Issues of Life #11
Spiritual Warfare #3
The Weapons of our Warfare
“For though we walk in the flesh we do not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3
Paul addressed the subject of spiritual warfare more than a few times. It seems that he wanted to impress upon the readers of his letters the fact that they are actually in a war. This war is a real war! There are casualties in this war. The casualties in this war are lost to darkness forever. The enemy first tries to keep us from salvation. Then if we get saved he tries to keep us from the best that God has for us. And hopefully he can get us marooned in a dead church where nothing is happening to advance the kingdom. Here, many lose heart, lose enthusiasm and the joy of their salvation. Their only hope is to someday end up in heaven. Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m for heaven and I’m looking forward to it and the mystery of what the Father has planned for our eternity. But what about now? What about from now until we actually experience heaven. Being in a dead church with nothing supernatural happening sounds pretty boring to me. I’m so ….. not interested!
The good news is that God’s plan is much more exciting than that. The good news is that the supernatural is available to us. It’s part of the payoff of trusting God by faith. When the sick are healed and demons are cast out….boredom is nowhere to be found. The kingdom is coming…either with us or without us. This is why the enemy fights against us. He hates the kingdom, hates it with a passion. I don’t know about you but I’m going for the kingdom. I’m going for it with everything that’s in me. I’m swinging for the fence. It’s why we’re here!
Issues of Life #12
Blessings or Tests?
The Christian Life is a life of paradox. To really live in Christ you must die to yourself. To be great you must serve. To receive, you must give. To be exalted, you must be humble. And the list goes on and on. Looking back over my last twenty years of learning to walk with the Lord there is an incredible pattern that has existed. Looking back at those times when I was undergoing intense testing and trials, those times now appear clearly to be times of great blessing. And, equally as bizarre, now looking back at the times of blessing, it’s obvious….they were tests! The tests of our lives are truly blessings. It is during those times that we are tempered under the pressure of God. Something that is absolutely necessary if we are going to grow to spiritual maturity. I’m more serious about prayer when I’m being tested. I press in to my relationship with the Father more when I am being tested. I have really gotten to know the Father in times of testing. I just learn more when I am being tested. Looking back, it’s those times that have served to bring maturity and character in my life. Testing produces humility. With that perspective, I’d have to say that those intense tests have been some of the greatest blessings that I have experienced in my life.
On the other hand there are those times when the blessings of God are flowing! Prayers are being answered. God’s voice is easy to hear. Ministry is effective. Relationships are easier and without any serious problems. The bills are all paid. Everything seems to be working perfectly. So, here’s the test: Can I really be trusted with the abundant blessings of God? Can I remain focused on my relationship with Him and the things that matter most when everything is so perfect? Will I be grateful to the people who might bless me with gifts or services? Or will I begin to expect it? Will I cross that line of genuine servanthood to ‘professional’ ministry where I expect people to serve me? Will I, all of a sudden, think more highly of myself than I ought to think? Are you getting the picture? It would do us good to think about these things and to, at least, realize that we are at risk. Blessings bring the potential for pride. It’s the flesh…..and it’s not far from any of us.
So, you see, the blessings that we experience are some of the greatest tests of our Christian lives. I’m just like you… I love the times of blessing but I honestly realize that the times of testing are probably better for me.
Issues of Life #13
An ‘opportunist’ is someone who takes advantage of someone else’s misfortune for his own benefit. But I believe there’s such a thing as ‘kingdom’ opportunism. I’ll explain. There are many times when individuals or families are going through severe trials. It may be that someone in the family has died. Maybe someone is in the hospital for serious surgery. It might be a house fire that destroys everything a family owns. Maybe a negligent dad has walked away from his marriage leaving a mother and children with no income. Well, an opportunist would seize the situation. He would find a way to take advantage of the misfortune to benefit himself. But ‘kingdom opportunism’ is altogether different. As kingdom people we should also seize the situation. But in our case, what we should do is find a way to show them the kingdom! It’s our opportunity to show them by our conduct, our care and our concern how God is! We should be on the lookout for those who are experiencing misfortune in their lives. We should be aggressive and take the initiative to help them with whatever need that they might have. There are so many people out there who don’t have anyone around them to give them spiritual stability. For some….no one is praying for them. Nobody is there to give them the help that they need. In many cases….nobody cares! God cares! He cares very deeply and if we are acquiring His heart we will also be caring. What is keeping us from doing it now? Is it a lack of time? Is it finances? Is it the lack of knowing just what to do? Do we expect someone else to do it. Just what is it? Why can’t the church just do what the church was designed to do?
I believe that these are some of the very people who will do valiant exploits in the name of the Lord in these last days. But who will rescue them? Who will be the advocate for the poor? Some churches just take the ‘comers’. But there will be some who ‘go after’ those who are in dire straits. Oh, and the other thing…..the help has to be given with no strings attached! The help should be ‘from the heart’ and from a desire to show them the kingdom! God can sort the rest of it out!
Issues of Life #14
Shortcuts to Spiritual Maturity
You have to admit, it is an appealing title! Maybe someone just saw the title and thought, “I’ve gotta know…I’m in a hurry! I’ve gotta find out what shortcuts that I can take to gain spiritual maturity!”
Well, you may have already figured out that it is a ‘trick title’. The truth is that in the economy of God there are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. Besides, the process is the destination. God has us on the assembly line of genuine spiritual life. It usually involves Him adding one part at a time. Sometimes the part that God is adding takes years. Sometimes it comes quicker, but never before we are ready to move to the next station on the assembly line. God doesn’t seem to be concerned about changing us quickly. In fact He might work a lifetime (our lifetime…not His) on a single component of our character…just to get it right. His desire, it seems, is to build a life that lasts, a life that makes a difference in the world, a life marked with patience and character. All in all, it’s a life like His!
So, what should our attitude be? How should we respond? All it takes is a ‘yes’! A yes to everything that God requires. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what we need to be conformed into Jesus’ image. We’re to be pitied of our pride if we don’t realize that we are a long way from that destination! We should make a choice by faith to just be willing to walk the road He has destined for us to walk.
No, there are no shortcuts! We can, however, prolong the process by being rebellious, hard-hearted or ‘stiffnecked’. We are on the ‘potter’s wheel’! It is His hands that are forming us and shaping us into something significant. He will take as much time as He needs to make us like Himself!
Issues of Life #15
The Call Part 1
Each of us has been called to a specific place of service in the Body of Christ. In the economy and plan of God no one sits on the bench. Everyone is a player! Getting that imparted to this generation is a great task in itself. American religion has taught us that only a select few actually do the ministry. This mindset has produced several generations of Christians who have a ‘consumer’ mentality rather than a ‘producer’ mentality. We have become good at ‘soaking it up’ but not very good at ‘pouring it out’. Therefore, and sadly, it has become true. Only a select few are actually doing the ministry.
Bob Dylan wrote a song thirty some years ago titled, “The Times They Are a’ Changin”. Though not a spiritual song it would be a great anthem for the change that is coming about today in the Body of Christ. There is a ‘move’ about in the kingdom of God to bring things into proper spiritual order where ministry is concerned. “He has given some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers; for the building up and edifying of the Body and for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.” The Father is bringing this one to life! Wherever and whenever He is allowed to, God builds! And He always builds through His people and according to His Word. We have seen, in the last fifteen years, the emergence of the fivefold ministries. While this is still ignored in much of the church there is an awakening to it at the ‘grassroots’ level. This is how the church was originally designed to work…with all of us being equipped for the work of the ministry. There are issues of calling, gifting, and anointing that will need to be addressed if we are to pursue the Truth of real Biblical ministry. Then, the timeless issue of character must also be addressed so we will be adequate representatives of the Father’s kingdom in the world.
Issues of Life #16
The Call Part 2
“And He has made form one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Acts 17:26
The ‘call’ of God is on the life of every living person. God is sovereign and He knew when He wanted you on the planet. He knew where you would live and who would be your acquaintances. But paramount of all is the fact that God has a specific plan and purpose and destiny for our lives. So much religious teaching these days has left out the importance of the priesthood of the believer and the ‘equipping of the saints’. So, now, the ministry has been left to the few rather than to the multitudes. This mindset has hindered and stifled the power of the church. It is a subtle yet strategic attack of the enemy. It has left the people of God, whom He has destined to be a powerful army, to settle for just showing up, filling a pew and waiting for Jesus to come back. In my opinion it is a great tragedy, a tragedy so deceptive that those who have been deceived by it don’t even know it. And the whole world is affected by it, or should I say, “not affected” by it. Thousands upon thousands of people and people groups are not being touched by the kingdom simply because the ‘few’, those who recognize the call of God on their lives, cannot get it all done! And many times those who do recognize the ‘call’ have been so systemized by church tradition that they will never really change the world, except on a very small scale. It has to be grievous to the Father.
So, if you’re reading this, listen up! You are called! You are called to be a bearer of the glory of God in this generation. You have a gifting, and anointing to usher in the supernatural power of God in circumstances of His choosing. We’ll talk more about the ‘call’, but not before you say ‘yes’ to it! It wouldn’t do any good; it would be a waste of time. But if you realize the truth in what you’re reading…let’s get it on! Everything changes when you submit to the call of God on your life. There are a number of other issues that come into play such as equipping, character building and other essentials.
Issues of Life #17
The Call Part 3
“I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13
God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called! Our resume is unimpressive to the Lord. In fact the Word states that the Lord uses the ‘simple’ things of the world to confound the mighty. There’s plenty more Scriptural evidence that the Father doesn’t always do the obvious thing according to man’s thinking. He does it His way and His way is always right and it always works when we’re obedient.
Gideon was a great Biblical example. God chose him to be the leader of a great army. But Gideon was not an accomplished military leader….he was a wheat farmer! Then God did something, which looked totally insane! He whittled Gideon’s army down from 30,000 to 300! Not a good move according to any brilliant military mind. General Patton in World War 2 would not have done it. Neither would Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf have done it in the Gulf War. Both great military minds, but would they go into battle with 1% of their military force? I don’t think so! So what did God have in mind when He decreased Gideon’s army to nearly nothing? It’s simple when you look at it with a ‘kingdom’ mind. God would assure the victory and there would be nobody who could argue that it wasn’t God, Himself who caused the enemy to fall.
It’s the exact same way with us today. We have monumental battles in front of us. And listen to me, that’s not bad news it’s great news! He has declared in His Word that we are “more than conquerors through Christ Jesus”. So, it’s not about winning some little piddly battle that has no consequences. It’s about battling for our very lives and the lives of others. It’s the only way that faith grows and matures. It’s the only way that we learn that God can be totally trusted with our lives. We are overcomers! And God has us in OJT, On the Job Training! He is proving to us that we are overcomers….through Jesus!
Issues of Life #18
The Call Part 4
The greater the call, the greater the test; the greater the test, the greater the glory of God to be revealed. It seems to be universally true in God’s economy. Those who have achieved greatness in God’s kingdom have also been those who have endured incredible testing in their lives. You see, the testing is inevitable; it must come to the true servant of God. While the tests are, for the most part, very unpleasant, the fruit that is produced in us when we endure is very desirable.
Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’. Just exactly what that ‘thorn’ was, we do not know. Evidently it is not important what that thorn was but rather how Paul handled the thorn in the flesh that was the significant issue of the story. “There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations from God”. Paul prayed three times for the removal of the thorn in the flesh to no avail. It is obvious that God also was in the midst of this trial in Paul’s life. In fact, Jesus Himself spoke to Paul in the midst of his intense testing saying, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Many would say if Paul had been ‘healed’ of the problem that the grace of God had manifested. But what if he wasn’t healed? Well, Jesus said that was grace! How could it be? There’s no other way to understand it unless you try to look at it from the Father’s viewpoint. Everyone would agree that Paul had a great call upon his life. For Paul to accomplish what God had called him to do, pride could never enter in. God could not afford it. So then, the thorn in the flesh served to keep Paul ‘in check’, to keep him humble rather than prideful.
Paul, in the midst of his calamity, saw the Truth! “I will glory in my infirmities for the power of God is made manifest in my weakness.” I believe that he did all the things that we are trained to do. He prayed, he confessed, he stood, he engaged in spiritual warfare. God did not answer Paul’s plea for relief, at least not how Paul wanted Him to answer. But He did answer. And He answered in a way that would mean the most glory for Him ….and for Paul! So, Paul found out a ‘kingdom’ secret; a mystery that could only be found out in the midst of a great problem. The grace of God was manifest in an incredible way. Paul found out that in “his weakness” the power of God was made manifest.
What about your test, your trial? Can you see God in it? He is there…waiting to manifest His supernatural power. Great lives require great tests!
Issues of Life #19
The Call Part 5
“...but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rom 5:3-5
There’s is no doubt about it, when one genuinely makes a commitment to follow the Father, the testing will come! And we’re conditioned to automatically think that the testing cannot be good for us, probably because it just doesn’t feel good. But much to the contrary; if we can trust what these great men of God are saying to us in the Bible, there is definitely, redeeming value in being tested. God is the perfect Father. He never makes mistakes with His children like you and I might. Instead, the trials that we go through in our lives accomplish several necessary things if we are to continue to follow the Lord.
One of those necessary things is the building of character in us. It is a high-priority with the Father to build character in us. What is character? Well, one person described character as, “doing the right thing when nobody’s watching”. While that is absolutely true, genuine character is much more than just doing the right thing. The right attitude for instance, must under gird our, ‘doing the right thing’ or else it cannot be right in the sight of God. Character is produced in us through the trials in our life. When you look closely at the above Scripture you can see that there is a natural progression. Tribulation produces perseverance. Meaning that, when we lean on and depend on God to bring us through the problem (persevering), true character is produced. Paul could not have talked about this progression unless he had experienced it personally. That’s why he could say, “we glory in tribulations”. He knew that it was the Father that was behind the testing. He knew that the testing was, somehow, good for him. And more important he knew that when he made it through…..he would be more like Jesus. The building of character is not an option to the child of God. It is a necessity. It is the hand of God that is forming us!
Issues of Life #20
The Call Part 6
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God , that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7
Genuine character is developed in us over the long haul. In fact, if we’re submitted to God’s plan the character building process will last for the rest of our life. It is a good thing. God loves us like we are but He has no intention of leaving us like we are. He’s bent on making us like Him.
A life without character is a pitiful life indeed. Those without character cannot be trusted. There are those with great gifting in their lives but without character to back it up, in the final analysis, they end up not making much difference. Every truly great person in history has been a person of character. The building and perfecting of character in our lives is not usually very pleasant. The problems, trials and tribulations of life serve the Father in a very valuable way. We learn through the tough times to trust in the Lord. We also find that when we genuinely trust and depend on the Father that He always comes through for us. Now He doesn’t always do it the way we would want Him to but His way is always the best for us…even when it doesn’t feel like it.
So how should we approach the character building process that’s in front of us? We should submit to it! We should be eager for it. The Father has an incredible plan for our lives and if we are going to completely ‘partner with Him’ in that plan, we must realize that the hard things that we go through are really the ‘best’ things for us. He has us in the refiner’s fire. He’s producing something eternal.
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller