who am I to tell God what is productive or good?

All my longings lie open before you, … my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. (Psalm 38:9-10-NIV)

The light was going from my eyes with the frustration of standing in God’s presence and nothing seemingly happening. It felt a waste of time.

Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour. (Psalm 38:21-22-NIV)

All I could do was call on God for help that this season would pass – as it did following these realisations.

Relational battles

There is a person blocking us in an endeavour we sensed the Lord directing us towards. It had seemed a case of praying and seeing how the Lord would protect his endeavour. Then Psalm 18 challenged me.

I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed … [Psalm-18v37-38-NLT]

The Lord entrusts the battle to us, a challenge of faith to someone who avoids confrontation.

You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. [Psalm-18v39-NLT]

The Lord’s desire for destruction challenges my compassion. There is a reason-

Many caught in sin only apologise where caught. There is remorse but no brokenness that owns the guilt. All is explained away and fault is assigned to others. There is no humbling or turning their backs in flight merely withdrawal to a new defiant defensive position.

They cried for help, but there was no one to save them – to the Lord, but he did not answer… [Psalm-18v41-42-NLT]

The enemy’s defeat challenges their self-righteousness. Those who have stood in defiance presume God is with them. Defeat forces self-righteousness to acknowledge its presumption.

You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; … They come trembling from their strongholds. [Psalm-18v43-45-NLT]

The battle is not one sided. The enemy fights back and fights dirty, yet God delivers.

Surrender is not merely to us, but from the strongholds of self-righteousness. Through victory the enemy’s road to reconciliation with God is cleared.

 

Freedom for today

The offer of freedom to indulge our every whim is only as free as all the other offers we don’t believe. Those who taste its fruits become enslaved in dysfunctional relationships and addictive behaviours.

To these slaves, the Lord calls-

Sit in a place of honor. Remove the chains of slavery from your neck. (Isaiah 52:2 NLT)

How are we supposed to remove the chains? If it was down to us we would fail, but the Lord promises intervention.

I can redeem you without having to pay for you.” (Isaiah 52:3 NLT)

The price of freedom has been paid by Jesus. The question is, am I willing to take the challenge of faith that he presents.

Get out! Get out and leave your captivity, where everything you touch is unclean. Get out of there and purify yourselves. (Isaiah 52:11 NLT)

The way to freedom is easy. It only requires us to act on a choice to leave everything that has held us and everything that is unclean. It may seem hurtful and uncaring to those we leave behind, but the Lord justifies and he transforms the circumstances so that ultimately the road to freedom will be acknowledged as the road of love.

You will not leave in a hurry, running for your lives. For the Lord will go ahead of you; yes, the God of Israel will protect you from behind. (Isaiah 52:12 NLT)

The Lord offers to protect those who are willing to go with him and we follow him to a place of honour.

 

The Bible study for Isaiah 52

 

 

 

 

Refreshment

I can find the urgency of a task so great that I struggle to stop.  I can be driven by the expectations of others, or even myself. This is not the pattern of our Lord. He stops for refreshment mid battle.

But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way. (Psalm 110:7 NLT)

The one who receives power from on high needs refreshment! This begs the question: Am I willing to stop at the Lord’s brook to be refreshed?

This admission of need seems incongruous with the beginning of the Psalm –

The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem (Psalm 110:2 NLT)

The Father exercises power to extend His Kingdom. In modern parlance we see signs and wonders. Why would the God of power leave his servants in need of refreshment? Surely war has no let up, it requires concentrated effort. Why would the Lord break off from the urgent need?

When you go to war, your people will serve you willingly. (Psalm 110:3 NLT)

We live at a time when few serve willingly.  Ministry leaders all over the western Church feel obliged to drive their people to action. Yet maybe it is in this stopping at the brooks along the way for refreshment that our people can endure the challenges of an age that sucks the life out of everyone.

Am I willing to acknowledge that stopping to be refreshed by the Lord is equally urgent as the ministry he has set before me?

Overflowing grace

We desire to see the Lord’s fame go to the world, to see God yield His harvest.

Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him. (Psalm67:6-7)

This skips to the end of a process. It begins with –

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, (Psalm67;1)

Great! I want that too! When however, He chooses to answer at a time of His choosing, will I be ready to respond? When He wakes me at 3:00am am I willing to get out of bed and receive that blessing?

that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.  (Psalm67:2)

I might think of this blessing as a purely personal thing between God and myself. Yet it is precisely such personal blessings that go out to bless His world.

People see and hear how the Lord has worked His ways in us. This demonstrates something living and practical. They are inspired to seek God too. People hear of how the Lord rescued us from challenging situations and they are emboldened to ask Him for their own.

He uses a ripple effect, throwing a pebble into the pond so the waves go out. The wave is with us for a short time, we forget and move on. The Lord however makes the fruit of that personal encounter persist into the lives of others, and beyond to people around them.

See more detail in Biblebase2adaringfaith.

Price of abundance

8 Praise our God, all peoples, …

13 You brought us to a place of abundance.

These verses of Psalm 66 begin and end with something we desire: To overflow with praise at God’s abundance. The road to abundance however, runs through fires of refining.

11 You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. 12 You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,

These fires might push us towards bitterness in our frustration. We question how the Lord can be glorified through such situations where the unrighteous are winning and our response is far from good.

10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver

The point of refining is to expose rubbish so that it can to be dealt with. Without heat, we imagine ourselves to be godly. Only when heat exposes poor character can we become aware of our need to ask the Lord for help to deal with issues that He was always aware of.

Often the way to refining is opened by a poor decision. It is a necessary step for without the refining we would be unable to appreciate or rest in the forthcoming abundance.

9 he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping.

The Lord encourages us that He will preserve us. We may stumble, but the Lord keeps us from slipping. In this hope we can face the challenges that come our way with an assurance that He will bring us through to a place of abundance.

 

For more detail – Price of abundance

Live for eternity

Jesus’ unearths His followers’ motives following the feeding of the 5000 because it is here that the eternal value of what someone does is seen.

‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. John 6:26

What is the difference between eating bread that came to people as a miracle and seeing signs? They were the same event! The difference is in the focus. If I am looking for Jesus because I ate the bread and had my fill, then the focus is on me. If the focus is on Jesus, then I am looking for Him in order to worship Him. Jesus’ statement asks questions about my direction and focus in life –

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ John 6:27

In our materialistic age I can be caught up with what is ultimately material, even if it seems spiritual. Paul identified Faith, hope and love as the three that persist. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Jesus asks questions of our motives too. Seeing our lives through the lens of ‘faith, hope and love’ helps us see if we are trying to use Him to get what we want out of life or whether we are working for the food that endures to eternal life.

 

See a more complete study