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A Good Whack

For the summer months, I decided to take a break from my small group time and review one or two of the book studies I had already done. Most of the time, I rush through the studies to get it done in the allotted time for small group and fail to take away anything of significance for my spiritual growth. So in June, I started with Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God book study (Lifeway Church Resources, Nashville, TN, 2015).

The first week is all about sizing up the enemy. You know who the enemy is, right? It’s not the spouse; the problematic children; the hard-to-work-with co-worker; it’s the one behind all the problems we face. It’s the master of deception who keeps us “distracted, discouraged and divides us from others” – its Satan and his demons. Maybe you don’t believe in Satan. That’s okay. But be assured, he has no problems with you not believing he is real; makes his job so much easier.

Priscilla likened the enemy to a whack-a-mole child’s game. Have you seen the game? The game is several holes on a board with a mole popping out indiscriminately. A child takes a mallet and tries to hit the mole on the head whenever he pops out of a hole. The child anticipates the next move the mole makes and tries to be there when it comes out. A good whack will end the game.

Satan uses our circumstance like the mole popping out of the hole. We are so focused on where the mole will come out next that we forget there is a force behind the scenes. We forget that just beyond our sight, behind the curtain, someone is pulling the strings in the game to make the mole move about and enter the holes. His job is to make sure the mole keeps us entertained while the real important stuff goes without notice. We get worn out trying to chase the mole. It’s never ending until we finally just give up, and the mole wins the game.

On Day 3, Priscilla wrote: (pg25): “You’re exactly where the enemy wants you – where you no longer want to fight for peace and passion in your marriage, where you no longer believe your child can be restored, where you no longer hope for healing in your body,… where you just don’t see the purpose in praying anymore… so you don’t.” You get worn out by the mole and just give up.

Priscilla issued a wake-up call for us who call ourselves Christians. “Satan and the demons of darkness are hoping you’ll be disengaged and disinterested instead of alert, aware and active. Lazy, lethargic Christianity can no longer be an option.” Times will be getting worse. We need to be focused on the things that matter most, not the holes and the mole.

We already have what we need to defeat the enemy. We have the mallet that will whack the mole for good! For those who are followers of Jesus, we have one who is stronger than the enemy. We have protection, provision and the full armor of God at our disposal to use in thwarting Satan’s attempts to hijack our lives.

Satan already knows what will work in his favor. He has been studying us since our first breath. But rest assured. We too know his tricks. Priscilla reminds us (pg29) “Satan is tricky, but he isn’t original or particularly creative.” We just need to be aware of his schemes. We can thwart his plans if we see it coming. The Bible gives us plenty of information about Satan’s plans.

Prayer is the “divinely authorized method that activates your spiritual armor and makes it effective” (pg34). Priscilla says prayer is Satan’s kryptonite (pg34)! Nice! That’s the mallet! Bam! In this last day of study, Priscilla tells her readers “prayer is the linchpin that holds our armor together” (pg35). We have access to a loving God who wants to hear His children call His name. Like any good Father, He wants to be there with us and for us. It starts with specific prayer. No willy nilly praying here. Be bold and direct. Ask, seek, knock.

The thing about armor is that it is used in a battle. And that’s what we’re in – each and every day. This is not for the faint of heart. Satan is out to destroy us – family, community and by any means necessary. The battle is not seen by the naked eye. It is a spiritual battle fought in the heavenly realm. Prayer is our access to God who is our protector. So the battle isn’t against the one in your circle of discomfort. Satan is just using that person to his ends. Don’t get sidetracked by his schemes. Call out to the One who has already defeated him, and remind Satan his days are numbered! Bam! Game over!

Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:7-9

Knock, knock

Who’s there? Jesus. Can I come in? This is no joke. How often does Jesus knock on our heart’s door, yet we ignore the invitation or just don’t hear Him? One of the reasons we don’t hear is because we don’t know His voice. The only way we will distinguish Jesus’ voice from all the others that bombard us daily is to know it through His Word. We have to get into the Word and read it; dare I say – not just read it but even study it.

For the last several weeks, my small group has been in the study of “Open Your Bible” by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams. To tell you the truth, I didn’t really get into this study. I am an avid Bible reader. I do it daily. It’s not that I lack the desire. I asked many years ago to have a hunger and thirst for Jesus. And since that time, I don’t think I have missed a morning time with His Word.

The study was really geared toward those who don’t read their Bibles. It was really good for that. The study shared how relevant the Bible is for here and now. It was Open, Approach, Engage, Apply, Abide and Live in the truth – even Share it with others. This is the formula for knowing God and knowing Jesus’ voice through the Holy Spirit.

To think there are millions who do not have access to God’s word is rather astonishing to me since I have many Bibles lying around. Yet, there are countries full of people who would give everything they have to just have one copy or even just a section. I read about believers in a closed nation who would receive one copy and would tear it apart so that it could be shared with others. They would swap books of the Bible with one another so that they could memorize each section. Yes, not just read it, but put it in their heart’s memory – they hid it in their hearts like it says to do! Amazing, isn’t it? And we in America have to have a study to “open our Bibles.” It’s like we have to be coerced to open God’s word. It’s such a challenge for us to spend time with God in His Word.

As I said, I don’t have a problem with reading it; I have a problem studying it. There are layers upon layers of truth within those pages. We can’t know it all in just one reading. It will take us through eternity to comprehend all that is contained inside. I can read it all day long, but I have to be able to understand what it says and apply its truth to my life. The understanding is a problem. There was a time when I would get into Paul’s letters and be completely puzzled by his words. I didn’t understand half the stuff I read in it. He was a deep thinker and wrote that way. But over time, God has opened my eyes to Paul’s writings. I finally can comprehend what I read because of the Holy Spirit’s help.

Priscilla Shirer’s simulcast was this past Saturday. In one of the sections, she went over how to study the Bible. She called it the 5 P’s of Bible study. She said it is one of the main ways we hear from God. God speaks through His Word. The first P is position. I don’t know if she started with prayer as the first position, but that is the most important aspect before opening the Bible. Ask for eyes to be open, ears ready to hear and a heart that is obedient to what is read.

Position ourselves spiritually ready to hear from God. Anticipate and expect to hear from Him. Pour over the passage and paraphrase what you read; what are the major points; what’s the context. Press into what was said and why – what’s going on around the text. Pull out the spiritual principles. What is God’s character in that passage – what is He saying through it? Pose the question – how is the passage speaking to me – am I doing what it says? And lastly, plan obedience. It does no good, unless I apply what I read – live it out as the authors stated from “Open Your Bible.”

Their last chapter was “close your Bible.” We have to go out, and do what it says. James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote – a faith that does not work is dead (my paraphrase). So the challenge isn’t reading, but studying and applying what I read. It’s relevant for here and now. It isn’t an ancient work or history lesson. It’s living and breathing. It’s God’s voice from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus is the subject from one page to the next. Old Testament is the set up for Jesus. The New Testament is His life and work and what’s to come. In every page, we hear His voice speaking. Are we ready to listen and do what He says? He’s knocking. Open the door and let Him in. Join me in studying His Word and share what you learn.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

The Helmet

My study group is in the last week of the “Armor of God” study (by Priscilla Shirer). We are studying the helmet of salvation. Paul writes about the Armor of God in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul was very familiar with Roman body armor. He would have had ample time to study each piece while he was sitting in a prison cell being guarded by Roman soldiers. He saw the different pieces and linked certain spiritual weapons with those pieces.

We are to “gird our loins” with the belt of truth; much like a soldier would have used a belt to help secure his weapons around his waist. We have the breastplate of righteousness to guard our hearts just as a breastplate was used to protect the vital organs of the soldier in battle. We are to put on the shoes of peace as a soldier put on specific shoes to help him stand firm while fighting. Then lastly, we have the helmet of salvation to protect our minds like the Roman soldier had for comprehensive coverage to withstand a direct blow to the head. Each piece builds upon the next piece until we are completely covered for battle and able to take a stand against the spiritual forces of evil.

The armor is more than just protection though. We need additional weapons for offense and defense. We are given two important pieces that give us victory against the enemy. We have a shield of faith and the sword of the spirit. Both weapons cause Satan to flee from us because of the power these weapons provide. He cannot stand against God’s word or the faith of the people who live by it. These weapons are then ignited in power by the Holy Spirit through prayer – activating their usefulness in the battle.

I didn’t realize these weapons were found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. I thought Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to come up with these spiritual attributes. He was inspired to write; but Paul being the scholar that he was, would have known about Isaiah’s word to his ancestors. Priscilla pointed out these weapons were introduced back in Isaiah 59. Speaking of the future King Jesus, God tells Isaiah to tell the people:

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is 59:17)

These weapons are the same ones we have for our own battles. We have the same power through the Holy Spirit to wield against the enemy. Isaiah wrote in chapter 54 that no weapon formed against us can prevail. Paul writes in Second Corinthians 10:4-5: The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The purpose of our helmet of salvation is to protect the mind. Salvation is not just a onetime event. However, Priscilla points out; we have salvation through Jesus, but we also are to live out our salvation daily. We are supposed to die to our self and live through Christ – daily. Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT): Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

One of the primary targets for Satan is our minds. Insecurity, fear, depression, confusion, etc can cripple our lives. We give in to stinking thinking and will cause us to shrink back from living the abundant life found in Jesus. We have to be able to think clearly and apply God’s word to our lives in order not to be deceived by the enemy’s schemes. God gives us this armor as part of our inheritance as His children. The trouble is we never unpack the gifts that He gives. We think we have to wait until heaven to experience God’s true salvation. But salvation is lived out here on earth to give God glory. He leaves us here after receiving the gifts so that we can be the light to others and draw them to His glory.

Priscilla summed it up for me in this thought (pg 162): “Your lifestyle should reflect your true inheritance which will enable you to live a spiritual life of lavish abundance and grace.” We have a “lavish inheritance” through Jesus. It’s time we live up to the potential Jesus gives to us through His death and resurrection. Put on the helmet and live abundantly!

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. Romans 5:5-8 (NLT)

Core Strength

I work out at the gym about three days a week. Every time I work out, I work on my abdominal muscles (also known as the core muscle group). Without strengthening the core, all other muscle work becomes futile in the long run. A strong core brings balance – will keep us from falling and give us good posture. Core strength brings stability and stamina. If the core isn’t strong, standing upright for any length of time is hard. Eventually gravity will pull the shoulders forward unless we counterbalance those muscles with strength training. Balance, stability and stamina are essential for longevity.

These elements of a healthy, physical body are also essential for a healthy, spiritual body. In the Armor of God study (by Priscilla Shirer), Priscilla writes about the first piece of armor being the belt of truth. It is the core of our strength to stand firm against the enemy. We are to “gird our loins” by strapping on the belt of truth. With this first piece of armor, it carries the weight of all the other pieces. The enemy’s first line of attack is always with deception. The truth will shine light on the enemy’s lies.

In the very beginning of time, Satan knows exactly what is being said in the Garden between God and Adam. When Eve was questioned, she responds in generalities. God said you will die if you eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden (my paraphrase of Genesis 3:3). However, Satan counters with specifics as God told Adam. You will not surely die; you will be like God knowing good and evil (my paraphrase and emphasis of Genesis 3:4-5). Satan plays us like a fine instrument. He has been studying us all our lives. He knows our hot buttons and those things that will draw us into his trap.

When we know the Truth, we will have the first defense to know when we are under attack. Satan asks those little questions that cause us to doubt what we heard. Then he gives us another choice that will entice us by playing with our insecurities or our desires. It will meet a need in us or involve our senses or feelings. Satan will personalize each attack. His desire is to destroy our relationships; our families; anything that has to do with God; anything to get us off track. Maybe the choice we have to make doesn’t seem so bad in the present time, but in the long run is it worth it?

Even Jesus had to endure the half-truths in the desert when He was weak and vulnerable to Satan’s attack. He had not eaten in forty days. He was tired and alone. And Satan came to Him whispering in His ear “if” this or that, then “do” this or that. But Jesus stood firm on the truth – “It is written.” Satan knows the truth as well and will twist it for his purpose. Priscilla said in the video portion for week two, “Satan can craftily make you think that God does not mean exactly what He says.” He speaks with half-truths and will deceive us to believe his lie. Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”

We can’t trust our feelings or even our senses. We have to know God’s truth. We have to have a source outside of ourselves in order to know the difference between what we’re sensing and/or feeling and what God desires for us. Our core strength keeps us stable in an unstable world. It gives us the stamina to endure the pressures of this world. We need core strength for balance to keep from falling for the temptations from our enemy. Priscilla said in her simulcast and in this second week video “feelings don’t have intellect.” We need something more than intellect and our own perspective. God’s truth shines the light on the enemy’s schemes and will expose the lies.

God’s Word is our life-source; it is the strength of our core being. Let us not only know God’s truth and how it pertains to our lives, but let us put these things into practice! Let the truth of God strengthen us to endure and withstand every wind and wave that Satan uses to throw us off-balance. The rest of the armor counts on the strength we have in the Truth.

So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul. Hebrews 3:12-14 (The Message)

Suit Up!

Earlier this year, I attended the Priscilla Shirer simulcast. She taught on the Armor of God. I wasn’t so sure when my small group decided to do Priscilla’s latest study – Armor of God. After all, I sat through the teaching the first time around. Would it hold anything different? After just one week into the study, I realized the simulcast was just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much meat in this study that it’s going to blow up any notions that I have ever studied about the armor of God before!

With Priscilla’s involvement with the War Room movie project, it’s become evident that God has been working this study in her for quite a while. The movie script probably sent a spark into her soul that has been fanned into a roaring flame through the message she carried forth in her simulcast and now in this study. The War Room movie is about prayer. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have heard much about it.) The first day of the study was about the seventh piece of armor which doesn’t get much attention: prayer. Prayer activates the armor to work more efficiently.

Both the movie and this study have a similar message – it’s time to for the Body of Christ to wake up and suit up! We are in a battle and one that remains unseen to the naked eye. However, when we pray for eyes to see, I believe God clears our vision to see the devil’s schemes and the battle that is being waged over us in the spiritual realm. We have a very real enemy that wants us to stay asleep and stay comfortable in our complacency.

We can see the darkness closing in around us. Prayer reinforces the light, and the darkness has to recede. Darkness is the absence of light. If we have no light, the darkness will grow darker still. We as the Body of Christ have to shine the light. There is no other way that darkness will recede. I want to reinforce my words with love – I do not want to write hate speech about the things we encounter in this world. There are lost souls who need to understand the love Jesus has for them. We are to do our work and shine the light in love. I heard long ago: the opposite of love is not hate, its apathy. Apathy knows there is hopelessness in the world, but it’s an attitude of not caring enough to do anything about it.

I picked up a free book on the children of India. It’s overwhelming to know the numbers of children who beg and live with a constant state of hunger; who have nothing; who expect not to live past their teen years, if they make it that long. They are abandoned and lonely. They are exploited; and fearful. Think of your eight year old self; surviving on your own, doing anything you can to stay alive. Or your children abandoned on a train, to be kicked out on the street when the train comes to the end of the line. How can we help such an overwhelming plight of humanity? I have no answers yet. But we need to wake up and see there is a world out there counting on someone to step out and do something.

God gives us the armor; we have to pick it up and use it. Armor is defensive and offensive. Prayer brings the power to effectively wield the weapons. The weapons formed against us are nothing compared to what we have at our disposal. Priscilla wrote on day three during the first week of study (pg27 Wake-up Call paragraph): “The call to victorious Christian living is a wake-up call out of laziness, urging you to rise up and take serious action. Satan and the demons of darkness are hoping you’ll be disengaged and disinterested instead of alert, aware and active.” She goes on to say “Lazy, lethargic Christianity can no longer be an option.” The darkness will not recede on its own. We have to be lights in our communities and in our world. Let’s suit up! The battle is already in process; we just have to pitch in and fight for what we believe in!

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (The Message)

Pop-ups

Last Saturday, Priscilla Shirer had her annual simulcast. Her message was on the spiritual armor that we are given as children of the Most High God. One thing that she mentioned was about the distractions or the deceptions that our enemy uses to keep us from accomplishing our God-given goals. She used the analogy of a “whack-a-mole” children’s game. I have never played this game myself, but I have seen others play it. The one with the hammer tries to nail the “mole” on the head when it pops up from a hole in the board. The game has several holes in which the mole can pop up, but the participant never knows when or where the mole will pop up. What the participant doesn’t see is the person behind the game who controls the mole. Priscilla mentioned that our enemy is the one behind the scene who is causing our distractions or is deceiving us with these pop up “moles.” We are told that we are given a shield of faith to protect us in the midst of our battles. The enemy fires blazing javelins or missiles in our direction. The enemy hopes we will turn aside to put out the fires instead of advancing on the battlefield. I have seen this numerous times when I have started out on a certain path knowing that God was calling me to a task. As soon as I said yes, the enemy became engaged in the battle. He put a “mistaken” identity problem that kept me focused for a few months trying to put out the fire. I began to recognize this deception after a couple of times when it occurred every time I took a step in God’s direction. I started to pray for this “mistaken” identity person every time the name appeared before me. Prayer is one of our most powerful weapons in our arsenal for spiritual warfare! The enemy is very cleaver. When we are not looking for the “mole” puppet master, we can be deceived or distracted by our circumstances. We miss the reason these things are happening to us – it’s not about us at all, but the battle that is being waged over us. It’s the spiritual battle that we cannot see that keeps us from being ineffective in advancing the Kingdom forward. We need to be conscious of our real enemy. We have to realize this is major warfare. The enemy knows he’s defeated, and his time is running out. He only has little time left to make his claim on unsuspecting people. It’s one move against the other; we just happen to be the pawns that the enemy uses to try to hurt God’s agenda. The enemy believes he has a move left that can counteract what God put in place – salvation for the world by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Each pop-up tries to circumvent God’s agenda that is at work in us and through us. But we are given impenetrable armor that will thwart the enemy’s attempt for our destruction. I must admit; I fail to recognize the enemy. I see the things going on around me and think it’s the people causing the problems when in reality it’s not them, but the enemy using them for his purpose. The people are not the problem. It’s the enemy popping up behind the scenes causing the chaos. Our world feels like it’s falling apart. Our troubles are growing out of control. Reality though, is that the enemy senses the time is growing closer, and he is out for blood – our blood. We are given powerful equipment and powerful weapons to use daily in the battle. No weapon that is formed against us can harm us if we are properly dressed in our battle gear. Watch that mole continue to pop up, but don’t let the puppet master fool you. The One who is in you is greater than the enemy in the world. Stay focused on the truth; live in righteousness and keep the mind protected from the enemy’s schemes. We fight from victory – not for victory! The battle is already won! Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:10-12

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