Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15

Mighty warrior

If you have to go into a fight, who are you taking with you? Who is going to lead you and your army into battle? You’re going to pick the biggest, strongest, meanest guy you can find. The guy who inspires (or terrifies) people to follow him. He’s the guy who can flip your car. He’s the guy who simply whistles and everyone falls into line behind him. That’s the guy you’re taking into a fight with you.

Israel has a big fight ahead of them. God needs to pick the guy who will lead them. Gideon was that man.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Judges 6:12 (NIV)

This guy must be something special if an angel of the Lord is calling him a mighty warrior. Gideon must be big and strong and well-able to lead an army.

“But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

Judges 6:15 (NIV)

So… Gideon isn’t a big, strong leader. He’s the runt of the litter.

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”

Judges 6:16 (NIV)

Many of us disqualify ourselves from our calling saying that we’re not enough. We’re not big enough. We’re not strong enough. We’re not smart enough. We don’t have what it takes. But that’s the point.

Not only did God pick the least consequential person from the weakest clan, he took an army from thirty-two thousand down to three hundred and won the battle. God isn’t nearly as interested in brains and brawn as He is in obedience. He is not looking for greatness, but humility.

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”

Luke 9:48 (NIV)

When God takes the least and leads them into victory, there is no doubt as to whom it belongs. If we were capable of accomplishing the will of God on our own, He would never receive the glory. But because He calls the weak and the wounded, His glory shines through. No one is disqualified from the call.

Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior on his own. It was because God was with him that he became a mighty warrior. Maybe you’re not called to lead an army into battle, but God has called you to do something great. Don’t count yourself out because of what you can or can’t do, but rather count on God because of what He can do.

Read: Judges 6-7, Luke 8:1-21

Places, everyone!

Do you know your place or position? I hope you know your position at your job (it won’t be your job for long if you don’t). Maybe you have a place at the family dinner table. I bet there’s a place at the grocery store you like to park. Do you have a favourite position to sleep in?

Through much of our lives, we know our place and, most of the time, we’re prepared—if not willing—to take that position. So why is it so difficult for us to take our place in the kingdom of God? Sure, we’ve got a place once we accept Jesus as our Lord, but there is much more to it than that.

Way back in Judges, a woman—yes, a woman!—was judge over Israel. Through Deborah’s wisdom in hearing from God, Israel was able to defeat Sisera and his Canaanite army. Through her joy in victory, she sang a song.

When the princes in Israel take the lead,
when the people willingly offer themselves—
praise the Lord!

Judges 5:2 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse could read something like this:

When leaders take their place and lead,
when the people willingly submit—
praise the Lord!

Deborah’s song goes on to describe the battle, then she closes.

So may all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But may they who love you be like the sun
when it rises in its strength.

Judges 5:31 (NIV)

In modern language, I believe this verse may read something like this:

No one can deny you, O Lord!
The Church will rise and endure
when those who love you take their proper place.

The only time things went well for Israel was when they had a leader who first submitted to God and led from a place of humility and a people who submitted themselves to their godly leader. Every other time in their history, Israel fell into slavery and war.

We may not be in a physical battle, but we are certainly in a spiritual war. Like Israel, the Church is never more victorious than when we take our proper places. Some are called to lead, but we are all called to follow.

To whom then should we be submitting?

God. No matter who we are, where we’re from, or what our place is, we must always submit to God over anything or anyone else.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (NIV)

Each other. If we can’t even love each other as members of the same body, how will we ever win anyone else over with love? The greatest part of loving someone is submitting to them.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

Human authority. As much as it may pain us to do so, we are all under human law and authority. So long as we are not asked to go against the Word of God, we are expected to submit.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.

1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV)

And how is all of this supposed to help us to be victorious?

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

Nearly every argument the world has against the Church can be silenced if only we would live as we’ve been called to. If we take our places as children of God, submitting to Him, each other, and those in authority over us. It is only when we take our positions that we can truly wage our spiritual war and win.

Read: Judges 3-5, Luke 7:31-50

Honey

Read: Deuteronomy 26-27, Mark 15:1-26

Find a controversial news article—any one about politics this days will do—and scroll through the comments. You’ll find several things:

  1. The Lemming: This is a person who agrees wholeheartedly with whatever is set before them. They tend to be ignorant of actual facts, but fully prepared to jump on any bandwagon that passes by.
  2. The Tyrant: This person is angry at everything. It doesn’t matter if they agree with the issue or not, they’re mad about it and they will tell you about it.
  3. The Prayer Warrior: Responding only with phrases like, “Dear Sweet Jesus, come and heal our land,” this person garners distaste from believers and heathens alike. A great prayer, but relatively useless as a comment.
  4. The Peacekeeper: While neither agreeing or disagreeing with the matter at hand this person generally keeps a calm demeanor while attempting to rationally debate the issue.
  5. The Schmuck: This person doesn’t really care about much of anything but the number of responses they can attract. They argue for the sake of the argument, nothing more.
  6. The Minister: Like the Prayer Warrior, this person speaks fluent Christianese, but rather than “praying”, they quote scripture, speak of hellfire and brimstone, and then try to make converts of the Schmucks and Tyrants all while taking scripture out of context.

I’ve actually had to stop myself from reading through comments on stories I read. It gets me riled up and I could find myself in any one of these camps. But I don’t want to be associated with any of them. I don’t want to be a blind follower. I don’t want to be the person who is angry all the time. I don’t want to be the person that is so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. Keeping the peace is all fine and good, but I don’t think anyone has ever accomplished that online. I don’t want to be a schmuck (even the name sounds gross), and internet ministry has yet to start any revival that I know of.

This is not an article about being an internet missionary. This is a call to all Christians to take a look at the idea of how we are perceived by the unbelieving public. Even as a Christian, when I read comments from other well-meaning Christians, I often find myself scoffing—either at the fluff they spout or the anger they incite. A lot of what we say and do as Christians doesn’t translate well in text only. It’s not what we were called to do. And, even if the internet was around in Jesus’ day, I doubt very much that he would have set up all of his disciples with iPads at the bar top in a local Starbucks where they could troll news sites and reply to comments.

Lately, in response to some of the big issues that go against the core beliefs of Christianity, I have heard a great call to arms. A battle cry. But the problem with Christians who believe they are called to fight in the front lines is that they are, plain and simply, wrong.

A Bible school teacher of mine said this, “The greatest fight to faith is learning not to fight.”

Our fight is not against our fellow man, but against our spiritual enemy. Fighting against someone who disagrees with you will never win them to the faith. But if you fight that battle on your knees ahead of time and then go in peace, the results could be very different.

As you read through the Gospels, count how many times Jesus led a battle charge. I’ll give you a hint—none. (I don’t count the overturning-the-tables-in-the-temple because he was simply cleaning his house.) Jesus wasn’t interested in fighting. His ministry was one of love.

Even as he stood before Pilate accused of treason, he made no argument for himself.

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Mark 15:5 (NIV)

Jesus didn’t argue. He didn’t have three points with which he would overturn Pilate’s rule. Jesus didn’t make converts of those in power. Instead, he created a counterculture with the very lowliest of the low. He met the basic needs of the people. He touched the untouchable and loved the unlovable.

It was in concerning himself with the masses that Jesus became a concern to the leaders. He didn’t fight those in charge, but became a friend to those who weren’t.

If a Christian is someone who emulates Christ, the Church as a whole isn’t doing a very good job. When our focus shifts to fighting, we’ve lost our purpose and mission. If we Christians were known more for our love than for our arguments, perhaps more people would like to become one of us.

As the saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

That was easy

Our world gets more complicated by the hour. Whether it’s in science or computing, arts or politics, few things are truly simple anymore. And, the more complicated something is, the more reward and respect a person can get for accomplishing it. We seek out the complicated. We make easy things more complicated—even to our own detriment.

When we, as Christians, present the Gospel as anything but simple, we do not help our cause. If we argue that the way to Christ is wrought with long, arduous tasks and much emotional distress, we do not help the Kingdom. There is nothing more simple in this world than salvation through Christ and the victory that it brings.

Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult. For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:3-5 (NLT)

Salvation is easy. Repentance is easy. Victory is easy. Obedience is easy. All of these things are simple not because of what we are or can do, but because of who God is and what He’s already done. And if we trust Jesus with one thing, we can trust him with everything.

John tells us that the battle is not won because we Christians fight hard and strong. It is won because we simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

When we let go of all our methods to obtain victory, we can settle on the truth that it is not a difficult or complicated process. God didn’t make it that way on purpose. He wants salvation and victory to be available and accessible to everything. We have to trust Christ for the victory. We have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s it.

It’s not difficult. It’s easy.

Daily Bible reading: Daniel 7-8, 1 John 5

The resistance

Have you ever had a non-believer tell you that you weren’t acting like a Christian? Somehow, the world has this idea that all Christians should be prim and proper pacifists, gracefully accepting of anything and everything the world would throw at us. And for some reason, the Church has often helped to perpetuate this falsehood. Paul closes off his first letter to the church at Corinth with some language that is anything but passive.

Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. And everything you do must be done with love.

1 Corinthians  16:13-14 (NLT)

These verses, as is, are inspiring. We could all throw up a fist and shout a hearty amen, but let’s go deeper.

What does it mean to be on guard? Do we need armour? Weapons? Should we be behind a wall or shield?

GUARD: to watch by way of caution or defense; to secure against objection or the attacks of malevolence.

To be on guard is more than just standing around waiting. It is to be ready and prepared at all times.

What about standing? If guarding is more than standing, surely standing must mean more than just being on our feet. It would seem silly if Paul were instructing an entire church to never sit or lay down.

STAND: to be on its foundation; not to be overthrown or demolished; to be fixed or steady; to be in or maintain a posture of resistance or defense.

For a long time, much of the Church has been passive. We’ve somehow got it in our minds that resistance isn’t the “Christian” thing to do. Read your Bible. There is a whole lot of resistance going on. We are to resist the devil. We are to resist temptation. We are to resist against anything that would come against the knowledge of Christ. Why would God give us weapons if He didn’t want us to use them?

So, if we are to stand up to and resist, how do we know what to stand for?

TRUE: conformable to fact; being in accordance with the actual state of things; genuine; pure; real; not counterfeit, adulterated or false; faithful; loyal; honest; exact; straight; right.

We have a whole book full of truth in front of us. If we believe it, we are to guard it with our lives and stand up to anything that doesn’t line up with it.

And how should we go about doing all this?

COURAGEOUS: brave; bold; daring; intrepid; hardy to encounter difficulties and dangers; adventurous; enterprising.

STRONG: well fortified; able to sustain attacks; not easily subdued or taken.

Does any of this sound passive to you? Nothing here would indicate that the Church is supposed to be a bunch of pacifist pansies waiting to take anything and everything the world throws at us. I’m not saying that we literally take up weapons and go to war against the world, but we must know that we are in a spiritual battle. As soon as we forget that we’re in a fight, we’ve already lost.

We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT)

It’s time to join the resistance.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 13-14, 1 Corinthians 16

My place of safety

If you should ever find yourself in danger, what is your first response? Do you stand still calling out hoping for help? Do you wait and complain if help doesn’t come right away? Do you sit down and resign yourself to the situation? I hope not!

If you should ever find yourself in danger, your instinct would be to run. Find a safe place. Look for a refuge. Go there! Now!

Yet how often do we hear Christians say things like, I’ve been waiting on God, but nothing has happened. I guess He doesn’t want to help me. I have yet to discover scripture to back up any sort of statement that says God doesn’t want to help us. In Psalms, David writes over and over again of God’s unfailing love and the fact that He is a shelter, a refuge, a safe place.

You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me,
for you, O God, are my place of safety.

Psalm 59:9 (NLT)

O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.

Psalm 59:17 (NLT)

Though David waits on God, that doesn’t mean he’s inactive. Look back at the times when he was in trouble, surrounded by his enemies. Never once did David just stand there in the middle of a battle field claiming to wait on God. There were times when he went into hiding for his own protection and there were times when he suited up and marched into battle. God was with him in hiding and fighting for him in the battle.

When you feel as though you’re surrounded by an enemy, that is not the time to sit down and give up on God. That is the time to look for your safe place. Your refuge.

REFUGE: Shelter or protection from danger or distress; a stronghold which protects by its strength or a sanctuary which secures safety by its sacredness; any place inaccessible to an enemy.

A refuge is not a moment in time. It’s a place. A place doesn’t come to you. You need to go to a place. Our safety and refuge is found in God. He has promised never to leave us, so when the enemy comes, we must go to Him. Don’t stand and wait. Run. Go to the place that is inaccessible to your enemy—God, your place of safety.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 59-61, Acts 28:16-31