Where do I start?

I have been watching the news with increasing concern…

No. Wait, that’s not right, let me try again.

I have been watching the news with increasing alarm over the past few months.

And that’s not right either.

I have been watching the news with increasing certainty that we are truly in the last days.

Maybe it’s because the past 20 years have seen the internet become part and parcel of our lives and the news, wherever it is, or wherever it’s from, or wherever it’s going is instant. No lag time. No news that reads… “three days ago this happened in…” Now it’s instantaneous. We see the news as it’s happening.

All the time.

There are earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, tsunamis, drought, floods, landslides, mudslides, hailstorms with hail the size of grapefruit, tornadoes where we’ve never seen tornadoes, killer diseases whose names we’ve never heard before today and general mayhem in the form of little wars that turn into big wars that seem to be more like bulldozers running flat out over the land, people, creatures, nature without regard for any life at all.

Do these things touch you? They touch me to my core and my heart hurts. I shake my head, look up to the heavens and say “Lord, what do I pray for? It’s all beyond me. There’s so much happening, where do I start?”

And you know what? Those things I mentioned, He knows. He knew about them when the words were written in Scripture long, long ago. Before whole countries were devastated by earthquakes, before volcanoes erupting changed the ecosystem in a flash, before disease and death wiped out major portions of some countries’ populations. Before ISIS began showing just how little they value life in the name of their prophet, before Boko Haran decimated the structure of the land where they live and broke the lives of so many in the name of their god because they could. Before Hitler set his holocaust in motion. Before even the Knights Templar and those who followed them to the Holy Land wreaked havoc in the name of the god they served.

My soul is tired. My body is tired. My heart is weary beyond description.

All these things. So many things.

Lord, Look down upon our poverty.

Lord, reach down and help us in our misery.

We are poor and miserable. We have always been poor and miserable. But there wasn’t always a mirror around to reflect it back to us so instantly. There is now.

There are so many Things happening.

We pray, we send money, clothes, food, water. Some of us even wade into those ravaged areas and do our best to help with the gifts He’s given us to use. But it’s not enough.

It is never enough. It will never be enough.

We are woefully unprepared. Just as we were woefully unprepared for the Holocaust. There were a few, who saw the writing on the wall as it happened.

But not enough.

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment. Wanting no security, but in faith and obedience, laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of almighty God. Not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This world is broken.

When you hear of war and rumors of ward, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Mark 13:7

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:10-11

There is still hope.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we mingle have hope. Romans 15:4

There is still time to tell the world about the Blood of Christ that has provided the way for us to have peace. The end is near, but because these are the early skirmishes in this war against evil there is still time to show them Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The Whisper

There is a battle raging over us – all around us. You can call it terrorism, evil, sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, murder, jealousy, unforgiveness, betrayal, poison-whatever.  It doesn’t matter what we call it. Ultimately it is suffering. Even the earth itself is suffering as evidenced by earthquakes, violent storms, tsunamis, tornadoes, huråçricanes, cyclones, gale force winds, freak snow storms- all “natural” phenomena; with violence at their core.

We can, in our “natural” selves stand defiant, bloody, yet unbowed. We can shout to the world our confidence in spite of our dismay. But we are here today and gone tomorrow. Some would argue to the contrary and point to the many ways man has progressed in the world and the lasting mark he has made for the good of mankind over the centuries and that the violence is an abberation of the norm.

However, I know demonic activity when I see it. 

You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear. James 2:19

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Ephesians 6:12

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

This week I have seen bombs kill and maim people all over the world from east to west. I have seen earthquakes and the dead they left behind. I’ve seen explosions level whole sections of cities at home and abroad.I’ve seen houses gone haywire from fires and floods leaving devastating marks on the people who live in them. I’ve seen schemes of murder carried out, children abducted, people starving, and families killed- all on the evening news.

In my circle of existence I’ve seen jealousy, envy, distrust, extreme behavior in children, parents accosted verbally in front of other parents and children, children out of control and out of touch with reality, young people making decisions no one ever expected of them, spouses at each other’s throats and I’ve seen fear in all these things.

Nature has also been busy in my neck of the woods. Storms, high winds, mature trees ripped out of the ground, branches broken off like toothpicks fell willy-nilly in streets and alleys, on fences, on other trees and on houses. There have been sudden shifts in temperature. This week we had a record for the highest low temperature on that day in April since we started keeping records.

I see these things and I am full of sorrow for the suffering; but I knew it would come. I see the results of battles fought unseen; but I know the outcome.

 “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.”  John 16:33

I am not being trite or simplistic. The Creator, the High King of Heaven, He told us these things would happen.

“Remember, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:25

We have had clear warning of all these things.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” Matthew 24:6-7

We must arm ourselves with the protective gear He gives and use the one weapon that is successful against the unseen foe.  There will be a fight.

“For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17

 

We are in a war. No one arms himself unless he expects a fight.

 

He told us how we are to behave toward the enemy we see.

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45

Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another. Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; consider what is good before all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people. Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21

He told us how we are to behave toward the unseen enemy.

With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Romans 6: 18

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. 1Peter 5:8-9

And finally-listen for His voice. We have to pay attention to all these things in the world that are happening. God is not in them. But He is here- and He speaks to us as He spoke to Elijah when he ran away from danger:

 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. Look, the Lord is ready to pass by.” A very powerful wind went before the Lord, digging into the mountain and causing landslides, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the windstorm there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his robe and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave. All of a sudden a voice asked him, “Why are you here, Elijah?” 1Kings 19:11-13

We can not run away. He speaks to us in a whisper-not in all those violent things around us. We must listen. The battles will come. We know He will win. 

Shall we not fight like we know it? Arm yourselves, we’ve battles to fight!

Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you!” Deuteronomy 31:6

The Battle Within


Battlefields.

The lines are drawn. The soldiers are engaged. The populace is watching. Waiting. Waiting for what? A winner? A loser?

Does it feel like this in your heart? Are you watching, waiting, wondering who will win this time? Can you make it through another battle? What or who is pulling at your heart? Who wants to claim it as their territory? Do you even realize a battle is raging?

The way I see it, there can be only one winner. 

As a believer I’ve struggled so much within to maintain control without. I think I’ve allowed myself to be deceived by thinking what I want is what God wants. After all, I read the Bible, I pray, I study with others regularly, I do my best to walk the walk.

But if the devil can claim victory in the small things-every day things, our resolve in the really big things can be worn down. We compromise and don’t even realize it- our filters are out of focus.

To have the filters in focus 100% of the time I must be surrendered to God’s control 100% of the time. That does not require self-assurance of my own ability to see and know how to choose. It does require total dependence on the Holy Spirit. 

Because all things have consequence and are significant.

God made this world whole and complete to provide all we need. He guarantees it in His word:

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:2-3

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Matthew 6:31-32

But in my own bull in a china closet mentality I continue to struggle with doing it my way; even when I know it hurts another’s feelings. Of course, once the damage is done, I stop. And realize – I’ve done it again!

 

Exactly what I wrote about not doing just 10 minutes ago. Where are MY filters? In the heat of the moment, in the heat of the battle of will, my ears are closed to the Holy Spirit. But as soon as it’s over, I’m cut to the quick with regret and repentence. And back I go to the Throne asking forgiveness for hammering in that nail:

Knowing I provoked something, that really, I shouldn’t.  

Knowing that I’ve injured another’s heart.

Knowing that I will ask their forgiveness as well.

Knowing that just because my insecurities about not having my way and wanting my opinion respected are boiling up inside doesn’t mean I let them out to wreak havoc.

Knowing that I’ve turned a deaf ear, even when He is saying don’t go there.

Knowing that I’ve been disobedient and have not only caused pain for another person I’ve wounded the very One who died to cover the sin I just committed. 

Knowing I’ve truly missed the mark. Again.

Because it really isn’t all about me. Surrender to self is not an option. It’s about winning the battle to let go of me to become me in HIm. 

The battle is raging-put your armor on.