Pray Bigly!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Why not pray audacious prayers for victory! Why not shout—yes shout, that’s what Moses did—shout out your prayer as you open the front door: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” It might freak your neighbors out a bit, but if it came down to it, I would rather have God’s favor going ahead of me into my day that than my neighbors’ approval.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 10:33-36

The Israelites marched for three days after leaving the mountain of the Lord, with the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant moving ahead of them to show them where to stop and rest. As they moved on each day, the cloud of the Lord hovered over them. And whenever the Ark set out, Moses would shout, “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” And when the Ark was set down, he would say, “Return, O Lord, to the countless thousands of Israel!”

Should we pray each day for protection and victory? Do we need to daily ask God to watch over our children, our work, our homes? Should we be bothering him to give us success in what is out in front of us as we leave the house? Doesn’t God already know what we need; doesn’t he already have us covered?

My response to that is, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Besides, Jesus taught us to pray, “keep us from the evil one.” It seems that the Lord’s Prayer Jesus urged us to pray had a sense of dailyness to it: “Give us today our daily bread.”

These kinds of prayers for protection and victory aren’t so much to remind a God who may have forgotten about us. He never forgets. How could he? We are his own special people. Isaiah captured the Lord’s tender watchfulness over our lives when he said, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne. Though she may forget, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hand.” (Isaiah 49:15) No, these kinds of prayer are not to shake God out of his lapse of memory, it is to remind us that he has us continually covered. They are to bring us back to a daily acknowledgement of our utter but joyful dependence on him for provision, protection and victory.

So I say why not pray these audacious prayers for victory! Why not shout—yes shout, that’s what Moses did—shout out your prayer as you open the front door: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be scattered! Let them flee before you!” It might freak your neighbors out a bit, but if it came down to it, I would rather have God’s favor going ahead of me into my day than my neighbors’ approval. And at day’s end, why not offer a prayer before your family wraps up and heads to sleep, “Return, O Lord, to the people in this house!”

Some think these kinds of prayers are pointless, even showing a lack of trust in a God who already knows. Others say when we pray prayers like this, we are using prayer like a magic charm to gain the favor of the gods. I disagree. Scripture would lean less toward those opinions than the one expressed by author and pastor Mark Batterson. Let me offer some insights from his book, The Circle Maker,

Each prayer is like a seed that gets planted in the ground. It disappears for a season, but it eventually bears fruit that blesses future generations. In fact, our prayers bear fruit forever.

God won’t answer 100 percent of the prayers we don’t pray.

Why do we mistakenly think that God is offended by our prayers for the impossible? The truth is that God is offended by anything less! God is offended when we ask Him to do things we can do ourselves. It’s the impossible prayers that honor God because they reveal our faith and allow God to reveal His glory.

God won’t answer 100 percent of the prayers you don’t pray. If that is true, I say why not ask, and ask bigly! Ask him daily, and nightly, for protection and victory and anything else you have in mind. God can handle even the prayers that are kind of ridiculous. He doesn’t get offended by your praying. In fact, my guess is, since he is your Father, that he likes it when you as his child believe enough in his generosity that you are willing to ask early and often for anything that is on your heart.

Going Deeper With God: Pray about everything—big, small, medium. Take it to God. Be audacious in praying. It both honors God and pleases his heart because it reveals your trust in his goodness and generosity.

Obliterating Sin

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

“Making them right with the Lord!” What a power-packed phrase, wouldn’t you say! This is the great effort of God and that is the great need of man. And through God’s initiative, both through the Levitical system of sacrifice and the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of his Son and our Savior, that has been made possible.

Going Deep // Focus: Leviticus 4:20

By this sacrifice for sin, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven.

“Making them right with the Lord!” So much is packed into that phrase, wouldn’t you say! That is the great effort of God and that is the great need of man. And through God’s initiative, both through the Levitical system of sacrifice and the perfect, once-for-all sacrifice of his Son and our Savior, that has been made possible.

You see, sin, that which makes us un-right with God, is number one the problem of the human race! All other problems stem from this. Both our acts of sin and our Adamic sinfulness separate us from our Creator and Provider. God is pure and cannot tolerate impurity. Nor can he bless the impure. And because God is not only holy, but also just, his justice demands punishment for sin—our sin. And the only proper punishment for sin that can satisfy an utterly holy God is death for the sinner.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. …The wages of sin is death… But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23a, Exodus 34:7)

Houston, we have a problem! We are sinful and can do nothing to change that; God is holy, and cannot tolerate sin. Death to the sinner!

But God, who is rich in mercy and ceaseless in grace, has provided a way of escape for the sinner. Under the Old covenant, a sacrificial system was established that transferred the guilt of the guilty onto the sacrifice and thus absolved God’s righteous anger. Throughout the Old Testament this plan is made plain, and specifically in Leviticus 4 and 5, the phrase is repeated: offer sacrifice for sin…making them pure…they will be forgiven.

But, thank God, our Holy Creator went a step further and established a new and better covenant with his people: He sent the perfect sacrifice, his one and only Son, to be the sacrifice for our sins. And the offering up us Jesus on the cross as the atonement for our sin not only satisfied God’s righteous wrath and absolved the guilt for our sins, but the blood of his sacrifice obliterated our guilty standing before God created and perpetuated by our Adamic sinfulness. And best of all, his death was the once-for-all sacrifice to end all sin offerings—we don’t have to offer it over and over again.

And the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. … Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. …the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus our Lord. (Isaiah 53:6, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:23b)

Hallelujah! Once cleansed, the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing us from all unrighteousness:

But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:7-9)

What a God, who made a way in the Old Covenant for his people to be made right with him, at least temporarily, until the time for the permanent, perfect offering of his Son, our wonderful, merciful Savior, who offered himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sin.

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (Psalm 32:1-2)

Blessed indeed! We have been made right with God.

Going Deeper With God: As you consider that your sin is permanently covered by Christ’s sacrifice, you may want to make this prayer your prayer: “Holy God, I thank you for Jesus, by whose sacrifice I can call you ‘Dear Father.’ By his death, I am pure and brought near to you. My sins are forgiven—all my sinful past is erased, my guilt from today is removed, my future failures have already been taken care of, my mistakes are redeemed for the glory of God. I am made right with you. How loved I am how blessed I am! I am forever grateful.”

The Radiant Face of Your Pastor

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Moses was tasked with leading a people, some of whom didn’t want to follow, others who were jealous of him, and some who just didn’t like him or his style of leading. But God gave Moses a gift to fulfill his high call: the dramatic Presence of God himself. As a result, the glory of the Lord lit up Moses’ face whenever he returned to the people from the Lord’s presence. Most pastors don’t expect something that dramatic, but they do crave God’s approval as they stand before their people. Without that, they’ve got nothing.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 34:29-30,35

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him…they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.

Most of the direct interaction pastors have with the people of their church is quite positive and appreciative. Those who are upset and who do not appreciate their pastor’s leadership style or his ministerial abilities don’t usually speak to the pastor directly—which is certainly the Biblical approach to handling differences—they tell other people. Pastors usually hear of it either second or third hand, or after the fact when those who are disgruntled have landed in another church.

This is, undoubtedly, the most disheartening thing that the pastor faces. Don’t let your pastor kid you: he takes it personally. (I realize your spiritual leader may be a woman, but just for the sake of discussion, let me use the masculine pronoun to refer to your pastor.) It gnaws at his insecurities, shakes his confidence in his abilities, discourages his spirit, frustrates his vision, and if all that weren’t enough, it hurts his feelings. Yes, pastors have feelings just like you. I know all of this because I am a pastor, and because I interact with enough of them to know this is true.

Is the challenge the pastor faces any different than the one Moses faced? He was tasked with leading a people, some of whom didn’t want to follow, others who were jealous of him, and some who just didn’t like him or his style of leading. But God gave Moses some special gifts to fulfill his high call: miracles, Divine interventions, the dramatic Presence of God himself, and in this case, the glory of the Lord that lit up Moses’ face whenever he would return to the people from the Lord’s presence.

Most pastors I know don’t expect something that dramatic—neither do I. But we do crave some sort of Divine aide that will indicate the Lord’s approval as we stand before our people. Our only qualification to lead is God’s anointing upon our life and ministry. Without that, we’ve got nothing.

What is interesting to note is that even though Moses had these Divine displays of affirmation on his résumé, there were still those who resisted and rejected his leadership. I guess it happens to the best of them—and I guess I, and every other spiritual leader, have to steel ourselves against the insecurities, oppositions and rejections that will assault our leadership at one time or another.

But at the end of the day, for most of the pastors I know, including me, the privilege of representing God to the people and the people to God is more than enough to make up for any slight, oversight, or personal inconvenience we may experience.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Going Deeper With God: Here is a prayer you might consider lifting up to God on behalf of your spiritual leader: “Dear Father, I am not asking for you to make my pastor’s face to glow like Moses. But Lord, it is true that my leader cannot fulfill his Divine calling to lead me and my fellow believers to the victories you have destined our church to achieve without your visible anointing and favor upon his life. So I ask that you would put your hand on him in a special way. Cleanse him that he might contain your holy favor and purify his motives that he might handle your blessing and anointing as a sacred trust. And fill him with the Moses-like enabling Presence that your people will be inspired to follow. Cause your Presence to go before him…let your hand be with him…expand his territory…bless him indeed…and cause his life to expended for your glory and honor.”

Knowing The God Who Wants To Be Known

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

To ask God that you might know him is a request that pleases his heart! After all, that is the reason he created you; that is why you exist. God himself says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire…the knowledge of God [from you] more than burnt offerings.” That should be your chief aim in life. To know God who wants to be known is truly the sweetest nectar of life.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 33:11

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.

If I could choose an epitaph that described my life, it would be this: “The Lord would speak to Ray Noah face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” But is that really possible for a human being?

It was for Moses! If anyone ever really knew God, if a human being ever experienced an extraordinarily intimate revelation of God, if a man ever truly had a close personal friendship with God, it was Moses.

But Moses didn’t always have this kind of relationship with God. If you were to review Moses’ life, you would be reminded that in his first forty years, Moses knew a lot about God. He was born to Hebrew parents, but raised in the lap of luxury in the Egyptian palace as one of Pharaoh’s sons—he was a prince of Egypt. Moses knew about God through his heritage, but there is no indication of a walk with God characterized by love and obedience. In fact, it appears Moses was somewhat indifferent to God.

But then Moses tried to play God and killed an Egyptian, and he had to flee the palace to the backside of the Sinai Desert, where he lived as a fugitive for the next forty years until he met God at the burning bush. And during these four decades, Moses unlearned everything he knew about God in the first forty years. It was a desert experience—literally and spiritually—where Moses knew nothing but the silence of God. God had enrolled Moses in the University of the Desert—the Graduate School of Sinai—where he trained Moses in the curricula of solitude, monotony and failure.

But then came the burning bush, which marked the beginning of the final forty years of Moses’ life. And in this period, he came to know and experience God the way we want to know and experience him: In his power and glory. Moses, unlike any other man, experienced first hand every attribute of God a human being could possibly experience: God’s omnipotence—that he is all-powerful; his omniscience—that he is all-wise and knowing; his omnipresence—that he is everywhere at all times; his Divine nature—that is, his justice, righteousness, holiness, and incomparable greatness.

What more could a human being want? Yet that wasn’t enough. Moses didn’t just want to know about God, he wasn’t satisfied with seeing the evidence of God’s activity. He wanted more:

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favor with you…Now show me your glory. (Exodus 33:13,18)

You’ve got to admire Moses’ boldness, audacity and greediness for God! Here is what he’s really asking: “God, I want to know you…your character…your nature…what makes you tick. I want to enter into the deepest dimension of intimacy with the Almighty that’s possible for one human being.”

Amazingly, God obliged this big, audacious request—he revealed himself fully to Moses. (Exodus 33:14-23) Now this doesn’t simply tell us something about Moses, it mostly reveals something vitally important about God: God wants us to know how much he wants to be known.

He has made himself knowable. He is not some unapproachable deity way out there in a galaxy far, far away. He is the God who is there, the God who is near, the God who will reveal himself to those who long to know him.

What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him. (Deuteronomy 4:7)

God wants us to know that he’s near and that he is knowable: “I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.” (Exodus 33:19) In other words, I will let you know me.

To ask to know him is a request that pleases the heart of God! You see, that’s what we were made for: To know God. That’s what he desires from us. God himself says in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire…the knowledge of God [from you] more than burnt offerings.” And that should be our chief aim in life—to know God—because that is truly the sweetest nectar of life. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says,

This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!

Knowing God is the best thing in life. In fact, it is eternal life. Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life: That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

God has offered to let you know him—really know him. It’s the best offer you’ll ever get! I would take him up on it if I were you.

Going Deeper With God: Not only does God want to be known, God has made himself available. He doesn’t want you just to know about him, he wants you to intimately know his person. God is knowable and personable. Exodus 33:11 tells us that Moses knew God as a friend, and that he “would speak to Moses face-to-face.” Exodus 33:14 God tells Moses, “My presence will go with you…” Exodus 33:19 says that God “caused his goodness to pass in front of him and proclaimed his name in Moses’ presence.” God said he would let Moses see the after-effects of his glory in Exodus 33:22. What is God saying? “I want you to know me, and I will make myself available to you. And now you will not only know about me, you will see and experience my very nature and personhood.” That’s quite an invitation! Have you taken God up on his offer?

Not “How Could They?” but “How Could We?”

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

If even in the subtlest of ways we replace our devotion to and dependence upon God with doubts about God’s love, with dependencies on the arm of flesh and with doctrines about God that are not squared with the loving, generous, sovereign God of the Bible, we are flirting with worship of the golden calf.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 32:1-4

When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

A golden calf! Really! After all that God had just done for them! Are you kidding me? How could they?

After 400 years of slavery, God delivered His people from the thoroughly idolatrous nation of Egypt. The Egyptians had hundreds of gods, and as slaves, the Israelites had been forced to build temples for many of those idols.

The influence of Egyptian for idolatry surfaced when the Israelites insisted that Aaron build a golden calf as an object of worship while Moses was on the mountain receiving God’s commandments. Keep in mind that God had just delivered them with miracle after miracle that no other god could come close to replicating, not by thousands of miles. The God of Israel had shown himself to be the one, true, covenantly faithful God. Yet Israel abandoned him in a flash.

God was so angry with their abrupt, blatant backsliding that He wanted to wipe out the whole nation and start over with Moses. But in one of the outstanding acts of priestly intercession, Moses stood between God’s judgment and the people’s guilt to save the day. Yet Moses ordered the slaughter of those who had led the way and for those who openly participated in this gross spiritual fornication.

That is when the tribe of Levi rose up and executed 3,000 idolaters that day with the sword. God’s subsequent choice of the Levites to serve as priests may have been rooted in their response to help Moses destroy idolatry among the people. And that became one of the priest’s duties in perpetuity—then and now in the pastoral priesthood: to keep the people out of idolatry while keeping them locked into the exclusive worship of Yahweh.

Tragically, over time, after Israel became a strong nation, they again became infested with idolatry, and at times, even the Levitical priests joined the people in the worship of idols. There came the day when idolatry was even practiced in the very Temple of God.

And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, shall bear their iniquity. Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them that they shall bear their iniquity. (Ezekiel 44:10, 12)

Now if you are like me, the question I have, in light of all that God had just orchestrated on behalf of his people—miracle after miracle—is “how could they?” Yet don’t we, too, quickly desert the worship of God to rely on other sources for our safety, provision and happiness? Think of false god after false god Israel fell for—and in a less obvious way, we fall for as well. Here are some of the gods back then, and how we subtly worship them today:

There was Dagon, who was viewed as the god of vegetation. The Philistines worshiped him as a god of provision. His help was sought to ensure a bountiful harvest. We must realize that we do not worship God primarily for the purpose of receiving his blessings. If our loyalty to him is mostly so that we can get something from him, then we are in real danger of trading our revelation of God for a concept of Dagon.

Then there was Baal, who was considered to be the son of Dagon. Baal was a chief god of the Philistines and he was considered to be unpredictable and unreliable. Most famously, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a contest to see who was the true God;, and the sign of the true God would be the one who answered by fire. Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal as they beseeched their reluctant god to answer and prove himself. The prophet mocked Baal’s unpredictability and unreliability for doing only what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it—which was never. Sometimes we drift into that opinion of God, too, when he doesn’t’ answer when we want and in the way we want. That is flirting with idolatry. God is sovereign and he does as he pleases, but he also mercifully invites us to petition him through expectant, persistent prayer in trust that he is reliable and always acts on the promise of his Word in response to our asking.

There was Ashtoreth, the lone goddess of the four Philistine gods who was considered to be the spouse of Baal. She was the goddess of sex and fertility. She was identified with the Egyptian deity Isis and also with the Greco- Roman sex-deities of Aphrodite and Venus. Need I make application to our cultures infatuation with the goddess of elicit sex. Unlike Israel, we must be careful as believers not to allow our minds to become polluted with a preoccupation with sexual lust and salacious behavior.

Finally, Beelzebub was known, interestingly, as the god who creates and sustains wounds. Jesus called him the prince of demons, clearly identifying him with Satan. Beelzebub means, “the lord of the flies,” an appropriate title for the work of demons. This is a disturbing picture in the natural realm of what the disgusting devil likes to do in the spiritual realm. Just as flies are drawn to open wounds and cuts, so demons are drawn to the open wounds in our hearts. When we allow the hurts of our hearts to fester and go unhealed, we are prime targets for the demonic to work through the idolatrous attitudes of bitterness, un-forgiveness and victimization.

Maybe you think I am stretching the application of Old Testament idolatry a little too far here, but just think about it. Whenever we replace our devotion to and dependence on God, even in the most subtle or self-justifiable ways, with doubts about God’s love, with dependencies on the arm of flesh, with doctrines about God that are not squared with the loving, faithful, sovereign God of the Bible, we are flirting with worship of the golden calf. As Becky Manley Pippert said,

Whatever controls us is our lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by acceptance. We do not control ourselves. We are controlled by the lord of our lives.

Who or what is god of your life? Make sure it is the only one and true God!

Going Deeper With God: Whenever you find yourself in response to your Bible reading saying, “how could they?”, that is a sure sign that you also need to say, “how do I?” The New Testament says, “these things happened to them as warnings to us upon who the ends of the age have fallen.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11) In what ways might you be flirting with idolatry?

Whatever Became of the Fear of the Lord?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Whatever became of the fear of the Lord? We have become so comfortable with sin that our fear of judgment has been lost. Punishment and consequences seem to have no governing effect. Cheap grace has made holy living a squishy concept, not the normal way of life for far too many believers. It is time we rediscover a holy fear of the Lord.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 20:18-20

When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear. And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!” Moses answered them, “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!”

I sometimes wish that God would show up like he did on Mount Sinai—peels of thunder, flashes of lightning, the whole nine yards—and just scare the bejeebers out of us. We have become so comfortable with sin that our fear of judgment have been lost. Punishment and consequences seem to have no governing effect. Cheap grace has made holy living a squishy concept, not the normal way of life for far too many believers. We have virtually no fear of the Lord and no fear of sin.

God showed up on Mount Sinai as he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, and from the camp around the base of the mountain, the Israelites watched the fireworks with fear and dread. So great and awesome was the divine display that when Moses returned, the people pleaded with him to be their go-between with the Almighty. They had witnessed God’s unsurpassed holiness from a distance and knew they could never stand before him because, at their best, they were fundamentally unholy.

In reply, Moses said something quite interesting: “Don’t be afraid, for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” What? Don’t fear, God is just showing you how to fear. And that fear will keep you safe.

To understand Moses’ confusing statement we need to distinguish between two types of fear:

  1. The first fear is that which comes from our sense of guilt, and the punishment it deserves. This type of fear may be a conscious awareness of unworthiness, but even if the fear is subconscious, it still has a tormenting result in our lives. This type of fear leads to all kinds of bondage, insecurity and harmful behavior to assuage it.
  2. The second kind of fear comes in the form of respect. It recognizes the complete authority of God over our lives, and his complete justification for holding people to account who violate his right to rule. This fear of the Lord is healthy, whether conscious or subconscious, and promotes an attitude of belief in, love for and complete trust of God.

Both fears can motivate righteous behavior: the first fear for a time; the second for a lifetime. The first type of fear is what the Israelites had, even though Moses had called them to the second type. Their fear at this point was short lived, for after Moses returned to the mountain for further instruction in the law, and lingered there for several days, the people’s fear abated and they did the very thing the law commanded them to eschew: they built an idol, a golden calf, and worshiped it, indulging in all kinds of wanton behavior as they did. (Exodus 32)

And as a result, the punishment they feared when Moses first came down came upon them. Their fears were justified.

So I guess wishing God would show up with peels of thunder and flashes of lightening wouldn’t be that effective after all. Apparently scaring the bejeebers out of us is short-lived, because it scares us into the wrong kind of fear.

God wants us to live in holy fear—the one that comes from a mature knowledge of his holiness and a respect for his right to lovingly rule our lives. It is that kind of fear that is the best motive for holy living—and the surest way to the blessings God longs to shower us with. That kind of fear comes not from peels of thunder and flashes of lightening, but from a surrendered heart.

Holy Spirit, lead us into a holy fear of the Lord.

Going Deeper With God: Ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you what holy fear is, and ask him to lead you into a mature, authentic experience of the fear of the Lord.

Yaweh Nissi: Our Divine Force Field

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan, as C.S. Lewis noted. That means if you’re doing God’s will, you will be attacked. But it also means that if you’re doing God’s will, you will be victorious!

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 17:8-9, 13

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” … So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

One of the things that I quickly had to come to grips with when I entered the pastoral ministry was that there were people who didn’t like me. Yeah, I know, hard to believe! Not because I was unlikeable (not in every case, anyway), but simply because I represented something at an invisible, subconscious spiritual level within them that rubbed against the grain of their fallenness.

It was likewise helpful for me to learn that I was not alone in this experience. All pastors deal with unhappy people.  And furthermore, anyone who steps out to do God’s will get attacked. Let me say it another way:

THEY WON’T LIKE YOU!

Jesus predicted as much, didn’t he? Now we don’t need to go out of our way to tick the people of the world off, but the truth is, the world will hate us because we represent the Savior, whom they crucified. And the sooner we get over our neurotic need to be liked, we can get on with being the distinct witness God has called us to be and the world desperately needs us to be.

In the case of the Israelites, escaping Egypt by the mighty miracles of God and being led to the Promised Land by the mighty hand of God didn’t preclude enemies who would attack them early and often in their journey of faith.

In this case, the Amalekites, who lived on the northern edge of the wilderness through which Israel travelled, stood between the promise and the fulfillment for the people of God. They didn’t like Israel, for no other reason than the reason you and I will get attacked: we belong to God, and since Satan hates God, and everything of God, he attacks what is most precious to God—you and me.

As the story goes, Moses sends out a young general named Joshua to fight the enemy while Moses, aided by Aaron and Hur, stand on an overlooking hillside to lift his hands in supplication for the battle. And of course, God grants his people a stunning and overwhelming victory.

End of story. Yet there are important lessons to take away from this account. Here are a few:

  1. You will be attacked when you do God’s will. Just mark it down and don’t be surprised when it happens. If we naively assume that doing what God asks will be unimpeded, you are on the road to disheartenment. To be forewarned is to be forearmed—an important principle in the spiritual warfare you will face.
  2. You will be attacked by the people you would least expect to attack you. The Amalekites were actually distant cousins of Israel—Amalek was the grandson of Esau. They should have acted favorably toward the Israelites. They didn’t. Psalm 83:4, 7 reveals the Amalekites motives: “Come, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.” There is some belief that these very Amalekites lived on clear down to Esther’s day when their offspring Haman was still plotting to do away with the people of God hundreds of years later. In the case of Joshua, the record of this battle was written so that he would know that the Amalekites were to be completely annihilated. (Exodus 17:14) Sounds harsh, but the point being, the kingdoms of this world will never think kindly toward the kingdom of God. Again, doing God’s will sometimes stirs unresolved issues of godship even in the lives of people who should know better.
  3. You need support in the battle. Joshua had Moses. Moses had Aaron and Hur. You need somebody, too. So do I. I cannot tell you how many times in facing attack in the ministry that God gave me an Aaron and a Hur to hold up my hands. They were life to me in that moment of attack. You were not meant to do this alone, so ask God to give you spiritual partners who will hold up your hands in those critical times.
  4. You need to record God’s faithfulness in giving you victory against attack as a testimony. Moses instructed Joshua to literally write the account down. (Exodus 17:14). Why? For among other reasons, because it will give you confidence and courage when the next attack comes. The “next” attack? Yes, there will be others. But do not be disheartened (but I am getting ahead of myself).
  5. You need to remember that God is your banner. Moses’ outstretched hands represented his appeal to God: Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.” (Exodus 17:15-16) When you are in God’s will and you are getting hammered for it—whether by Satanic forces from the invisible realm or Satanic inspired forces coming from real people—your appeal is to God Almighty. And he will give you victory!

Here is the deal: when you are doing God’s will, you will be attacked. When you are doing God’s will, you will be victorious!

Going Deeper With God: Are you in a battle, being attacked by someone you would least expect? Are you facing down a hostile enemy—invisible or visible? Seek our a prayer partner to hold up your hands. Believe me, if you ask, there will be people who will come to your aid.