Perseverance Through the Battle

“The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came. Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.”

    R.A. Torrey

 

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”

Ephesians 6:10

 

 

 

 

 

Repeated Attacks from A Hungry Lion

“If thou dost not stumble at this stone, the devil hath another at hand to throw in the way. He is not so unskillful a fowler as to go with one single shot into the field; and therefore expect him, as soon as he hath discharged one, and missed thee, to let fly at thee with a second.”

–William Gurnall

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

 

 

 

 

Cities Without Walls

“A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The writer of Proverbs can be blunt. He makes the cold observation that people can often be like a city that has no walls.

The city he alluded to was completely defenseless, vulnerable and wide open to a marauding enemy. It no longer is protected. It can be assaulted from outside and is no longer safe. It can be easily defeated by its foes.

The description is used to describe a spiritual condition of danger and defeat. A real potentiality exists of a helpless invasion by evil forces. It has no protection to speak of.

Proverbs uses this imagery to state a fundamental truth about some people.

We live in an age when everything is “open.” Seldom do we see protecting walls around the perimeter of our lives. We are open to the demonic forces of darkness. We move from crisis to crisis because we are not protected.

Nehemiah faced the stark reality of Jerusalem without walls of protection. His first order of business (before anything else) was to rebuild them. He mobilized work crews that immediately went to work restoring the cities safety.

“I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 2:13

He knew what he was up against; a discouraged people who were extremely vulnerable. It’s also interesting that the cities enemies resisted at this crucial time. They wanted the people to fail so  they would continue to defeat them.

Our culture today is no longer protected by the evil of the day. We’re victims for the most part by Satan’s tactical assaults. A generation has come and gone that has not known the defense of personal walls.

We are desperate of the ministry of Nehemiah. He is a type of Christ. Protection can only come from faith and blood of Jesus. He alone is our safe place. He alone can defend us from this present darkness.

If your life is characterized by oppression I urge you to erect a safe place for yourself and for your family. Being specific in prayer is very often your sheltered place. Take a stand and drive the enemy away. Resist him and he will flee from you.

“The world’s battlefields have been in the heart chiefly; more heroism has been displayed in the household and the closet, than on the most memorable battlefields in history.”

–Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 37

Judas Iscariot, Matthew 27:3-10

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

5 Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.

6 The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.” 7 After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. 8 That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.9 This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah that says,

They took the thirty pieces of silver—
the price at which he was valued by the people of Israel,
10 and purchased the potter’s field,
as the Lord directed.”

My name is Judas and I betrayed my Lord. It really had nothing to do with avarice or greed; The money was fine but that isn’t why I turned him in to the authorities. I did what they could not.

Jesus loved his disciples, including me. When he came washing our feet I was humbled and disturbed. But in my mind I knew that Jesus needed an opportunity to become the next ruler of Israel. That was his destiny, and I was going to help him bring it to pass. I would be the kingmaker and Jesus would reward me.

But this washing the feet thing made me doubt his fitness as a king. When he stripped to his underwear I had my doubts. Behaving as a common slave wasn’t in my agenda. It would take extra work to shape him and to deaden such strange behavior. But it would be worth it in the end. If only Jesus would cooperate.

It was said that Satan entered me at this time. I hardly noticed. I know I was filled with excitement. The other disciples would come to my side, and together we would do it. Enough groveling, we were going to rule Israel and even end the Roman occupation. I believed this with all that was in me.

The tricky part was to manipulate Jesus. He must see the opportunity that awaited him. He already was immensely popular among the common man.

My plan was this, after I met with the Pharisees, I would then lead them to the garden where Jesus was staying. The Pharisees insisted on an armed escort in case there was trouble among the disciples. I on the other would give Jesus a kiss to signify that he was the one, it was dark and the torches didn’t give enough light.

When I kissed Jesus on the cheek the soldiers were to arrest him. I assumed he would resist and fight. It was my hope that he would fight. This would be the spark that Jesus needed to take action. When Jesus was taken into custody I assumed that this was the beginning of the revolution to come.

I was wrong. Nothing went as planned. Jesus did not take charge and overthrow the government, As a matter of fact the opposite happened, he was silent and refused to answer most of their questions. I once heard him say, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I should have listened.

I realized too late, that I helped shed innocent blood. I went back to the priests who hired me to give back the silver. They wouldn’t take it back. I threw at their feet and left the temple. I was in a daze and ugly thoughts filled my mind.

Excuse me, but I have a date with the rope.

Lord Jesus, but for the grace of God there go I. Let me be a servant and not a king. Keep me away from foolish thinking, help me to believe in your Gospel just as it is, Amen.

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The Gentile Woman, Matthew 15:21-28

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 6

The Gentile Woman, Matthew 15:21-28

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

I grew up watching the sea, it always brought me peace. I loved its serene beauty. My girl loved flowers. As a little child, I remember her making daisy chains, and the way she laughed. When the darkness came she was never was the same. I stood by and helplessly watched Satan consume my daughter.

She was sick. Sick with something evil and dark. Somebody said it was demons, but she was possessed by something I didn’t fully understand, and I had immense hatred for it. I was angry for what it had done to my precious little girl. I hated the darkness that stole her heart.

That’s when a neighbor told me about the Jewish healer that might help us. That gave me hope. We already wearing out our welcome at the local temples. We had recently returned from nearby Eshmun, a pagan temple specializing in healing. The priests knew us by name. But my daughter’s condition seemed to worsen.

I made the decision to see Jesus. As a Canaanite woman I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We were not Jews and we were accustomed to being treated poorly. I knew there would be conflict. But I would do whatever it took to see him. I believed he would help us.

We came to see Jesus at the house he and his disciples were staying at. Standing outside the door I began to plead for my daughter, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is possessed by a demon.” I spoke as plainly as I knew how. I spoke from my heart.

Jesus seemed to ignore my pleas. So I kept asking. I suppose I made his disciples uncomfortable, but you have to understand, I had no place to go. He had to heal her. I couldn’t go home without seeing him.

The disciple were advising Jesus to send me away. They knew I was a Gentile woman and they could take no time with me. I felt the silent rage of racial prejudice. Still I stayed, and I continued to beg.

Then Jesus finally turned to me and said, I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” My heart almost broke. But I knew if he would only listen to my need he still might help me.

I came and worshiped him and then I continued to plead. I must make him see, he was my only hope at that moment. “O Jesus, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

I cringed inside. The Jews call the Gentiles dogs. I felt the rebuke and I struggled to respond.“That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” I firmly believed that was the proper thing to say.

Dear woman,” Jesus said to me, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And my daughter was instantly healed. In that moment she completely recovered. I saw the darkness lift and light returned to her eyes.

Yesterday my daughter and I went to the seashore together. I went to see the ocean and she picked flowers. She is completely recovered. My heart is full of praise to the Living God who hears a desperate woman’s cries. I know that he is full of mercy.

Jesus, many of the people I meet are sick inside, let me be a light for them to see by. Evil is all around, but you rule over it, Help me to see your power and grace. Amen.

 

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Making Pain Work for You, [Trials]

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“Then they went back to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia. 22They encouraged the followers and begged them to remain faithful. They told them, “We have to suffer a lot before we can get into God’s kingdom.”

Acts 14:21-22, CEV

Paul and Barnabas, together are perhaps the most gifted men ever to minister the Gospel.  They have an amazing love for the Church.  They operate out of great difficulty, but the deep work they do, proceeds out of encouragement.  I looked at a dozen or so translations of the Bible–all of them translate this, “encouraged.”  Every single one!

Earlier in chapter 14, we can read about the brutality and ugliness they had to walk through.  It was very bad, beyond belief.  But these two never ever lose their love for the Lord, and for His people.  Their ministry continued to be full of optimism and comfort.  They simply can’t be poisoned by the nastiness and bitterness just days before.

They understand something.  What they have to say (as they minister that comfort) kind of boggles everyone’s thinking.

They said, “We must suffer many things to enter God’s kingdom.”

Comforting and strengthening, isn’t it?  Sometimes when I read this passage I can’t believe what they are saying!  It doesn’t make any sense at all.   I believe there are three things we must process to fully understand these verses.

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1)  What comforts us is not always comfortable.

 I’m slowly coming to the place of accepting pain and sickness as my personal doorway into the Lord’s kingdom.  I know my mental illness has opened an entrance into something wonderful.  My months of being institutionalized in different hospitals has seemed to have filled me with grace, gentleness and love–in other words, the kingdom. At least that is what I think.

2)  What we think is the best way often is not.

No one chooses one’s particular path.  If we could we would all be driving a BMW and our homes would be palaces, we would win the lottery on a regular basis.  Our children would be little angels.  We would never be sick, or have a chronic illness.  But–we can’t enter His kingdom, unless there are trials.  They have to be there, they must.  Somewhere it says,  if we suffer, we will reign.

3)  What we need from our elders and pastors is the truth.

 Often the leadership of the Church keeps this one in the closet.  They communicate very well other subjects that are enjoyable.  And we pressure them to do this, gently and subliminally of course.  And everyone wonders why we don’t mature in our faith.  Paul and Barnabas are tremendous leaders, but they don’t roll things in sugar, and their ministry carries on the sufferings of Jesus.

Often it seems, when God chooses to bless a man or a woman greatly, He will send a trial to prepare them deeply.

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Playing Defense, [Protecting Others]

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“Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.”

Nehemiah 4:17-18, ESV

Nehemiah was supervising the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. He gathered the men and assigned them to various parts of this. His focus was on building as fast as possible.

But there was enemies who threatened to disrupt the work. There was a conspiracy that directly threatened the work that was taking place.

Nehemiah had to act. He prayed and then posted protection among the men in strategic places, These stood guard to defend the workers. Nehemiah then ordered those who labored to wear swords while they worked.

We who are building God’s kingdom need to arm themselves against our spiritual enemies. We are called to give diligent attention to this, and defend God’s people.

“Take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

Furthermore we are “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). We’re not working against “flesh and blood.” but the “spiritual forces in the high places.” This is an unseen war that really does exist.

God’s Word is our powerful defense. We’re called to handle it skillfully. This is a mark of maturity. The sword must be engaged to help those who aren’t really aware of this present darkness.

Nehemiah understood. He was diligent and very aware of the evil that swirled around him and his people. He wouldn’t minimize this problem, but met it head on.

We must be like him. We are to be aggressive defenders of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We cannot afford to look away or pretend the enemy is not resisting us. We see his work daily.

“Father, thank you for the Bible. The Word is alive and active as we yield it. Teach us to overcome the enemy as we protect our selves and our loved ones with it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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