A Man in a Cave

For those of you who know your bible you likely assumed this is a post about Elijah’s cave experience: you are correct.

As we follow the story we learn that Elijah is a prophet who moves in dramatic power. He bursts on the scene in 1 Kings 17 declaring to the wicked king Ahab a drought that will last years and not end until Elijah says so, which happens. He raises a dead child back to life. In a public contest with the prophets of Baal he calls upon Yahweh to vindicate him and fire comes down from heaven that consumes the sacrifice and the altar. Elijah then slays the 450 prophets of Baal. Great and dramatic feats!

After all of these dramatic victories Elijah’s life is threatened by Jezebel and he flees (1 Kings 19:1-3). This seems unbelievable. After all of Elijah’s victories he is suddenly afraid for his life and flees when threatened by Jezebel. Clearly, though not from Yahweh, Jezebel had some spiritual power that intimidated Elijah. 

Whatever is happening it puts Elijah into a spiritual funk. He is discouraged and irrational. After being strengthened and fed by an angel he travels forty days on that food, another supernatural experience. Yet, whatever he is thinking about over the forty days does not help as he ends up in a cave on a mountain, feeling emotionally and physically alone. While Elijah is in the cave Yahweh asks him a question and he gives an interesting answer.

9  And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10  So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:9-10 (NKJV)

Is what Elijah says true? Partly. Elijah has been zealous for Yahweh and the children of Israel have for the most part forsaken the covenant. Yet, he is not the only one left. In 1 Kings 18:13 Obadiah explained to Elijah how he had hidden and fed 100 of Yahweh’s prophets; in fact he implies Elijah already knew this to be the case.

It has been well said that when an omniscient God asks a question He isn’t looking for information. Generally Yahweh asks us questions to reveal our hearts, to us – He already knows them. When we are depressed and under spiritual oppression we don’t think rationally. Yet in this state, like Elijah, we can still hear God’s voice. The issue is our response. 

In verse 9 Elijah was in a cave alone. After the first question and response Yahweh directed Elijah to come out of the cave and stand on the mountain before Him. It appears that Yahweh was seeking to shift Elijah’s perspective. He wanted him to move from darkness and isolation out into the open. Yet look at what happens.

We don’t know how Elijah heard in the cave but when he stepped out he saw dramatic supernatural displays but he did not encounter Yahweh in them. It is easy to miss the spiritual looking for the supernatural. We can engage in loud emotional and dramatic events but He is not in them.

When Elijah encounters Yahweh it is in a still small voice. Yet look at Elijah’s response.

13  So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14  And he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:13-14 (NKJV)

Elijah heard Yahweh in a quiet voice but it didn’t bring him out of his funk, it didn’t shift his perspective. Elijah remained in a ‘woe is me’ mode. So how does Yahweh respond? He recommissions Elijah to perform significant prophetic acts, one of which is to call and train his successor. The mantle is to be passed.

I believe in this Elijah missed something. I think if he had been able to focus on intimacy over power his perspective would have shifted and his ministry may have remained fruitful for a longer period.

Not unlike Elijah, whose attention was drawn by the dramatic, we live in a busy noisy culture surrounded by marketing hype. One response to coping with seeming endless busyness and urgency is the growth of training opportunities in practices like ‘mindfulness’: learning to quiet our minds and refocus to shut out multiple competing distractions. It is sad that many in the world are turning to these ‘spiritual’ practices that while effective in reducing stress, do not bring spiritual reality. We as the church should be, among other things, a place of refuge where minds and hearts can be quieted and where we can hear His whisper.

At times we do need dramatic displays of power, but even more we need to learn to lean into His heart, to know His voice in intimacy. How are we doing? 

Whisper by Jason Upton

Standing Part 8

To wrap up our understanding of how to stand and be effective wearing our spiritual armour we will look into the following verse.

18  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)

Paul tells us that after we put our armour on we need to pray ‘in the spirit.’ Jude also has something to say on the subject.

20  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21  keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 1:20-21 (NKJV)

Paul and Jude both advise us to ‘pray in the Spirit.’ Great advice but what does it mean? My background is Full Gospel/Pentecostal. The general teaching in those circles is that praying in the Spirit is praying in tongues. This creates a problem. If that interpretation is true then those who do not speak/pray in tongues cannot be effective in spiritual warfare. Neither Paul nor Jude would encourage a practice that was not for all. Below in italics is an excerpt from a teaching article I wrote in 1992 that speaks to praying in the Spirit. The article was about life in the Spirit and the first paragraph provides context for the second. 

True prayer is simply the heart responding to Jesus. When we always respond to Him we are praying without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). To pray without ceasing does not mean to pray 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The phrase ‘without ceasing’ is used three times in 1 Thessalonians (1:3, 2:13, 5:17) and each time is the same Greek word. It basically means to pray without omission and if we look at the context of these passages Paul cannot be saying he is praying 24 hours a day 7 days a week for these things. 

Paul gives the sense of praying without omission or ceasing in Ephesians 6:18 and Colossians 4:2. To pray at all times in the Spirit is simply to respond to Him with prayer as the Spirit leads. To pray in the Spirit is not necessarily praying in tongues. Tongues are praying by, through, or with, the enabling of the Spirit not in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit is following His leading in prayer rather than simply praying what we naturally think we should pray. If we are praying at His leading while praying in tongues then we are both praying in and by the Spirit.

So, back to Ephesians 6, using our armour and praying in the Spirit. We need to put on our armour, being mindful that wearing it without using it is like an athlete putting on all his equipment then watching the game. Once clothed we pick up our sword and wield it by turning into prayer the scriptures He stirs in our heart.

For example, if I am facing a significant challenge, I may take up this verse.

13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

I can obey Jesus injunction to speak to the mountain (Mk. 11:23) and say, “I declare that X shall not have dominion over me. Because Your word says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Jesus I thank You for Your enabling. I thank You that I am called to victory in this area.” We form our prayers as the Holy Spirit leads. Remember, Paul wrote this from prison. His declaration in Philippians 4:13 didn’t set him free, it enabled him to live in victory in his circumstances.

Now not all prayer needs to be based on a particular verse or passage of scripture, it does however need to align with scripture. For example, here is something I pray regularly from myself and many of you. It ties together the various components of armour from Ephesians 6 with the power of our blood covenant with Jesus.

“I place all you have called me to, my family, life, home, property and purpose – my destiny, under the protection of Your name and blood. Phil. 2:10, Eph. 1:7, Prov. 18:10

Help us to stand in the power of Your might, at rest in Your truth, righteousness and peace as we exercise faith in You, embracing You as our salvation and declaring Your word! Holy Spirit, I embrace Your call to wield my sword, Your word, to be alert and pray at strategic times, at Your prompting, establishing Your will in the earth.

I thank You that Your word is truth and that as I commit to standing on truth and in truth the enemy is defeated. I thank You that You are my righteousness. Through You I come boldly to the throne of grace, drawing on Your mercy and help. I thank You that as in faith I present my requests to You, Your peace guards my heart and mind. I thank You that my faith in You is a shield that quenches all the attacks of the evil one. I thank You that by filtering my thoughts through the reality of Your salvation, my mind is guarded. I thank You that the proper use of Your word is a sword that drives back the enemy! Eph. 6:10-20, 4:21, John 14:6, Phil. 3:9, 4:6-8, Heb. 4:12, 11:1, 6, 12:2, Rom. 1:16, 8:14, Gal. 5:16, 18

Father, I thank You that we are bound to You by the covenant made in Jesus’ blood. I thank You that His blood is continually protecting us and cleansing us from all sin as we walk in the light of Your presence. Luke 22:20, Heb. 10:29, 13:20, Ex. 12:13, 23, 1 Jn. 1:7-10, Eph. 5:8”

So, in relation to spiritual warfare; let’s become familiar with His word, put on our armour, pick up our swords and look to the Holy Spirit.

Standing Part 7

Thus far we have examined everything but the sword. So in coming to our last piece of armour it seems appropriate to see all of them in context.

14  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Ephesians 6:14-17 (NKJV)

When we reflect on this it is clear that all of the pieces we have examined so far are for stability, like the shoes, and protection. The sword of the spirit is unique in that it can be used for both attack and defense. We see that the sword is the word, the scripture. The best example of someone wielding this sword is found in Matthew 4:1-11 (see also Luke 4:1-12). We should expect Jesus to be a skilled swordsman, which He demonstrated, but He also expects us to develop our skills in the realm of parry and thrust.

As an aid to skill development, let’s see how Jesus used His sword in a portion of this passage.

5  Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6  and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7  Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” Matthew 4:5-7 (NKJV)

While it is important to note that Satan is a liar by nature, he did not misquote this scripture (Ps. 91:11-12). His strategy was to misrepresent scripture to deceive! Psalm 91:11-12 was true, but could be claimed only if one was walking in submission to Yahweh. The Father was not leading Jesus to leap off of the temple so Psalm 91 was not applicable and Jesus knew that. Satan was tempting Jesus to tempt His Father.

In one swift move with His sword Jesus did a parry and thrust and ended this encounter.

Now to us. To effectively wield the word we need to know it and apply it in context. Read through Paul’s letters and see how many promises have a condition attached. Here are a couple of examples.

9  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:9 (NKJV)

23  if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:23 (NKJV)

Take the first one. If we want to claim His peace in our lives we need to walk in obedience. If we have our peace disrupted and are being obedient we take up the sword. We can declare His peace (shalom) over our lives and we can receive it. This is taking up the sword of the Spirit.  

So, let’s stay in His word and develop our skills with the sword He provides.

Next week, to wrap all of this up we will look at the following verse.

18  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)

Standing Part 6

In the last five posts we have looked at most of our spiritual armour – truth, righteousness, peace and faith. We now come to the helmet of salvation.

17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Ephesians 6:17 (NKJV)

The helmet guards our heads, in the case of spiritual warfare, our minds.

I remember reading the story of a young struggling pastor. He went to a wise older mentor who asked him if he was using the armour from Ephesians 6. The young pastor began to respond with what he had learned about the armour in seminary. The old fellow stopped him and said something like, “I don’t care if you know about it. What I want to know is, are you actually putting it on?” His point was that the armour is only useful if it is applied.

So, how do we protect our minds? This may sound odd, but we need to think about our thinking. Most of us are likely familiar with Romans 12:1-2 about the need to renew our minds, but like the story above, the knowledge is only useful if it is applied. I had occasion recently to share my distinction between knowledge and wisdom. I see it like being in the middle of the highway with a large truck coming at me. Knowledge is knowing I need to get out of the way; wisdom is moving!

In a similar way, knowledge is knowing I need to put on the helmet of salvation, weighing my viewpoints in light of scripture. Wisdom is aligning my thoughts with scripture. A shorter, but parallel passage to Romans 12:1-2 is below.

23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, Ephesians 4:23 (NKJV)

This renewal process is clearly laid out by Paul in Philippians 4:6-8. Paul tells us that we are to set aside anxiety and worry and exchange it for peace. He tells us how. We are to turn our worry into prayer. This does not mean ‘praying the problem,’ giving our Father a list of what is wrong. Instead we are to bring before Him the change we desire to see (in line with His word) and then to meditate, to think deeply, on things that are good, pure, and right. The outcome is peace resting in our hearts.

This is putting on the helmet of salvation.

Standing Part 5

We have looked at the role of truth, righteousness and peace. We now come to the shield of faith. In Paul’s description we wear truth, righteousness and peace. A shield we wield. Paul says,

16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Ephesians 6:16 (NKJV)

Most of us our not familiar with using a shield. Think a little differently then. Think of a baseball player out in the field or a goalie in a soccer net. The player needs to see the ball coming and stop or intercept it. In the same way the shield is used to stop or intercept an attack.

In the sports analogies, once the player has caught or stopped the ball they transition from defence to offense. The same is true in spiritual warfare. The shield is used to protect from attacks and is preparation to transition from defence to offence. This transition may move rapidly from defence to offence and back again. The important piece to know is that the shield is used for both protection and preparation

Now, to successfully stop or intercept a spiritual attack we need to recognize when we are experiencing one! I remember Rick Joyner describing feeling irritable for days. He then took a flight somewhere with Bob Jones and Bob commented that Rick had an arrow in the back of his neck and reached over and pulled it out. Rick said he felt immediate relief.

While most of us cannot see in the spirit realm the way Bob did, if we reflect back I suspect most of us could describe a time when we felt some sense of heaviness or oppression. This is the result of arrows (Paul calls them fiery darts). I have never had anyone remove one from my neck or back, I have however on a number of occasions felt a heaviness, oppression or irritability lift while worshipping.

If we are wise we recognize that when we are in a ‘heavy’ or ‘reactive’ mode, some darts have gotten past our shield. I have learned in those situations to do two things, reposition my shield and then worship in spite of how I feel. In fact I think worshipping is wisdom, it is raising my shield. It is an act that pushes back the enemy. After all, our shield is composed of faith!

An additional thought. While the focus of this series is on a few verses from Ephesians, the book and Paul’s main prayers in it in chapters 1 and 3, while they can be applied to an individual, are addressed to a corporate body. In Middle Eastern thinking in the first century the focus was on family, community and the body. In looking at the armour in our passage Paul was describing a Roman soldier who was part of a unit. The Roman army was the most feared fighting force of the day. What made them so effective was that when they moved forward in battle their shields interlocked to form a nearly impenetrable wall. If you are having trouble wielding your shield, stand with others in the body. If your arm is weighed down, find others who will stand with you and help to steady your shield. He designed us to borrow strength from one another and to stand together as a body.

Stand therefore.

Standing Part 4

Having examined the girdle of truth and the breastplate of righteousness we now need to look at our footwear.

15  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Ephesians 6:15 (NKJV)

In this verse there are two ideas. Our footwear prepares us; it makes us ready to stand in battle. Second, our shoes are made of peace.

While Paul wrote in Greek, he likely thought in Hebrew given his culture and extensive educational background as a Pharisee. The significance is that while we translate the Greek to ‘peace’ in English, the Hebrew word, which carries more meaning, is shalom. To better understand what prepares us, here are some thoughts from a Greek-English dictionary on the meaning of the Greek word peace and a comparison to the Hebrew shalom, which also translates to peace in English.

εἰρήνη eirēnē noun – Peace, harmony, tranquility, health.

When the term was adopted by the Septuagint translators, eirēnē was an inadequate equivalent to the Hebrew shālôm. To have “shalom” in the Old Testament period meant not only to have “peace” as it is understood today; it also meant to feel “healthy” or to be “whole.” “Peace” was a state of well-being. – The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.

If in Paul’s Hebrew thinking he was referring to shalom then what he was saying is, ‘When we live from a state of wellbeing we are ready to stand firm in spiritual battles.’ To further illustrate this, I have a written out prayer that I regularly use as a template when I pray. One reminder I have built in for myself is as follows, ‘Remember, Jesus is never in a hurry, He walks in His Father, I walk in Him. Spirit, soul and body are designed to live in and from a state of repose.’ This serves to remind me of shalom

I fundamentally believe this. Think of Jesus. He laying sleeping in a boat in a raging storm, in an internal and physical state of repose (Matt. 8:23-26). What happened when the disciples awoke Him?

26  But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26 (NKJV)

Notice the last phrase – there was a great calm. Jesus was living out what Paul would speak to in Ephesians 6. Jesus was physically, psychologically and spiritually in shalom and He released what was within Him and it calmed the storm. This is how He calls us to function in spiritual warfare.

We might think only Jesus can do this but I remember Rick Joyner sharing a story that illustrates this point. He was with a friend at an airport near the front of the line, people were tired and angry, the flight was late and it seemed to be overbooked. Just when it seemed things could not get worse two ladies began forcing their way to the front demanding to be put on the plane. Rick said he thought someone was going to punch them. It was then that he said he witnessed a miracle. His friend got everyone’s attention and said, “Excuse me, do you mind if I give these ladies my place in line?” Suddenly peace and calm enveloped the place, Rick and his friend went to the back of the line and everyone was able to get on the plane.

To live in and function out of peace in this way we need to do something. We need to accept that we have this peace in Jesus and apply Paul’s injunctions in Philippians 4:4-9. It means choosing to let go, to stop embracing the things that bring us anxiety and focusing our minds and hearts on things like that which is good, true, pure and right. Paul says the result is peace and that readies us to stand in battle! 

So, lets stand firm in the shalom Jesus left us.

27  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27 (NKJV)

Standing Part 3

In this post we will look at the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14, see also Is. 59:17). A breastplate is essentially a shield attached to our body that moves where we move. It covers and guards important organs, the most important one being the heart. Significantly, it does not protect our heads, we will come to that piece of armour later.

Solomon places a great deal of importance on the need to guard our hearts.

23  Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

There are two key elements here, understanding the importance of protecting our heart and understanding righteousness. In the OT righteousness and justice are intertwined concepts, the very foundation of His throne (Ps. 89:14). You may have been told that righteousness is ‘right standing with God.’ That is a confusion of means and ends. We have right standing with God because we have been given Jesus righteousness. Jesus righteousness is an expression of His character so right standing is the result of having Jesus righteousness. The ends and means can be clearly seen in the following:

The end:

17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Achieved by this means:

21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV)

It is when we hold this truth in our hearts (with the heart one believes Rom. 10:9-10) that we can use the breastplate of righteousness. When we know and believe in our hearts we can stand in confidence and walk into battle protected by His righteousness. In spiritual warfare we are battling in the unseen realm but we experience the results in our day to day lives. Practically, using the breastplate means coming boldly before the throne of grace on behalf of ourselves and others, knowing that we are welcome in the throne room because we carry Jesus righteousness (Heb. 4:14-16).

So engage in the battle, embrace the truth of His righteousness and remember that the breastplate only provides protection when we are facing the battle, not when we turn away. Keep facing forward!

Standing Part 2

I will use the next few posts to describe how we use each of the six pieces of armour Paul identifies in Ephesians 6. The six pieces are below, the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes/sandals of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. 

14  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Ephesians 6:14-17 (NKJV)

The idea of girding our waist speaks of preparation. We need to be ready for battle and nothing prepares us like a commitment to walking in the truth of His word. I think one reason Paul listed truth first in our spiritual armour is a phrase the serpent used in Eden, back in Genesis 3:1. Part of the challenge was, “Has God indeed said…?” In other words, ‘Is that really true?’ We cannot stand in a spiritual battle without a commitment to truth.

In our recent Federal political issue in Canada witnesses were called to speak to the Justice Committee and more than once there was a reference to someone coming to speak ‘their truth.’ That is a good example of the influence of post-modern nonsense. In our legal system we swear to tell the truth, not ‘our truth.’ We may have different perceptions or memories of an event but there is only one truth about it.

An illustration that has long been popular to deny ‘truth’ is the story of the blind men and the elephant (there are a few versions). In the story 6 blind men each touch a different part of the elephant and describe the elephant differently. One as a rope (the tail), one as a snake (the trunk) and on it goes. The interpretation is often used to deny the ‘truth’ of any particular religious view. Yet it ignores the perspective of the storyteller who can see the truth of what is happening. Truth can be known if we are willing to accept the perspective of the Divine Storyteller who reveals truth.

(For a detailed analysis of the elephant analogy see this link https://www.str.org/articles/the-trouble-with-the-elephant#.XKIF5ZhKg2w)

Scripture contains truth and when we are committed to walk by it we are prepared to engage in spiritual warfare and achieve victory. Part of that preparation is embracing the reality in these verses.

6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 (NKJV)

20  But you have not so learned Christ, 21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: Ephesians 4:20-21 (NKJV)

Jesus is truth. When we choose and commit to believe His word in spite of what others may say or what we may see we are ready to stand.

Therefore, believe and stand.

Standing Part 1

In Ephesians 6 Paul provides some wise spiritual warfare instructions.

10  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NKJV)

In essence Paul tells us that we are in a spiritual battle and identifies our opponent. Now while ‘spiritual battle’ sounds nice what does it look like? If we go to a sporting contestant, whether a hockey game or a tennis match we can see opponents ‘battling’ to win. We can see the contest. Seeing spiritual warfare is a different matter. Part of knowing how to fight is learning to discern what is happening in the battle.

I remember almost 30 years ago being very discouraged about something that was happening in the church I was leading. I was sharing my discouragement with my wife on the way home after the service. She spoke some very encouraging words to me. She said, “You always give up.” Her words stung but at the same time they highlighted an unhealthy pattern in my life. I didn’t parse the word and ask what she meant by always or whether that was ‘always’ true. I saw the pattern and in response something inside me rose up with a determination to push through. I made a decision to stand in a spiritual battle. 

So, let me play this out a bit further so we can see the spiritual warfare. Jesus had called me to do something and when there was opposition I felt like quitting. The discouragement didn’t come from some genetic flaw in me, it came from a pattern of thinking, which I was responsible to change. Satan may have inspired others to oppose me and may have put ideas in their minds in terms of what to say or do because he is a master strategist. I don’t remember what the exact issue was, just my wife’s comment and my internal response. Satan knew what to inspire others to say or do that would be effective against me because it had worked in the past.

This is a simple example but whether we are battling patterns of discouragement, anger, feelings of rejection, identity issues or financial or health struggles we can see spiritual warfare being played out. Once we begin to see the patterns in our own lives we can begin to develop a strategy to win the battle. Make no mistake we are in a battle with an enemy who seeks our destruction. This is the first awareness we need to develop – seeing the battle.

In future posts I will begin to look at strategy to win.

How Jesus Sees

7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

The context of this verse is Samuel going to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as king to replace failed Saul. If we have been believers for any length of time we are likely familiar with the story of how Samuel saw the stature and looks of David’s older brothers but did not see that their hearts were not right.

Jesus looks at our hearts in releasing us in our anointing and callings. In anointing David He knew David would sin with Bathsheba and could see his other failings when He called him. He also knew that David was and would continue to be a passionate worshipper and would deeply repent of his sin. In the same manner, He knows our past, present and future failings. He is not looking for perfection to anoint our calling or none of us would ever be released, He is looking for hearts quick to respond to conviction.

Our responsibility is to pursue a godly and upright life and to turn to Him when we fail (1 Jn. 1:9). After all look at what the scriptures say.

13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV)

Any time there has been a failure in my walk with Him I have not heard Him say, ‘Randy, I am shocked you would do/say/think that. I never knew that was in you.’ Our lives are an open book before Him and in spite of any failings we carry Jesus desire is to bless our lives.

9  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

The context of this verse is King Asa trusting in others for victory rather than Yahweh after Asa had already had a revival of true worship because he had listened to the prophet Yahweh sent.

If we think of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 it should not have been a surprise to Jesus hearers. We rightly make much of how it reveals our Father’s loving heart. Yet in God’s dealing with Israel, and then Israel and Judah as divided kingdoms in the period of the kings, the story of the prodigal is repeated over and over. Even Manasseh, one of the most wicked kings in Judah’s history (2 Kings 21:1-18, 2 Chron. 33:1-20), who is described as more wicked than the Amorites (2 Kings 21:11), was blessed by Yahweh and tuned the nation when he repented.   

We serve the King of kings who loves us, desires to bless us and wants to have us as friends. We can take comfort in this as we pursue His heart and walk out our callings because Jesus is shepherding our lives (Ps. 23).

A desire to bless, honour and release is how Jesus sees.