I Don’t Want An Enemy

I have walked with Jesus for 36 years.  So it shames me to make this admission.  But the reality is, I haven’t been very cooperative on the journey.  Much of my heal-digging and fist-shaking probably stems from one thing.

I don’t want an enemy.

I have spent some time in the Word along the way.  God makes lots of promises that the life and sacrifice of Jesus totally backs up.  But I can’t find where He promises no enemies.  In fact, I find the opposite.  He promises tribulation from the world, my flesh, demons, satan.

I still don’t want an enemy.

I want my steps of faith to be met with blessing, encouragement, praise from others.  And, I confess I have received some of these.  But, most of what I see, what I focus on, is the condemnation, the discouragement, the criticism.

I could say that is what I think I deserve.  Truthfully, I think it reflects more on my image of God.  

I can say with Paul that I am the worst of sinners.  But, I think I hear such negativity because I don’t believe God loves me.

But, He does.  He is mighty to save.  He is my strong tower.  His thoughts toward me are for healing and hope.  And He will take the field of battle with me.

Because, like it or not….

I have an enemy.

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Point Man

I never did it in combat.  I was the commander’s radio operator and was usually somewhere in the middle of the column.  But in training I sometimes got to be the point man.  And, at least in training, it was something I was good at.

The point man, for those of you that are civilians, is the guy that is in front of the unit.  He has to see what is coming before it becomes a problem.  For example, I was leading a fire team through some pretty heavy brush.  I rounded a bend in the trail and saw movement.  I didn’t see a person, or the whites of anyone’s eyes.  I just saw movement that was out of place.  I called a halt and we were able to take out an ambush.

Sometimes people ask me why I want to be up front, why I want to lead worship.  Do I crave the attention?  Do I have to be noticed?  I know my heart is “desperately wicked and deceitful at all times”, but I don’t think my desires are centered around self.

I think I like being the point man.

The down side of being the point man is that the enemy will see you first, shoot at you first.  You carry the weight, the responsibility for all the lives in your unit.  If you’re good, people live.  If you aren’t, people die.  Simple as that.  

If I can lead people to worship the King of kings, people live.  If I can focus all attention on His presence, the movement of His Spirit, people live.  If I am attuned to His voice, speak and sing yielded to His leadership, people live.  And yes, I will take the shot, if it saves their lives.

As worship leaders, we face attacks that others never see.  We deal with issues and problems that others never think of.  Our prayer life has to be tightened, our time in the word more disciplined, our submission to His will more constant, or people will die.

So to my fellow point men (and women), I salute you.  “Be brave, be strong, for the Lord our God is with you.”

What an awesome privilege to serve and lay our lives at His feet!

http://youtu.be/BAGZ7c8V9SM

I’m not going to make it

Ahead of me, the colonel continued his merciless pace.  I was running with my head down, unable to concentrate, unable to notice anything that was around me.  After a mile and a half or so, I noticed I was running next to one of the best guys I’ve ever known.

My response to this was, of course, to start complaining.  As I gasped for breath, I said things like, “killer pace,” and, “I can’t breathe.”  Finally summing up my situation by saying, “I don’t think I’m going to make it.  I suck at running.  I’m never going to be as fast as other people.  I can’t do this.”

Now my unit had around a hundred people in it.  The battalion had around 400 people. This was a brigade run.  I don’t know how many people were running together at the start but it was a lot.

“Look behind you, Matt.”  That was all he said.

When running with your unit, you basically see the back of the man in front of you.  If someone falls out, you move up to the person that was in front of him.  I saw before me two rows of people, about eight to ten guys.  The colonel was gasping for air, sweat pouring off of him.

When I looked behind, I saw no one.

“Don’t quit,” he said.

Anybody struggling with addiction?  Is there anybody whose marriage seems to get no better?  Is there anyone who thinks they will never be a good christian, a good father or mother, a decent human being?

You may think you’re not going to make it.  You may think that everyone is doing better than you.

Just don’t quit.  You’re doing just fine.

Naked

Do you ever laugh at yourself?  I do.

Today, as I got out of the shower, I thought about the day ahead and wanted to prepare myself.  As I usually do, I went through putting on the armor of God, and then chuckled.  There I was with nothing on except the armor of God.

Ah, but isn’t that how it should be?

My t-shirt will not clothe me in His righteousness.  My sneakers will not carry His gospel to my broken world.  My sweat-shirt will stop no fiery darts of the enemy.

And, spiritually speaking, my clothes are not worthy of consideration.  Even if I was dressed in battle fatigues with flak-vest and kevlar helmet, it would not protect me in the realm where I do daily battle.  But satan and his forces quake before a man (or woman) of God clothed in righteousness, armed with God’s word, shielded by faith.

And God notices too.  If I was dressed in Armani, He could not send me where He needs me.  But, armed and ready, He can send me anywhere.

Just so no one gets worried.  I did put clothes on, too.

Courageous, Prepared, Unified

I was reading in Judges.  The Bible is such a great book for seeing things new every time you go through it.

Many of the stories in this book I have never seen correctly before.  Think about this, in every case, Israel sins and God allows a nation to come and oppress them.  We hear about their vast armies and how the Israelites cried out to God to set them free.  It is automatically assumed that these are powerful nations that Israel was just not strong enough to handle.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider Gideon and the army that he faced.  They were a force of 135,000 men.  Certainly a formidable problem unless you consider that when Israel came into the promised land they had over 600,000 fighting men.  But that is what sin does, it makes us incapable of handling the things that we should be able to handle, even humanly speaking.  When we sin, we don’t look to help others or stand together because we’re too busy hiding our shame, pursuing our addiction, pushing God out of our lives.

How did the people of God come to the place where they have temples in their cities to other gods?  Asherah poles set up in the center of their towns?  I think we see an answer in how God picked the three-hundred that He used to defeat Gideon’s enemies.

Are you afraid?  Tricky question because anyone who faces off with satan and his legions better not be cocky or deluded.  I think the question is better asked as, “do you have courage?” God asks Gideon to do something, later on, if he is afraid, which he immediately goes to do.  Fear is not the sum of the problem.  “Ask them if they are trembling with fear,” God says.  They could go home if their fears affected them physically.  Fear elicits two types of responses.  Either it weakens your resolve or solidifies it.  It either brings confusion or focuses your mind and energy.  It either makes you a coward or courageous.  Don’t mistake courage for lack of fear.  Courage is the resolve to act in spite of our fears.

Are you prepared?  Ten thousand were courageous enough to face the enemy but when asked to take a drink only three hundred remained.  Foolish courage makes us take foolish chances, like drinking in such a way that we aren’t prepared for an attack.  We’re told that satan is a “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” But we don’t spend time in God’s word.  We know he is a deceiver, an accuser, but we don’t live in prayer, walk in prayer.  No wonder they, and we, get our rear-ends kicked so often.

Are you unified?  What we also don’t see so clearly is that the oppression that Israel faced wasn’t nation wide.  It was a pocket here and then another pocket over there.  Gideon’s fight happens to be in the center of Israel, but in this, other tribes are not even called on till later in the story.  Judah, Benjamin, Simeon and Ephraim were all close to where this is happening but are not involved in the fight.

We do this too.  We say, sometimes inwardly, sometimes outwardly, “glad I’m not the one being attacked.  I feel bad for what that family is going through but sure am relieved it isn’t me.”  And we lose the unity of the body.  We are strong in unity, in community.  We are weak and ruined when we fight on our own.  To be sure, there is the message of God’s victory not being dependent on our strength.  We don’t accomplish God’s victory for Him.  But He put us together to function together.  I should not have to wait for you to call me when you are under attack.  I should be fighting beside you every day.  That is why we are called the body of Christ.  We are supposed to act like the Church.

Israel in history, and the church of today is often defeated because we allow fear to rule, we do not stay ready and we don’t fight together.  But we have no other hope of victory.  We can not succeed in God’s call for our lives if we will not put on courage, prepare for the fight and stand together.

I’m going for a run

The warriors faced each other across the battlefield.  Opponents that had seen each other before and knew well each others weaknesses and strengths.  This was the time.  This was their battle.  Quickly, they closed the gap between each other and brought their swords to the ready.  With a cry our hero raises his sword and drops it to the ground.  He falls to the ground and begins doing pushups, counting out…1…2…3…

That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and yet we do it everyday.  Our battle is in everyday life, the meeting, our coworkers, the internet, timelines.  These are the things that test our faith, that prove our heart toward God.  This is where all that we’ve trained for comes in to play.  So, DID WE TRAIN?

This is my shout to me.  Did you train today?  Did I prepare myself for the hits I would take today?  I know I did not.

I guarantee you that the 5 minutes I read the bible and the little bit of time I spent in prayer will be inadequate for my day today.  And this was a good day.

I guarantee something else, when porn splashes across my computer screen it will be too late to start thinking about scripture that I should be reading.

That’s why Paul admonishes us to “put on the full armor of God.”  Our worship and devotion, our service and sacrifice can win this war for our lives but we need to start before the battle is joined.  Our stamina, our ability to stand will decrease if we only use it in our struggles.  And make no mistake, Satan would rather deal with a couch potato than a Navy Seal Christian.

And on that, I will leave you for today.  I’ve got some training to do.

The War

Worship is an act of war.  It is an offensive weapon and a defensive shield.  It is our shout from the battlements that taunts our enemy as well as the cheer that arises in the midst of our battles.  It is not about entertainment or warm fuzzies.  True worship will always ellicit a response from our King, from our brothers and sisters, and from our foes.

So why do we think it should always feel good?  Why do we consider it an option to whether I worship or not?  This is akin to standing on the battle field, letting our weapon hang by our side and hoping that no one will shoot at us.  We further hope that by not fighting, not picking a side in the melee, that we will somehow feel better and more equipped to fight another day.  For those who have never been to war and need some clarification, taking this stance only assures that you will not survive to SEE another day.

Understand that I hear you.  “I am wounded.  I am hurt.  I am tired.  I can’t do it anymore.”  All cries familiar to the war.  “I can’t see.  I have no more ammunition.  I am scared.  I am dying.”  All have been heard many times, along with the unarticulated, guttural screams of fear and pain.  But that is where deeper consideration of the heart of the enemy comes into play.   Because you are wounded, will he cease shooting at you?  Because you are hurt, will the demons give you a break.  Because you are tired, will your flesh give you strength to rise again?  No, no, no!!!!

In a battle, there are no breaks.  When the bullets fly, you cannot rest.  When you are wounded, beat up, tired, discouraged, there are no other options than to keep on fighting.

And all the while, you will hear Satan, the accuser, shouting in your head, “You CAN’T win!”  But, my brothers, my sisters, he is wrong.  Fight and you will see the truth that, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)”  And I don’t mean, John didn’t mean, a little greater.  The God who has taken up residence inside of me, inside of you, is greater by far than anything, anything that can come against you.

So pick up your sword soldier.  Lift up your shield of faith.  Believe in the one who lives inside of you and fight.  Fight for your church, your friends and neighbors.  Fight for your family!  Fight for your God.