The Lord’s army

How many times don’t we hear Christians say that they are under attack or that they have been under attack? I used to wonder what they were talking about because I didn’t think I experienced any spiritual attacks. Until the penny dropped and I realised what is was all about. The Bible tells us that we are in a spiritual battle. And by ‘we’ I mean believers.

Ephesians 6:10-13, Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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. 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.

Here it is clear that there is a spiritual battle and that believers are the target. Satan and his demonic forces are the enemy.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6, 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, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Here we are given a hint as to the nature of the battle. It speaks about thoughts. One part of the battle is in our thought life. The demonic forces are very good at planting thoughts in our minds. Negative thoughts, misleading thoughts, deceptive thoughts. We have to learn to identify these thoughts for what they are and reject them as fast as they appear. We have to renew our thinking as it says in Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

This all takes place in our minds and we have an internal battle which is ongoing which we have to overcome.

But what about when people attack your character?

Matthew 10:22, And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

John 15:18,  If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

I remember reading these verses and thinking that they were more specifically for people like missionaries who were being persecuted, or people in communist countries who were arrested if they preached or went to church. In the meantime I have discovered that this isn’t the case. If you are a believer, you are the target. The enemy doesn’t cross reference or leave footnotes as evidence of the reason you are being attacked. There can be people who will actually make reference to the fact that you are a Christian and how the choices you make aren’t what the world would consider good sense. And they will be mean about it. This is easy to recognise and accept. You could even be a little smug about it because it feels like persecution as you understand it. But at other times people will say that rudest, nastiest things to you which you never saw coming. They might attack your character or your morals or your children. In fact anything that is going to hurt you. You are left reeling and you don’t understand where it came from. This is an attack from the devil. He sees your weak points and he targets them. We know that he plants thoughts, so all he has to do is plant a thought in the right mind. This person is not going to come out and tell you that they are being hateful because you are a Christian, they might not even know that you are. The result is that you feel mortally wounded and crushed. Please realise that this is just another one of the devil’s tricks and don’t fall for it. Except for you feeling really awful, there is now animosity between you and whoever has been used as the instrument of destruction. That is why Matthew 5:44, says,  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

Just remember that like in a regular army the best soldiers are sent to the front to be in the toughest battles. If you feel like you are under attack all the time take heart, God loves you!

Roses and toilet paper

Someone gave me a beautiful bunch of roses a week or so ago. Yesterday I took the last rose out of the vase. It was the only one that hadn’t wilted altogether yet and I had dried all the other rose petals as they started to wilt. I clipped the stem short and placed this rose inside a toilet roll that was standing on my desk. I looked at it and it really just seemed so out of place. A toilet roll is not the proper receptacle for a beautiful rose. Yet it doesn’t seem to worry the rose too much. It is still the same pink with darker red around the edges and it isn’t complaining at all.What if you are displaced? What if you land up somewhere, by whatever circumstances, that you never thought you would be? What if you became homeless, or had to go and live in an informal settlement without amenities? What if you didn’t know where your next meal would come from? What if everyone you know turned against you and abandoned you? It might sound far-fetched but strange things happen all the time. Nothing is impossible. I think of people in war torn countries who, through no fault of their own get put into refugee camps or whatever these camps are called. Sometimes situations become so bad during wars that people are willing to go anywhere in order to escape terror and persecution.Saul of Tarsus was born in approximately AD 5 in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia (in modern-day Turkey). He was born to Jewish parents who possessed Roman citizenship, a coveted privilege that their son would also possess. In about AD 10, Saul’s family moved to Jerusalem. Sometime between AD 15—20 Saul began his studies of the Hebrew Scriptures in the city of Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel. It was under Gamaliel that Saul would begin an in-depth study of the Law with the famous rabbi.From Acts 9 to Acts 19 we find the times that Paul was persecuted. These are some of the cases that were documented:Jews plot to kill PaulPaul and Barnabas being driven out of Antioch of Pisidia.Jews and Gentiles attempt unsuccessfully to stone Paul and BarnabasJews stone Paul nearly to deathPaul and Silas are flogged and imprisoned by Gentiles in Philippi.Paul and others are chased out of successive towns by JewsPaul is made to appear before the Roman proconsul Gallop in Achaia, who dismisses the case as an internal dispute.Worshippers of Artemis in Ephesus riot against Paul and his companions, but they are not harmed.In his final journey to Rome, Paul is taken by Jews in Jerusalem to be killed, but is rescued by Roman soldiers who imprison him. He testifies before the Sanhedrin (22:30-23:11), and the governor Felix at Caesarea (24:1-27) before using his status as a Roman citizen (22:29) to have his case heard by the emperor.Even historians debate the exact date or manner in which Paul died, but it is almost universally accepted that he was martyred. Based on historical events of the day, it is likely that Paul was beheaded, possibly around the same time that Peter was crucified. All the disciples of Jesus died violent deaths, except John, who had been exiled to the island of Patmos for many years. This is where he had a vision of Jesus and wrote the book of Revelation. He was released and died as an old man.These good men were treated very badly. They were humiliated, tortured and imprisoned and even murdered for their faith. They landed up in places and circumstances they had never envisioned. Even though they went through hard times (and Paul is a shining example of this) they never complained or gave up on Jesus. They were like roses in toilet paper vases. They were the cream of the crop. The fathers of the faith and they were treated like dirt.Can we follow their example?

Bound in chains

I encountered a woman whose contractor friend had done some work for a relative of mine. The whole thing had an unsatisfactory ending. The work done was below par and the contractor was dismissed. This woman obviously didn’t know all the details but had information which was one-sided. When I greeted her she spewed hate and told me that I should be ashamed to greet her after what my relative had done to her friend. I was so shocked. I didn’t say a word. About 10 minutes before this incident I had heard the Holy Spirit say the following to me, “Just observe, don’t say a word.” I realized that it was meant for this situation.

I looked at the woman’s expression and wondered what she must be feeling like every day walking around with this hate inside of her. I prayed that God would forgive her and also reveal Himself to her. If she perseveres in this frame of mind she is going to get really sick.

Titus 3:3, For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, lining in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

The wonderful part of becoming a new person is that it is free. We are given the gift of salvation freely because God loves us while we are ungrateful, stinking, dirty wretches. He loves us even though we hate, lie, steal and cheat. While we are really, really bad and disobedient God loves us so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that we can have the chance to be redeemed.

People don’t easily believe the idea of getting something for nothing. They are used to paying their way and they know that everything has a price. People can’t see the logic behind someone loving them even though they have been really bad, and then giving them the chance to repent without payment. They think things like, “I have to be good first. I have to change my bad habits first. I have to stop drinking first,” then God will accept me. They can’t believe that God gave His son as the sacrifice, as the payment so that they will not pay a cent. There’s no cash on delivery, no catch.

All they have to do to receive complete freedom is to know that they are sinners and to accept Jesus as their Saviour so that they can be renewed inside and out and start living a brand new life.

This new life is what everyone craves. The freedom in knowing that someone else has our backs and we are actually commanded not to be concerned about our future. The freedom of knowing that every atrocious act is forgiven unconditionally and the knowledge that we have to forgive those who hurt us so that we can stay free. It sounds like a fairy tale. Like a happily ever after. It sounds like that and in a way it is. There is the assurance that whatever happens Jesus is with you. Day in and day out. There is also the other side of the coin that says we will go through hard times and we will be persecuted.

John 15:18 – 20, If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.

So, we aren’t going to have a fairy tale, bed-of-roses life, but we are going to be free from the cares that weigh down people who don’t know Jesus.

And we have been given the commission to spread the source of this freedom around the world. Our job is to present this freedom to people who have been bound in chains and kept in dark cells. We are the light and we are to bring the light of Jesus to others. No condemnation. Only Jesus.


I was trying to dust cat hair off my jacket when an elderly lady walked past and looked at me. I remarked that my cat was shedding and everything seemed to be covered in hair. She said to me that I was so fortunate to have a cat because she lived in a retirement home where pets aren’t encouraged. I thought about it and agreed that having a few hairs now and again is a small price to pay for the companionship that a cat brings. Everything comes at a price.
2 Samuel 24:24, But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burned offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
David had taken a census of the people when it did not please God for him to do so. So God gave David a choice between three punishments.
1. Three years of famine
2. Fleeing before his enemies for three months
3. Three days of pestilence in the land
David decided it would be better to be punished by God than by man and choose the three days of pestilence. Seven hundred thousand people died on the first day from Dan to Beersheba. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem, God stopped him.
Verse 16 and 17, “It is enough, now stay your hand.” And the Angel of the Lord was at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
Then the prophet Gad came to David and told him to build an altar on the threshing floor. The sacrifice that David made there stopped the sickness and the plague was stopped in its tracks.
What I learn from this is that David made a sacrifice and that the sacrifice cost him. If something doesn’t cost us anything, financially, emotionally or in any other form, it is not a sacrifice. The other thing that I see is that David got a breakthrough when he had made the sacrifice. Sometimes we go through a hard time and we decide to fast, so that we can get a breakthrough, but after a day we are hungry and nothing has happened, so we decide that fasting doesn’t work. We might start reading our Bibles and praying, but as soon as we start going through difficulties we stop because we think that God has forgotten all about us. Why should we read our bibles when it doesn’t make a difference anyway. Isn’t that what people say? I have heard it. We want to see the results immediately and we don’t want to sacrifice. Reading our bibles and praying daily is a sacrifice. We sacrifice the time we would have used watching television or surfing social media. Or we get up early and sacrifice our sleep. And when we have done that for a couple of months and nothing significant seems to be happening we throw in the towel and declare that this is a waste of time and we could be doing better things with our time.
Noah took 100 years to build the ark. Do we have that kind of resilience? Do we have the endurance to believe right up to the end even if we don’t see the results we think we ought to be seeing.
Romans chapter 11 tells of what people did by faith. It lists a whole lot of Old Testament heroes. But verse 39 and 40 says, And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
God promised Abraham that he would have as many descendants as the stars in the sky and never gave up his faith, even though he never even got to see his grandsons. Joseph kept believing and at the end of his life said that the Israelites would return home, and instructed that his bones be taken along. He never saw his homeland again. Moses never set foot in the promised land even though he led the Israelites all the way there. He never stopped believing. Look at what happened to Jesus’ apostles; all were martyred and died violent deaths, except John who was exiled on Patmos, and they never stopped praising God through all their persecution.
We have to start thinking about what is really important in our lives. What sacrifices do we need to make to please God. Note: I said to please God, not to win His love. He has always and will always love us unconditionally. We have to get our lives in order because time is running out.

Do the right thing

There’s been so much talk of corruption in the government over the last few years, and yesterday someone was talking about a local non-governmental organization where things were being done which were not according to the rules. Decisions were being made just to please people so that they wouldn’t take offense and leave the organization. The fact that these decisions did not comply with the constitution did not seem to bother most people. It doesn’t matter how small or informal a group is; if there are rules they have to be followed. I do understand that as people with feelings we sometimes can’t see the necessity of some rules, but unless we are going to challenge those rules officially with good motivation or alternative options, we need to follow them.

In the Old Testament God gave the Israelites the Law, which included the Ten Commandments. In that time people were expected to keep the commandments in their own strength using their will power. After the death of Jesus we received the Holy Spirit who gives us grace and the ability to be able to follow them more effectively. We are exceptionally privileged although we do not always see it that way.

What are we supposed to do when we see rules being broken and it affects us?

Ephesians 5:8-14, For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

First of all, we cannot be part of anything that is being done in the dark and in secret. These verses make it quite clear. They also say that we need to expose things that are being done that aren’t right. I think this is one of the most difficult things to do. If you know the people who are busy with corruption, what do you do? If they know it is you who exposed their deed they might shun you. Yes, they might, and I would advise you to pray about what you are going to do before you do it. Paul suffered persecution all through his ministry. He was the one who persecuted the Christians and when he became a Christian, he was persecuted. We can expect to be persecuted if we are followers of Jesus.

James 4:17,  Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Matthew 24:9, Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

Matthew 10:22, And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

All the apostles suffered persecution. Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome about 66AD during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down at his own request. He did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Andrew went to the Soviet Union (land of the man-eaters) and also Asia Minor, Turkey and Greece, where he is said to have been crucified. Thomas was most active in the area east of Syria and possibly as far east as India where ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. They claim he died there when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers. Philip is said to have had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul cruelly put him to death. Matthew ministered in Persia and Ethiopia and was stabbed to death. Bartholomew’s travels took him to India with Thomas, back to Armenia and, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the Gospel. James, the son of Alpheus, is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian, Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death. Simon ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god. Matthias replaced Judas and tradition says he went to Syria with Andrew and was burned to death. John was the lonely one to die a natural death of old age. An early Latin tradition has  him escaping unhurt after being cast into boiling oil at Rome. He was exiled to the island of Patmos when he is credited with having written the Book of Revelation. None of these apostles were called from the priesthood or the official clergy of Jesus’ day. They were ordinary people like you and me who loved Jesus. If they did the right thing without fearing human opinion, surely we can be expected to do the same.

To go to church or not to go to church?

I spent the day doing very little. I went to church, made a simple lunch and watched 2 movies on my laptop. Considering that I never watch television and hardly ever go to the actual movies, that’s something of a record. The movies I watched are God’s not dead 1 and 2. I realised how absolutely privileged I am to live in a place where there is very little official persecution. By official, I mean that people don’t get taken to court for speaking about Jesus. It’s something most of us take for granted. I remember the days when I was growing up how people who didn’t attend church were frowned upon. Things have changed a lot since then. There’s no more stigma attached to not going to church. It seems to have been watered down like a lot of other things. We have a huge traditional church right in the centre of our little town. It’s truly magnificent and has been declared a national monument. Unfortunately the attendance is very poor. The only time it is full is when there’s a funeral of someone who was well loved. A very sad state of affairs.
I also know quite a few people who don’t attend church, ever, but say that their affairs with God are in right standing. I find it hard to believe. By attending church I’m not even speaking of church in the traditional sense of the word. It can be a house church, cell group, fellowship group. I don’t think that any person all alone on their own can maintain a relationship with Jesus. No, let me rephrase that; I don’t think that any person who has a relationship with Jesus will want to be all alone on their own apart from other believers. How do I know? I tried it. I picked up some offence with the church I was attending and I stayed away for 18 months. I did not go to another church, I thought I would be fine on my own. Just me and Jesus, but I wasn’t. I didn’t stop believing and I didn’t stop reading my bible, I didn’t even stop witnessing, but I just didn’t have that same connection and joy that I normally would have had. It took another believer, who has since become a good friend, to make me see that I needed other believers in my life. And guess what? I went back to that same church where I had been offended and I went to the person who had been a problem to me and I asked for forgiveness. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but one of the most liberating.
Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” 2 Timothy 3:1- , “For understand this in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Verses 12-13, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
These are scary words, but they are true. Even though we are still relatively free of persecution, many people around the world are in danger of losing their lives for believing in Jesus. This is the time of choosing. Joel 3:14, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision!
Make your choice and stick by it. Matthew 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Make the right choice before it is too late. God doesn’t want under cover, just me and Jesus, Christians. He wants people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in.