May 2009
Dear Friends,

     The quote below is taken from a scene in the Lord of the Rings and Frodo and Sam are in the midst of what looks like a losing battle. Did you ever feel that way? I sure have. And note the first line: "I can't do this Sam." Did you ever feel that way? I sure have. We are studying Revelation in our Friday men's group and as we look at the great battle at the end of time we need to get battle ready. I hope this is helpful to you as well as we learn how to beat the devil. Frodo says: "I can't do this Sam."  Sam replies:  "I know, it's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo; the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing – this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding onto something." Frodo asks? "What are we holding on to Sam?" Sam replies: "That there's some good in this world Mr. Frodo and it's worth fighting for!!" "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom." (Matt.4:23) "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old order of things has passed away." (See Rev. 21:1-4)

     "If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer. 12:5) We as Americans have enjoyed 60 plus years of peace and prosperity since World War II (safe country) and have become spiritually complacent people in the process. God often judges individuals and even nations by giving them what they want (Rom. 1:24-32), and in our case many Americans don't want and deny any accountability to God (though they are wrong) or even the existence of the One true God. God's judgment can come as He places "base" men/women to rule over us: "The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men."(Dan. 4:17; Also see Isa. 3:4)  Though many Christian leaders feel a national revival will not occur in America, it is never too late for personal revival and the ripple effect of godliness in our sphere of influence. But what we lost through spiritual complacency individually or nationally we cannot get back through human power. (2 Cor. 10:3-5) So the question is – how we can get personally ready for the times at hand as well as the possibility of even tougher times ahead. How can we beat the devil, or do spiritual warfare: God's Word has much to say about this:

1) We are told to humble ourselves (even as Jesus did as a Man) or the Lord will humble us. (1 Peter 5: 5-9; Phil. 2:8) "That is why Scripture says: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."(James 4:6-7) Note the order – submission to God first (i.e., obeying His Word), then resist the devil. It takes God's grace (power) to defeat our spiritual enemies (not other people) and His grace only comes to the humble. "Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud."(Psalm 138:6) How can we humble ourselves? "Let us look on every person in our daily experiences who tries or vexes us as God's means to bring about Jesus' humility in us." (Humility by Andrew Murray). Exercise: Pray through Luke 6:27-36 and obey it from the heart. Do spiritual deliverance on yourself and cast out the lie that began at the Fall: I deserve better! That was Job's problem until God showed up in His manifest Glory and reminded Job (and us) that He has the double right to use us in any way he chooses: 1) First, because He made us and 2) secondly, because He bought us back from hell by the death of His own Son. "You are not your own; you were bought at a price." (1 Cor. 6:19-20) And if that is not enough, He promises us an eternal paradise to boot.

2) "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Eph. 6:10-20) Again notice the first thing the Spirit instructs us to do after we have put on our battle gear: PRAY! Pray in line with God the Spirit all the time for all the saints (and saints to be – the lost). We put on all this armor and then charge the hill: Nope – we drop to our knees. Then notice the second thing we do: take on the politicians? Nope! PROCLAIM! Make known the gospel (with our lives and our lips) fearlessly; yes even if it costs us our life as it has for thousands upon thousands all over the world today: "For the accuser of our brothers, (Satan) who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." (Rev. 12:10-11) "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life."(Phil. 2:14-16)                                                                    

3) "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matt. 6:33) This is a command from our King – the Lord Jesus Christ speaking of the kingdom of God which He began in the Garden of Eden some 6000 years or more ago. And this kingdom will never end. Most kingdoms of this world have come and gone and America will be no different if the Lord tarries. "Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff." (Isa.40:17, 23-24) If we are expending our greatest energy on trying to fix America (a temporal "kingdom") versus praying and proclaiming the eternal gospel with humility then we are not seeking first His eternal Kingdom. We are not obeying our King, in fact, the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.                               

4) Manifest hope and the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy and peace, in the midst of our personal and national trials. "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord (as King). Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:13-16) Peter wrote this to God's people in the midst of great suffering (many entertained the crowds as food for lions), far beyond what we have suffered. When we show forth true joy and hope among people even when we are suffering as they are because we know a Good and All powerful God is our Father and will one day put an end to all evil and our suffering, people will ask us, what's the reason for your hope? In one word, JESUS!  "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." (Titus 2:11-14)

Questions for reflection/application

What did the Lord say to you through this message?

Do you feel you are battle ready? Why or why not?

What specific battle plan can you put into action using these 4 "spiritual strategies"?1) Humble yourself even as Jesus did as a Man. (1 Peter 5:5-9; James 4:6-7)
2) PRAY! And PROCLAIM! Versus argue and complain. (Eph. 6:19-20 and Phil. 2:14-16)
3) "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." (Matt. 6:33)
4) Manifest hope and the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy and peace in the midst of your personal trials. (1 Peter 3:13-16)                                                                                                    

Until He comes, Len and Kristen

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