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Someone’s Watching You!

In the place where I live everyone coming or going is seen on sirvailance cameras. So this struck a funny bone…

Alternative Baptism

As a young preacher, my small church had limited facilities, so we held baptisms in a creek.  With alligators in the area, however, that was less than ideal.

Then a minister friend suggested I bring my next group of baptismal candidates to his church for a joint baptismal service.  Naturally, I accepted.

The baptismal pool had a clear front so the congregation could see everything.  When the baptisms were finished, curtains were drawn, and I was left alone in the pool for a moment.  The building had no air conditioning, and it was quite hot.  I thought how nice it would feel to take a little dip.  I glided to one end, turned, and backstroked to the other end.

Hearing a riotous uproar in the church, I looked toward the congregation. 

The curtain was down only to the top of the glass!  An astonished and amused congregation had been watching my every move.

Be careful, someone’s watching you! 

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Full Battle Strategy

Spiritual Warfare Is Serious 
by Anne Graham Lotz, from The Daniel Prayer

Meet Anne Graham Lotz

God Loves To Be Held To His Word


When the messenger addressed Daniel, he instructed him to “consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up” (10:11).

In other words, Daniel needed to “listen-up.” And so do you and I. We need to pay attention, not only to God’s Word, but to this very serious aspect of prayer. We need to know who our adversary is, what his strategy is, and how we are to protect ourselves defensively while going on the offense against him.

Our Adversary Is Serious

The Bible gives us a very descriptive picture of our adversary. Peter reveals that our real enemy is the devil himself who is like a roaring lion.1

Lions roar when they are hungry, which indicates the devil is highly motivated to hunt you and me down. He is not complacent. Peter says he “prowls,” which tells us he is activated and energized as he tries to defeat us. He is not lazy. And he is “looking” because he is totally dedicated to defeating us and destroying our relationships, our witness, our ministries, our families, as well as everything about us. He is not a gentleman. He’s more like a no-holds-barred cage fighter. He doesn’t lose his focus or get distracted. His goal is to “devour” us, rendering us completely useless to God in our Christian lives and ineffective in our prayers. He’s focused. Now that’s a serious enemy!

When we pray the Daniel Prayer, the devil will work feverishly to make sure Heaven remains unmoved and nations remain under his grip. But while he is more powerful than we will ever be, we have the authority over him in Jesus’ name. Which is one reason, when I pray, I always pray in Jesus’ name. He is the One who gives me access into the presence of God and authority over my invisible enemies.2

The apostle Paul was well acquainted with spiritual warfare. His entire Christian life was comprised of one battle after another, and one victory after another. So, when he gives us clear instructions on how to fight the devil, he is speaking from firsthand experience. As Paul himself was chained between two Roman soldiers, he used the very way they were dressed for battle to describe the invisible armor we are to put on for our spiritual battle, as well as the offensive weapons we are to take up.3

Our Armor Is Serious

As we stand firm, unmovable and unshakeable in our position as children of God,

We are to put on…

The belt of truth — The first piece of equipment that a Roman soldier put on was his belt, because every other piece connected to it. Without his belt, he couldn’t get dressed. Our invisible armor consists first and foremost of the belt of truth which is God’s Word. Our entire lives, including our thoughts, actions, belief system, and worldview, are to be reoriented according to God’s Word. We are to be saturated in it because it will give us God’s perspective in every aspect of our lives. Strap your belt on. First.

The breastplate of righteousness — This was the piece of armor that covered the soldier’s heart and his vital organs. The breastplate of our invisible armor is righteousness. Right living. A clean conscience. Which means we need to make sure we are right with God and right with others. We cannot be strong in the fight if we have a deep down nagging sense of guilt. Get right now with God, and as much as possible, with that other person. Your own spiritual health and well-being depends on it.

Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace — The soldiers’ sandals had cleats on them, so that when in battle they could get a firm footing and were less likely to slip or fall.

You and I are to stand firm on the Good News that God so loves the entire world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. And His Son, Jesus, is the way, the truth, the life, and no one will come to the Father except through Him.4

But any and all who will come, may come. That’s where real peace is found. We are to be ready at a moment’s notice, not only to meet God face-to-face because we have made peace with Him, but to take the Gospel to others so that they, too, are at peace with Him. Stand firm on the Gospel!

And we are to take up…

The shield of faith — This was a piece of equipment that was as large as the soldier. And it was only effective if the soldier stayed close behind it. It was almost like a portable wall. Our invisible shield of faith is our total dependence upon God. Our trust in Him. It’s key to blunting the enemy’s attacks. Again and again, the Bible describes God as our shield, so that if we stay close to Him, we can be confident that any attack that the enemy makes on us will either be prevented from harming us, or will be blunted or softened because it has to come through our Shield first.5 Just stay close to it.

The helmet of salvation — This piece of armor covered the soldier’s head. His thoughts. Reasoning. For us, we are to be assured, with- out any doubt, that God has forgiven us and that we have received eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. We will never be victorious warriors if we go around doubting our salvation, unsure that God truly accepts us. Or if we are afraid to die because while we “hope” we are going to Heaven, we are not 100% certain of where we will spend eternity. Put your helmet on!

The sword of the Spirit — While the above pieces of armor are all defensive in nature, the sword is one of two offensive weapons named. While it’s obvious that a sword was the soldier’s weapon for war, Paul tells us clearly what the sword is when he says it “is the word of God.”6 We are to read, study, apply, and live by God’s Word, confident that His Word holds the answers to life’s questions and gives us principles to live by that work. It is the written Word of God that supernaturally reveals the Living Word of God, drawing people to the Light, to the Truth… to Jesus. We are to take every opportunity to share it with others. Pick it up! Dust it off! Read it every day. Refer to it often. Rely on it. Give it out to others. Wield your sword with the power of God’s Spirit, but always wrap it in love.

Then begin to really pray. For a soldier, this would involve his direct communication with his commander. Making sure he knew the battle plan and how he was to proceed. The same is true for you and me. We are not left to guess our way through the battle. We are given direct access to our Commander. To the Captain of the Armies of Heaven. We communicate with Him through prayer. Paul instructs us to “pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests.”7 Which means you can mix things up as you pray. Your prayers don’t have to be according to some prescribed formula. They don’t have to be offered in their entirety in one sitting or kneeling position. You can take your music into your place of prayer and begin with your favorite worship songs. Go outside for a walk and thank God for all the blessings you can name. Memorize an alphabetized list of His names and go over each one as you go to sleep. Keep a prayer journal and a prayer list. Use pictures of people, such as missionaries or world leaders, to help you stay focused as you pray for them. Be creative. “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying…”8

Heads up! Are you praying fully armed? Alert to your adversary? Pay serious attention!

1.  1 Peter 5:8.
2.  John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23; Hebrews 10:19–22.
3.  Ephesians 6:10–18.
4.  John 3:16, 14:6.
5.  Some of my favorite verses from the Psalms describing God as our shield are: Psalm 3:3; 18:2, 30; 33:20; 84:11; 91:4; 115:11.
6.  Ephesians 6:17.
7.  Ephesians 6:18.
8.  Ephesians 6:18.


Excerpted with permission from The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz, copyright Anne Graham Lotz.

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Your Turn

Spiritual warfare is serious. We don’t have to be afraid! But, we do need to be prepared! Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about putting on spiritual armor!



The mighty sceptre

The mighty sceptre

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Prepare

How comfortable are you reading about God crushing his enemies, piling up their dead, judging them for their sin? Why do you react like you do?



Bible passage Psalm 110

Psalm 110

A David Prayer

 1-3 The word of God to my Lord: “Sit alongside me here on my throne 
      until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.” 
   You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion; 
      now rule, though surrounded by enemies! 
   Your people will freely join you, resplendent in holy armor 
      on the great day of your conquest, 
   Join you at the fresh break of day, 
      join you with all the vigor of youth. 
 4-7 God gave his word and he won’t take it back: 
      you’re the permanent priest, the Melchizedek priest. 
   The Lord stands true at your side, 
      crushing kings in his terrible wrath, 
   Bringing judgment on the nations, 
      handing out convictions wholesale, 
      crushing opposition across the wide earth. 
   The King-Maker put his King on the throne; 
      the True King rules with head held high! 

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Explore the Bible

Victorious God
As a child I was impressed with the power of God. I loved to read about the creation, Jesus walking on water and calming the storm, Elijah calling down fire from heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Psalm 110, David prophesies about the Messiah, as Jesus makes clear (Matthew 22:44). He looks forward to the day when God will defeat his enemies once and for all. David was a warrior king; perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the image he uses for this victory is a human battlefield: troops ready to die for their commander (v 3), the bodies of the dead piled up high (v 6).

Enemies defeated
Often people shy away from the ‘spirit of hatred which strikes us … like the heat from a furnace’* in some of the psalms. Yet which of us can truthfully say we don’t feel these emotions too – even those of us who have never faced the fierce heat of battle?

Ultimately, such psalms remind us that God’s ‘mighty sceptre’ will one day rule supreme, that in Jesus all God’s enemies – including death itself – lie crushed and defeated. That power, which raised Jesus from the dead, is given to all who believe (Ephesians 1:19,20).

*CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1998), p17

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Respond

What enemies are you facing right now? Are you able to stand firm against them, in God’s strength?

Ben Green

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Deeper Bible study

‘Christ is alive and comes to bring good news to this and every age, till earth and sky and ocean ring with joy, with justice, love, and praise.’1

The New Testament quotes Psalm 110 more than any other passage from the Old Testament. The psalm speaks of the exaltation of the Israelite king who reigned at YHWH’s behest. However, in new circumstances old Scriptures take on new meanings. After the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Christians read the psalm in a brand new way. They took the words about the king to refer to Jesus Christ in his ascended glory. They took the words about the suppression of enemies to refer, not so much to human beings, but to evil as a personified foe.

Paul makes use of Psalm 110 in a stirring address about the resurrection of the dead. He writes, ‘Then the end will come, when he [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’ (1 Corinthians 15:24–26). Ephesians also draws on Psalm 110, when it asserts that God’s power is at work in the church. It is the same power God ‘exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ (Ephesians 1:20–22)

At the crucifixion of Jesus, the powers of evil seemed to win the day. In the resurrection and ascension, God vindicated Jesus and the way of suffering love, turning the tables on the powers of darkness. The world does not yet know it, but evil will not have the last word. In the end, the love of God will triumph.

Robert Parkinson

 

1 Brian Wren, ‘Christ is alive! Let Christians sing’, Hymn 244, Baptist Praise and Worship

Nothing New…

Are Christians “Intolerant Haters”? The Charges are Not New

In the midst of the high-octane cultural wars of the last five years—particularly the debate over homosexual marriage—evangelical Christians have been slapped with all sorts of pejorative labels. Words such as “bigoted,” “arrogant,” “exclusive,” “dogmatic,” and “homophobic” are just a few.

But there are probably two labels that stand out the most. First, Christians are regularly regarded as intolerant. Christians are not only regarded as intolerant religiously—because they affirm the words of Jesus that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)—but they are regarded as intolerant ethically because they refuse to approve any and all behaviors as morally good.

Second, Christians are regularly (and ironically) regarded as haters. Apparently, our modern world regards the act of telling someone they’re wrong as a form of hatred—it is a slight against mankind (of course, it is never explained how the charge does not apply equally in the other direction, since those who make this charge are telling Christians they are wrong; but we shall leave that issue unaddressed for the time being).

Needless to say, such a situation can be very discouraging to Christians in the modern day. We might be tempted to despair and think that the church is entering into dark days. But a little historical perspective might be useful here. Truth be told, this is not the first time Christians have received such labels. Indeed, they were given to Christians from the very beginning.

Pliny the Younger: Christians are Intolerant

It is well known that in the Greco-Roman world there was a pantheon of gods. Every group had their own deities, and they were easily and naturally placed alongside other deities. For the most part, no one objected to the existence of other gods. It was a polytheistic world.

Of course, the earliest Christians were as monotheistic as their Jewish predecessors and quite unwilling to play along with the standard religious practices of Greco-Roman culture. For Roman rulers trying to keep the peace, the Christian intolerance of other gods was a perennial frustration.

Pliny the Younger, Roman governor of Bythinia (writing c. 111–113), expressed his own frustration over the fact that Christians would not “invoke the gods.” In a letter to emperor Trajan, he lamented their “stubborness and unyielding obstinancy.” In other words, he was angry over their intolerance.

Why was Pliny so bothered by this? Because the influence of the Christians had caused the pagan temples to be “deserted,” and, thus, “very few purchasers could be found” for the sacrificial animals.

In other words, they were losing money.

To fix the problem, Pliny decided to force Christians to worship the pagan gods and curse Christ, and if they refused they were put to death. He says, “As I am informed that people who are really Christians cannot possibly be made to do any of those things.

It is interesting to note that Pliny, while torturing these Christians, acknowledges their high moral standards: “[Christians] bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.”

Apparently, intolerance of the Roman gods is a enough of a reason to kill Christians, despite their holy lives.

Nero: Christians are Haters

In the late first-century, the Roman emperor Nero made himself famous for his persecution of Christians. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that under Nero,

Mockery of every sort was added to their [Christians’] death. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, as exhibiting a show in the circus.

So, what awful crimes did Christians commit to warrant such unthinkable torture? Tacitus acknowledges that Christians weren’t really guilty of the trumped up charges of setting fire to the city. Instead, he admits they were killed for “hatred against mankind.”

What had Christians done to warrant the charge of “haters”? Again, they refused to condone the pantheon of gods and religious practices that went along with them.

In sum, the stories of Pliny and Nero are both encouraging and frightening at the same time. They are frightening because they sound eerily similar to the kind of language and accusations being used today against Christians. But instead of Christians being asked to pay homage to the Roman gods to prove their acceptability, they are now being asked to pay homage to the gods of tolerance or homosexual marriage or what have you.

At the same time, these stories are encouraging. They remind us that this sort of persecution isn’t new. Indeed, this persecution was not the end of Christianity, but was the beginning. In the midst of it, the church grew, and thrived, and expanded.

As Christ said, “I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not stand against it” (Matt 16:18).


For more, visit Dr. Kruger’s website: Canon Fodder.

No “B” Plan

God Doesn’t Have a Plan B

One of the hardest places to be in life is where you don’t want to be. Whether you are working inside the home, and that’s not where you ever thought you would be, or you’re working outside the home, and that’s not where you ever thought you would be—it’s one of the hardest things to come to terms with. We all have to come to terms with the reality of our lives looking different than we intended them to look.

At the end of the day, we all have to accept the fact that God has no Plan B in our lives. Where you’re at is Plan A, as hard as that may be. And you also have to understand that whatever God has given you to do in your work is the work that he has ordained and designed for you, and you are there for good purposes; whether you’re in an office or you’re in the home—you are there to bring vital contribution to society through the work that you’re doing.

We need women in both of those places. Whether you want to be there or not, that’s where God has you. It’s a good place to be. You can find value in the work you’re doing there, even if it’s hard and it’s not what you anticipated, because you can know that it’s been given to you by a loving and good God who doesn’t make mistakes.

At the end of your life, you will see what all your work was intended for. You might not see it now, and while it might be disappointing and hard, you’ll know that God did it for your good, and for the good of so many people—people you might not even know you’re impacting today.


Courtney Reissig is a wife, mother, and writer. She has written for the Gospel Coalition, Boundless, and CT Women, where she is a regular contributor. She is also the assistant editor for Karis, a women’s blog hosted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and the author of The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Don’t Put it Off

Don’t Put it Off

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”  (Hebrews 3:7-15ESV).

On Sunday night, October 8, 1871, D. L. Moody was preaching the gospel in downtown Chicago. He challenged the listening crowd to go home and “think about what I’ve said about the gospel and come back tomorrow and tell me what you’ve decided about following the Lord.”

Sounds OK, right? “It’s a big decision. Don’t rush into it. Weigh your options.”

About the same hour that meeting was breaking up, a few blocks west of downtown, a blaze had begun in Patrick O’Leary’s cow barn. By midnight the fire had jumped the Chicago River’s south branch and by 1:30 a.m., the entire business district (where Moody had been preaching) was in flames. By 3:00 a.m., the inferno had raced northward, jumped the main river, and devoured over 100,000 homes. Not until after midnight the following day was the fire extinguished as a steady rain left Chicago smoldering and in rubbles–with hundreds dead.

Many of the people who had heard the gospel on Sunday night perished in the flames. By not deciding to follow Jesus the moment they heard the invitation, they had missed their opportunity to respond to God’s good news.

D.L. Moody’s ministry was changed forever. He said, “From now on, every chance I get I will urge upon people a decision today, today. Today, sir, make a decision today. Although you can choose your actions; you cannot choose the consequences.”

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”The writer of Hebrews repeats that warning three times (3:7, 3:15, 4:7). And while it applies to those who would respond to God’s call of salvation, it also applies to followers of Christ at some point of obedience.

It all comes down to this: when you hear what God’s Word says, do something about it. If you want to go further with God than you have in years gone by, decide today that every time God shows you something, you’re going to get after it. If He lays it out for you, don’t put it off.

Get on doing God’s thing right away. You don’t know how long the opportunity will be yours.

Journal

  • What action or point of surrender has God been prompting you to make that you haven’t acted on yet?
  • What are you waiting for? 

Pray
Lord, I feel the weight of obedience right now and am tempted to ignore Your prompting. Give me the strength to persevere in faith. As I face challenges, by Your Spirit help me walk in faith and obedience. How quickly this life will end; how soon eternity will begin. Might I be faithful to You to the finish line. I pray this in the enduring name of Jesus, amen.

For more from Dr. James MacDonald please visit Walk in the Word on OnePlace.com

Take the Risk!

Monday May 22nd, 2017

 

But Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Ahaziah’s infant son, Joash, and stole him away from among the rest of the king’s children, who were about to be killed.

 
2 Chronicles 22:11, NLT
 

Desperate times call for decisive people. Jehosheba made a moment’s choice that changed the course of a nation. Ruthless queen Athaliah was about to murder every prince in the royal family. The murderess was probably Jehosheba’s own stepmother. Further, there was another twist of fate—Jehosheba’s brother Ahaziah, the recently dead king, had been the only survivor when king Jehoram’s sons were all murdered years before. History was about to repeat itself in a gruesome way.

Jehosheba decided to rescue at least one of the children. She kidnapped her nephew Joash and hid him away in the temple with her husband Jehoiada, a priest. For the next six years they became his parents-in-hiding. When he was old enough, he was declared king, and Athaliah’s reign was brought to an end. Jehosheba will be remembered as a key link in the chain of royal descendants of David. She preserved by a single life the ancestral line into which Christ was born.

The crucial moment in Jehosheba’s life demonstrated one important lesson: Even when events are filled with evil; we are still called to do good where we can. We may not be able to change everything, but if we can take even one positive action, we ought to do so. Since we don’t know how great an effect a single act will create, our challenge is to do the best we can with the opportunities before us. It does take courage to act when we aren’t assured of the outcome. It takes courage to trust God in the face of danger and despair. But these are the times when trust, faith, and courage matter. Sooner or later the choice to do good must be made in the face of risk.

Your “to do” list today may be filled with mundane actions. But there may be at least one that will require courage on your part. In any case, like Jehosheba, you can’t know what God will accomplish through small faithful actions on your part. You simply need to do your part.