Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 3)

Okay, so I was wrong.

I've been rereading Ephesians 6, and the more I do, the more I see the emphasis the WORD of GOD puts upon our spiritual armor. That word picture wasn't just Paul's idea, but God's. Oops, sorry, Lord! I definitely don't want to get into trouble with You!

Nevertheless, I still believe that God wants us to take up all seven of the spiritual weapons mentioned, besides all the others like humility, the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus, etc. (Please send me additions to that list, it would be fun to have a list of our arsenal.)

Last time I looked at truth as an indispensable weapon. The second one is righteousness. Most people automatically think of the imputed righteousness we have in Christ, and that's certainly the most important aspect. But I wonder how this really differs from weapon Nr. 5, salvation.

I want to suggest that there is another aspect to righteousness: living right. It means having a heart that is committed to obeying the Lord fully. If we are consciously disobeying and living in sin, we're vulnerable to the enemy, no matter how much we believe in Christ's death for us. All of us are still immature in many ways, and we fall short, but God looks at the sincerity of our hearts. Stumbling out of immaturity is a far cry from rebellion, though they may look the same on the outside. (Thank you, Mike Bickle, for that insight!) I believe the goal of the Holy Spirit working within us is to make us more and more righteous in our actual righteousness, though on this side of eternity it will never match Christ's perfect righteousness that has been imputed to us.

The third spiritual weapon is a tongue twister, especially for a non-native speaker like me. What on earth does "having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" mean? At the risk of oversimplification I want to suggest that it is simply the declaration of the good news. When we share the gospel with someone, we are extending the kingdom of God and taking away territory from the enemy. No wonder most Christians never open their mouths to witness! It is a spiritual weapon the enemy fears greatly, and he does everything he can to shut it down. Sadly, I haven't overcome his intimidation in this area yet either.

The fourth weapon is faith. As a weapon I believe it can be used both defensively and offensively. Defensively, when we are remembering what the Lord has spoken to us personally through a rhema word at some time. Offensively, when we decide to "live by faith and not by sight" in a given situation, i. e. to trust the Lord and not our circumstances, simply on the basis of his word.

The fifth weapon is salvation - see above. I'd be grateful for any insights on the differences between salvation and righteousness.

The sixth weapon is the word of God, which Scripture calls the "sword of the Spirit." Jesus used it in the tempation in the wilderness in order to defeat Satan. How much more do we need to learn to use it!

The seventh weapon mentioned here is prayer in all its forms. It's prayer in the Spirit, not the flesh or our own imagination, that is effective and powerful. I'm not even going to begin to try to say more about it!

Now, go, take up your armor - and don't take it off when you go to bed, either!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Intercession for North Korea

A few months ago the Lord gave me a heavy burden to pray for North Korea through a dream, in which the dictator of that country was assuming control over the whole world. This had been the first time He called me to pray for such a large subject in such a way. Last night I had another dream, which in many ways was a repeat of the first one.

In the interim I have been reading up some on North Korea and following the latest news developments on the Internet. NK is quite possibly the most oppressive country in the world. Millions of people have starved to death, millions languish in labor camps. Only the elite lives well. Christianity is outlawed, of course, and unspeakable things are done to those who are caught and refuse to worship the leader.

Now it seems NK is on a direct collision course with the United States. Did you notice that they detonated their atomic bomb on Memorial Day? No coincidence, I believe. Their missiles can reach Alaska, including the oil fields. The latest threat is the firing of a missile towards Hawaii on July 4th, a threat that the US is taking seriously enough to deploy a missile interceptor system to protect Hawaii. Why haven't we heard this in the news? It's in newspapers on the West coast, where NK can reach within 3-4 years. By the way, they also have a large arsenal of biological and chemical weapons and a huge standing army.

Please join me in praying -- our seventh spiritual weapon. Pray in the spirit above all, and let me know if the Lord shows you more concrete ways to pray.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 2)

In Part 1 I suggested that the apostle Paul may have intended the image of the spiritual armor primarily as a memory aid to help us remember six important spiritual weapons in our warfare against the enemy: truth, righteousness, proclamation of the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God. In fact, immediately following, in Eph. 6, 18, he lists a seventh weapon: continual prayer in the Spirit. This is reminiscent of other biblical lists like the one in Prov. 6,16-18 or Prov. 30, 15-16. According to Zondervan's NIV Bible Commentary, such literary devices are known as "numerical ladders," which are quite common in Hebrew literature; they are meant to tell us that the present enumeration does not exhaust the list. In my opinion the apostle Paul, who was a Hebrew scholar per excellence, uses such a literary device here to tell us, among other things, that the list of our spiritual weapons is not confined to those seven, although they are extremely important.

Once we get our emphasis off the parts of the armor and onto the weapons themselves, we can see that they are not all defensive, as it usually suggested. In fact, some of them are very powerful in making inroads into the kingdom of darkness.

Let us take a brief look at the first of these weapons: Truth.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Paul mentions this weapon first. It's fundamental in our fight against the enemy. Jesus called the devil the "father of lies." (John 8:44) Everything in Satan's kingdom is built on lies. What is deception but believing a lie? And what breaks through deception faster than the truth? In fact, Scripture identifies both Jesus and the Word of God with Truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (Jn 14:6), and also, "Your word is truth" (Jn 17:17). Whenever we are speaking the truth, we are siding with the kingdom of God, and whenever we are lying, we are giving Satan room in our lives. It's the truth that brings down strongholds and sets us free (John 8:12). That doesn't sound very defensive to me!

Time doesn't allow me to continue today, but I would like to encourage you to begin to meditate on what I'm sharing. Ask the Lord to show you more. Seek Him for how it applies in your life as a spiritual weapon. The more you meditate about the truth, seek the Lord about it, and then apply it to your life, the more it will benefit you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Putting on the spiritual armor (Part 1)

I don't know about you, but I've never quite known how to put on my spiritual armor according to Ephesians 6:11. What I mean is, getting out of bed and rattling through the dressing ritual in a mechanical way never struck me as very practical: "I gird my loins with truth ... I put on the breastplate of righteousness ... etc." So I never really bothered with it.

The other day, though, a better way to look at the armor occurred to me. Perhaps it will help you as well.

Perhaps Paul intended the picture of the armor as a mnemonic - a memory aid of our weapons in spiritual warfare. Just like we might choose a key word J-O-Y to help us to remember that putting Jesus first, then others, then yourself spells JOY, so he may have used the metaphor of the armor to help us walk with all our weapons. In other words, it's not so much the part of the armor that is significant but what it reminds us of: TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, FAITH, SALVATION, THE WORD OF GOD.

Next time I will take a closer look at these weapons and how they help us in our warfare.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Jesus considered great faith

Recently during my quiet time I came across the Canaanite woman in Mt. 15, 21 - 28 again. As you may remember, she approached Jesus because her daughter was desperately afflicted by a demon. Jesus insisted that he had only been sent to the Jews, and that it wasn't right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. Undeterred, she humbled herself, comparing herself to a little dog in the household that is feeding on the crumbs. Jesus marveled at her great faith and granted her wish.

Why was her faith so great? First of all, she believed that just a tiny amount of Jesus' power would suffice - a crumb, "just a dab will do ya." Second, she wasn't afraid to humble herself. Far from bristling at Jesus' comparing her with a dog, she agreed with him and pleaded for mercy. Therefore she, the outsider who wasn't even supposed to have the good news preached to her at this time, received what she asked for.

A similar combination of deep humility, plus great faith that just a tiny amount of Jesus' power is sufficient, can be seen in two other Gospel characters - incidentally, both of them outsiders as well. There was the centurion, one of the hated Roman occupiers, coming to Jesus with the request to heal his servant. (Mt. 8:5-13) But he, too, humbled himself, calling himself not worthy to have Jesus visit him at home. Instead, he believed that a simple word would heal his servant.
Jesus commended his great faith and said it was greater than that of anyone in Israel (v. 10).

Finally, there was the woman with the blood flow. (Mk. 5, 25 - 34) She, too, was so humble that she didn't even dare approach Jesus directly but snuck up on him from behind. Although she was the only Jew among the three, she had been unclean all these years because of her illness, and technically she was contaminating the Rabbi. Like the others, she believed that just a touch was needed to heal her. She believed that she only needed to touch the hem of his garment to be healed. And it was so.

How much do I believe that "just a dab of his power will do me?"
And am I as humble in heart as those whom Jesus loved?