"He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield,
and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great."
Psalm 18:34-35 (NIV)
Yesterday while sitting in church I had the strongest realization that we, the global worldwide church, are at war. There is a clash of kingdoms, you know. Good vs. evil. The kingdom of light is at war with the kingdom of darkness. Until Christ returns for His church, we have a job to do. We are to advance, advance, and never retreat!!!
How will we advance our part of the kingdom if we are not a well armed force? I wondered.
I've heard stories of America during WW2 that as men went out to fight, the women went to work to arm them for battle. My own grandmother moved her family from Ohio to Detroit to work as a Rosie the Riveter while her husband, my grandfather, went off to war. It was an "all for one and one for all" mentality until America celebrated in VICTORY.
The church is not only the saving vessel for mankind, it also stands of the front lines of battle for every neighborhood, city and nation. Not all within the church are called to fight, but we are all responsible to be ready, fit, and able to lift one another up, to provide solace for the fighters, to train, and to supply arms.
To provide arms, weapons and tools for the hands of fellow warriors is something we do when we decide to give. Whether through our obedience to tithe, or when we step out in faith and give beyond, through offerings and gifts, we are saying, "I will not leave you empty handed. I will not leave you exposed. I will not only fight beside you, I will advance the fight, and I will help make you a better equipped warrior."
Our giving is an act of war because our funds provide training, education, books, and tools to equip people for battle.
Our funds allow the church to have a quick community response in times of emergency, which breaks the back of our enemy who depends of fear, lack and poverty to keep a stranglehold over our cities. Our giving allows us to be ready for every what-if contingency.
If the enemy can keep the church broke, poor, and powerless he gains further access to people who need the light and love of God to be expressed through the church so desperately.
We hold the hope of the world within us. Hope itself is a powerful weapon, and when the church is well funded, that voice of hope can be broadcast across the nations and the Kingdom of God expands. Warriors can be supplied and sent out.
"But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”" Romans 10:14-15 (NLT)
Yes, we give as an act of obedience, but in reality, it is so much more. When we give, we arm the church for battle and we advance the kingdom. God chooses to use the structure and apparatus He put in place to save the world, and that is His church. The church triumphant. The church victorious. That is why your giving becomes your act of war.
Most of us have at least one prodigal in our lives. You know who I mean, those people that you pray for, those dear ones you so desperately wan't to see come to Christ. Having been a person fighting for the salvation of my own son, and having lived through it to see the victory, I want to share some things that helped me hang tough through the process.
Jesus knew that we would have prodigals. Your prodigal was not a surprise to Him. The prodigal in your life may be a surprise or disappointment to you, but He’s not sitting up in heaven wringing His hands over it. He is working on it, sitting on the front porch watching, hopeful, and making plans. He knew prodigals would happen, that is why He armed us with the most beautiful reconciliation story ever written about a lost son. The story is found in the book of Luke.
You see, God is the ultimate reconciler. To reconcile means to restore friendly relations between. To kiss and make up. To live in harmony with. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 tells us, “And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (NLT)
When it comes to how we approach our prodigal, there is no pattern to follow. There are no rules of engagement to adhere to, because every situation is different and each person is unique.
The only universal rule is love. And yet sometimes love is the hardest thin to give because frustration, fear, hurt and anxiety all come into play. If you begin experiencing these emotions, stick close to Jesus. He promises that, "You (God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)
We do not fight against flesh and blood, so we don’t fight with the prodigal. Our battle is not with the person! As much as you may see, feel, smell, and all your senses may be on high alert, screaming at you to fight with that person... we must fight for them in the spiritual realm.
We put on the armor of God and we persevere. We go to battle in prayer and we don’t. let. go. We don’t give up. We claim every promise and keep our eyes trained on every sign of movement and hope. And then we claim those signs and we hold on. We cast down every lie of the enemy. We recount every promise.
Here’s the bottom line. We were once prodigals. Far from God. He paid the ultimate price to bring us back. When we came home to God He didn’t constantly rub our nose in it. He didn’t continually make us pay for our rebellion and sin. He welcomed us us back, he ran out to meet us, even. He threw HIS robe of covering over us, put His royal ring on us and LOVED US!
That’s how we need to be with those who return. LOVE is and will always be the answer.
And one more word of advice on how you survive this season. Let people in on it. Let people stand in faith believing for your prodigal to come home. Because when it happens, and I believe it will, you can all celebrate together. You can all say like the prodigal’s dad, “this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began." You will look at those who have stood strong with you, with joy, and say, "LET THE PARTY BEGIN!!!"
This past Sunday morning I couldn’t escape the distinct impression that the Holy Spirit was saying something to the Church. As I was pacing back and forth in prayer, I felt like He was showing me a lion, pacing within the confines of a very small cage, and He was saying “Let the Lion loose!”
So often, in the church and in our personal lives, we want to have control. We want to know what to expect, we want to keep our tidy schedule, and we want to make sure things aren’t going to get out of hand.
All Christians know about Jesus being the lamb. We can picture the scene as Jesus approached John the Baptist and he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 (ESV) We understand the concept that He became the sacrificial lamb to take on the punishment that was meant for all of us. He was slain, taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world. Isaiah 53:7 tells us, “…he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (NIV)
We worship Him with this picture in mind. We are so thankful, in awe of His incredible sacrifice for us, so we can go free. We could never repay Him for this gift. It’s the very foundation of grace. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.
But Jesus as the Lion? Lion’s are unpredictable, hard to control, fiercely powerful, and frankly, very frightening. We like our church services and our lives to be predictable and controlled. We like to be at the top of the food chain, and we avoid situations that cause fear.
So, is He the lion or is He the lamb? The answer is both. Jesus is just as much the lion as He is the lamb. Not 90% lamb and 10% lion. Not even 50/50. Jesus is 100% lamb, and 100% lion.
Revelation 5:5-6 paints a strangely vivid picture of what takes place before the throne of God in heaven. “Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders.” (NIV)
The lion is the lamb. The lamb is the lion. This is tough for us to comprehend, but He is not limited by our minute understanding.
The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jesus, does not force Himself upon people. He allows us a free will, with the ability to accept or reject Him. He takes as much or as little of our lives as we give Him. He takes as much control as we allow. Which begs the question, do you have Jesus sitting in a cage in your life? Is the lion of the tribe of Judah locked behind bars in a “safe” place in your church?
I believe we are entering days that will be both perilous and filled with glory. This will be our greatest hour. We will be used in ways we have only dreamed of, we will understand by experience, what Jesus meant when He said, “greater things than these will you do”.
I think God loves it when we are willing to stand on the edge of the unknown places, completely vulnerable, trusting that He is in ultimate control and He will not harm us.
When we make the decision to unlock the cage and let the lion loose, we are saying, “Jesus, You can have your way! I trust you! Do whatever you want to do with my worship, with my praise, and with my life!”
When we worship Jesus, the living God, the victorious King, we celebrate every facet of who He is! And there is no end to who He is. So let’s be careful not to imprison certain aspects of His character just because we don’t understand or can't control Him.
My desire this week is to let the Lion loose! What will you do?