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“These Aren’t My Plans”

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered “how’d this happen? I didn’t think this kind of thing happened to Christians. How did my life fall apart? How did I lose my job? my house? my spouse? If God loves me, why does my life no longer make sense?”

I think we all have. A few years ago a change in my work and income situation culminated with my house being foreclosed. We were stunned, as we expected and hoped God would change our situation. But He didn’t, and we had to make a decision “do we move forward trusting Him, or give up?” We moved forward, but all the while we said “this wasn’t in my plans”.

Reading Hebrews chapter 11 – the Heroes of Faith – I can’t help but think that many of them also thought “these aren’t my plans”. Abraham was promised to be the father of a great nation which would bless the world, so he left wealth and comfort. But instead of prosperity, he had a dysfunctional, blended family. Joseph had a dream that people bowed before him, but instead of authority he found himself a slave and falsely accused prisoner. Moses knew he would be instrumental in freeing God’s people, yet when he tried he made a mess of it. He ended up a fugitive for forty years. Gideon heard God’s promise of victory, but he watched his mighty army shrink to just 300 men. David slew a giant and was anointed king, then spent the next decade running for his life.

Time and again the people of God went from something good to something bad, but it was so God could lead them to something great! Next time you find yourself saying “these aren’t my plans”, take comfort in the fact that God is planning your tomorrow, and it will be great.

Be blessed,

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The Advantage of a Disadvantage

Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea I will uphold thee…they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.  For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee “Fear not, for I will help thee” Isaiah 41:10; 12-13

Here God is assuring the prophet that when the enemy arises against us, God would calm our fears, increase our strength, provide us victory, and hold our hand.  Pretty reassuring and encouraging stuff, to say the least.  But as I read this I had a question: if I’m fighting a war, why would God hold my right hand?

Ninety percent of all people are right handed (Klass, 2011).  So if I’m engaging my enemy in a fight I should want my right hand free, to swing a sword and chunk a spear, right?  I mean,. it would put me at a terrible disadvantage to bind my right hand as I fight, wouldn’t it?  It would nearly assure my defeat, because I’d give the enemy such a large advantage.

Not at all! “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2Cor 10:4, ASV).  When God holds my fighting hand I have a supreme advantage: God must then fight for me!

The apparent disadvantage of having my fighting hand bound is that I can’t fight the enemy.  The advantage is God’s hand isn’t bound, and the One whose never known defeat will come to my defense.  Don’t think “God’s holding me back”, but instead “God’s got my back”.

Blessings,

Battlefield Priest

Reference:

Klass, P. (2011), On the left hand there are no easy answers. New York Times, March 6, 2011

Redefining ‘Treasure’

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field” Matthew 13:44, NKJV

  The verse above contains what’s often called the Parable of the Treasure in the Field.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read it and heard preachers reference it, but every time it’s explained to me it’s been like this: The treasure is salvation and once we find it we forsake all and embrace God.  But is that really it?  Did I forsake all before I embraced Him?  Surely I repented, but I didn’t empty myself of possessions and divorce myself of everything I found meanigful, did I?  I’m looking at it and I’m seeing something else…

  A few verses before this parable Jesus is explaining another parable and He says “The field is the world” (v38).  If that holds true for this parable then I think it goes something like this: The kingdom of Heaven is like this – there was a treasure in the world, and God saw that treasure and wanted it.  So God rid Himself of everything He had; He humbled Himself (Phil 2:7), robed Himself in flesh (1Tim 3:16), entered this world and joyfully purchased the treasure with His own blood (1Peter 1:19).  But what’s the treasure?

  You!  God made humanity and pronounced it was “very good” (Gen 1:31), but we soon fell into sin.  But it didn’t change the value He assigned us.  God looks at you and still sees a treasure.  Every life is important.  Every life has value.  Though sin has robbed many lives of their beauty, it has not diminished their worth.  God purchases broken lives because they are treasures still.  He buys hearts filled with shame and regret because they are valuable to Him.  He wants to restore them to His image.  Your life is a treasure.

  I encourage you today to face your problems with this truth: I’m a treasure purchased by God, and He will not allow His investment to be stolen, squandered or spent!

Who’s Afraid of the Boogyman?

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” 2Tim 1:7, KJV

There is an enemy who desires you great injury.  He wants to harm you, enslave you, kill you.  His purpose is to steal, kill and destroy.  He hates your soul.  He lies to you.  He entices you to sin, and when you do he doesn’t reward you but condemns you.  If given the oppurtunity, he would destroy your family, your life and your body.  He wants your soul to burn eternally in hell, along with him.  Of course I’m talking about Satan.

He isn’t a red cartoon character with goat horns and a pitch fork.  He is likened to a lion, a thief and a murderer.  Jesus called him a slave master.  He was created as an angel, and as such he was made higher than men.  Paul said he was the prince of the air.  He has power over his kingdom and over his minions. He’s bad and he knows it.

However, he isn’t all-powerful; not by a long shot.  He is subject to the Name of Jesus (Mark 16:17; Phil 2:10).  He’s subject to the truth (James 2:19).  And there’s something else he’s subject to…

The Bible records that on the sixth day of creation “God created man in His Own image; in the image of God He created him… Then God blessed them, and God said unto them ‘Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (NKJV).

God gave Adam and Eve – and by proxy all their descendants – dominion over the earth.  But not just the earth, He gave us authority over the things that move upon the earth.  What moves upon the earth?  Satan does.  In Job 1:7 God asks the devil where he’s been.  He replies “from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it” (NKJV).

As the image bearers of God we were given power over the devil.  When we receive His Spirit we are restored to His image, and therefore, we’re restored to our position of power over Satan.  Every time he comes against you, he’s walking in a place you have dominion over.  Every time he tempts you, he’s in a position of weakness; he’s in a place he has no power in.  Remember the next time he comes against you, you don’t have to be afraid of him.  You have the upper hand in every encounter!

God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and understanding.  Be blessed and encouraged,

Battlefield Priest

You Can Go as Far As You Believe

Matthew 9:27-30, KJV:

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying and saying, ‘Thou son of David, have mercy on us’. And when He was come into the house, the blind men came to Him: and Jesus saith unto them ‘Believe ye that I am able to do this?’ They said unto Him ‘Yea, Lord’.  Then touched He their eyes, saying, ‘According unto your faith be it unto you.’  And their eyes were opened…

Here we see two blind men do extraordinary things. First, they walked with Jesus, despite their blindness.  Secondly, they enter a building and find Him, again in spite of their blindness.  They call out to Him, and they hear Him.  They sit next to Him and they are touched by HIm.  But in all of this, they are still blind men.

Everyone who lives for God does so against incredible odds.  First of all, we are born in sin.  Then we live in a culture baptized in sin.  Iniquity and ungodliness permeate this world and to some degree affect every person every day.  If you live for God it will be at the cost of denying your flesh and sacrificing your will.  At times it will be as difficult as blind men tracking Jesus through the city.  But it can be done.

But we tend to think that because it’s been so hard to get where we are, then that’s as far as we can go.  Imagine if those blind men had said “We followed Jesus, found Him, spoke with Him and were touched by Him, but that’s all we can do, cause we’re blind.”  They would have stayed blind.  But when they said “I believe there is something else You have for me”, they received sight.  Don’t short change yourself by thinking you’ve gone as far as you can.  You aren’t limited by your capabilities, but by your belief.

Keep believing,

Battlefield Priest

 

I Trust God, and He Trusts Me!

A few weeks ago we found ourselves in the midst of the Christmas Season.  During my devotions I read about the birth of our Lord, and this passage really leapt off the page at me:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with Child of the Holy Ghost.  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately.  But while he thought on these things, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to him…” (Matthew 1:18-20, KJV)

Now Joseph found himself engaged to a pregnant woman, and it seems he had three choices: 1) have her arrested and tried and most likely executed for fornication; 2) lie and say the child was his; 3) privately divorce her and let her live with her parents.  Joseph had chosen to spare her life and retain his integrity, which was also the option that furthered God’s sovereign plan.  After the right decision was made, God revealed His plan to Joseph.

But how did God know Joseph would make the right decision?  Obviously, God knows the future, but we still have human will and are free to make whatever decisions we want.  But this story tells me that God trusted Joseph enough to let him make a tough decision.  Sometimes when we’re faced with difficulty we ask questions like “why is this happening?”, or “how am I going to make it through this?”.  We want God to plainly show us the way and tell us which decisions will be best.  But God is doing something much better.  He’s saying “I trust you to make the decisions that best suit My plans.”

Remember as you face the perils of life and you’re confused and uncertain about the direction to take, God is saying “I trust you to do the right thing.”

Be blessed,

Battlefield Priest

Keep Judah Out Front!

Judges chapters 19 and 20 record a rather intriguing tale. A Levite and his family are traveling from Bethlehem to Ephraim.  Along the way the sun began to set on them and as night fell the servant suggested they lodge in the city of the Jebusites.  The Levite refused to turn into the city of foreigners; he believed if they could make it to Gibeah or Ramah they would be safe.  He trusted in his brothers and sisters and knew that he would be looked after in the cities of Israel.

The band arrives in Gibeah and instead of finding the warm, brotherly embrace he had imagined, they are treated in the most horrible fashion imaginable.  Wicked men from the city surround him, attempt to murder him, kidnap his wife and do violent and despicable acts to her.  Only one man in the entire city has the courage to stand against the crowd, but he isn’t strong enough to stop them.  All night long the city streets echo with cries of this tormented woman.  In the morning, as the dawn brings silence the Levite finds and gathers his wife’s remains and brokenheartedly lays her across his donkey and heads to Ephraim.

The Levite demands justice from the Elders of Israel.  The rape and murder of this woman becomes national news as the judges go to the leaders of the Tribe of Benjamin and demand the guilty be punished.  When the leaders of Benjamin refuse, each tribe begins to send it’s warriors to press upon Gibeah and exact justice upon the wicked.  400,000 men gathered against 26,000 of their brethren because they could not allow such villainy to exist within their borders.

The leaders of Israel, sensing the national feeling of war, go to the Lord and inquire what they should do.  The Lord tells them to march against Gibeah.  They ask Him how they should attack and He says “Put Judah first.”  So the tribe of Judah leads the charge into battle against a foe that was numerically weaker and surrounded on every side.  It should have been an easy victory, but on the first day 22,000 men of Israel were destroyed.  The second day saw 18,000 men fall.  The children of Israel were devastated.  They wept before the Lord.  They questioned themselves.  They wondered what could be the problem.  Why were the wicked defeating the good?  Why were the evil prospering and the righteous dying?  What was wrong with them?

But on the third day Israel crushed Benjamin.  Gibeah is utterly destroyed by the sword of Judah.

Have you ever faced a situation that you prayed about and felt confident in the will of God and you tried it and failed?  Have you ever heard from the Lord, did everything He asked and still failed?  I have. Israel did.  They reasoned with the evil doers, they assembled an army, they marched to Gibeah, they sought the face of God, they heard His voice and obeyed and 40,000 of their men died.  What do you do when this happens?  How can we overcome a senseless defeat?  How do we recover when we’ve failed but haven’t left the will of God?  I’m not talking about what you do when you’ve fallen to sin; but what do you do when you’ve done everything right and everything goes wrong?  What is the key to victory then?

The answer can be found in Judges 20:22: “And the people the men of Israel encouraged themselves, and set their battle again in array in the place where they put themselves in array the first day.”  In other words, they just kept doing what was right.  They just kept doing what God had told them to do.  They lined themselves up the way they had before and they did what the Lord asked.  They didn’t try something different and they didn’t try something new.  They didn’t reinvent the wheel.  They got back up, they arrayed themselves as before and they got back to it.

They put Judah out front.  “Judah” means “praise”.  When everything was going good and they just knew God was on their side, they put the praise out front.  But when their world collapsed all around them – when death and despair surrounded them they decided to still put their praise out front.  I want to encourage someone: Don’t give up on praise!

I want to encourage somebody to hold on to your praise.  Don’t stop loving God because things aren’t going according to plan.  Don’t withhold your appreciation of Him because life beat you up.  Don’t stop loving Him because you met strong opposition.  Don’t quit worshiping God because the enemy smote you.  If it was God’s will yesterday, then it’s His will today.

We praise and shout on Sundays, but what should we do when Monday knocks us off our feet?  What should we do when the bottom drops out from under us, the roof falls on our head and the walls cave in around us?   What should we do when we get that phone call with devastating news?  What should we do when we get that ‘Final Notice’ in the mail?  Church, we need to array ourselves like we did yesterday, put our praise out first, trust God and do His will.  Don’t give up on praise.

Israel put their praise out front when nothing was wrong and when nothing was right.  If they gave up on praise after the first defeat, or the second defeat, then there wouldn’t have been any praise at the victory party.  If we can’t praise God in the darkness, the sun will never shine down on our rejoicing.  If we can’t praise Him during a trial we’ll never have a moment of triumph.  Don’t give up on praise!

Webster defines praise as “an expression of favorable judgment”.  When we praise, we’re judging God.  I want to encourage you to judge Him for who He is, not how you are.  God is stronger than any enemy we face and He’s greater than any victory we experience.  High or low, good or bad, we should neither praise Him nor withhold praise because of where we are.  Let’s just praise the Lord because He’s the Lord.  Praise Him, as you march back onto the battlefield of life!

Battlefield Priest