Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:14-17

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 
Ephesians 6:14-17
In the past post, we looked at the desired outcome of a battle with Satan. Paul reminds us again in verse 14, that our goal is to stand. Remember, this is not a casual standing to watch something go by. Paul is  emphasizing the need for immovable steadfastness in the face of a relentless, ruthless foe.
He uses a key phrase to introduce the Armor of God: "Therefore, having".
  • therefore - because of everything Paul has told us thus far
  • having - assuming we have sense enough to do what he is about to tell us to do
Lets look at the Armor...
"Girded your waist with TRUTH"
Since Satan is a liar, we must oppose him with God’s truth. In Paul's day the people wore belts or girdles to bind up their flowing garments and hold everything together. It is God’s truth that must hold everything together in our lives. As Christians, we must love truth and live truth.
Breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS
Righteousness is not what I do for God. Righteousness is a result of my surrender to Him and my adherence to His truth. It is the deeds that come from that surrender to the Spirit Who then fills and controls me. Adhering to truth affects the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate was used by a Roman soldier to cover him from the shoulders to the loins covering the vital organs. Paul is saying, "It is like that Roman soldier. He wouldn’t go into battle without his loins girded. But secondly, he wouldn’t go into battle without that breastplate on, because that breastplate is what protects the vital things of his life."
"Shod your feet with the preparation of the GOSPEL OF PEACE"
The Roman sandal was furnished with nails that gripped the ground firmly, even when it was sloping or slippery; so the good news of peace keeps us upright and firm.
Shield of FAITH
So far  there is no moveable equipment. In other words, these are immoveable pieces that we have put on. Now we come to something that can be moved. It is a weapon, but it is a defensive weapon. In ancient warfare, the enemy would wrap the arrows with flammable material, dip it in pitch, set it on fire and shoot these flaming arrows at the enemy. Now here is the picture Paul is drawing for us. First, I am to obey God. Then when the devil throws his flaming missiles at me, because I have purposed to obey the Lord Jesus at all costs in everything, that obedience becomes like a shield to ward off the flaming missiles coming in, even extinguishing those flaming missiles.
Roman soldier would be foolish to enter a battle without his helmet. He knew that the helmet would protect his head from arrows, but that it's primary function was to ward off blows from the enemy's broadsword, which was from three to four-feet long with a massive handle that was held with both hands like a baseball bat.The helmet on one's head was the only way to deflect it. 
Satan’s broadsword has two sides to it: discouragement and doubt.  Many people suffer from doubt and discouragement, but the helmet of salvation is our protection.  A good hope of salvation, a Scriptural expectation of victory, will purify the soul, and keep it from being defiled by Satan.
Sword of the SPIRIT
To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without.
A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:13

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand
Ephesians 6:13
When we mention Spiritual Warfare, it seems that the only things we want to discuss are demons, angels, and The Armor of God. While these certainly are the main topics in Spiritual Warfare, Paul reveals other important things that are just as necessary for us to know. Ephesians 6:13 is contains one of those gems of information. 
What is our goal? When we say we are "in battle against Satan", or when we are "experiencing Spiritual Warfare", what is the outcome we are aiming for?
According to Paul, our goal is to stand. Our goal is to WITSTAND and having done all, STAND.
This tells me (and this is only MY personal feeling), a few very important things about Spiritual Warfare:
  • This is not a battle for the timid, weak, immature, or semi-committed.
    • If our BEST, if what God expects of us, is to simply stand when its all over, then this is serious stuff.
  • We are not battling for our salvation.
    • Christ took care of that. We are battling for our WITNESS, our TESTIMONY, our INTEGRITY.
  • Our goal is to STAND against Satan.
    • Resist him and his tactics and protect that which we have been given.
It is important to understand what it is that we are fighting for, and what the desired outcome is to be.
When we become Christians, the Holy Spirit equips us with everything we need. Salvation is a free gift to us, paid for by Jesus Christ. We do not battle Satan for our Salvation. We defend what God has given us. Satan will attack.  The day of evil will come. Our job as Christians is to be prepared when that day comes and to stand against whatever Satan attacks us with.
Our goal is that, when each attack is over, we remain standing, having lost none of our witness, integrity, or testimony to Satan.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spirtual Warfare - Ephesians 6:12

I LOVE this verse!
Oh! I have used it and used it and used it, in my own struggles and in ministering to others.

I have learned that I am much better able to deal with difficult people when I remember that my battle is not against THEM, but against Satan working in them! It is easier to blame circumstances on Satan than to blame Satan when someone acts all crazy. Why? Because of my OWN sinful nature. (ouch) It is MY sinful nature that wants to set someone straight, get revenge, tell them what I think, and retaliate. It is MY sinful nature that finds joy and satisfaction in letting everyone know "What goes around comes around," and "You make your bed, you lie in it," and "You reap what you sow". Satan gets a 2 for 1 deal when he can make someone treat me poorly and then can in turn make me retaliate in kind.

Oh my goodness. What a mess.

When we remember that our enemy is not the person who has wronged us, but Satan, a few things happen:
  • we trust God to take care of the situation
  • we take away Satan's opportunity to cause US to sin,
  • we protect and preserve our witness,
  • we show the love of Christ to the person who wronged us. 
  • we grow spiritually
  • our integrity remains intact
  • Satan's grip on us is loosened
I've learned that this is a huge part of understanding "In your anger, do not sin."

So if "that" person is not your enemy, then who is? Satan of course. I will let you do your own research on how Satan works. There are a few earlier posts here about it...
Satan is truly the craftiest of all God's creation. His methods have not changed since the Garden of Eden. As we discussed in an earlier post, he has no real power so he relies on deceit to keep you in bondage. Let's look at how this applies specifically to today's discussion before we part ways...
That obsessive feeling you get when someone wrongs want revenge, you want to make them hurt the same way they hurt you, you wait expectantly for God to strike them, etc. ... all this is from Satan. Satan uses this to keep you angry, keep you hurting, keep you focused on the one who wronged you because as long as he can keep you focused on your anger and your pain, he knows that you will not seek God for healing. Satan knows that only God can heal wounded people. If you "just can't get over it", then Satan is having his way with you.
God can heal wounded people, but Satan deceives us into believing that we are better off being wounded. Satan keeps multitudes of people in bondage by simply deceiving them into believing that they cannot forgive someone who has done wrong to them. If you believe this lie, then you are in bondage to Satan. Any reason that comes to mind for NOT forgiving someone is from Satan.
How do I know? Because Jesus says forgive.
I am not in anyway saying that anyone should subject themselves to abuse. There are people in my own life who I have forgiven for hurting me... but will never allow them to be close enough to me to ever hurt me again. This has nothing to do with forgiveness....its just being smart. 
As we move forward and look at the armor God has given us to fight Satan, please take a moment to make sure that Satan does not already have you in bondage because of unforgiveness.
Remember, We aren't battling people. We are battling Satan. And those people who hurt you....they are battling Satan too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:11

When we visited last, we discussed the importance of tapping into the Lord's Mighty Strength. I want to stress again the importance of becoming a spiritually strong Christian. Without the Lord's Mighty Power, the armor of God will only get you part way through the battle. If you are not spiritually strong, you will not be able to stand against Satan. There is no way to sugar coat this. Without the Lord's Mighty Power, the Armor of God is little more than behavior modification. When you face temptation, changing your behavior will only buy you some time. In order to defeat Satan, you must allow God to change your heart, what you desire, what you love, what you crave...who you are.
Verse 11 speaks of 3 things: The Full Armor of GOD, Taking a stand, and the Devil's (or Satan's) schemes.
It is noteworthy that Paul instructs us to take on the FULL armor of God. To leave out any piece of the armor is to create a spot of weakness. Satan will attack you at your weakest point. With that, notice that Paul tells us to take on the full armor of GOD, and nothing else. This is GOD's armor. He knows how best to defend us against Satan, and the armor He offers is all we need. So, take on the FULL armor of GOD, which He prepares and gives to His children. Nothing more, nothing less.
We put on the armor of God so that we CAN stand. The original word translated "can" is "dunamai" which is the root of words like dynamite and dynamic. In this context, it is the enablement by supernatural power. (The Lord's Mighty Power). Note that this is written in the passive voice...this is an internal enablement by an outside source. What does all this mean? Simply that we must be WILLING to let God enable us. We must surrender, yield our "rights", let Him have His way, and allow His spirit to strengthen and control us. Attitudes such as self confidence, self sufficiency, and self assurance have no place in the life of a mature Christian.
We put on the full armor of God so that we can STAND. This portrays the image of standing one's ground, as opposed to rushing forward in a fight. This is not a picture of casual standing, but of "digging in ones heels" and bracing oneself against a coming onslaught... Hold your ground, don't be knocked off course,  don't give a single inch to the enemy.
Finally, we are to stand against the DEVIL'S SCHEMES.  Please understand this... this is not a battle of power against power. Satan has no POWER. This is a battle of TRUTH. Satan hates you and has an evil plan for your life. Satan wishes nothing on us but evil. The tactics of intimidation and insinuation alternate in Satan’s plan of campaign. He plays both the bully and the beguiler. Force and fraud form his chief offensive against the camp of the saints. His only weapons are deceit, distraction, and distortion.
Next time we will look at the different parts of the Armor of God and delve into the use and meaning of each.
Until then,

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - Ephesians 6:10

Paul has spent an entire letter establishing our place in Jesus Christ and the basics of the Christian walk. This passage comes at the end of the letter....
  • In light of all that God has done for you. 
  • In light of the glorious standing you have as a child of God. 
  • In light of His great plan of the ages that God has made you part of. 
  • In light of the plan for Christian maturity and growth He gives to you. 
  • In light of the conduct God calls every believer to live. 
  • In light of the filling of the Spirit and our walk in the Spirit.
 In light of all this, there is a battle to fight in the Christian life.
This passage is broken up into 2 basic parts, "Be strong in the Lord and in His might and power" and "put on the full armor of God". Many pass over the first and move on to the second, but we are starting with the first because I truly believe that, even if you put a weak man in the best armor,  he is still a weak man, and weak person is an ineffective soldier.

Where does the Christian get his strength? From the Lord of course. This is not a natural happening. One can't simply name it and claim it. Our strength comes from the LORD's Mighty Power. It comes from a personal, deep, rich relationship with our Creator. It grows over time as we learn more and more about our Lord and His ways. It grows as we focus on His Word and spend time in Bible Study and Prayer. It grows as we seek his strength to help us through hard times.

Might is reserved strength. Power is strength in motion. A "mighty" person is one whose strength is apparent. A muscular man's big muscles display his might, even if he does not use them. When that muscular man uses his muscles to lift weight, he uses his power...that reserved strength is put to use.

Tapping into God's mighty Power is relying on His MIGHT more and more and then moving forward in His Power.
In my studying on these verses, I found one commentary that mentioned the misuse of God's might. The author said that it is as if people receive a bit of God's might and then let it seep away like water leaking from a bucket with holes in it. Here are some things he mentioned that will cause God's Might to "leak out of you":
  •  Committing to too many spiritual works or things
  • Too much conversation
  • Arguments, debates, wrangling
  • Laziness
  • Too much time in the wrong company
  • Too much foolish talk and joking
  • Love of money and career
  • A desire for respectability and image
  • An unequal yoking with an unbeliever
  • Ungodly entertainment
  • A wrong attitude toward or doubting the Word of God
Beware of these seemingly harmless things in your life, for they will surely drain you of the strength you will need when the day comes for you to stand against temptation.

Before we can put on the Full Armor of GOD, we have to "Be strong in the Lord's Mighty Power."   Know Him, Believe Him, Put all your trust and faith in Him, confess and turn away from known sin in your life so that it does not separate you from Him, submit fully to Him...then move forward in His Power.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spiritual Warfare - introduction

In all areas of our lives, we prepare for "battle", whether it be a war in the desert, the football state championship, competition for a job; firemen train before pulling someone out of a car wreck or fire, lifeguards train before saving someone who is drowning, police officers train before being sent out to arrest a criminal. Point is, all these men and women must be prepared before they go to work. To send someone into battle without training is to doom them to fail.

Why then, do we not prepare to fight Satan? Is it because we really don't believe that Satan is a real enemy? Do we not believe that he is seeking to destroy us? Do we think that we can fight him with no preparation?

Satan is the root of ALL sin, of ALL evil. Yet, we dismiss him as nothing more than a Sunday School lesson topic.

Satan wants to destroy every part of you and all that you hold dear. Your marriage, your children, your spouse, your friendships, your career, your integrity, your finances, your home, your family, your body, your emotions, anything and everything that you love. He will use any means necessary to destroy you. Not just you, but everyone you love. Not just everyone you love, but everyone on earth.

So, how do we prepare for battle?
Paul lays the plan out before us in Ephesians 6:

Christian Warfare

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. 12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. 20 For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Over the next several posts, we will look into this passage. It is my prayer that you will put on the full armor of God and, when the time comes,  be prepared to stand.

Friday, July 11, 2014

From time to time I am reminded why I chose "In the Battle" as the title for this blog. Our recent ministry trip to New Orleans, LA, and a few things that have happened since we returned have reminded me once again that we are in a battle...every one of us.
In New Orleans, I met several people who, through various circumstances, have found themselves living on the street. There are more people in my life who have recently been diagnosed with cancer than I want to think about. One of our church members has a chronically ill 4 month old son. I have a friend facing bankruptcy and another facing divorce. At any given time, we can all make a long list of people in our lives who are obviously struggling with something.
You may read this and count yourself lucky. You may be thankful that you are not in the middle of a battle. Perhaps you are not fighting a battle for all the world to see. To me, unseen battles are much harder to fight than the types listed above. Perhaps you fight depression, anxiety, addiction, loneliness, anger, hatred, unforgivness, or bitterness. Perhaps you fight jealousy, lust, pride, envy, greed, or selfishness. Maybe you feel insignificant or left out.
There is a common thread that runs through all of these...the enemy who heaps these troubles on us. We are in battle, every one of us, but our battle is not against people or sickness or circumstance. I was reminded of this earlier today. My brother was telling me about an encounter my nephew had in Africa last summer. He came face to face with a demonic force and was so terrified that he stayed up all night praying. The comment was made that we don't see spiritual warfare here in the USA like they do in other places.
This has had me thinking all morning.
No, we don't experience spiritual warfare here in the States like they do elsewhere, but that is not because there is none going on. When someone like my nephew spends a summer as a missionary in Africa, his focus is on Christ and only Christ; His prayer life is rich; he is dependent on God's provision; he looks for any opportunity to share the love of Christ; he is completely separated from distractions like television, cell phone, laptop, very different from how we spend most of our days here in the States. How often do we stay up all night praying for God's protection against Satan and his minions? Truth be told, most days we are no threat to Satan. Most days. we are too busy living our lives to threaten his plans for anyone's eternity. I truly believe that we would see Spiritual warfare unleashed in full force if we, as Christians, made the commitment to live like missionaries. I believe it strongly enough that I admit I am hesitant to do so. I have in the past and suffered greatly. While I know that ultimately the Battle is the Lord's, I also know that no battle is without it's wounded.
All this is just a simple reminder of the importance of the battle....
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength.  Put on the full armor of
God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.  Ephesians 6:10-13

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are you giving a carrot or a horse?

Sometime over the past year, I read the following illustration by Charles Spurgeon.....
“Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing. But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
The gardener gave me the carrot, you gave yourself the horse…
I have been reminded of this principle time and time again. When I find myself upset with someone's lack of appreciation or lack of acknowledgment for something I have done, that still small voice asks me "Did you give / do that for that person or for yourself?" If I am upset, it is almost certain that I gave / did it for my own gain.
We are to give selflessly and sacrificially just as God gives.
How does God give?
 “He who did not spare he own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” Romans 8:32
I don't know about you, but I am a work in progress. Thankfully, I am aware of this and have learned to ask myself if I am giving a carrot or a horse. That silly question helps me check my heart and my motives.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mission New Orleans 2014

Last week I spent time in New Orleans with 45 members of my church family. We worked with Suburban Baptist Church and spent time ministering to the homeless community. The picture above is most of our group with some of the Youth from Suburban Baptist. I suppose I will be writing about this trip for several days, as things come to me. For now, let me say that it was a wonderful experience. My heart was broken, my soul encouraged, and my faith in God's plan and purpose renewed.
I can't express how exciting it is to work alongside my children and the rest of these amazing children and teens!
Below is a picture of us getting ready to deliver bags to the homeless community. The drawstring bags were donated by one of our church members. They contained a New Testament, a sandwich, a bottle of water, a pack of crackers, chap stick, sun block, a new pair of socks, a clean t-shirt, a bar of soap, a tooth brush and toothpaste, a pack of Kleenex, and some peppermint candy. It was beautiful to see those bags in the hands of so many people all over Jackson Square when we were done!
It always amazes me that God can do so much with just a small effort on my part. If I seek Him in the slightest way, He reveals Himself to me. If I look for just a glimpse of His hand at work, He opens my eyes to the majesty of His creation. If I make the smallest effort to see humanity through His eyes, He breaks my heart for our utter  brokenness.
I am eternally grateful for the privilege to serve such a mighty God!