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Insurgency! (11.08.05--Christian Soldiers!--Revelations 12:7)
What war? That was the response that I got from a friend recently when I referred to Operation Iraqi Freedom as a war. I looked at him and asked: “How would you define a war?” His response? “A war is when freedom is at stake and our well-being as a nation is challenged. I don’t see how anyone could define what is happening in Iraq in these terms!”
Because Pearl Harbor had not been bombed by the Japanese or the Lusitania had not been sunk by the Germans, my friend simply could not equate the events in the Middle East with his understanding of what war is. Even though the Twin Towers had been attacked and thousands more had died than on the Lusitania or at Pearl Harbor, the fact that it was not a “definable” enemy made all the difference in the world to him. If he couldn’t put the face of a nation on the face of an enemy, he could not equate the struggle against international terrorism as a legitimate war.
But, what about the battle against Satan and his minions? Do Christians take a similar viewpoint on who is the enemy and who is not when it comes to the war against God and His people here on earth?
In his book which provides a statistical analysis of religious beliefs in America, George Barna cites several fascinating statistics which are based on a national survey. In chapter four he states, “The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” Then asking that segment of his survey respondents who have identified themselves at being Christians, he states, “Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?” The population reply with 32 percent agreeing strongly, 11 percent agreeing somewhat and 5 percent did not know. Thus, of the total number responding, 48 percent either agreed that Satan is only symbolic or did not know! (What Americans Believe, pp. 206-212).
What a shame that so many Christians aren’t able to put a face on the enemy when it comes to the most crucial and fearsome battle ever fought on the face of this earth--the war against God. Declared long ago when he was thrown from heaven, Satan has been waging an all-out battle against God since the beginning of time. Although Christ crushed Satan on Calvary, he is still a dangerous foe. Like the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, He lurks waiting to bring his brand of terrorism to bear against any unsuspecting Christian unwilling or unable to see his face as that of the enemy. Now is not the time to drop the shield and sword. The Devil is for real and his war against you and I will not end until Jesus returns. Until that time it is our responsibility to know who the foe is, believe that he is powerful, and join actively in the fight.
LIFE IN OPPOSITION
When I was young, we used to go camping up at the Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park. I think it was the campground at the highest altitude, and we liked it because it wasn’t always as crowded as the lower campgrounds. Now, I always thought the campground was named after some Native American tent pole. It was much later that I discovered it was named after a type of pine tree.
Now, the lodgepole pine is specifically created by God for opposition. Its pine cones are not easy to break to let animals and birds gather the seeds as with some of the other pine cones. Do you know when its seeds come out? They come out under extreme heat. My cousin Don and I used to love to sneak pine cones into the fire so they would pop and make people jump.
But notice the real significance here. Lodgepole pines are designed by God, the intelligent designer, to reseed the forest after a fire. The seeds are dormant until they are needed after a crisis. The OPPOSITION of the extreme heat brings about the release of the life-giving seeds so that the reforesting can begin.
WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN
A study by the US National Commission on Sleep Disorders blamed half of all traffic accidents on tiredness. Put that together with our penchant for speeding, and the result is carnage on the roads. Annual traffic fatalities now stand at 1.3 million worldwide, more than double the figure for 1990. Though better safety norms have cut the death toll in developed countries, the UN predicts that traffic will be the third leading cause of death in the world by 2020. Even now, more than forty thousand people die and 1.6 million are injured on European roads every year.
(Honore, Carl (2009-04-14). In Praise of Slowness (Kindle Locations 137-141). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.)
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didn’t end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wright’s prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Here’s what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but that’s exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
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WHEN DOES THE SIZE OF A HOUSE BECOME SINFUL?
Several years ago, Millard Fuller of Habitat for Humanity addressed the National Press Club on public radio, on which he recalled a workshop he conducted at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with 200 pastors in attendance. The assembled pastors quickly pointed toward greed and selfishness as the reason the church never had enough money to accomplish its mission in the world.
Millard then asked this seemingly innocent question: "Is it possible for a person to build a house so large that it's sinful in the eyes of God? Raise your hand if you think so."
All 200 pastors raised their hands.
"Okay," said Millard, "then can you tell me at exactly what size, the precise square footage, a certain house becomes sinful to occupy?"
Silence from the pastors. You could have heard a pin drop.
Finally, a small, quiet voice spoke up from the back of the room: "When it is bigger than mine."
(Frank G. Honeycutt, Preaching to Skeptics and Seekers. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Treasure's Trap, 9/18/2010)
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A BANKRUPT NATION
John MacArthur in his book “Can God Bless America” states that "America wants God's blessing but not God. Our nation has systematically pushed Him out of the national consciousness--rejecting biblical morality, ignoring His Word, and relying on the political and entertainment arenas for moral guidance."
The result is that we have become a bankrupt nation--financially, morally and spiritually. As politicians, economists, and sociologists scramble to find a cure for the nation’s woes, God has provided America with His prescription in His Word.
(From a sermon by Gerald Flury, A Bankrupt Nation, 8/9/2011)
[The Point: to receive from God we must first trust Him.]
I discovered the chipmunks while stopping at a scenic over-look in Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado). They were amazing; bravely coming right up to people to take food out of their hands. These little creatures had willingly changed their lifestyle-- they set aside their previous fear of humans, in order to receive something essential to their existence: food. They were not afraid of my hand because my hand fed them. And so they allowed their lives to be radically changed in order that they might be fed by this hand.
We, too, should be like these chipmunks. Where we were once afraid of that nail-pierced Hand that was extended to us, we now know that it is that very Hand that feeds us and gives us life. And so, like the chipmunks, we’ve allowed our lives to be radically changed in order that we might truly be blessed by His Hand.
A chosen ’chipmunk’,
George W.J. Shearer
A story… It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared.
Also, being a practical leader, after several days he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, "Is the coming winter going to be cold?"
"It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed," the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.
A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. "Is it going to be a very cold winter?"
"Yes," the man at National Weather Service again replied, "it’s definitely going to be a very cold winter." The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of woo...
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Unity is not simply an intellectual exercise. We can believe the same things, recite the same creeds, belong to the same denomination, but that does not mean we have unity.
In his book Soul Talk, Larry Crabb writes:
"Which is worse? A church program to build community that doesn’t get off the ground or one person sitting every Sunday in the back of the church who remains unknown? A Sunday school class that once drew hundreds but has now dwindled to thirty or a Sunday school teacher whose sense of failure is never explored by a caring friend? A family torn apart by the father’s drinking, his wife’s frustration, and their third grader’s learning disabilities or a self-hating dad, a terrified mom, and a lonely little boy, three human beings whose beauty and value no one ever discovers? A national campaign that fails to gain steam for the pro-life movement or a single woman on her way home from an abortion clinic in the backseat of a taxi, a woman whose soul no one ever touches?"
We may notice the unknown pew sitter, we wonder how the teacher of the now small class feels, we worry over each member of the torn-up family, and we feel for the guilt and pain of a woman who has ended her baby’s life. But we do what’s easier. We design programs, we brainstorm ways to build attendance, and in our outrage over divorce statistics and abortion numbers we fight for family values.
These are all good things, but we don’t TALK to the pew sitter; we don’t ASK the teacher how he’s feeling; we don’t INVITE the dad to play golf, the woman to lunch, or the little boy to play with our children; we don’t let the aborting woman know we CARE about her soul.
That response to hurting people, I would label disunity. Disunity is not just fighting over personal preferences. It’s not just leaving the church because someone hurt your feelings. It’s not just gossip that tears down other members of the body. It’s leaving needs unmet. It’s failing to love people the way God would have us love. Unity is lived out in caring concern for others.
(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Unity For the Glory of God, 1/3/2011)
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A.W. TOZER: THE POSITION OF CHRIST IN THE CHURCH
The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited constitutional monarchy. The king is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point, a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted, and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally he is head over all, but in every crisis someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity, it is a lot of fun, and no one wants to give it up. -- A.W. Tozer
(From a sermon by Stephen Sheane, The Kingdom of Heaven, 8/24/2011)