Unseen Warfare

 

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood”  ~Ephesians 6:12

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Dark Clouds

We consider the problems in our life as originating from flesh and blood conflicts. For example, we are knocked off our perch by greedy, inconsiderate, backbiting, unfaithful, deceptive, unfair, fraudulent conflicts. Our hearts get broken, money taken, job jeopardized and so on. “How can this be happening to me?” we wail.

As Christians, however, we must remember what God says about the source of our struggles:

Ephesians 6:10-12 ~”Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.”

The unseen world rules the seen and temporary world. The unseen enemy who wars against our soul doesn’t want us to use our eternal weapons of warfare provided by God that reach into his realm. He wants us to blame each other and flail around with awkward, earthbound weaponry. He wants us to fight what we can see and touch instead of calling upon God. Above all, satan wants us to act as though we are still citizens of this earth and forget that our citizenship is in heaven.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ~”We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”

There is a true King (God) and a false one; a magnificent heaven and a terrifying hell. We presently wander a battlefield called earth, which is caught between night and day, life and death. Everything we now see, including the earth, will one day pass away.

We are agents of truth who cannot afford to distrust the Holy Spirit within. Doubt is one of the mightiest weapons satan raises against us. Doubt gives birth to hesitation, unbelief and fear. Stand against the attacks, press in and get the counsel of heaven.

James 1:5-6 ~”If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ~”No one can really know what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself. And no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) to tell us about the wonderful free gifts of grace and blessing that God has given us. In telling you about these gifts we have even used the very words given to us by the Holy Spirit, not words that we as men might choose. So we use the Holy Spirit’s words to explain the Holy Spirit’s facts.”

Psalm 86:11-13 ~”Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.”

And how do you handle your problems? Are your knuckles bruised from fighting the world as though God were some distant deity, smiling down from heaven, wishing you luck? Take stock of who you are according to the Bible and call upon Mighty God to direct your path and destroy the wiles of the enemy. God never sleeps or slumbers and is always with you…every second of every day! He’s done everything possible to prepare us for battle with unseen spiritual forces. Tap into His unlimited power and, by faith, take up the armor of God! The shield of faith does wonders.

Words

 

The unrelenting sun scorched everything in the arid oilfields. The grizzled, rough-and-tumble men approached the lone speaker slowly, determined to stop his mouth permanently. A few feet away now, the solitary sentinel turned to face them, eyes penetrating, fire like.

“Boys?” he enquired.

“We come to show you your words ain’t enough to stand against us. We come to shut you up once and for all,” they said.

Squaring his slight shoulders and facing his threatening accusers directly, the slender young man opened his mouth, but the words were from another realm, “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer with shatters a rock?”1

As though held by an unseen force, the men were frozen, mouths agape, eyes wide. They were silent.

He continued, “Long ago in many ways and at many times God’s prophets spoke his message to our ancestors. But now at last, God sent His Son to bring His message to us. God created the universe by His Son, and everything will someday belong to the Son. God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like Him in every way. By His own might word, He hold the universe together.”2

Without a word, the hardened, sunbaked men sank to their knees onto the superheated ground with their heads bowed, tears streaming down their crevassed faces.

Only God knows if this was the only time men were baptized from a canteen!

1. Jeremiah 23:39; 2. Hebrews 1:1-3

Is Jesus Real to You?

 

“God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” Acts 2:36

Mary Mitchell Slessor (2 December 1848 – 13 January 1915) was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria. A simple sentence without emotion; factual and brief. Her actual story is filled with powerful examples of trials and tribulations of a small (5’ tall) woman overcome with desire to spread the gospel in Nigeria, Africa at a time when women did not do such things alone. This red-haired Scottish woman faced down fierce tribal chiefs, witch doctors and others to show the love of Christ through teaching the Gospel while living in primitive huts.

Mary quickly learned the local language and spent her life showing Jesus to Africans who had never seen an outsider before. She risked her life daily, rescued and raised rejected children scheduled to be killed while trudging through the jungles to share God’s love.

Mary also fell victim to the ravages of malaria more than once and had to return to Scotland for recovery. She gave up convenience, comfort and congeniality to serve God according to His plan for her life in a remote and dangerous land.

As for her rewards, she had but one question: “What would I do with starry crowns except to cast them at His feet?”

Jesus was so very real to Mary Slessor. Her Lord and Savior was the beacon whose light shined on a path He carved out for her; a path she determined to follow until her final breath.

Compare the sacrificial life of Mary Slessor to those of wealthy, influential, powerful megachurch pastors in America. Men who command six and seven figure salaries, immense wealth from book royalties and exert mind control over many thousands through sermons, devotionals, and conferences around the world,

Currently, Mark Driscoll, the senior pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle is waging a battle to maintain his position in that church. Driscoll began with a sincere desire to spread the Gospel, change lives and heal the broken and wounded people who may hear and read his messages.

Time, comfort, fame, loads of money and thousands of followers have tarnished Driscoll’s legacy and brought him to a place of regret and shamefulness. The megachurch is crumbling, the flock has been fleeced and God’s Word has been trampled. Is Jesus real to Mark? Or has his desire to feed from the trough of fame and fortune skewed his vision and replaced his love of Christ with personal satisfaction. Satan is smiling as Mars Hill Church falls into ruin.

Acts 2:32-36 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said,

‘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.”’

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

Colossians 1:13-23 He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us safe into the kingdom of his dear Son, by whom we are set free, that is, our sins are forgiven.

Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God. He is the first-born Son, superior to all created things. For through him God created everything in heaven and on earth, the seen and the unseen things, including spiritual powers, lords, rulers, and authorities. God created the whole universe through him and for him. Christ existed before all things, and in union with him all things have their proper place. He is the head of his body, the church; he is the source of the body’s life. He is the first-born Son, who was raised from death, in order that he alone might have the first place in all things. For it was by God’s own decision that the Son has in himself the full nature of God. Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven.

At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure, and faultless, into his presence. You must, of course, continue faithful on a firm and sure foundation, and must not allow yourselves to be shaken from the hope you gained when you heard the gospel. It is of this gospel that I, Paul, became a servant—this gospel which has been preached to everybody in the world.

Is Jesus real to us or a fascinating person, Son of God and Savior who lives in my mind? Have I given Him free reign over my life? Am I willing to follow whatever path He chooses for me?

Looking For Faith

 

Weekly Bible Study

Looking For Faith

May 14, 2014

“Without faith it is impossible to please God” Hebrews 11:6

Tracy’s formative years were a mixed bag of happiness, frustration and danger. Her mother had plummeted into deep depression when her husband, Danny (Tracy’s Dad), was shot and killed during a convenience store robbery. Danny was just there to buy a treat for Tracy when a young pair of inexperienced teens stormed in to buy beer. The clerk asked for I.D. and guns came out and bullets flew. At the end, three were dead, two wounded over a six-pack of beer which ended up broken on the floor.

Kitty, Tracy’s mother, couldn’t cope and found friends who helped her escape into the world of drugs and alcohol. Danny’s death brought nearly $1 million in insurance settlements and law suits but rather than help, the money became a cancerous demon that drove Kitty to an early death, found slumped over her toilet bowl, syringe in her arm.

After the funeral and further legal proceedings, Tracy was adopted by her aunt and uncle who lived in San Francisco. Tracy was 10! Her aunt and uncle loved her and devoted themselves to giving her the best life possible.

Tracy went to church with her new parents and loved all of her classes and Christian friends. She seemed to latch onto the teachings of Christ with gusto. She always insisted on praying each night before bed and at meals. She witnessed to her friends and before long she was leading a neighborhood Bible class for kids. Tracy was a bright light.

Then she met Evan. He was handsome, smart, athletic, adventuresome and wealthy. He was her prince charming. She was twenty and he was 25, the CEO of his own social media business—and his own god. Evan wanted to add Tracy to his very long list of sexual conquests. Tracy thought they were in love. She was terribly wrong. Then she was used and discarded. Her faith seemed hollow, cursory, fake. Was it real at all?

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6 To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval. It is by faith that we understand that the universe was created by God’s word, so that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen. . . And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Seeking answers, Tracy was devastated when she read this section of Hebrews. Instead of a reassuring answer, she was slapped with the admonition that she cannot please God without faith. And faith in God was exactly what was missing as a consequence of believing in Evan. Tracy was not alone even if she felt like it. God was with her. His Holy Spirit guided her forward into chapter 12. And then it jumped off the page!

Hebrews 12:1-2 So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.

Her heart leaped with joy and her spirit soared as she remembered that Jesus is “the author and perfecter of our faith.” God is not waiting with a big rock, ready to smash her for her weakness and frail faith. After all, He created her and knows she needs support, especially when the things she sees seem stronger than those she doesn’t. Jesus will give her an infusion of faith when hers is weak. His forgiveness trumps satan’s attack of guilt and fear.

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

2 Cor. 5:7 We live by faith, not by sight.

1 Thess. 5:8-9 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Time passed quickly as Tracy read many verses to encourage and uplift her spirits. Slowly she remembered that God’s salvation is a free gift, not earned. And her life in Christ is also not earned…she does not have to perform for God. His gift of eternal life is given through faith in Jesus, the Savior. And those times of stumbling and falling may give scrapes and bruises but they do not nullify her promise of absolute forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ. There are consequences to our sins but they do not include eternal damnation.

Hebrews 13:5 “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

George Muller Devotionals

 

George Müller cared for 10,000 orphaned children in Bristol during the 19th Century. He never made appeals for money, trusting implicitly in God, he received £1,500,000 in answer to prayer. At present day prices, this would be well over £86,000,000.


Day 1

Triumphant Faith

“Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Mark 5:36

As long as we are able to trust in God, holding fast in our heart that He is able and willing to help those who rest on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and in all matters that are for His glory and their good, the heart remains calm and peaceful. It is only when we practically let go of faith in His power or His love that we lose our peace and become troubled. Remember that it is the very time for faith to work when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith. As long as there remains certain natural prospects for help, faith does not rise up as easily as when all natural prospects fail.

All children of God, whatever their position in the world or in the church, should put their trust in God for everything connected with their body, their soul, their business, their family, their church position, their service for God, etc. And it is impossible to do so without enjoying the blessedness that results from it. First comes the peace of God that keeps the heart and mind like a garrison, and second comes a true liberty with regard to circumstances, times, places, and people.

Faith is above circumstances. No war, no fire, no water, no business panic, no loss of friends, no death can touch it. It goes on its own steady course. It triumphs over all difficulties. It works most easily in the great difficulties. Those who really confide in God, because they know the power of His arm and the love of His heart as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of His only begotten Son, are helped, whatever their trials and difficulties might be.

Compiled and edited by Lance Wubbels. http://www.ywampublishing.com

Who’s In Charge?

Wives should submit to their husbands as if to the Lord.  Eph. 5:22

            The mood shifted in the men’s Bible study when they read the verses in 1 Corinthians 14:33-34 which says: “God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people, the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk!”

            At first, the one reading simply continued reading, not wanting to stop and ponder the issue. However, one of the men asked that terrible question, “Why do we just skip over these verses, ignoring them altogether?” His question turned the conversation, stripped it bare of false pretense and stood it right in the middle of the circle of chairs. This 500 pound gorilla had to be noticed.

            “Perhaps this is in reference to those times, a cultural thing, because women were prone to talking more in church, asking their husbands questions which disrupted the service.”

            “Don’t forget that their meetings were so different from ours today,” another man said. “They met in houses or outdoors. There were no pews, center aisles, platform, etc. Life was different. The women felt free to just speak out when they had a question. I think this verse is speaking to a different time, a different culture.”

            “If we go down that road,” one man said, “we open the door to minimize all Scripture, explaining it away as to an ancient culture, not relevant to ours today. What would be next, could we pick and choose which verses were pertinent to our culture, our time in history?”

            Another man agreed, “The Bible is written to humans, not to eras or time frames. Jesus died over two thousand years ago for our salvation, not just for those living then. The entire New Testament describes our new life in Christ based on his death and resurrection, regardless of when a person lives.”

            “Let’s not forget 2 Timothy 3:16,” said one of the men, “Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correction, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.”

            “I know this,” said the first man. “If I tried to enforce this rule in my marriage, sparks would fly!”
            The group chuckled and enjoyed a moment of laughter, knowing that his assessment was probably universal in this group and with most men and women in church. Sadly so.

            Although this small group of Christian men did not vow to revolutionize their lives in an attempt to more accurately follow the verses, helping their wives understand and follow the word of God in spite of the challenges. . .they knew they should and were a little sad at first.

            The Bible does not view women as inferior to men, demanding their submission to them. To the contrary, God has tough words of instruction for men as well. He wants men to love their wives as Christ loved the church . By our haughty, independent attitudes, we defy God by refusing to follow His words since they seem to insult or demean our male/female equality.

  • 1 Cor. 14:33-35  Like in all the churches of God’s people,  the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says.If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

Why do men tremble and women resist these verses today? Keep in mind that the Bible is filled with difficult and humanly impossible instructions (made possible through the Holy Spirit). That is why we must keep our eyes on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith!” We are filled with the Holy Spirit who guides our lives (when we listen) and enables all believers to submit to God’s leadership.

  • Ephesians 5:20-33  Always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. For example, wives should submit to their husbands as if to the Lord. A husband is the head of his wife like Christ is head of the church, that is, the savior of the body. So wives submit to their husbands in everything like the church submits to Christ. As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. That’s how husbands ought to love their wives—in the same way as they do their own bodies. Anyone who loves his wife loves himself. No one ever hates his own body, but feeds it and takes care of it just like Christ does for the church because we are parts of his body. This is why a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two of them will be one body.[a] Marriage is a significant allegory, and I’m applying it to Christ and the church. In any case, as for you individually, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and wives should respect their husbands. (a. Gen. 2:24)
  • Proverbs 18:22  He who finds a wife finds what is good, gaining favor from the Lord.
  • Colossians 3:18-19  Wives submit to your husbands in a way that is appropriate in the Lord. Husbands love your wives and don’t be harsh with them.

Have Christians developed a hybrid version of the Bible? Perhaps we should call it, Buffet Christianity; we pick and choose only those sections and verses palatable to us. After all, this is the twenty-first century and we all have our rights. We are neither too hot nor too cold. We don’t want to offend. We have become agreeable, lukewarm. See what God has to say about being lukewarm in Revelation 3:14-17.

      In conclusion: Who’s in charge? God is. And who are we, His creations, to decide which Bible verses we will follow or which are relevant in our present culture? If that is our stand, we are on very dangerous ground leading to disappointment and heartache. It is by faith we are saved and by faith we follow the Bible. God, the creator of all things, including the Bible, loves us so much that He established a way for our eternal life with Him. How then, could we, His creations, decide to ignore or modify the words He miraculously assembled as a life guide? We shouldn’t be surprised that some Bible verses frustrate or challenge us. But as we devour His words, He will heal our hearts.

The Fall of Pride

 

 In weakness we can find strength, God’s perfect strength. But in our strength, our pride, when fully developed, we can find desolation and pain. Such was the case in my life many years ago in a place far away.

I was a faithful Christian, involved in church leadership, teaching Bible classes, volunteering at the children’s private Christian school. I was the epitome of walking after the Lord…on the outside.

Inside I had allowed doubt and lust to establish a foothold in my heart and mind. Subtly I allowed stray looks, personal remarks and thoughts to slide in and build comfortable seating arrangements in my inner man, in my heart.

As my flesh grew stronger, my Spirit weakened. And then one day, the dike broke, the floodwaters gushed forth, overwhelming the land of my mind. I acted on my desires rather than asking God to provide a way of escape as we are told to do in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The pounding force of the pent up desires carved a new path for me. No longer walking on the narrow and straight way, I found friends and satisfaction on the wider way; the one that leads to perdition. Step by step, I walked away from His voice, His pleading, His warnings.

One night, after dropping off my date at the door of a restaurant, I found a parking place nearby. Just as I set the brake, I heard an audible voice say, “Don’t do it!” I was shocked and stunned. I looked to my right, expecting to see the Lord. Nothing. Again the voice said, clearly, “Don’t do it!”

Now if my life had been a movie, I would have broken down, called out to God for forgiveness and run back to Him. It was not and I did not. My pride was running the show. I was not yet ready to repent!

I walked further away from my Savior (who never gave up on me), burrowing deeper into the abyss of broken promises and fractured ideals. Peace? What peace, I am too busy feeding my flesh, looking for that all-elusive satisfaction.

Within a few months, my newly erected wide-path world collapsed, taking me down with it. There I was, standing in the middle of the road, shaking my head, wondering what happened.

This time He didn’t need to speak audibly. Apparently I had not buried the Holy Spirit’s guidance completely because I “knew” that He was calling me back. “You’ve gone far enough,” he let me know. “My grace is sufficient to restore you. Repent and walk away from this sin.” This time I did break down and pour out my soul, asking for forgiveness, knowing He would grant my request…already had.

That was more than thirty years past. Since then, God has healed my heart, given me a new life, a wonderful wife and new Bible classes to teach. My flesh remains alert, ready to strengthen my pride but this time I refuse to relent, I will continue to call upon the Lord to deliver me and forgive me each time I am tempted and drawn away.

And He always does…with a smile and a reminder that His blood shed on the cross gave me absolute forgiveness and a new life.

 

Two Mistakes

Critics often complain that, if the world is in its present state after nineteen centuries of Christianity, then it cannot be a very good religion.

          They make two mistakes.

          In the first place Christianity–the real thing–has never been accepted on a large scale and has therefore never been in a position to control ‘the state of the world’, though its influence has been far from negligible.

          In the second place, they misunderstand the nature of Christianity. It is not to be judged by its success or failure to reform the world which rejects it.

          If it failed where it is accepted, there might be ground for complaint, but it does not so fail.

          It is a revelation of the true way of living, the way to know God, the way to live life of eternal quality. It is not to be regarded as a handy social instrument for reducing juvenile delinquency or the divorce rate!

Day By Day With J.B. Phillips