Monthly Archives: September 2014

Spiritual Warfare – Conclusion

CONCLUSION

The strategy of the enemy from the beginning was to lure people into believing that he is in charge; that he is Lord. He wants the attention and the worship and he will use every trick in the book to take the focus away from Jesus who in the only and true Lord.

He has convinced unbelievers that God is unreliable and to be feared and avoided at all costs. He has spawned all the false religions in the world as substitutes for the one true God because, in the end, in disguise he is getting the attention he wants by taking it away from Jesus.

Jesus made a fool of Satan through the cross by exposing his false claim to be Lord because He absorbed the worst that Satan could throw at Him and came back from the dead to show the world that He is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11) and that His way of love works.

.”And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.

Our strategy in the world

The witness of Scripture in both the Old and the New Testament is that it is the proclamation and declaration of the truth that wins the victory. Satan flees when the truth is made known.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.” 1 Corinthians 1:18, 19; 27-29.

God does not need prayer walks, pulling down strongholds, identifying principalities and powers over regions and countries and all that goes with it to save people. He ordained to do it through the foolishness of preaching the cross. The city of Ephesus was powerful proof that His strategy works.

God does not need our help to make the cross effective. He needs our worship and our obedience to do what Jesus commanded – follow me; go and make disciples.

Did the cross work?

There is no doubt that the cross worked. We are here as witnesses to the victory of Jesus, more than 2000 years after He died and rose again. Religions and philosophies come and go, but the church continues to live and grow in spite of every attempt to destroy it.

We have the assurance that Jesus will come again to dispose of the enemy and all those who choose to believe his lies, forever, and to set up His eternal kingdom on earth where He, together with His people, will rule and reign forever.

The role of the church is to proclaim that He is Lord and to worship Him, and never to give the devil even the time of the day! Whatever he may have to say, he is a liar and already defeated. Hallelujah!

Really Living

REALLY LIVING

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1.

What was wrong with David’s soul that needed restoring? We could replace the word “soul” with “life”. Like everyone else, he was aware that his life was out of sync with God from the beginning. He lamented, after he fell into adultery with Bathsheba, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” Psalm 51:5.

There was a rebellious streak in him that wanted to do wrong for no real reason. The Apostle Paul was aware of the same drive to push the boundaries just because he could. It was as though there was another self in him, taking over the reins and deliberately going the wrong way when his desire was to obey God.

“For I have a desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:28b, 19.

David knew, like Paul, that it was not possible to pull himself back on course. The strength of the sin nature in him made it impossible for any self-help plan to work. He needed God to get him back on track. As he looked back over the years, he marvelled that God had been there with him with His provision of grace and mercy which kept him from destroying himself, like so many of his descendants did, by kicking over the traces altogether.

Like all of us, David’s life experiences brought doubts, fears and emotional pain that distorted his understanding of God. His many psalms reflect his feelings and moods; anxiety, depression, resentment, bitterness, anger, guilt, shame, disappointment and grief – he went through it all. One thing, however, makes him stand out from the rest – he turned to God for help instead of allowing his feelings to fester inside him.

“David enquired of the Lord,” was the bent of his life. He found the secret of a restored soul. Instead of brooding, or turning his emotions on others, he turned to the Lord. If only we would take a leaf from David’s book. He knew the Lord well enough to offload his emotional baggage on Him without fear because he knew that the Lord would not be affected by his “stuff”.

He did not need long and costly sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist, or even a Christian counsellor; he had the Lord. It was only at those times when he thought he could go it alone that he went astray. Even then, he chose to return to the Lord and not run from Him as so many of God’s people do because they think that God is finished with them.

But David was not only aware of the grace of God that brought him back from sinful paths and set him right. He also celebrated the good things that the Lord had done through him. He took no credit for his kindness to a potential enemy, Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. Instead of having him killed, he brought him out of hiding into his palace and made him a member of his household. He held no grudges against those who wished him ill when his son, Absalom, turned against him. He “paid forward” the mercy that God had shown him.

David had a passion for God’s glory. Whatever he did right was for His sake and not because he thought he was good. It was his response to God’s goodness to him. He had a “God-awareness” that overshadowed his self-awareness, so that he delighted in the Lord and could wallow in His presence and goodness even when everything went wrong.

David’s recipe for enjoying God’s life in him was to “get out of the way and let God be God.”

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Spiritual Warfare – Two Misunderstandings

TWO MISUNDERSTANDINGS

There are two errors of interpretation that have contributed to the misunderstanding about spiritual warfare.

Binding and loosing

The first misunderstanding comes from Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 16 and arises from a misinterpretation of the rabbi’s yoke.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19.

Although this statement does refer to a form of “spiritualwarfare” it has been mistakenly interpreted to mean that Jesus’ disciples have to engage the enemy by binding him and his demons and “loosing” the Holy Spirit (God forbid – since when has the Holy Spirit been bound?) into situations where strongholds have been identified.

The correct interpretation has to do with the rabbi’s yoke which has already been explained in a previous section.

“We know that folks called Jesus Rabbi, but what is the significance of this title, beyond simply meaning “teacher”?

“Jesus was not the first, or the only, teacher to roam the country with Talmidim (students or disciples) The itinerant teacher (rabbi) was part of the system in first century Jewish religious life. Disciples would aspire to the role of rabbi once fully trained. Notice though that Yeshua was also regarded as a prophet and healer – signs of the power of God at work in him by the Holy Spirit. Notice the questions from the establishment questioning Yeshua by the cohanim,

“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’” Matthew 21:23

“Authority here is s’mikhah – a commissioning involving laying on of hands. We know where Yeshua’s s’mikhah came from. (http://www.wildolive.co.uk/Rabbi%20Jesus.htm)

“S’micha is Hebrew for leaning of the hands, and derives from a Hebrew word with means rely on, or to

be authorized. It is roughly equivalent to the English word ordination.”

“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching

them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29

Jesus’ authority is from God…(http://bellatorah.com/Lessons_files/Jesus_is_a_Rabbi.pdf)

But Jesus’ authority did not only come from God. He was God.

“Rabbis with s’mekah could make their own interpretations of the Scriptures because they were anointed by God to do so. They would say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you” and then make a new and different interpretation of a passage in the text. This was a very special authority and was only conferred on a very few of the most brilliant rabbis of the day.

“These rabbis with s’mekah referred to their own unique collection of interpretations of Scripture as their “yoke”. They travelled around the countryside showing their students how to understand and obey their “yoke of Torah”. (http://www.dodsonlumber.com/Acts242/jesus-a-jewish-rabbi-part-4/)

It was a disciple’s duty, not only to adopt his rabbi’s yoke but to teach it to (bind it on) new disciples so that they would be loosed from all other yokes.

Hence Jesus issued His invitation:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Jesus was offering His followers a yoke of freedom, not only from the bondage of religious rules and regulations, but also from the bondage of guilt, fear and shame coming from a life of slavery to sin. When He took His disciples to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He wanted them to see what went on there so that they would understand what binding His yoke on people who were held captives to idolatry and the terrible sin it produced, would mean. By teaching people to follow Jesus, they would be set free from the destruction of sin and brought into the kingdom of God’s love and light.

Is that not the most powerful and effective way to release people from the devil’s clutches, to teach them the yoke of Jesus and release them from all other yokes of bondage?

The weapons of our warfare

  1. The second misunderstanding has to do with interpreting Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:10-18 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-6.

Paul speaks of weapons and war. We have to ask three important questions: Where and with whom is the war we are engaged in, and what are our weapons?

Contrary to what we may think, the war is not between us and the devil or even between God and the devil.

“So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the deeds of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16, 17.

Paul expands on this in 2 Corinthians 10:4-6. We are not engaged in a worldly war; we do not fight with worldly weapons and the site of the war is not in the world but in our minds, our thought life where the battle rages between our old fleshly nature and the Spirit.

It is our responsibility, when our thoughts are in conflict with what God has said, to “demolish strongholds. We demolish every argument and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5.

What are the weapons at our disposal and how do we fight?

According to Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18, there is a range of demonic forces against us, trying to lure us away from our knowledge of and confidence in the truth by sowing lies into our thoughts. When difficulties and adversities come, particularly through people, we can either interpret them from the perspective of our old sinful nature, mistrusting and blaming God and reacting like unregenerate people, with fear or anger against the perpetrators, or we can believe the truth and stand on what God has said in spite of what appears to be.

This has got nothing to do with the so-called principalities and powers over groups of people and nations. Jesus has already dealt with them at the cross. This has to do with the way we react to people (flesh and blood – Ephesians 6:12) when the enemy uses them to harass us. There is nothing anyone can say or do that will change the truth of who we are in Christ and what He has done and will continue to do in us and for us.

We have powerful spiritual weapons which protect our minds and demolish the lies that the enemy would sow into our thinking so that we believe him rather than the truth of God’s word. Everything God has said about righteousness, peace, faith and salvation comes from the truth which is found in God’s word. The only way we can defeat the enemy and sent him fleeing is by exposing his lies by standing on the truth. We do not need to be rescued by someone else. We need to take responsibility for our sin and believe and declare the truth.

To be continued…

CONCLUSION

Childhood Days

CHILDHOOD DAYS

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.” Psalm 23:2.

Have you ever noticed how this psalm tells a story? One way of understanding it is to see it as a record of our progress on our spiritual journey.

The first verse speaks of our relationship and connection to the Shepherd. He is the reason for a life that is going somewhere. Because we belong to the Shepherd and are willing to follow Him, He takes charge of our progress and our wellbeing, and He is purposeful in where He leads us and what His intention is for us.

In the early days of our spiritual journey we are like new-born lambs. Whenever we open our mouths and cry, “Maa-a-a, maa-a-a,” the Shepherd listens and answers us. New believers seem to have every prayer of theirs answered! We marvel at the way God waits on them hand and foot, like a mother responding to the cries of her new-born infant. What is God doing? He is building trust in the new believer. The baby believer is thrilled and excited. This new life in Christ is great!

But wait a minute! It’s not always going to be sunshine and roses. A lifetime of training lies ahead because this journey is not only about us. We lived long enough in selfish independence before we joined His flock. We have a new Master and we will have to learn to trust and follow Him instead of wandering around nibbling at any old tuft of grass or poisonous plant.

Instead of following our noses into dangerous places, or following other lost sheep who have no idea where they are going, we have to learn to discern our Shepherd’s voice among all the voices that are calling, and go where He leads us. It always amazes me how young animals instinctively recognise the sound of their mother’s voice. Among thousands of seals and seal pups, for example, mothers and pups are reunited after a feeding trip just by recognising each other’s voice.

The Shepherd knows, like any new mother, that His sheep need nourishing food and clean, fresh water if they are to flourish. His first task is to ensure that they follow Him to the pastures and water so that they grow healthy and strong. The Middle Eastern shepherd never drove his sheep; he led them. They were like his children, bound to him in a loving and trusting relationship.

His sheep would separate themselves from all the mixed-up flocks in the sheep-pen where they sheltered for the night, and strike out after him in the early morning when he called. It was time to move out to find grazing, but they had to do nothing more than follow the shepherd. He knew where the best pastures were and where the quiet streams were to be found, otherwise the sheep would refuse to drink from a fast-flowing river.

As David reminisced, all these thoughts would crowd his mind. Looking back over his life, he realised that he was just like one of the sheep in his father’s flock that he had cared for in his youth. He knew what it was to be responsible for a flock of dependent animals. If he was not there for them, watching over them every minute of the day, guiding them to the best feeding grounds and scouting ahead for resting places and fresh water, and driving off would-be predators, they would not have survived even a few days on their own.

He must have felt humbled and grateful for a God who cared for Him like a faithful shepherd. He felt loved and secure. Like a small child in his mother’s arms, he could rest in the knowledge that his God would never let him go hungry or die of thirst. He would never abandon him to his enemies, or leave him to tumble over a precipice or even wander alone in a frightening wilderness.

he Lord is my Shepherd. He leads me…

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

The Lord My Shepherd

THE LORD MY SHEPHERD

“The Lord is my shepherd, I Iack nothing.” Psalm 23:1

We all love this psalm. Even people who don’t acknowledge God in their lives know it and, of course, it will be sung at their funeral one day.

Funny how some of the most profound and meaningful passages in the Bible land up as funeral dirges for many people; they read as “funeral” Scriptures – nothing more. Like Psalm 23, and John 14!

This is David’s most well-known and loved psalm. When did he write it? Since he was a shepherd from boyhood, we tend to associate it with the days when he sat around   strumming his harp and watching the sheep. But the life of a shepherd wasn’t one long lazy day in the sun. He had work to do and David was familiar with all the tasks that fell to the shepherd.

But there were those times when his work was done for a while. Then he would sit on a grassy spot where he could watch the sheep and let his mind wander. What did he think about? Perhaps his gazed roamed around the beauty of the scene before him; the tiny creatures scurrying through the grass, the blue of the sky, the soft white clouds floating overhead, the rippling water of a nearby stream.

He heard the birds twittering in the trees, the call of an eagle high above him, the cooing of a dove, the rustle of a mouse in the undergrowth. He felt the warmth of the sun on his back, the dampness of the dew in the early morning. Perhaps, in utter contentment he would lie back for a moment, gaze into the infinite heavens and think, “God’s in His heaven and all’s right with the world.”

He would think of his home, his parents, his siblings, the privileges, the love and laughter of a family, the hearty meal he would enjoy when the sheep were safely penned for the night. Inevitably his mind would turn to the God who created all the beauty around him and blessed him with all the privileges he enjoyed. He would strum his harp and sing praise to the God of his ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Many’s the time, as king of Israel, he would reflect on his boyhood and the years that followed and marvel at the way God had led, provided for and protected him – just like a shepherd! He had been a fugitive from the murderous jealousy of King Saul. He had sheltered in caves, slept under the stars, taken refuge in foreign territory, eaten off the land and, like Robin Hood, led a band of “merry men” who were fiercely loyal and, at times, fearlessly courageous to protect and care for their leader.

As he reflected on his life with all its twists and turns, the realisation dawned on him that Yahweh was to him what he had been to his sheep; first his father’s flock which he had led and guarded with his life, even taking on fearsome predators like lions and bears; then the nation of Israel which was God’s flock entrusted to him. Over the years, God had been a shepherd to him. Had he ever been left to fend for himself, abandoned and hopeless? No! God had always been there, watchful and attentive to his every need, answering his every cry for help.

David “enquired of the Lord” at every turn, even when he failed grievously, and the Shepherd was always beside him, rescuing, leading, forgiving and being what a shepherd was, everything he needed. Not only did he lack nothing; he also had the reassurance that, in company with his Shepherd, he would never be “diminished”.

Included in the Hebrew word for lack or want is the idea that those who live in close association with God will never become less than who they are. God wants not only to sustain us; He wants us to increase. David put in negative terms what God would say positively. “As long as you remain with me and allow me to shepherd you, I will make you much more of a person than you are now. I will help you reach your full potential.”

The best grass, the safest resting places, the clearest streams, the greatest opportunities are what the shepherd looks for to create the environment for His “sheep” to grow, to become strong and productive. In the end, it’s the shepherd who gets the credit for being the best shepherd for His sheep.

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.