Two Ships

If you were to embark upon a seafaring vessel, would you choose a boat of peace or turmoil? Whether we realize it or not, we each make a choice. As we navigate upon the waters of life, we encounter two ships. We can sail upon a wor-ship or a war ship.

Our vessel of peace is known as worship. The vessel of turmoil is a war ship. I realize I am taking liberties with words. However, I believe God has a message for us through this play on words.

A war ship is waiting at the docks of our lives. There are numerous seafaring battles to fight. In history, we read of many battles fought upon the waters. Ships sinking and the sailors drowning were (and still are) possibilities. As spiritual sailors, we are involved in spiritual warfare. I Peter 5:8-9 tells us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” Ephesians 6:12 NLT says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

This results in a violent voyage. However, we can be encouraged by II Chronicles 20:15. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” Psalm 34:19 says, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” In Ephesians 6:10, we are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

According to II Corinthians 4:8-9, we will encounter times when we are hard pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It is time for us to embark upon the wor-ship! Psalm 95:6 invites, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” Psalm 96:9 instructs us to, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth.” Psalm 105:1 encourages us to “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Throughout our lives, we will be onboard both ships at various times. Prayer includes praise and petitions. Our prayers will burst with praise when we are on a wor-ship. II Samuel 7:22 says, “How great You are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like You, and there is no God but You.” However, our prayers will include plenty of petitions when we are on a war ship. Romans 5:20 says that where sin increased, grace increased all the more. That describes a spiritual battle. Prayer is asking God to speak to the chaos of our lives. Prayer fights both outward and inward forces. The fervency of prayer will overcome the ferociousness of the enemy.

We will encounter violent waves of a vicious enemy. Ultimately, however, we will ride upon God’s victorious waves. There will be a tsunami of triumph. I encourage you to read Romans 8:31-39. I highlight a few verses. Verse 31-32 asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?” Verse 35 asks another question. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Verses 37-39 answers, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I John 5:4 NLT declares, “For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.”

With a renewed fervency of prayer, we will defeat the enemy’s ferociousness. I believe a big wave of revival will soon crash upon our nation. Living water will flow across our land. Isaiah 44:3 promises, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

We are spiritual sailors upon the seafaring vessels of wor-ship and war ships. Using another another play on words, let me ask a question. Are we embarking upon a seafaring or see-faring vessel? Do we have spiritual eyes with which to see what is happening in the heavenlies? Paul says in Ephesians 1:18, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people.”

When the war ship tries to steer you into tumultuous turmoil, claim Psalm 91. I encourage you to proclaim the complete Psalm but I quote verses 2 and 3. I will say to the LORD, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly plague.” The captain of wor-ship is waiting for your arrival. Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

I suggest that wor-ship is the best place to be when we encounter war ships. The best wor-ship is also a war ship because worship is a form of spiritual warfare. Philippians 2:10-11 says, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is a picture of the final victory of all worldly battles. There will be no more turbulent seas. In Revelation 4, we find a description of the Throne of Heaven. Verse 6 says, “in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Around this sea are four living creatures who worship God saying in verse 10,Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

In closing, I include a few lines from two current worship songs. The first is Battle Belongs by Paul Wickham. The song begins, “When all I see is the battle You see my victory.” I also like the lyrics, “So when I fight, I’ll fight on my knees with my hands lifted high. Oh God the battle belongs to You.”

The other song is Defender written by Bethel Music vocalist Steffany Gretzinger and recorded by Francesca Battistelli. I highlight the following portion. “You go before I know that You’ve even gone to win my war. Your love becomes my greatest defense. It leads me from the dry wilderness. And all I did was praise. All I did was worship. All I did was bow down, oh All I did was stay still.”

Welcome aboard to the wor-ship!

Build Your Own Sword

Most of us are familiar with the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. Some of us may even put on this armor for spiritual protection as we begin our days. But, do we really use it? Are we aware that we are daily involved in spiritual warfare?

We are exhorted in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make 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 world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Today, I want to highlight one specific piece of our spiritual armor. Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

I recently listened to an online message by Ron Zondervan. He challenged his listeners to build their own spiritual swords. We can gain some insight for how to build a spiritual sword by looking at how military swords were made in the past.

Military swords were crafted uniquely for each sword bearer. A different size, shape and weight for each weapon. Steel forged with an anvil and hammer. Grinding, hammering and heating changed a piece of metal into a weapon. Heat applied to the blade was critical. The craftsman started applying heat at a low temperature and then gradually increased it. Finally, the blade was sharpened with a whetstone. A coarse grit stone was first used. Gradually, finer grit stones were used to achieve the sharpest blade.

The steel for our spiritual swords comes from the Bible. However, we must open the Bible and learn His promises if scripture to be our effective weapon. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” All verses have the potential of becoming material for a spiritual sword. However, each of us will craft a sword that is usable for our own battles. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The Holy Spirit is the fire applied to the sword we are constructing. In Acts 2:3-4, the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of fire at Pentecost. Today, the Holy Spirit is our Helper who gives us understanding of the scriptures we use to build our spiritual swords. The Holy Spirit knows just how much “fire” to apply for the best spiritual sword. We must be careful to heed I Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Finally, our spiritual sword needs sharpening with a whetstone. Jesus is our stone.
I Peter 2:4 describes Jesus as the living stone who is precious in God’s sight. Verses 6-8 continue, “For it stands in Scripture: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ To you who believe, then, this stone is precious….” Ephesians 2:20 emphasizes, “Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”

In summary, the sword that Jon Zondervan encourages us to build is a sword composed of scriptures found in God’s Word, refined by the Holy Spirit and sharpened by Jesus Christ. The result is a powerful spiritual sword!

II Corinthians 10:3-6 reminds us, “For though we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The sword of God’s Word is a sword of truth we can pull out whenever needed. Jesus declares in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The truth reminds us who we are and the power of God that is working with us and for us. It reminds us that we are victorious. Truth reminds us that the devil is defeated.

As we take a closer look at Ephesians 6:14-17, we will notice that the sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon. It is all we need. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This special two edged sword penetrates and implants God’s Word into our souls. It also pierces and cuts out what is not of the Lord.

So, how do we wield this spiritual sword? We skillfully handle our sword through praise, proclamation and prayer.

There is power in praise. It is good for us to fulfill Psalm 103:1. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. According to Psalm 22:3, the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Join me in declaring Psalm 71:14, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.”

God’s Word is alive and needs to be proclaimed. Isaiah 45:21 says, “Declare what is to be, present it– there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me.” Matthew 10:27 tells us, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” The words we speak out loud are powerful. Our words change us and our circumstances.

I Thessalonians 5:17 simply says, “Pray continually.” Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” James 6:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Specific scriptures are effective prayers. Praying God’s Word back to Him is a powerful weapon against the forces of evil that surround and attack us.

In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus used the Word as His sword when fighting spiritual battles. Three times (verses 4, 7 and 10) satan tempted Jesus and each time Jesus fought back with a specific scripture. Jesus knew the scriptures well. His spiritual sword was sharp.

My Reader, have you built your spiritual sword? Philippians 2:10-11 says, “Be ready to speak to the enemy. Then be ready to skillfully handle your sword as you fight the enemy.” I encourage you to take time to study God’s Word. Scripture is “God-facts” – not just stories. God’s Word is a sword to pull out when you are tempted or discouraged. Find specific verses that will help you overcome such hindrances as fear, doubt, worry. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the appropriate verses. Then speak these words with the authority of the name of Jesus.

God’s Garden of Gladiolas

I spent the afternoon in a garden of gladiolas. A floral array that created a botanical masterpiece. Gladiolas are perennial plants known for their tall floral spikes and large, colorful blooms. Each blossom is composed of multiple flowerettes creating one flower that bursts forth from a sturdy green stalk. I was enthralled by the beauty surrounding me. I felt like I was surrounded by God’s presence portrayed through posies. In my spirit, I sensed multiple multicolored messages.

Botanically, gladiolus originates from a Latin term meaning sword. This flower is sometimes called the sword lily. It is described as a plant with unbranched stems having several narrow, sword-shaped longitudinal grooved leaves enclosed in a sheath. From within these green leaves, funnel-shaped irregular flowers emerge on slender stalks. I thought about the sword of the Spirit that is part of God’s armor. Ephesians 6:17 says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The botanical spires inspired me. The gladioli, commonly known as glads, seemed to echo Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

Each flower reminded me of the steeple of an old church. Each blossom pointed to God in heaven. I felt like I was in a cathedral of living stained glass windows. So many flowers! So many colors! Ruby red – coral – pink – yellow – white – lavender – deep purple.

The stalks talked to me of God’s goodness. Psalm 25:8 declares, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.” Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” God is good!

Some gladioli were standing up straight declaring the glory of God. I Chronicles 16:24 says, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” Other floral stems appeared to bend lowly in humility. Psalm 95:6 invites, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Through the magnificent beauty of the flowers, I experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 33:17. Your eyes will see the king in His beauty and view a land that stretches afar. Psalm 90:17 NKJV says, “Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us.” I also was aware of a sweet perfume in the air. It was the fragrance of the flowers! In Ephesians 5:1-2 we are encouraged to, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.” II Corinthians 2:15 NIV says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” The New King James version translates it, “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ.”

Each cluster of blossoms appeared to symbolize a choir of trumpets. I sensed that the gladioli, or trumpets, were declaring a chorus of triumph. Psalm 98:6 NLT says, “With trumpets and the sound of the ram’s horn, make a joyful symphony before the LORD, the King!” A cacophony of praise was being declared by the colorful trumpets. God’s greatness and grandeur was being portrayed and proclaimed. Psalm 47:1 NKJV says, “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!”

Throughout the afternoon, I was encircled by a floral hedge. Psalm 135:9 NKJV says, “You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” I was captivated by more than splashes of color. My spirit was communing with the God of all creation. Revelation 4:11 declares, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they were created and have their being.”

Worrier or Warrior

I look at the situations surrounding our personal lives, our nation and our world. I see the COVID-19 pandemic threatening not only our physical health but also our emotional health. I see political motives threatening the accuracy of our upcoming elections. I see organized groups with hidden agendas endangering our democracy and freedom. As an American citizen, I mention what I see happening in our nation. However, I know similar, and even worse, situations exist around the world.

What am I going to do about what I observe? Am I going to focus on these happenings or am I going to focus upon God? There are big problems, but God is bigger! My goal is not to be a persistent worrier but to be a prayer warrior.

I Peter 5:7 NLT instructs us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.Our human instinct may be to worry. However, our spiritual responsibility is to be a warrior. Luke 21:36 NLT says, “Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.

Worry is a natural tendency. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33-34, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Jesus also says in John 14:1, Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.

Jesus asks in Luke 12:25, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” The answer is no one! God does not want us to be persistent worriers. He equips us to be prayer warriors.

II Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV tells us, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.The turmoil of our world is real but it should not control us.

Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.This verse defines the two sides of the spiritual battles we face. Jesus is the commander of one side of the spiritual battle while satan influences the opposing force. We know God will be victorious, but meanwhile, we engage in spiritual warfare.

When we go into the spiritual war room to pray, we must be clothed with the armor God provides His warriors. Ephesians 6:11-17 describes our spiritual armor. 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. Notice that Paul urges us to put on the full armor of God – not just 1 or 2 pieces. As intercessors, we need full protection!

Paul continues to say in Ephesians 6:18 NLT, Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is the battle plan that achieves victory over worry.

What Paul shared with the Romans is relevant for us today. I want to highlight a few verses from Romans 8. In verse 15, Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery that returns you to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father.’” Fear leads to worry. Paul points out that as believers in Christ, we are freed from fear. So, no need to worry. Paul continues in verse 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Yes, we are encountering sufferings today. But, according to verse 26, the Holy Spirit helps us pray while we are in troublesome times. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words.” Paul asks in verse 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” He answers in verses 37-39. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love the fact that as prayer warriors we are more than conquerors!

Apostle Gabriel Cross of Pure Glory International Ministries  shared a post entitled “Conquering Warrior.” He wrote the following.It doesn’t matter what happens to you, what matters is what you do with it. Are you going to bow and succumb TO THE ENEMY’S LIES OF WHO YOU ARE NOT…or are you going to use it as motivation to worship YAHWEH and CONQUER like the WARRIOR THAT YOU ARE?”

My Reader, are you going to be a worrier? Or, are you going to be a warrior who worships and prays?

I Thessalonians 5:17 is a powerful challenge. Various translations give us the same command with different words. Pray without ceasing. Never stop praying. Pray continually. May this verse be a life goal for us as prayer warriors.

May Romans 12:12 NLT be the spiritual strategy for our personal lives, our nation and our world. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.



Freedom!

We often engage in war to gain freedom.

Freedom was the goal of the American Revolutionary War. Freedom is the reason for our celebration on July 4th. We look back and remember the battles fought for America’s freedom in 1776. Today, we value the freedom experienced by Americans because of these historical battles.

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. The document declared the 13 American colonies’ freedom from Great Britain. The actual dates for the American Revolutionary War are April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783. However, the British actually surrendered in Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. Within this time frame, there were many battles fought and countless lives lost. Freedom did not come quickly in 1776. Freedom was costly.

Freedom is our goal in the Medical War of 2020. Freedom from the COVID-19 disease is the ultimate goal. Freedom from the required quarantine and social distancing is the immediate goal we would like to achieve.

The exact dates of this war are unknown. We believe it started early this year. It has not yet ended. Battles have been fought and lives have been lost. Attacks have lessened in some areas but have increased in others. Freedom continues to be costly.

Freedom is the goal of spiritual wars. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. Galatians 5:1 declares, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Spiritual freedom is costly. It cost Jesus His life.

Although we may not physically see spiritual warfare, battles are taking place. We may not always be aware of the fighting. However, warfare is occurring in the spirit realm. I Peter 5:8 warns, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Ephesians 6:12 says, “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.

The starting date of the war against satan began in the garden of Eden. Spiritual warfare will only end when Christ returns. Revelation 21:4 declares, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.Currently, the enemy is always trying to attack. However, we know we will achieve victory. In Isaiah 54:17, the Lord declares, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.II Thessalonians 3:3 says, “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That sounds like war! However, we must remember that we fight spiritually in a unique way. Zechariah 4:6 reveals how these battles are fought and won.Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.

II Corinthians 10:4-5 gives the following description. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

We are given specific uniforms to wear while engaged in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:11-17 says, ““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.”

In Romans 8:37 we have a wonderful promise. In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Therefore, we can declare I Corinthians 15:57. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Whatever the nature of warfare, the goal is freedom. Military wars are fought with physical weapons and artillery. Medical wars are fought with proper hand washing and social distancing. Spiritual wars are fought with spiritual weaponry.

As we celebrate the Independence of the United States of America, let us be thankful for freedom. Remember, freedom comes in various forms. However, freedom is not free. It is always costly.