Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning the Art of War

I don't like battles. There's nothing about the heat of the battle that I find appealing. I sometimes think that I want an easy, boring life - but that would be a disaster! Because then I would mistakenly think that I have a little, boring God. He is anything but! You see, it's the heat of the battle that drives me to my knees and to His Word and that's where I learn the vastness of His victories and His limitless grace and mercy when I succumb to defeat. It's as He trains my arms for war that I know, that I know, that I know that He is alive and an amazingly awesome God!

I "stumbled" upon a really interesting passage recently. Judges 3:1-4 says, "Now these are the nations which the Lord left to prove Israel by them, that is , all in Israel who had not previously experienced war in Canaan; it was only that the generations of Israelites might know and be taught war, at least those who previously knew nothing of it. The remaining nations are: the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites...They were for the testing and proving of Israel to know whether Israel would listen and obey the commandments of the Lord, which He commanded their fathers by Moses."

God had left a handful of warring nations in the Promised Land that He had given to Israel - on purpose! He intended to prove the Israelites by them and I believe to prove Himself to the Israelites by them as well. You see, the generation that had seen the miracles of the Lord as He redeemed the people of Israel out of Egypt had passed away. The generation that was left had heard the stories but they needed to see the Hand of God in almighty action and they needed to learn that victory comes only through listening and obeying the commands of the Sovereign God.

We live in a sin-filled, fallen world. And we can study all we want and have an intellectual knowledge of who God is, what He can do and what we can do through Him but if we never practice what we've learned, we never actually know if what we've learned is true. Soldiers need to train and practice so that they can be proved on the battlefield.

In God's great mercy, He hasn't declared this war over. He still has children that haven't chosen Him and He's giving them every opportunity. He could shield us from every trouble and let those who have put their trust in Him have an easy, boring life but what kind of testimony is that to those that are still making up their minds? What does that show them about God? It's the way believers can come through the battles that proves God genuine. So how are you doing at listening and obeying?

Flip the page to the next generation of Israelites in Judges 4 and 5. The battle was looming. The Israelites had enjoyed 40 years of peace yet in that time they had turned to idols. Judges 5: 8 reads, "Formerly they chose new gods; then war was in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among 40,000 in Israel?" The Israelites had gotten soft and forgetful. They had laid down their weapons and forgotten where they were. They had forgotten their All-Powerful God.

Now war is at their gates. Verses 15-18 of chapter 5 say, "And the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar was faithful to Barak, into the valley they rushed forth at his heels. But among the clans of Reuben were great searchings of heart. Why Reuben did you linger among the sheepfolds listening to the piping for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead remained beyond the Jordan, and why did Dan stay with the ships? Asher sat still on the seacoast and remained by the creeks. [These came not forth to battle for God's people.] But Zebulun was a people who endangered their lives to the death, Naphtali did also on the heights of the field." Let me ask you, when war is at your gates, do you rise up in obedience to the command of God or are you like Reuben who lingers about considering but never engages? Perhaps you are like Gilead and Dan, afraid to leave your home and your things? I have been all three.

But Zebulun... which reads to me just like "but God..." in His limitless power took Zebulun, who was willing to go - probably in fear and trembling but obedient all the same - and raised them up to be mighty warriors! Up until now, "Zebulun, formerly known only for its experts with the ciphering-pencil, had now become a people courageous unto death." (F. Davidson, ed., The New Bible Commentary.)

Don't you want to be strong and courageous? Does it help to know that there is a purpose behind the battles that God allows us to face? Are you allowing yourself to learn and be trained in the art of war? The battle plan is simple but not easy - listen and obey. It requires practice. How's your listening? Your obedience? Your testimony? Remember, God is in the business of making you into a mighty warrior. He's looking for those willing to answer the call and follow Him. He's not stressed about the victory. It's already His. He's already won the war! He's looking for those He can train and prove genuine in battle. Will it be you? Will it be me?

Lord, I so often run and hide when war is at my gates. I enjoy times of peace only to find that my eyes so quickly turn aside to other things. Thank You for leaving some areas in my life that train me for war. Thank You that You prove Yourself way bigger, way smarter and way more powerful each time I see You in action! Thank You for keeping the battle plan simple - listen and obey. Please tune my ears to the slightest sound of Your Voice and stop me when I'm tempted to just contemplate going with You but never rise up to follow. Please help me to hold my home and possessions loosely. I want to be close enough to You that I see Your miracles! Please take the head-knowledge that I have of You and allow me to experience Your awesomeness! For Lord, I know, that I know, that I know that You always prove genuine!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Extreme Obedience

There are many things that I love about the Lord but one thing that never ceases to delight me is how when I ask a question - even ones that I've forgotten I've asked - He doesn't and He is faithful to answer in His time!

I am reading Philippians in the Amplified Bible right now. It's one of my favorite books! I like to dialogue with the Lord in the margins. Sometime over the past three years, I had written in the margin of Philippians 2:8, "Lord, what does extreme obedience look like?" and then, no doubt, went on with my day. This time, the Lord revealed the answer like it was jumping off the page!

Just like Jesus "humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!" extreme obedience for us is humbling ourselves and dying to our selfish desires and ambitions or, as some have put it, living the crucifed life. Now as I sit here in the mornings, it is my desire to live wholly for Jesus. Many times in the moment of choice, I don't walk that out but I truly do want to bring God glory by living His way. So He teaches me. This is what I learned through the early verses of Philippians chapter 2...

Stop Trying to Play God!

(vs. 6-7) Speaking of Christ Jesus, "Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being." Jesus had God's credentials to His Name yet He set them aside and obeyed the Father as God. I try playing God of my own life all too often and the messes that I get myself into prove my credentials are sinfilled! If I want to walk like Jesus I have to stop acting as God of my life.

Remember Who it is That Is Speaking to You!

(vs. 10-11) That in (at) the Name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." How many times in my day, do I hear the mind of Christ telling me how to think and act and yet dismiss it the very next second because I did not stop to acknowledge Who it is that is offering direction? All too often, the dialogue in my mind has me responding "yes, but..." or "maybe later..." without ever pausing to realize that the One who loves me most is holding out to me the best path. It is absolutely critical that we become aware of our thoughts and acknowledge Who it is that is speaking to us through the power of the Holy Spirit! Once we realize that, it is easier to confess Jesus as Lord and bow our wills to His.

Actively Participate in the Process - Much is at Stake!

(vs. 12b) "work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). There is a wealth of knowledge in this verse that far exceeds my mind but let me scratch the tip... In light of the awesome gift of salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9) through Jesus Christ and the many blessings that God has instore for His children (see Ephesians 1:1-12), let's choose to cooperate in the process of our sanctification (becoming more like Christ). Let's quit trusting ourselves and be cautious, watching for temptation and shrink away from the things that might offend God and discredit the Name of Christ. The blessings that the Lord desires to pour out upon our every step of trusting obedience are so vast and the natural consequences of the sinful alternatives so unsatisfying!

He Is Faithful to Complete His Work!

(vs. 13) [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. We can learn lessons the easy way or the hard way. Often, we find things hard because our desires are at war within us. We desire to choose right and yet we're tempted to choose wrong. God is constantly at work on our desires, helping them fall in line with the things that are for our best and our blessing. You can trust Him to energize you and give you the power to walk in obedience to His desires for your life and you can be assured that His will for you is good, pleasing and perfect. (see Romans 12:2)

An Additional Thought...

(vs. 14) Do all things without grumbling and complaining and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves]. As a parent, I can appreciate this one, though my behavior can sometimes be childlike. Obedience accompanied by grumbling and complaining doesn't make us a fun companion for anyone.

Receive this blessing in your spirit...

Spirit... be blessed in the name of the One who is life. Your Father is pleased that Jesus His Son lives in you and His Spirit makes His home in you. Choose the abundant life of Jesus in you (John 10:10)... God pledges the full faith of His great Name to you. His Word says in 1 Samuel 12:22, "For the sake of His great Name the LORD will not reject His people, because the LORD was pleased to make you His own." You have the pleasure of the Lord. He is pleased that you are His. You belong to Him. You are precious in His sight. You are a divine choice. Celebrate your chosenness. You are an expression of the embrace of the everlasting love of God. By His grace, seize your opportunities every day to choose life, to be life, to give life. Choose against what distracts you, confuses you, and puts in jeopardy the life of the Beloved in you. Choose to life from the heart of your Father.

Spirit, be blessed in the encouragement that comes from being united with Christ. Receive comfort from His love. Be blessed to choose fellowship with the Spirit. Bask in His tenderness and compassion. Make His joy complete by receiving His unshakable purpose for you in your Father. You have not read the final chapter of His plans for you. He has written a future and a hope for you. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This verse was written to people who were exiled and captive ina foreign country for seventy years. god kept His promise, and they returned to the land He gave them. blessed with hope for your future in Him who chose your lfie. Choose to believe in hope that He who called you is faithful. It is your choice. Spirit, be blessed with trusting His thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, for your good an not for evil. **

Be blessed in the Name of the One who humbled Himself to extreme obedience on the cross for you that you may die to self to really live in Him! Amen.

** (c) 2008 Sylvia Gunter, "You are Blessee in the Names of God", pg. 33

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Becoming a Wife of Valor

I was reminded this morning about the incredible responsibility that we have as wives. When I truly walk as a godly woman, I can be an unbelievable blessing to my husband but when even the best of intentions are misguided, I can become a source of unspeakable pain to the one that I have sworn to love. As much as I hate to admit it, this is a lesson that I have learned by experience. Not that I always get it right now, but praise the Lord He's teaching me!

Proverbs 12:4 says, "A virtuous and worthy wife is a crowning joy to her husband but she who makes him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones."

The Hebrew word that is translated here as virtuous and worthy is Strong's 2428 chayil. It was often used as a war term. It refers to a force of means or other resources, strength or power applied. In all three cases where it is applied to wives (Ruth 3:11, Proverbs 12:4 & Proverbs 31:10) it is a force applied for good. It comes from the Hebrew root word chuwl (Strong's 2342) which means to dance OR writhe in pain, to bring forth or to fall grieviously.

Oh women! We have such HUGE responsibility in our marriages! We can cause our husbands to dance with joy or wound them painfully! A noble wife goes to war for her husband - not against him. I am so grateful for the prophet that the Lord sent to rebuke me. I didn't know! Young wives and mothers, let me share some of the lessons that I have learned so that you don't have to learn them the hard way!

Read, re-read then read again the words of 1 Peter 2:18 - 1 Peter 3:9. Take it from the Amplified Bible which puts "teeth" to the instructions to us. Like it or not, we, as housewives, are household servants! Submission - God's way - is not the end of ourselves but the key to such freedom in our marriages!

As we wives start to walk closer with the Lord, the temptation is so prevalent to preach at our husbands and tell them how to do it. They rebel, we get frustrated, discouraged and complain. How miserable we can become. Rather, we need to be their number one cheerleader! Cheer them on! Proverbs 16:24 says that "pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones." Thank and acknowledge them for the good things they are doing and allow the Holy Spirit to convict them of the things that need to be transformed. I can't tell you the benefits that I can personally testify to from such a little change! Try it!

Camp out in 1 Corinthians 13. You may be amazed by the record of wrongs that you've kept in your mind. Forgive them as you want to be forgiven. Start praying that the Lord would enable you to love according to His prescription. What He asks of you He will enable you to do when we die to self and live by His Spirit.

Start a record of "rights". Somedays it may be hard to see them so keep a record of things that he's doing well. Remind yourself of things that attracted you to him in the first place. Share your list with a good friend who can help you to remember when you're tempted to be discouraged. Remember that our friends hurt when we hurt and they often tend to commiserate with us rather than point out the positives. You need to tell them to help you dwell on your husbands good qualities.

Moms, are we serving our children and trying to change our husbands? That's wrong! Let's serve our husbands and train our children. It's Biblical. It's God's way and He blesses each feeble step we take in that direction.

Follow the command in Nehemiah 4:14 and remember the Lord who is great and fight for your husbands and home and your children. Fight for them on your knees! There's no more powerful position. Remember the Lord is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly - more than you could dare to ask or even imagine! That's your Commander and Chief.

Please don't allow the enemy to discourage you from this. Don't try once and give up. Proverbs 18:19 says, A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.

Why am I so passionate about this? Because I am living a miracle! I had given up but God hadn't! I thought that fighting and dissension was what I would survive the rest of my life. When I thought that I couldn't stay for another day, God asked, "can you stay for today?" And He began giving my husband a new wife - and it was me! And you know what? I have a wonderful husband! I love him dearly! He's my friend. I love to spend time with him. I enjoy his company. And tucked away in my drawer is a reminder of where we've come from. A tear stained piece of paper on which I wrote the Word of God in 1 Peter 2:18-3:9 so that I could pray them though I didn't believe them possible. Friend, God's Word is Truth! Let Him show it to you.

O Abba, You are the Almighty God! You are the Creator of all things - even amazing love from cold embers. Ignite belief in the hearts of those that need it. May they remember Your greatness Lord and trust what You are capable of and longing to do for and in them and fight for their husbands and their homes and their families. Grant them spoils of battle to leave as an inheritance for their children. In the precious Name of Jesus... so be it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rose Colored Glasses

I have just come through a real season of rebellion. I hate to admit it but it's true. Areas of my life where I know the Truth and have walked in freedom before were bombarded with temptation and whether because of fatigue or whatever, I just didn't have the strength to stand. As I write that, truth be told, I realize that though I wanted to live in freedom (there really is nothing like it), I also was enticed by the temptation.

God's Word puts it this way, "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." (James 1:13-14) God also says that if we look with longing towards the place that He has brought us out of, we can find constant opportunity to return to it. (see Hebrews 11:15) I did and the result was anything but pleasant. When we rebel against what the Lord has taught us and walk in disobedience, the result is a dampening of the Holy Spirit's fire within us and we speed towards sin having a stranglehold on our lives. Those chains are heavy!

Praise God! He once again broke through this vicious cycle. Humbling myself, I cried out in desperation for forgiveness and He heard my cry! So where do the rose colored glasses come in? In my dialogue with the Lord and my own struggle to forgive myself, He led me to Ephesians chapter 1. Verse 4 says, "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight." "Oh, Lord," I cried, "that really is how You see me! I'm so glad that You wear rose colored glasses!"

Now, can I just tell you that I LOVE that the Lord will never allow us to walk in freedom from a lie! No sooner had I voiced the words to Him then He replied, "I do NOT wear rose-colored glasses! They are blood red! The blood of My Son is sufficient for you." You see, God is Truth and He cannot bear lies. He cannot look on my sin and just disregard it to see me as holy and blameless but the blood that Christ shed for my sins on the cross was - and is - enough to pay the penalty of my sin. When my Heavenly Father looks at me, He sees me through the precious blood of Jesus Christ and that beautiful robe of Christ's perfect righteousness has been placed over my rags. Praise be to God!

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. (Colossians 1:19-23a)