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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Spiritual Weapons of Mass Destruction that Devastate the Devil: Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 2

The list continues… What do you DO with yourself on the prolonged wait for the birth of Baby Promise? Especially when the wait becomes excruciating? In this post we will continue to study out the answers to these questions.

Sometimes we can’t see or feel God. Sometimes His word to us seems so far away as to be irrelevant to our present crushing circumstance. Sometimes all we can perceive is the severe enemy opposition that is inundating our senses. Have you ever felt utterly overwhelmed on your wait? Can you identify with the following description of desperation?

“Death bound me with chains, and the floods of ungodliness mounted a massive attack against me. Trapped and helpless, I struggled against the ropes that drew me on to death.”

These words proceeded from the heart of King David, one of the Bible’s foremost Active Waiters. In Psalm 18, he recounts his experience of feeling entirely powerless against a devastating onslaught threatening to snuff out his life (vv. 4 -5, TLB). Many of us feel like we are reading a depiction of our own pain in his account. What astounds me about this chapter, though, is the extraordinary contrast between David’s “before” and his “after” in this narrative. Let’s take a closer look.

Here is David before going through this catastrophic chapter of his life: “… my powerful enemy… my foes… were too strong for me” (v. 17, NIV) “… that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning” (vv. 16 – 17, MSG).

Here he is after he has come through unscathed: “I pursued my enemies and overtook them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed” (v. 37, NIV). “I beat my enemies into pieces, like dust in the wind. I poured them out like mud in the streets” (v. 42, NCV)

This is the same chapter – just a handful of verses later! How in the world did David go from being absolutely overpowered by his enemies, to absolutely victorious over them?

This brings me to the following point on our Active Waiting list. (This post is a continuation of the previous one, which you can find here.) Psalm 18 reveals to us the next key in our study:

2) Show Up for Battle

You have to be willing to get dirty, get spiritually violent, and get in the fight. Part of actively waiting on God is putting up your fists and jumping headfirst into the fray. The enemy would love nothing more than to steal Baby Promise from your spirit. You can’t take his belligerence lying down. “The violent take it by force!” (Mat. 11:12). You must wage war both for and with the word God has given you. The wonderful news is, when you are willing to fight, you will always win. In God’s army, the only soldier who loses the battle is the one who capitulates.

This verse in the middle of Psalm 18 captures for us what happened between David’s before, cowering before his menacing enemies, and his after, grinding those same foes to little pieces: “He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (v. 34, NKJV). Somewhere in the interim between being rescued from petrifying aggressors, and trampling them into the dust, a conqueror had been born.

If you will consistently show up for battle, God will gradually transform you into a bloodcurdling warrior. If you will enlist in His militia, He will train you. No matter how weak you are before your training, your after will have you looking like a holy terror to the devil. It all unfolds on the battlefield. It all comes down to a willingness to war.

Countless books have been written on spiritual warfare, and I don’t have space here to dive into all the specifics of battle tactics and strategies. I only want to make the point that an essential component of active waiting is a commitment to engage in combat.

On my family’s recent trip to the United States, we stayed in quite a number of hotels around the country. I have learned over the years to pray over each new room upon arrival, cleaning it out spiritually from oppression left over from previous guests. However, on many an evening, arriving late at our stopping place for the night after driving for ten to twelve hours, I was exhausted. On one of those occasions, I collapsed into bed. I was aware that I hadn’t done the cleaning job and that doubtless there were enemies lingering in the atmosphere. However, I did not feel up to the confrontation needed to kick them out of our quarters. Instead, I whispered a quick feeble prayer asking the Lord for protection over our sleep. Soon thereafter I was deep into slumber.

The next morning, I woke up with a feeling of disturbance clouding my inner space. I quickly remembered the troubling dream that had polluted my rest. I was slightly put off with the Lord and protested to Him that I had requested protection. Why did He allow the attack on my sleep?

My battle training continued. Holy Spirit gently answered my question by giving me a picture of the typical classroom bully. He explained, “When the bully saunters into the room, he lets everyone present know who’s boss. His very demeanor is threatening and territorial. He gives off the air of being large and in charge. Those in his disfavor quickly hasten to slink out of his path. I want you to see yourself that way with the enemy. You are the bully, and he is the one who needs to tremble. Greater is He that is in you! You saunter into every new space and let any demon hanging around know Who just came into the room with you. You assume, everywhere you go, that you represent My Kingdom. You are in charge, and they better quickly scramble to get out of the way.”

No cowering needing. No hiding under the covers and whimpering for God’s protection. It’s when you come to know Whose you are, that you discover who you are. YOU have all the power in the universe living inside of you. His name is Jesus, and He already annihilated the enemy, triumphing over him at the cross. Even when you are exhausted, walk into any room understanding that the hosts of darkness have to flee before you at His word spoken through your mouth.

Mighty warrior, YOU are the champion. YOU are the victor. So show up for the battle. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). When the wait gets excruciating, when the battle presses in thickly against you, fight! Fight! FIGHT!!! When despair tries to sit on you and keep you from praying, FIGHT! Even if you have to crawl on your hands and knees to the on switch for your praise music, get there and crank it up to top volume! Make yourself sing! FIGHT! Let the legionnaire rise inside of you! FIGHT!

As you wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises to you, there is purpose in the battle that you are fighting. According to Psalm 18, God is enlightening your darkness. He is arming you with strength. He is making your way perfect. He is teaching you to access high places in spirit. He is giving you the necks of your enemies. He is stooping down to make you great!

As you show up on the battle field again and again, something amazing is happening in you. You are becoming the devil’s worst nightmare. Hey soldier, take a breather and look! Check out those solid GI muscles taking shape under your uniform! You are filling out in spirit! Take in the glorious Holy Spirit fire that is roaring through you and burning up His enemies in your path! The evil one sees it too, and he is filled with horror. He is fully aware that those who show up for God’s warfare training become unstoppable, devastating weapons of mass destruction to his already defeated kingdom. You just say the word, and he is fleeing in seven directions before you.

Again, warrior, listen closely with your spirit. Show up. Fight ferociously. Win. Repeat. All of heaven is watching, and this is what they see: an invincible, hell-crushing conqueror is being born!

How is your combat training coming along?

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Between Starting Gun and Finish Line, Part 1

What do you do when it feels like God has handed you the moon, with a promise He’s made to you… only He’s handed it to you in embryonic form? What if He’s asked you to carry it and let it grow inside of your spirit until you give birth to it? How, in practical terms, do you do that?

We’ve talked extensively over the last several posts of what it means to be pregnant with a word from Him. We’ve discussed at length the breathtaking transformation that happens on the inside of us as we press forward through the long gestation process. However, some questions remain. When we are pushing onwards on this race marked out for you and me… and the miles seem to stretch endlessly on in front of us… and the finish line is nowhere in sight… what are we supposed to be doing with ourselves meanwhile? Between here and there, how do we occupy ourselves? If we know He’s at work shaping the deep interior of our being – how can we best interact with His workmanship? If we’ve established that what’s needed is an active wait rather than a passive wait, what does that actually look like? In this post and the next, I want to tackle some of these questions.

To introduce some of the practicalities of active waiting, let’s take a quick look at Psalms. This beautiful book is full to overflowing with instructive examples to draw from. Here are two of them:

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” (Ps. 5:3, NIV).

“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:5, NKJV).

In these verses and countless others, we observe the Psalmist in the same place as so many of us. He is waiting. And the way he does it is put there to model for us how to do the same. He is participating energetically in the waiting process. There are no bored arms crossed, no listless feet up, no apathetic thumbs twiddling. Instead, we see him throwing himself headfirst into what God is doing. He is leaning in, praying, listening, seeking, crying out, yearning, declaring, expecting. He is like Jacob, wrestling with God and not releasing Him until obtaining the blessing.

Our participation with God, as He tinkers with the very core of our being, is absolutely essential for the success of the operation. Understanding how vital this is, I want to share with you five practical ways to throw yourself, too, into what He is up to. These are some of the everyday things we can do to partner with His inner renovation project – as we push forward on this endurance marathon. Each one will nourish Baby Promise growing within. Each one will help move us incrementally closer to the finish line and the birthing of what we have so long awaited. For the sake of space, I will only share the first one here. Check back in with me for the rest of the list in future posts! (For two more to add to the list of five, you can read here and here).

1) Set the Joy

This valuable tip comes to us from (here it is again!) Hebrews 12. The chapter starts out with a charge to us to run our race with perseverance. The Spirit doesn’t leave us hanging! He immediately follows this with a “how to,” explaining: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” (v. 2, NIV).

This verse has powerfully nourished the growth of my soul. Once again, it was while I was exercising that my Personal Trainer, Holy Spirit, decided to dialogue with me about it. As I worked out my muscles, He was helping me simultaneously work out my spirit. I could almost see a twinkle in His eye as He dropped in His nugget for the day. He loves it when I’m listening.

“Jesus was not a passive player in enduring the cross,” He pointed out to me. “He aggressively, purposefully set His own future joy before Himself as He bore the anguish. He fixated on that joy with all the passion of His being. This gave Him the strength to hold on.”

My Personal Trainer continued, “He visualized every precious daughter and son that would be swept into oneness with Him as a direct result of what He was enduring. Looking forward through time, He gazed with ardent love at each of your faces, individually, one by one. Prying His attention off of the agony shooting through His entire being, He forced Himself to focus on future scenes of eternally blissful union with His cherished ones. He saw the broken chains, the captives emerging from darkness into radiance. He heard the uncontainable euphoric laughter, saw the ecstatic embraces, the tears of rapture, the overjoyed feet bursting with the compulsion to dance. He saw the prodigals returning and the broken hearts restored to glorious wholeness. He saw you in His arms forever and ever. He fixed His eyes on these things. Until His final breath, He grasped onto them with every last fervent ounce of His zeal. This is how He made it to the end – clinging to the joy.”

Set the joy. In this way, you, too will be empowered to reach the finish line. You may be in the midst of the weeping of the night, but fixate on the joy that is coming in the morning. “As surely as the sun rises… He will come to us” (Hos. 6:3, NIV). Just like you can count on the sun showing up tomorrow morning, you can count on the joy that is set before you. He will never fail you. He will bring you through. Set the joy. Remind yourself again and again that the best is yet to come. Direct your attention to the goodness ahead. Get obsessed with the promise of His faithfulness to you. Wrest your heart’s focus off of the circumstance around you and make it obey – make it concentrate intently on the beauty of Jesus. The more you gaze on Him, the more His hope works itself deeper and deeper into the fiber of who you are. Set the joy.

When I was in the midst of some of the darkest circumstances that I have ever faced, a dear friend suggested to me, “Get excited!” I glared at her, annoyed and nearly offended. Couldn’t she see that my life was falling apart? Where was the empathy? I laugh now remembering. She was right. What was coming was abundantly, inestimably beyond what I could have ever asked for or imagined. I have walked into the joy that I longed for all of my life – joy that consists of knowing Jesus as intimately as the breath that I breathe. Joy inexpressible and full of glory. He Himself has become my shield, my exceedingly great reward.

As we put one foot in front of the other on this perseverance marathon, we may not understand what’s up ahead. We may not know what it’s going to look like when Baby Promise is born. We may not have any idea at all about what shape our future joy is going to take. But this one thing we can stake our lives on: it will come – as surely as the sun will rise.

Set the joy, my friend. Get excited. What is up ahead is immeasurably worth whatever you are pushing through right now. Fix the eyes of your faith on that prize, and keep on running!