Fighting War with Praise

Spiritual warfare is real. We can be attacked by powerful temptations, overwhelming fears, or major anxieties.

The ‘enemies’ described in the Old Testament often waged physical attacks, whereas in the New Testament they are usually described as spiritual attacks. But the outcome is the same—God promises to rescue you from all your enemies.

And, God has given us the power to fight the enemy.

First, we can sing His praise.

When we praise God, we turn our back on Satan and his attempts to harm us spiritually.

Singing praise brings us into God’s presence. In 2 Chronicles 5 Solomon had completed the temple for the Lord. He brought in the furnishings, and finally the Ark of the Covenant. When it was in place scripture says,

“The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

‘He is good;
his love endures forever.’

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

God’s presence overwhelmed them in that moment. Psalm 22:3 says God is “enthroned on the praises of Israel.” The footnote says He is dwelling in the praises. When we praise, He is there with us.

Singing praise routes the enemy. In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, must face the armies from Moab and Ammon. He prayed to God for help. God answered and told Jehoshaphat that He would deliver them. Jehoshaphat chose to lead the battle with praise:

“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.’

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (2 Chronicles 20:21-22)

Second, we can thank God continually.

Giving thanks to the Lord is closely related to praise. When we thank Him, we are at the same time acknowledging His goodness and other attributes. Psalm 136:23-26 says,

“He remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.
His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.”

We can humbly thank Him for remembering us in all our circumstances, for freeing us, and for His eternal love.

Third, we can stay close to Jesus—abide in Him.

We struggle with our own propensity to sin, with the temptations of worldly living, and with the condemnation and deceitfulness of the devil.

James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” How do we resist the devil? The first part of the verse tells us—submit to God.

When we seek Him and continually give our wills over to Him, the devil can’t harm us. But it requires us to be intentional about turning to Him.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Finally, we can remember His victory is complete.

Jesus’ death and resurrection won the victory over the enemy. We can take that victory personally! We battle daily with living in a fallen world, but through Jesus, we have already won.

I’ve recently been reading Daniel. He had some amazing visions from God that revealed the future. Daniel foresaw that the victory would be won by a messianic figure in the form of a ‘son of man’.

“and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

The following quote from Bible in One Year describes how Jesus is the “Son of Man” seen by Daniel.

“Jesus spoke of ‘the Son of Man …  coming on the clouds of heaven‘ (Mark 14:62), and ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory‘ (13:26; see also Matthew 24:30; 26:64).

This passage [in Daniel] clearly had a profound impact on Jesus and his own understanding of himself. He often described himself as the ‘Son of Man.’ The expression appears eighty-two times in the Gospels, all in the sayings of Jesus.

Jesus chose a title that did not have the same political overtones as some of the other Messianic titles. It spoke of a representative figure who would identify with human beings and ‘give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). It carried with it the idea of suffering (Daniel 7).

In his great love for you and me, Jesus, the Son of Man, suffered as a representative of the entire human race, so that you could be rescued from all the spiritual forces of evil in the world. One day, Jesus will return ‘with the clouds of heaven’ (v.13) as he promised, and victory will be complete (Matthew 24:30–31).”

All of these things seem simple: sing, thank, abide, and remember. When we do these simple things, we wage war against the devil. And God will fight for us. We can remember these using the acrostic STAR:

Sing

Thank

Abide

Remember

Think of the star that guided the first worshipers to Jesus at His birth. Think of Jesus, the “Bright Morning Star,” our reference point guiding us through this life. By remembering the STAR, we can live out the victory won on our behalf!

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Lamenting the Hearts of Men

The daily news causes my heart to cringe. I mostly avoid the news until I become aware from other sources that something occurred that requires more of my attention. Unfortunately, most of the time the event is bad news.

News of natural disasters horrifies, and I feel sadness for people experiencing these tragedies. My prayers go out for them. But what horrifies even more are those tragedies caused by people—violence, both mental and physical, resulting from hate, rage, bigotry, pride, or other abhorrent outpourings of the hearts of men. (When I say men, of course I mean humankind.)

At a recent Cru staff conference, we were asked to lament what is heavy on our hearts. Lamenting is defined as  feeling or expressing sorrow or regret for something. Not only does a lament express sorrow, it also can voice feelings of regret.

My sorrow. People pursue their own way apart from God. People have forgotten God and show no regard for Him. Blinded by selfishness and self-reliance, men and women determine their way is the best way. If this is true, why do we consistently feel this world falling into a deeper spiral of despair and hopelessness? We see the evidence in the news and in our personal lives. But God has a purpose for each person. When we surrender to and live out that purpose, He is pleased to shower us with provision, peace, fulfillment, and hope. And that hope is in Christ.

To some, righteousness is a loathsome word. It is often viewed as self-righteousness and judgement. However, I’ve come to learn that righteousness simply means being right with God and right with people. How much more enjoyable would the news be if we all lived with this as our goal? Jesus, the righteousness of God, will fulfill all our desires and needs. Romans 9:33 says,

“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem [that is, Jesus] that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

It hurts my heart and baffles my mind how people continue to live in ways that will bring them shame and disgrace. Why don’t people strive to live without disgrace?

My regret. I too have a heart that contains detestable things. My past actions have not always been stellar. Nor will my future actions. I am not immune to the words of sorrow I speak. Therefore, I lament not only the hearts of men, but also my own.

However, I gave and continue to offer my life in surrender to God’s plan. I trust in Jesus who willingly guides me into a life without shame. My goal is to pursue righteousness—living right with God and with people. All people.

What is your lament today?

What Was Jesus Thinking?

While reflecting on the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, I wondered what was going through His mind.

When accusations flew at Him,
He remained silent.

When mocked and beaten by soldiers,
He remained silent.

When forced to carry His cross, and then enduring the nails, He remained silent.

During all this, what was He thinking? Was He praying? I think so considering the life of prayer He led. I believe in His suffering, His prayers and thoughts were of me—and you. He loved people so much that He willingly went through the humility and agonizing pain of the cross for them, for us.

He took His suffering and undue punishment quietly because He could see the big picture.

When we suffer through hard things, we should remember His love, and we too should think of the big picture. There’s more to come, and what we endure now through the power of the Holy Spirit will be redeemed and rewarded.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

How Do You Define Success?

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Take a minute and think about what success looks like for you? Is it:

  • Having a high paying job?
  • Living in a beautiful home?
  • Acquiring access to influential people?
  • Enjoying a peaceful family life?
  • Fulfilling dreams of traveling the world?
  • Achieving the financial ability to retire?

These are all good things. What if you achieve them? Would you consider yourself successful? I think it all depends on what you do with them and where you give credit for the success. Did your success come from your own hard work and skill, or does your attitude reflect God as the ultimate source of your success?

Defining Success
I recently read a book by R. Scott Rodin called The Steward Leader. I will be honest; it wasn’t an easy read. But the overall message was an interesting perspective about leadership success.

According to Rodin, we become leaders when we respond to God with joyful obedience. God is concerned more with our transformation than with what we can do. Achieving success in leadership and in life requires submission to Him. We must

  • Love God before we can serve.
  • Follow Christ before we can lead.
  • Submit to His will before we can succeed.

Success means a willingness to submit in joyful obedience to God’s will. If I fight for my own way, I set myself up for failure. By giving God control and living out His way, I can’t lose. He will give me success.

A Successful Point of View
Rodin says the following in the context of organizational effectiveness, but I believe it applies to the success of individuals, as well.

When we develop definitions for “success” and “organizational effectiveness,” we must be very careful to ground them in thoroughly kingdom terms and according to kingdom values.

We must do all things out of an understanding of God’s point of view. Otherwise, we will lose sight of our purpose or even cause others to get off track. Jesus recognized Peter’s worldly view in Matthew 16:21-23 when he said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

As Christ-followers, a worldview influenced by in-depth relationship with God is key to success in His kingdom. Rodin writes

In a world that sees everything apart from Christ’s control, people still can see Jesus in the lives of the workers of his kingdom.

Reflecting Jesus and making an eternal impact on the lives of others—that’s what I call success!

Skillful Living

I’ve never been much of a worrier. I don’t generally concern myself with things that could go wrong tomorrow. As Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Amen to that! But I am a planner—definitely not spontaneous. There is wisdom in being prepared for future events. However, being a planner can create two problems:

  • Obsessive planning can be worry in disguise.
  • Constant planning can rob me of the present.

I want to expand on this second point.

Today is the day that matters.

Each day offers something to learn and something to do. We have opportunity to build relationships with God and people, growing our faith in the process. Some days are tough, some wonderful, and some seem uneventful or ordinary. God wants us to rely on Him, lean on Him, to come to Him, and learn from Him. He has wisdom to reveal if we’ll keep our attention on TODAY. When we learn from Him, the day becomes much more than ordinary!

This week I read a comment about Proverbs 1. The Bible in One Year used an interesting word in its definition of wisdom, which was described as “living skillfully in whatever conditions you find yourself.” To do something well, one must possess knowledge and skill. As we attain wisdom, we learn to navigate skillfully through life’s twists and turns. The only real wisdom is that which comes from growing closer to the Author of wisdom.

Learn to balance healthy planning while living fully and skillfully today.

Full of Strength

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Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
1 Chronicles 16:11

Some days I feel weak. I grow weary doing what God has placed on me, even though I know His calling is amazing and full of adventure. I still find myself tired when tasks take longer than expected, people don’t respond how I think they should, or I simply get physically worn out. Learning how to tap into God’s strength appeals to my weariness.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, ” … for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” When I read this, I began to wonder how the joy of the Lord is my strength. We learn from Galatians 5:22 that joy is a fruit of the Spirit. True joy comes from the Holy Spirit, not from ourselves.

How do we experience more joy? Psalm 16:11 tells us, ” … in your presence there is fullness of joy … “ Being aware of and enjoying God’s presence infuses us with incredible joy. His presence fulfills us in so many ways!

What is it about joy that gives us strength? Joy motivates. Motivation empowers. According to Proverbs 17:22, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Think about a patient with a life threatening illness. Patients who have internal motivation to live often recover or live longer. In contrast, those who let go of life often take a turn for the worst. Our personal motivation hugely influences our physical selves. Joy from God that surpasses human understanding motivates and strengthens us to continue through trials.

My conclusion is this:

Experiencing God’s presence produces joy,
which produces strength.

Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” tells us exactly how to live full of strength. I love the use of the exclamation point in this English Standard Version translation. What an exciting life we can lead when fully experiencing God’s presence!

The Power Within

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The focal point of my devotional time this year came to rest on God’s presence and His Spirit within me. I’m learning how marvelous it is to live with the knowledge that God desires me to be fully present with Him! Through awareness of His presence, I am able to make wise choices, go in the right direction, hear his council, tap into His strength – and His power. It’s from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) and from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) that God guides us through this journey called life.

As He does the work of conforming me into the likeness of Christ, He reveals His glory in me. This happens because His powerful Spirit lives inside of me. In the Old Testament, God gave no one but the high priest the authority to enter the area of the temple where the presence of God resided. This “Holy of Holies” hid behind a massive curtain. Only at specified times could the high priest enter this area, and then, only after fulfilling certain requirements. Otherwise, he would die.

The solemn job of the high priest had to be taken with all seriousness. I don’t think I can truly understand the nervousness and anxiety the priest must have felt leading up to the day on which his duties required him to disappear behind the curtain! According to Exodus 28:33-35, the high priest wore bells on his robe so people could listen for him moving around – an indication that he had not been struck dead!

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, this awesome, powerful God lives in me. He forgives my wrongdoings because of Jesus’ obedience and my belief. This is why I can approach Him with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), not trepidation. Because of his desire for relationship with us, He made a way for us to come to Him. Through this relationship, we receive the power to live and work according to God’s perfect will, which offers unimaginable joy and satisfaction!