Cover My Head

Psalms 140:7
“O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle.”

David was familiar with warfare. He had faced Giants and well as giant armies. He knew the dangers of hand to hand combat and there is little doubt that his body bore the scars of some of those battles. As a soldier, David also knew the importance of protecting his head. A wound to the forearm, although painful, was not deadly but a wound to the head could cost him his life. The same is true for us in the spiritual battles in which we are engaged. It is critical for the Christian that we learn to keep our head covered when under attack.

The bible describes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. As such he brings constant accusations against the child of God. Since God is unwilling to listen to his rants, he makes us his target. In the midst of our battles the devil sends a barrage of missiles into our minds seeking to defeat us. When we are struggling with sin he increases the level of temptation and when we fail he turns up the guilt. When we are discouraged he seeks to fill our minds with our weakness rather than allowing us to think about God’s strength. It is critical for the child of God that we allow the Lord to cover our head in battle. A friend of mine had a plaque hanging above his desk that read, “The next time the devil reminds you of your past remind him of his future.”

Jim

 

Under Attack

Ezekiel 38:1-2
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, . . .'”

Ezekiel takes us on a fast and furious ride into the future. He describes a time when a coalition of nations will come against Israel in a final attempt to wipe them off the face of the planet. The players in this coalition will come from the far north, perhaps modern Russia, and will include Iran and North Africa. Ezekiel explains that although Israel is greatly outnumbered and ill prepared for such an onslaught, God will intervene, protect them, and bring about a devastating defeat on their enemies. This prophecy is remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, it portrays a time before the return of Christ when the nation of Israel will exist, and be under the threat of annihilation by some of their neighbors. For 1900 years it would seem almost ridiculous to think that this prophecy could be taken literally, since the Jewish people had no land of their own. Regardless of your eschatology, or your view of Israel, we must at least concede that the picture painted by Ezekiel, is not only plausible, but even likely, when we consider the events currently being played out on our world stage. Ezekiel goes on to say, the scene will continue to develop until Israel finds itself under attack by armies from the North, perhaps led by Russia,  and is miraculously delivered by the Lord.

Second, this is a vivid picture of the ability of God to protect those who belong to Him. We, as believers, are constantly under attack from our own flesh, and from the circumstances that surround us. We often feel as though there is little or no chance that we will make it. We wonder if a year from today we will still be standing and following Christ. What an encouragement to know, when God is for us, it does not matter what coalition of armies are against us. This reminds me of the words of Isaiah who wrote:

Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,”

There is a strength given to the child of God, greater than anything we are forced to face. Joseph learned it in the pit, David in the caves, Daniel in the exile, Paul in the prison cells, and we can learn it no matter what obstacles we might be facing today.

Pastor Jim

 

Armed And Dangerous

Jeremiah 46:3-4
“Order the buckler and shield,
And draw near to battle!
Harness the horses,
And mount up, you horsemen!
Stand forth with your helmets,
Polish the spears,
Put on the armor!”

As the forces of Egypt prepared to go to battle with Babylon, Jeremiah describes the battle scene. He paints a picture of soldiers with weapons in hand and clad with armor. His battle scene has been repeated countless times over in human history, as one force prepares to defend itself against another. I cannot help but notice a few similarities to the battle we face as believers.

First, it is critical that we choose the right side. All the flashy armor, swords, spears, bows and impressive speeches, were no match for the forces of Babylon. Those who chose to side with Egypt, chose poorly and lost dearly. In the same way, it is important that we choose to side with Christ as we enter into the warfare of life. Too many are fighting vainly in life trying to get ahead, while neglecting to realize that the first step to real life is found in complete surrender to Jesus.

Second, we need to see that certain apparel is required for battle. While the people may have been more comfortable, and looked better in pictures, had they dressed in their finest suits, armor is required in battle. If we want to succeed in following Christ, we too must put on the armor of God. Paul described this as, a helmet of salvation , a breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth and the shoes of the gospel. The basic idea is that, we receive Christ, seek to live pleasing to Him, and be guided by His word.

Finally, in addition to armor, we are in need of weapons. A spoon might be the appropriate tool for the kitchen, but it has little value in hand-to-hand combat. The soldier needed a shield and a sword. The shield would protect him from whatever the enemy threw at him, and the sword was the offensive weapon, by which he would put down his enemy. Paul explained that our shield is faith or confident assurance in the promises of God. When we are attacked, we need to cling to the promises of God, and let His word, like water, wash away the fear, guilt and discouragement that keeps us from pressing on. At the same time, we need to cast down the enemy with the word of God. Paul said there would be times when thoughts would enter our minds that would not come from God, but would exalt themselves above His Word. We need to cut those thoughts down, as a soldier would his enemy. We need to be a people who are governed and guided by the Word of God.

Pastor Jim

 

The War Is Over 

Isaiah 2:4
He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Tragically, God is blamed for many of the atrocities committed by man. I say tragically, not because God cannot or will not defend Himself, but because as long as we blame God for what men do, we will fail to find a real solution to the problem. The chief wrong in this world is the heart of man. We see this demonstrated daily in the horrific actions reported on our TV screens. We hear of power hungry people oppressing others, in pursuit of their own ambitions. This happens everywhere on the globe. Sometimes, it is in a far away land where a political vacuum has allowed for the strongest force to take over, other times it happens locally where a person uses the tragedy in someone’s life for their own personal gain. Wherever and whenever it happens, it screams to us that the chief problem in our world is the heart of man.

God has a solution to this problem. That solution is the reign of Christ, and it takes place in two ways. First, when a person accepts Christ and surrenders to Him, his first step is self denial. We lay our sinful ways and selfish ambitions down at the cross, and in their place we pick up the Word and ways of God. In Isaiah’s time, the people were being chided for failing to treat one another the way God had called them to. He wanted Israel to be a beacon of light to the world, and much of that light had to do with the care they were to give to each other. Once they forsook the Lord, ‘self’ began to drive the nation, just as it drove the nation’s around them. Christ solves the self-problem when we are willing to lay ourselves down. This will transform our homes, our relationships, our churches, and ultimately our communities.

The second way this problem will be solved, is when Christ comes to set up His kingdom. Isaiah tells us, at that time, war will be a hazy memory of the past. All the money spent on research and expansion of defense will be reallocated to other things. The world will experience the only era of peace it has ever known. Not a peace held together by the threat of retaliation, but a peace that stems from the Prince of Peace reigning and ruling in righteousness.

We should long for, and live for, the One who will one day come and make all things right.

Pastor Jim

 

Battle Plan 

2 Samuel 22:35
“He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”

As the sun begins to set on David’s life, he begins to recall how faithful the Lord has been. As king of a nation surrounded by hostile adversaries, he was faced with constant battles. With the poetic expression he became known for, he attributes his success to the Lord.  It was never his strength that led to victory, but the enabling work of God.

Our situation is quite different than David’s. Few of us are facing armed adversaries attempting to take our kingdom and our life. That does not mean we are not engaged in continual warfare. Each of us faces constant attacks from within that attempt to keep us from growing in Christ, or serving Him. It is important that we allow God to “teach our hands to make war.”

It is important to keep in mind who the enemy really is. Christians are notorious for engaging in the wrong battles. We rally the troops to fight on the wrong fronts, and as a result, end up giving away vital territory. The greatest enemy of the Christian is our own self-centered desires, that drive us to disobedience. The battle plan for such an enemy is self-denial. Jesus declared that following Him required denying ourself. Our passions, desires, and emotions must be held in check by the word and Spirit of God. We need to pray that He would “teach our hands to make war.”

Pastor Jim

 

Fear Factor 

Judges 7:3
“Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead. ’ And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.”

God is selecting a team for a specific task. They will be led into hand-to-hand combat against a Midianite army too vast to number. As the people gather for the selection process, the first cut is made. Twenty-two thousand men are sent packing for one simple reason – fear! Gideon may have asked for a show of hands, or for those who were afraid, to take a step backwards. Whatever the case, his army was immediately reduced by 70% and the reason for their departure was fear. They were afraid to be a part of the work of God.

After a second selection process, Gideon’s army was reduced again. Now there are only three hundred men left standing on the eve of battle. Here, just hours before they will step into the fight of their lives, something else very interesting transpires. After giving the battle plan to Gideon, God declares in Judges 7:10-11,

“’But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.’ Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outpost of the armed men who were in the camp.”

Did you catch that? After sending ALL those who were afraid packing God says, “If you are afraid go and listen to the talk in the enemies camp.” If all those who were afraid went home, then we should read that Gideon and his servant had no fear, but as the story continues they, filled with fear, sneak into the enemies camp, as the Lord instructed.

I think this passage sheds light on the connection between fear and faith. I have often heard, fear and faith are mutually exclusive. A person cannot be afraid and exercise faith at the same time. I have not found that to be true. I have found, at the times I had to exercise the most faith, I have also been filled with great amounts of fear. Faith is trusting in the Lord, despite the fears which unsettle the soul. Those who allowed fear to win the battle, went home that day, never realizing the power of God. Those who put faith over fear, saw one of the greatest victories in all of Israel’s history.

Pastor Jim