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?

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.

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

 

 

 

 

Enjoying Darkness

It is easy to see the darkness creep in. It is harder to admit the reason: We like it that way.

They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practise every kind of impurity. Ephesians 4:19

In our greed, we harden our consciences against the pain inflicted both on ourselves and others as we indulge our sensuality and impurity.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. V18

The callousness of our hearts impacts our spiritual lives. We cannot harden our feelings without creating barriers against the life of God. In our self-justifying hardness we become alienated from God and ignorant of what is really important. We are darkened in our understanding.

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. V17

In the end such thinking will be proven futile. We give ourselves to what we enjoy and discover that from an eternal perspective it is nothing.

So, how do we find our way back to God? One way is to listen for the demands of self-indulgence. This exposes where we have hardened our hearts. Then pray for the Lord to give grace to be softened and for his light of life to shine there. Allow him to expose the pain and/or the sensuality that led to the hardness and seek him for his restoration of life.

 

See also “Encroaching Darkness” blog of October 6th 2015

Choose Jesus’ way

Jesus talks of how we choose to receive His word. An emphasis on visible results has pushed us towards –

The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.

Results are easy! We can count green shoots of decisions and boast of fruitfulness. But easy come brings easy go –

But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

Noticing the failure trailing this approach, many abandoned the focus on decisions for a journey into the Christian life. This sounds good, but the thorny issues of life are not dealt with in repentance. So –

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

Protecting ourselves and others from Jesus’ cross is producing a fruitless faith. There is however another choice –

But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Mat 13:18-23 (NIV 1984)

Jesus is clear about what this choice involves–

…  unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Let’s choose Jesus’ way!

What counts?

How poorly I appreciate the unseen work of Christ. I recently organised a conference. There was a sense of God at work, one person even said it was the best conference they had ever been to. Yet looking back I experience frustration that only half the expected number turned up.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

Looking for visible impact I slip away from Christ. In Portugal He spent six years showing me numbers were irrelevant. How easy to revert to type after returning to a culture fixated with measurables. This road leads to a pressure to justify cost effectiveness where the desire to impress, or merely justify, leads to abuse of those entrusted to me. It won’t be through circumcision, but elevating what is secondary and what is elevated becomes idolatrous and abusive. In Paul’s day it was all about bringing people into Judaism; he writes,

Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. (Galatians 6:12)

Such abuse is to no avail, for what counts is the transformation that only Christ sees.

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

I live in a world where what is counted is supreme so, being human, I will struggle! However, I trust Jesus who promises –

16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule – to the Israel of God.

 

The background study can be found in ‘Circumcision for now

Finding peace in anxiety

How can we move from the anxious tossing on a bed, to a place of peace? from

when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.  (Psalm 4:4)

To,

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

David seems to find his way through sacrifice –

Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord (Psalm 4:5)

This is not, ‘Give up something to manipulate God into what we want’, but the sacrifice of that which is so important it drives to anxiety.  Anxiety is an early warning system showing us our inappropriate affections. In sacrificing our demands we come to a place of peace.

When I give up my demands I entrust myself to God and His love, knowing that the Lord is both good and sovereign. This surrender of what I am convinced will be good is faith indeed. When I exercise such faith, my heart shifts from a desire for personal prosperity to a desire for God Himself. We cannot purse both at the same time.

Many, Lord, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’ Let the light of your face shine on us. Psalm 4:6

In letting go, David has gained the greater perspective, that the Lord himself is our reward.  Everything else is a trinket compared to the Lord who is our true treasure. In knowing that He is safe with God, he can lie down at peace in safety.

 

A more detailed study on Psalm 4 is found in BibleBase2ADaringFaith

Spiritual emptiness

Why does the Lord take us through periods of spiritual emptiness? We long for intimacy in worship and the word, but encounter dryness.

This seems to be the experience of the Psalmist in Psalms 42&43 (combined as one).

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?

This seems blasphemy to a culture exalting intimacy with God. How could God distance Himself? Yet the Psalmist writes –

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’

When this spiritual emptiness is experienced there are consequences, a rawness to life. One is on edge and brought to the end of natural defences. One is tempted to fill up through satisfaction of physical senses that only scream louder.

In years gone by, the Psalmist may have believed in a ‘technique that worked.’ After gaining intimacy with God through such techniques and then losing it for no apparent reason one gains perspective that God is after more than experiences of wellbeing.

43:3 Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

The break through comes not from our efforts but from the Lord. The Psalmist calls on the one who seems to have forgotten him, recognising that the Lord’s purpose is as much about character as the experience of His presence.

 

For greater detail see the study for the whole passage.

Way out of emptiness

We live in a world of self-interest, committed to feeling better about ourselves or experiences that take our eyes off the state of our lives. How do we let go this futile thinking that only reinforces inner darkness? (Eph 4:17-19)

I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise. (Psalm 34:1 msg)

When I take my eyes off myself and lift them to the Father, as I worship Him, then life expands as I see His love and am inspired by His purposes.

Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him. (Psalm 34:5)

This worship comes with integrity. It smiles when seeing a twist in life with His mark on it, it calls for mercy when confronted with failure.

Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness. Young lions on the prowl get hungry, but God-seekers are full of God. (Psalm 34:9-10)

Worship opens to His goodness. This opening, represented by opening our mouths, leaves us vulnerable for open doors let in as well as out. True worship is on His terms and receive what He declares to be good.

When in need I am tempted to be the prowling lion looking to devour something, even God! And after devouring, I am still hungry. When I come to God in surrender not focussing on what I want from the encounter but to worship Him, He fills me with Himself. I may not have what I wanted but am satisfied by His presence.

 

The full study on this Psalm is found in What is worship?

Worship, a cure for rebellion

When I really want something, I look on the Bible as a hindrance, getting in the way of what I want. I want to rebel –

 ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’ Psalm 2:3

I despise my convictions as irrelevant for this situation. The Lord however, has a response:

He rebukes them … saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’ Psalm 2:5-6

I have become so passionate for what I desire that I have forgotten Jesus. The way back is to focus on Him alone. When I have Jesus in focus, when I have surrendered the passion and spent time with Him, feeding on Him, I find my heart is restored. Then questions of ‘What are the limits I can get away with?’ become irrelevant.

For those unwilling to surrender there is a tragic road ahead –

You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. Psalm 2:9

The Lord is clear about His intention. He will not willingly allow us to be drawn away by false gods.

Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:12

Finding the limit of law is a sideshow. The response He is looking for is to worship Him, to choose to delight in Him, not the trappings of this world, to turn my head around and look passionately at Jesus.

 

The Bible study from which this came – biblebase2adaringfaith