Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Getting Back To Base

Part Three In The Spiritual Warfare Series

Without a doubt baseball is my all time favorite sport, but a very very close second is wrestling.  I'm not talking about "rasslin'" WWE style, but collegiate style wrestling.  It is high drama: two excellently conditioned athletes going at it mano a mano.  There's no one to pick up your slack, no one to cover your mistakes - just you against your adversary one on one with a whole lot of people screaming at you, telling you what to do!

Base Position
One of my best friends in high school was an excellent wrestler, and my school had a really good team.  As a result, our wrestling matches often had better attendance than our basketball games.

There was a whole series of traditions that surrounded our matches, including the "We Will Rock You" rhythm deafeningly beaten out on the gymnasium bleachers whenever one of our guys put one of theirs on his back.  It was even reported that there was a sign on the ceiling that said, "If you can read this you're pinned."  It was a lot of fun.  For us, anyway.

Wrestling is an ancient sport.  It has been around for thousands of years.  So it is no surprise that wrestling is used in the Bible as a metaphor for spiritual warfare.  Paul wrote, " For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  That being said, I would like to take a moment and point to a way that wrestling does mirror spiritual warfare.

The bottom wrestler is moving back to his base
There are many techniques that are important to wrestling, but one of the most important is the ability to get back to base.

Base position is a very stable defensive posture where a wrestler's feet, knees, and hands (or elbows) are firmly on the mat with his center of gravity as low as possible.  It puts him in a strong position to frustrate his opponent's attempts to control him and gives him a stable platform from which to escape or take dominant position from the other wrestler.

Every wrestler, regardless of his skill level, will eventually find himself on the bottom.  To be successful, he must learn to defend himself and to move from a defensive posture to an offensive one.

Going for the pin
One of the most frustrating things for a wrestler to experience is to be trapped flat on the mat by a skillful wrestler.  The top wrestler can leisurely have his way with him  while the bottom wrestler gets tireder and tireder and more and more frustrated.  The more he struggles the more he opens himself up to yet one more of his opponent's fiendish methods to keep him right where he wants him.  If a wrestler is not wise when he is in that position he will give his opponent the leverage that he needs to flip him over and pin him.

Because there are so many levers for the top wrestler to use, it is very important for the bottom wrestler to not only get back to his base quickly, but to know how to do it correctly.

One mistake that some wrestlers make is to try to lift their opponent's full weight when coming back to their base.  They rely on their own strength to accomplish the task instead of wisely using the protection and leverage that the mat offers them to get it done.  As a result, they have to expend more physical energy than is necessary and they tire quickly.  They also have to concentrate harder to force their body to accomplish this difficult task.  That means that they lose concentration on their positioning, which can lead them to open themselves up to attack.

 Another mistake is to forget to move.  In wrestling the defender's goal is to create enough space between himself and his opponent to be able to do what he wants to do.  The offensive goal is to take away your opponent's space.  A wise wrestler will recognize the attack that his enemy is employing and will move (keeping his base intact) to counter that attack.  (See the embedded video at the end.)

When we are engaged in spiritual warfare these same principles hold.  In our own ability and strength we quickly find ourselves frustrated by the enemy's skill level.  It often seems that they know where all of our levers are and that they can employ them at will.

The enemy loves to come at us with a flurry of attack that leaves us bewildered and out of touch with what is going on.  He brings strong temptations to us.  He lies to us.  He accuses us.  He deprives us of sleep.  He stirs up strife.  He injures us or makes us sick.  He orchestrates the circumstances around us to create the greatest level of chaos that he can.  It is in these times that everything in our world will seem to fall apart simultaneously.  It is like an ocean wave that catches us off guard and rolls us over and over and over.  We are so overwhelmed that we don't know what is going on and our ability to fight back is greatly compromised.

That is when we MUST get back to our base.

What is our base?  Our base is the Word of God.  This is the truth.  This is our position of strength.  This is our unassailable position.  The devil, just like any good wrestler will do everything that he can to tear down that base. 

The wrestler in red was on the bottom. 
He is executing a switch - a move that will
allow him to take the dominant position behind
his opponent.

Consider how the devil approached Jesus during his time of testing in the desert.  The devil did everything he could to move Jesus from his base.  Yet Jesus' response in each temptation was to counter it with the Word of God.

In the same way we have to come back to our base when the devil attacks us.  That means that we need to be very familiar with the Word of God.  We must become workmen who need not be ashamed because we can accurately handle the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)  That is accomplished by reading, studying, memorizing, meditating upon, and exhorting each other with the Bible. 

Remember that the enemy tried to even use the Bible against Jesus in his temptation.  Because Jesus' hadn't satisfied Himself with a casual knowledge of the scriptures, He knew that the devil was trying to get Him to inappropriately apply the Bible's truth and was able to defeat him.

So, when the enemy comes in like a flood to wash you off your feet; when he tries to bury you under a wave of chaos, temptation, and despair, come back to your base.  Come back to the Word of God and its truth.  Remember that you will fail if you try to wrestle our enemy in your own strength.  Wrestle in the strength of the Lord and with the help of your brothers and sisters.  Counter each lie that the enemy has thrown in your face with God's truth from the Bible. This will stabilize you and help you to go back on the offensive.  Brothers and sisters, watch over each other.  When you see the enemy taking your brother down, remind him to get back to his base.  When your sister is overwhelmed give her the scriptures  that she needs to get her foundation back under her. 

As we continue to frustrate our enemy's attempts to tear us down, our strength will grow, and we will eventually find the opening that we have been looking for to go on the offensive and defeat him.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Clear Perspective (On NC's Amendment One)

You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? - Anton Ego, Ratatouille

As we have gotten closer and closer to the May 8th vote on North Carolina's Amendment 1 there has been increasing chatter from both the camps for and against it. As I have considered how I will vote regarding the amendment I have been shocked by the level of confusion surrounding it. It is as if there is a great cloud of bewilderment that gets thicker and harder to penetrate the closer you get to the issue. I must admit that I have been greatly perplexed by it as I have tried to wrestle with the arguments for and against the choice that is being put before the people. Those who know me well will not be surprised at the conclusions that I have drawn, but they may be surprised to know that for a time I was even considering voting against the amendment.

What I have to say is written to Christians only. Perhaps Jews would also find my words helpful because my argument is based solely upon my understanding of the teachings of the Christian and Jewish Bibles. I am interested in discerning and revealing God's heart about this issue only. If you're not a Christian, but are curious about a Christian perspective, by all means read on. If you have honest questions about what the Bible says I'll be glad to help point the way for you. That being said, realize that the Bible and what it says is The parameter of this argument and discussion. Now, back to the topic at hand.

As I described it earlier, there seems to be a cloud of confusion surrounding Amendment 1. I am not surprised. I believe that this confusion is demonic at its core, for it seeks to obfuscate the will of God and to obliterate God's definition of marriage. This is the strongest spiritual resistance I have ever encountered. I knew at my core that I should vote for the amendment, but there was such a strong tug to vote against it. I found myself disoriented and perplexed every time I tried to formulate a logical defense for it. Maybe I have a little Marine in me (regrettably I never actually served as a Marine) because my instinct told me to charge and vote for it even though I was struggling.

Once I had resolved to do this I realized how widespread and how strong the deception was. I saw post after post from people that call themselves Christians in opposition to the Amendment. What can I say? I was very nearly persuaded to join them. So I began to ponder how to cut through the confusion and simplify this issue for Christians who are struggling with it. Sunday morning I received a breakthrough from God that was so simple and elegant that I feel compelled to share it with my brothers and sisters.

Here is the text of the proposed Amendment:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

Here's your perspective: focus on what the amendment says. This amendment is about one thing only – defining marriage. Anything beyond that is misdirection and subterfuge.

Among believers, I should not have to do this, but I feel it is necessary to remind everyone what the Bible says about itself: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” And “...know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” And “This is the word which the LORD has commanded.” I could go on, and on, but you get the point. Thus, as a Christian, we are called to study and know the Word of God and, very importantly as James said, “prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”

That means we are to come into conformity to what the Word says. If society tells us that something is right, but the Bible tells us that it is wrong then we have to go with what the Bible says. If we have an opinion that is in conflict with what the Word says, then we are to conform that opinion to match the position of the Word. Let me give an example.

When I was a young Christian, the idea of interracial marriage was distasteful to me. (I find it interesting that many who oppose the current marriage amendment have demonstrated that once upon a time it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry in North Carolina.) My opinion – my instinct – was that it was wrong and that God didn't like it. However, as I searched the scriptures for myself, and as I pondered what they said, I found nothing prohibiting interracial marriage whatsoever. I was faced with a dilemma: either I could continue on with my opinion in rebellion to the truth that I saw in the Bible or I could acquiesce and admit that I had been wrong. I repented and no longer hold that highly flawed opinion.

So, back to the amendment in question; how are we to evaluate it? As Christians we are obliged to assess the language and the intent of this law in light of what the Bible teaches about marriage. Here are the questions that I have asked of it: Does this law reflect the pattern for marriage that God established in the Bible? Is the original pattern for marriage that God established reinforced in the New Testament or is it abnegated by the new covenant? Does this law reflect God's revealed intention about marriage? Does this law prohibit any definition of marriage endorsed by the Bible? Does this law allow any definition of marriage prohibited by the Bible? I will address these questions one by one.

Does this law reflect the pattern for marriage that God established in the Bible?

The creation account tells us:

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

What do we learn from this passage? Number one: God's mission was to make “a helper suitable for” the man. Number two: none of the animals were suitable. Number three: God made a woman. Number four: it was important that they be sexually complementary.

So, in the very first marriage, when God could have done anything He wanted, He established marriage between one man and one woman and ordained that those two individuals would become one flesh. (One possible way of considering them to be one flesh is through children – the mingling of their two to become one. This is only possible by God's design.) How does that stack up against Amendment 1? “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” The amendment conforms to God's original pattern for marriage.

Is the original pattern for marriage that God established reinforced in the New Testament or is it abnegated by the new covenant?

The New Testament reaffirms God's original plan for marriage. Jesus had an encounter with the Pharisees regarding Moses' provision for divorce, but Jesus responded to them, saying, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate....Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.” Jesus' use of the scriptures in Genesis indicates that God's intention for marriage was revealed in its inauguration.

The New Testament does not introduce a new model for marriage. The old still stands.

Does this law reflect God's revealed intention about marriage?

It absolutely does. As I have already demonstrated, God's original intent for marriage was that it would be between one man and one woman. This same pattern is re-affirmed through Jesus' words and also through Paul's teaching about the qualifications for elders and deacons.

Does this law prohibit any definition of marriage endorsed by the Bible?

Some may try to argue that the Bible endorses polygamy. I disagree. In no place does the Bible overtly endorse polygamy, even though several people in the Bible had multiple wives. Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon are notable examples. May I suggest that the scriptures teach that in each of these cases great trouble was caused by such an arrangement? The kings of Israel were instructed to not multiply wives to themselves, and, as I mentioned earlier, Paul teaches that elders and deacons should be the husband of one wife. At best, polygamy was tolerated by God “because of the hardness of our hearts” much like divorce was.

So, the answer to this question is no.

Does this law allow any definition of marriage prohibited by the Bible?

The answer to this question is also no. The amendment seeks to limit marriage to the biblical definition.

Remember, the question being put before the people on May 8 is about the definition of marriage. Will the people affirm that they want the state's definition of marriage to conform to God's definition of marriage or not? I have demonstrated that the proposed amendment does in fact conform to that definition. Now the choice is yours: Will you align your vote with God's Word or not? I can't make it any simpler than that.

I hope that you have found this analysis helpful. If you have, please feel free to share it with anyone who is struggling with their choice. God bless you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Counterattack

A funny thing happens when you begin to write about spiritual warfare - the spiritual warfare that you are experiencing gets more serious. Not long after I finished the article Choosing Your Ground I was hammered by the most intense battle that I have experienced in years.

Did I know one was coming? Yes; but I have to admit that it was far more severe than I had anticipated. It was like a wave that knocked me off of my feet and rolled me around under the water for a while. I am only now beginning to find the ground and get my feet back under me again.

While it is disconcerting that I was hit so hard, I was reminded yesterday by my pastor that, "a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity." Thank God that my righteousness isn't based on any goodness inherent in me, but is solely dependent on the perfection of Jesus Christ imputed to me by faith. God is certainly good!

The aftermath of the attack has left me pretty tender and wounded, but I see the attack as a good thing. In it the enemy was allowed to sift me and used a seemingly small area of darkness in my heart as the access point for his attack. He exploited this area of rebellion in my heart to his advantage to quickly open up a breech on a flank that I thought that I had thoroughly defended. Because of this attack I am now aware of an area where I had grown complacent and that needs to be submitted to God.

Another positive on the heels of this attack is that it would seem that the articles that I have written have struck a nerve with the enemy. That is a very good thing. Thus, I intend to continue writing. As I suggested in Total War, if he bloodies me, I have every intention of returning the favor.

The most disturbing outcome of the attack has been how long it has taken me to get back in the saddle. I'm not even sure that I'm back there yet, but I do seem to be moving that way. And as I return to the saddle, I will return to the offensive. I intend to write the next installment of the Spiritual Warfare Series in the coming days.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wynton Marsalis On Integrity

Excellent interview with Wynton Marsalis on integrity and how lack of integrity has put our country in the situation it is in. This is one sharp fellow. I'd love to sit down with him for a few hours to talk or jam!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ray Hughes - The Symphony of Heaven

This is one of the most amazing sermons that I have heard on worship. I love this brother's voice! He reminds me of Johnny Cash! It lasts about an hour and ten minutes. Be blessed!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Choosing Your Ground

Part Two In The Spiritual Warfare Series

Stirling CastleIt was a bad situation. His brother had parleyed an agreement that dictated the English surrender their garrison at Stirling Castle to them if they were not relieved by the English army by Midsummer's Day (June 24). Robert hadn't wanted to put his troops in a position where open battle against the English army was necessary. Slash and burn techniques and guerrilla warfare had proven the more effective strategy given the strengths and weaknesses of the Scottish and English armies. Yet what was done was done, and once again, as he had for the past 18 years, Robert was making the best of a bad situation.

That the English would come was without a doubt. Edward II had been humiliated by Robert and his men too many times for him to pass up a chance for one decisive victory to win back the lands that he had ineptly lost - lands that his father Edward Longshanks had so ably taken from the Scots. The setting was already chosen - Stirling Castle, and the time was relatively certain. He had just a few months to prepare for the coming battle.

The English would have heavy cavalry and archers. The Scots would have only light cavalry and a few archers. The English would likely have far better armor and would probably also outnumber the Scots heavily. It was unthinkable to attempt to fight the English in the open field. It would have been suicide. Their superior technology and numbers forbade it. So what could he do to mitigate the strengths of the English army and leverage the abilities of his own?

Schiltrom at the battle of FalkirkAt the Battle of Falkirk, William Wallace had demonstrated that it was possible to repulse heavy cavalry using a bristling formation of soldiers armed with long pikes. Unfortunately, the same battle demonstrated that these formations (schiltroms) were vulnerable to the attack of archers because they were not mobile.

Robert had developed a solution to this problem. He drilled his men, teaching them to be able to move and fight in perfect formation with the schiltroms. Now they were less vulnerable to archers. But that in itself would not be sufficient to give him victory against so large a force. He began to scout the land for a defensible position.

There was little doubt that Edward's army would follow the old Roman road to Stirling. It was the only way that would give his heavy cavalry firm enough ground to be able to operate. But, with the dense Tor Wood to either side of the road, it would be easy to force the English into a narrow formation that would negate their numerical superiority in battle. Robert set his men to the task of digging pits along either side of the road and hiding them under a thin layer of branches and earth. They also cut down trees to make easy passage through the woods impossible and blocked all paths. On the other side of Tor Wood the Bannock Burn flowed through a narrow, boggy floodplain, called the Carse, that created a natural funnel between Tor Wood and New Park - a heavily forested hunting preserve on the other side of the Carse. It was a perfect spot to pick a fight.

Robert the Bruce in battle against Henry de Bohun painting by Mark ChurmsHe didn't have to wait long. Edward arrived on the scene on June 23 and his cavalry made contact with Robert the Bruce's forces in a frontal assault that was easily repelled by the Scots. As expected, the English outnumbered Bruce's army nearly three to one, but Robert's preparations had borne fruit. Edward turned his forces off the Roman road and crossed the fords of Bannock Burn to camp on the Carse that first night. He had fallen into the Bruce's trap. The battle that followed the next day saw the English routed and Edward abandoning his army to flee for his life, leaving them to get home the best that they could. The victory was so decisive that Scottish independence from England was only a matter of time. Edward never ventured into Scotland again.

The victory that day belonged to the Scots because they picked their battleground wisely and forced their enemy to engage them on their terms. Had Edward been wise enough to recognize the trap that he was walking into, he may have refused to engage the Scots until he had a plan to counter their positional advantage.

The lesson that Robert the Bruce taught to Edward that day is one that we must learn if we are to be successful in our spiritual campaigns. A wise commander chooses his ground carefully and refuses to engage his enemy on a battlefield that does not play to the strengths of his force. How well we do this will determine our success or failure in spiritual warfare.

There is only one battlefield that the saints of the Lord should battle on - the battlefield of truth1. All other battlefields belong to the enemy. The battlefield of truth is defined by the Word of God. The enemy will do everything that he can to entice us to fight on his terms and on his battlefield. But we must not do this! We can rest assured that it is a trap every time.

Let's return to a story that most folks are very familiar with:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it — I give every green plant for food." And it was so. Genesis 1:26-30

Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground — trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." Genesis 2:15-17

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:1-7

This story is a perfect example of the devil's tactic. God gave Adam and Eve a specific command, "you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and a specific consequence for disobeying that command, "for when you eat of it you will surely die." This was the truth. As long as they believed and acted on the reliability of God's truth they would be fine.

But then the devil showed up. And the serpent immediately began to question what God had said. He probed the defenses to see how firmly Eve knew the truth. He began very broadly, asking, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

Eve's answer was sound. She explained that they could eat from any tree but the one, and she even went further, saying that they couldn't even TOUCH it or they would die. It sounds good, right? She was making sure that she didn't eat any of that fruit, because if she didn't even touch the tree she couldn't eat the fruit, right?

Perhaps God had given them that additional instruction, but we have no record of it if He did. Is it possible that this deviation from the truth that was recorded provided the opening that the devil was looking for? Immediately upon hearing her reply the devil lied to her saying, "You will not surely die" and continued to convince her that she needed to eat that fruit to be like God.

At a recent spiritual warfare conference I attended, Steve Thompson2 taught that the enemy always tries to convince us that we have to do something to become what we already are. How true that was in this case! Both Adam and Eve were the very image of God, and yet the devil tried to convince Eve that she had to do something else to become like God. Unfortunately for all of creation, she and Adam took the bait, trading their lives and their dominion of the earth for a lousy piece of fruit. The rest, as they say, is history.

The devil didn't make it clear what was at stake. In fact, he flatly denied the truth. I can imagine the old serpent handling the fruit, polishing the fruit, perhaps even tasting the fruit before Eve and demonstrating that it was indeed quite tasty and non-lethal. How different things would have been if Eve (or even Adam) had stuck to their guns and remained firmly planted on the truth. "God is my friend. He loves me, and if He told me that it would kill me then it will. I don't care how pretty it is. I don't care how tasty it is. God doesn't want me to die, and He knows what is best!"

However, that is not what happened, and because Adam and Eve allowed themselves to be persuaded to move away from the truth that God had revealed to them, the enemy was able to defeat them and take everything that was theirs. This story is our example of what happens when the devil is allowed to choose the battlefield and define the terms of the battle.

Fortunately, we also have an example in the Bible of how to keep the enemy fighting in the realm of truth. The story takes place right after Jesus' cousin, John, had baptized Him.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

(The devil tried the same line on Jesus that he did on Eve. 'If you are the Son of God, you have to prove it!' From the very start he tried to get Jesus to doubt that He was the Son of God.)

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'[a]"

(Jesus set the battlefield and the terms right there: Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God. He gave the enemy notice that this was where they would fight. He wasn't going to listen to the devil, and He wasn't going to listen to His body. He was going to listen to every word that came from God's mouth.)

Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If You are the Son of God," he said, "throw Yourself down. For it is written:

" 'He will command His angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'[b]"

(Impressive. The devil knows some scripture. He pretended to comply with the terms that Jesus set, but he didn't change his premise. He was still trying to get Jesus to question who He is, and he was still trying to dictate what Jesus would have to do to prove it.)

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'[c]"

(Jesus wasn't fooled by the devil's use of scripture. He recognized that the enemy's tactic hadn't changed at all; he had just wrapped it in a nice religious package. Jesus' thorough knowledge of the scriptures exposed the sin in the devil's enticement. This attack shows us the importance of studying and understanding the scriptures thoroughly - a job that we will never complete in this lifetime.)

Denying satan by Carl BlochAgain, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give You," he said, "if You will bow down and worship me."

(The enemy is persistent, and in this temptation he finally got around to what he was after all along. Please notice that he never left his premise that Jesus really isn't the Son of God. Inherent in this promise was the denial that everything in all of creation already belonged to Jesus as the Son of God. The audacity is staggering.)

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'[d]"

(End of discussion. This was the final word. Jesus was never moving off of it.)

Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.

Matthew 4:1-11
That is how you beat the devil. You take your stand upon the truth with the help of the Holy Spirit, and you refuse to be moved. Every time he opens his mouth, every time he brings a temptation, every time he attacks you, you must respond with the truth of the Word of God. To be able to stand you must know the truth and you must believe the truth.

To know the truth you must know the Word of God. The Bible tells us that God's Word is truth. It tells us that we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. And we also have the important admonition of Paul to Timothy to, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth."

Be diligent! To be able to accurately handle the word of truth we must be diligent in our study of the scriptures. The children of Israel were encouraged:

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

That is constant marination in the truth! If only we were so diligent to do so! But it is what we must do if we are to know the truth and to believe the truth.

Belief goes far deeper than mere mental assent to the veracity of the Scriptures. Belief begins to kick in when you are willing to stake your life on the truth of the word of God. I know no one who is walking in perfect belief, but this is an area where we must begin to grow!

The trials that we suffer are opportunities to transform our knowledge and our mental assent into true belief; for it is in these trials that we find the enemy's assault on the truth that we claim to believe. How do you respond when sickness comes? Depression? Trouble? Persecution? Poverty? Do you still believe the truth of the scriptures in these situations? Do you still fight against the devil with the Word of God when these situations come against you? How long are you willing to fight? Are you willing to lean on the Word alone instead of running to other supports?

I am not suggesting that you run out and handle poisonous snakes to prove the truth of Mark 16:18, but if you should find yourself bitten one day, will you trust that verse for your life? (You might want to refer to Jesus' response to the devil when he suggested that Jesus jump off of the temple if you are tempted to handle them just to prove it. Don't fall into the devil's trap!)

I am also not suggesting that you must fight alone. God gave us brothers and sisters to stand with us and to multiply our strength when we fight together. I had an experience leading up to my trip to Japan that demonstrates what I am saying very clearly.

All winter I was around many people who were very sick. I was in close contact with people who had sicknesses that lasted for weeks and weeks, yet I stayed healthy. Every time I would begin to feel a twinge of something starting to attack, I would declare that it wouldn't take residence in my body and that I was well. I would stand on Isaiah 53:5, Psalm 103:4 and 1 Peter 2:24, and I was victorious in that fight all winter.

However, three days before I was to leave for my mission trip to Japan, I began to exhibit the symptoms of a cold. I fought them all day with the Word of God and with my declarations. I declared that I did not receive it and that I was well, but as the day wore on it was clear that I was losing the fight. I called two friends who are powerful in faith and asked them to pray for me. They did, but the battle still wasn't won. I had not shaken it yet. So, when I went to church that night for worship practice I asked the band members to lay hands on me and pray. They did, and the sickness broke. I got continually better from that moment, and by the time I landed in Japan there was no more sign of any sickness.

I'll make one comment here regarding battle that I expect I'll come back to before everything is said and done. It is easier to keep the devil out than it is to get him out once he has established a foothold. That is why it is so important to not let him get even one inch of ground upon which he can stand. Call in every resource that is at your disposal to defeat the enemy before he can get established.

I have heard that people trained to spot counterfeit money don't study counterfeit bills - they study real money. They become so familiar with the inscriptions, weight, feel, and smell of real money that when someone tries to hand them something that is fake they know it immediately. Similarly, we have to become so familiar with the truth of the Word of God that we recognize his counterfeits the instant that he tries to pass one.

One of the disciplines that I have developed over the past 10 years or so is the reading of the entire Bible over the course of a year. I use the One Year Bible. I have found that it is a good format for me.

When I first began, my stated goal was not to understand everything that I read, it was merely to make sure that I got the entire Bible entered into my brain. That way, if I were ever without a Bible for some reason, the Holy Spirit would already have the resources stored away in my memory that He could draw back out. I figured anything that God wanted to highlight to me was an added benefit.

As I continued the tradition, I began to read with an eye toward various themes. One year I read, paying special attention to all of the passages that I saw about healing. Another year I read paying special attention to the way that God describes Himself in the Bible. It hasn't been a fast process, but it has been a thorough one.

I would recommend such a discipline to anyone. Over the years I would say that the greatest benefit that I have derived from it is the increased understanding of who God is and what He is like. The better I know who He really is, the better I recognize the lies and counterfeits that the devil tries to float past me.

As we diligently input God's Word into our hearts and minds we will become more and more like Jesus and instantly recognize any attempt of the enemy to take us away from the truth. As we let it begin to change us, we will find that we have greater and greater authority. Then we will find it easier and easier to dictate the battlefield and the terms to the devil. If we stay firmly planted on the battlefield of truth the enemy won't be able to stand before us. Learn this battlefield and refuse to be moved from it.

1I am reasonably sure that I got this concept from Francis Frangipane's book, The Three Battlegrounds. I am not positive because I read the book almost 20 years ago, and I cannot find my copy to confirm it. I remember hearing the phrase "fight from the realm of truth" somewhere, and I think it was from Francis. After 21 years of walking with the Lord it is hard to remember where I picked up my information.

2I was attending the MorningStar Ministries Spiritual Warfare Conference that ran from April 16-18, 2009 and Steve Thompson made this comment on Saturday morning, April 18.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Good News

After the sober word posted earlier, it only seemed appropriate to post this encouragement from God's Word.

- Cephas

Psalm 27
Of David.

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

4 One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;
be merciful to me and answer me.

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

9 Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

10 Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

13 I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.