Guess Who Wins?

20 September 2021

Praying before going to sleep, I asked Father God, “What’s going on in the world now, Lord?” His answer was fairly long.

Two types of supernatural warfare are going on, he said. The enemy is stepping up his attempts to destroy God’s most precious creation, mankind.

As a multitude of images rolled through my inner vision, the Holy Spirit repeated at intervals, “Guess who wins?”

So what should we be doing about all this, I asked him? Jesus is your model, your example, he said. Ask Him what he wants prayed, pray that. Use your delegated authority: Ask Him what he wants commanded, declared and decreed; command, declare and decree that. If you aren’t sure, pray the Word until you are sure. Stay alert. Listen for His voice. Pray, command / decree / declare, praise, worship, and thank Him. Repeat.

The conversation continued… One type of spiritual attack negatively, insidiously affects the spirits / minds / emotions / beliefs / attitudes / characters / will of human beings around the globe, leading to destructive behavior.

The weapon? Words. Suggestions, accusations, lies purporting to be facts. Words spoken by others, in person or in the media — or whispered in your ear by evil spirits, disguised as your own thoughts.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

The result? Exaggerated negative effects on the personality. Some negative characteristics are present simply by being born with a sin nature, into a sinful world. But they are becoming increasingly noticeable these days.

  • hunger for power is mankind’s initial and probably greatest temptation since the Garden of Eden. This is how Satan tempted Adam and Eve, how he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. You can be like God! he said. You can have it all! (see Genesis 3:5, Luke 4:7)
  • greed, double-dealing, deception, deceit
  • false beliefs, false worship, self-delusion
  • pride, arrogance, “holier-than-thou”
  • selfishness, self-centeredness
  • impatience, short-temper, tantrums
  • resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness
  • anger, rage, revenge
  • distractedness, doubt, misgivings, mistrust
  • fear, anxiety, worry, paranoia
  • depression, hopelessness, despair

Even without being supernaturally escalated, those can and do result in distrust and disunity, the breakup of families, friendships, communities, businesses small and large, governmental bodies from school boards to legislatures. Disagreements escalate to arguments, fights, plans, plots, conspiracies, power-grabbing and power-protecting behavior.

Some lead to murder. Others result in suicide.

Occurring with greater frequency and intensity in every sphere of human activity are supernatural attacks on the economy, social media, government, justice system, politics, judiciary, religion, the military, law enforcement, primary and secondary education, publishing, entertainment, communication, medicine, research, manufacturing, agribusiness, construction, small businesses, and many large corporations, including big oil. A special target seems to be families.

Conflicts have been springing up between nations, prejudices between ethnic groups, cultures, ages, and genders at an increasing frequency in recent months and years.

Even in Christian circles this type of spiritual warfare is escalating.

Churches can be split because the true – demonic – source of internal conflict goes unidentified and unaddressed. Non-profit organizations. Charities. Missionary groups. Ministries. Entire denominations.

The other type of supernatural attack disastrously affects our habitat.

Our natural world of mountains, oceans, flat-lands, skies, space, and everywhere in between is under attack also, causing the loss of human life on a small or massive scale. “Accidental” breakdowns of national and international power grids, plus satellite communication systems could be included here.

  • earthquakes, earth cracks / fissures, massive mud slides, sink holes
  • hurricanes, tornadoes, sand storms, straight line storms
  • ocean warming, volcano eruptions, floods, tsunamis
  • wildfires, crop failures including timber land, poverty, famine
  • infrastructure collapses of dams, high rise buildings, highways, bridges
  • supernatural weather, rain, hail, ice, extreme cold or extreme heat
  • disease, natural or man-made, pestilence
  • solar storms causing space-based communication and navigation disturbances

There are so many areas of supernatural conflict on and around planet earth! You can probably think of some not included in these lists.

But God’s army, his supernatural angelic warriors have joined this global battle against the enemy’s forces. Great turmoil in the spirit world is being felt by many believers these days; we are being called to prayer, continual, consistent, persevering prayer. Intercession.

As a multitude of images rolled through my inner vision during this long conversation, the Holy Spirit repeated to me at intervals,

“Guess who wins?”

Collateral damage is a problem in any war and this one is no different. Many “innocent people” are caught up in this global conflict; many will die. If they have not committed their lives to Christ, they will be lost forever. Some may be our own friends and relatives.

So, what should we do, what can we do about all this?

Intercessors are co-laborers with Christ. Jesus is the primary prayer warrior. He plainly said that he only did and said what his Father did and said. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he made good use of all the spiritual gifts. (Discerning of spirits is an excellent one for us to covet!)

He was constantly watchful, alert, on guard, and listening for Father’s voice. So must we be. He is our model, our example, our leader, manager, guide, instructor, all of that.

Ask Him what he wants prayed; pray that.

Use your delegated authority. Ask Him what he wants commanded, declared and decreed; command, declare and decree that.

If you aren’t sure, pray in the Spirit. Pray the Word until you are sure. God’s word, his promises, his declarations are your own weapons of defense and offense. Read, study, meditate, memorize scripture.

Above all, stay alert. Listen for God’s voice. Pray, command / decree / declare, praise, worship, and thank Him. Repeat.

What was in the wilderness?

Matthew 4 and Luke 4 describe the temptation of Jesus in the Judean desert. Most of my life I had a mental image of that desert as being mostly sand dunes, rocks and lizards. One day, out of curiosity I decided to check out that wilderness, where it was, what was in it, what it was like at that time.

I wondered, what was there out there that could tempt Jesus? During the 40 days before Satan showed up, that is. Here’s some of what I learned:

East and south of Jerusalem, it’s one of the smallest deserts in the world, much of it lying adjacent and west of the Dead Sea. Craggy and rough, it’s hilly and mountainous with steep cliffs and deep ravines. It was difficult but not impossible to traverse on the well-used paths and trails that criss-crossed the area.

There are streams and many wadis, some containing pools of water in shaded areas; and also beautiful oases. The most famous oasis in the Judean Desert is in Ein Gedi near the northern part of the Dead Sea, called David’s Waterfall.

There are also many fruit trees and other vegetation (see the section on trees below).

Sparsely inhabited but not empty, the desert contained several small villages on its edges. Bethlehem was one, a place where many of Jesus’ relatives lived.

Bedouin encampments the size of small towns (the Bedouin were and still are very hospitable people to visitors) plus camels, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Leopards and other wild animals also inhabited the area, although leopards are scarce today.

Herodium today seen from the side.

The spectacular Herod’s Palace (Herodium) south of Jerusalem may contain his burial site (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodium and http://allaboutjerusalem.com/attraction/herodion-national-park).

This palace complex was atop an artificial hill built by Herod the Great, the site of several archeological digs through recent years. After his death this opulent summer “resort” was used by many Roman officials.

Also in the desert is the fortress of Masada which overlooks the Dead Sea, captured and built up by Herod the Great as a military base. Both Herodium and Masada were occupied by Roman officials and solders who regularly traveled to and from those sites. Both are Israeli National Parks and popular tourist attractions today.

Many fruit or nut trees occupy wadis and oases, including date palms, pistachios, wild figs, carob and acacia:

Carob / Locust trees bear fruit that is edible green or dried; the dried fruit is used in candy and other foods as a substitute for chocolate. The sweet, soft flesh of the green fruit is called “honey.”

Carob and acacia (below) are legumes, members of the pea and bean family.

Acacia is a “rain tree,” so-called because its leaves fold together in rain or high humidity. Edible and primarily used as animal fodder, it provides helpful gum and has many medical applications also. The Tabernacle and Ark were made of acacia wood.

Considering everything there was for him to see and do in that wilderness, what was Jesus tempted with?

Food, people, animals, a magnificent natural environment and impressive man-made structures — a better question might be, what wasn’t Jesus tempted with?

Anything and everything that human beings today are tempted with, including distractions, tempted Jesus in that desert. Think he doesn’t understand your situation? He does.

I Cor. 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)

And Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

How to Pray Less, Succeed More: Praying the Word of God.

How important are words to God? How important is his own word, to God?

According to John14:26, the Holy Spirit will bring back to our remembrance the words that Jesus told us. He’s our “Reminder-in-Chief” of God’s word, and he does it in several ways:

By our reading, studying and meditating on the scriptures for ourselves (the Holy Spirit can’t remind us of something we didn’t know in the first place); by hearing teachings and sermons of people like pastors and Bible teachers; and even by the conversation of Christian friends, our mentors whether they consider themselves as that or not.

Here are some reminders, scriptures dealing with our use of words. We all use words in casual conversations, as well as in our thoughts:

  • Proverbs 6:2 – “Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.” (KJV)
  • Proverbs 18:21 – “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”
  • Proverbs 21:23 – “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
  • James 3:19 – “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
  • Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Since you are a hearer of your own words, they should be ministering (delivering) grace to you yourself, as well as anybody else. Even in your private thoughts, you’re hearing words.

So what kind of words might you be hearing from your own self? Words of confident, relaxed faith? Or words of frustration, irritation, annoyance, impatience, anxiety, worry, doubt, anger, fear? Pain or disappointment?

It’s a common temptation to let our words contain stuff that doesn’t minister grace to anyone, including ourselves. Even the words we may use in prayer. The temptation is to pray in exasperation, desperation, frustration, and not in faith.

Then too, did you ever begin to pray but then get distracted? Distraction is another common temptation, losing focus, the mind wandering to family situations or work problems.

Trials and temptations – do they affect prayer?

Yes, they do. Of course they do. But there’s an excellent example of coming out ahead despite them – our primary example, Jesus.

Matthew Chapter 4 and Luke Chapter 4 describe the temptation of Jesus in the Judean wilderness, after he received the Holy Spirit. We tend to think about the desert as being empty, and that idea limits our ideas of the temptations Jesus faced. But he was tempted in every single way that we are, and that temptation started in the desert.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15, NASB)

Let’s think about that a bit. What exactly was Jesus tempted with, during those 40 days before Satan began “sweet-talking” him? Where was that wilderness, what was in it, what it was like at that time? Here’s some interesting information about it:

East and south of Jerusalem, the Judean Wilderness is one of the smallest deserts in the world, much of it lying adjacent and west of the Dead Sea. It was and is craggy and rough, hilly and mountainous with steep cliffs and deep ravines, difficult but not impossible to traverse on well-used trails criss-crossing the area. Takes concentration.

There were occasional streams and many wadis, some pools of water in shaded areas and oases with trees and other vegetation.

Sparsely inhabited, it contained small villages on its edges (Bethlehem was one of those), as well as Bedouin encampments, camels, sheep and goats, leopards and other wild creatures. People! Company! Interesting conversations! Temptations? Perhaps.

Then there was the spectacular and huge Herod’s Palace (Herodium)* south of Jerusalem, which may contain his burial site. It has been the site of an intermittent archeological dig over the years. In the days of Jesus’s wilderness temptation, this was a busy place with many people coming and going, the Roman guards who served Herod, as well as Herod and his entourage.

Masada is also there, overlooking the Dead Sea. It was captured and built up by Herod as a military fortress. More Roman guards came and went; lots of people to see.

(Both of these historical sites are Israeli National Parks today, popular tourist attractions.)

There were quite a few trees in the Judean Desert; they existed then and still do today, such as these:

The Carob / Locust tree (above left). It’s fruit is edible whether green or dried, and is frequently used as a chocolate substitute. The Acacia is also called the Rain tree (above right) because its leaves fold together in rain or high humidity. It’s used for animal fodder, gum, and has many medical uses.

Also located in the desert were date palms, pistachio trees, and wild figs. Fasting would definitely have been a temptation for Jesus; there was plenty of food and water available.

Physical fatigue, loneliness sometimes, and a great many distractions including people and scenery. There were lots of things to do, lots of things to see – and lots of things to guard against, including wild animals.

Not to mention the enemy, who used words to tempt Jesus to compromise, as he does to tempt believers today. But Jesus knew the importance and power of the scriptures, and he made excellent use of them. So can we. So must we, if we’re going to Pray Less and Succeed More.

* For more information about Herodium,, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodium and http://allaboutjerusalem.com/attraction/herodion-national-park.

Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

Temptation

Excerpt from The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee

The following paragraphs are from the chapter titled “The Path of Progress: Walking in the Spirit:”

The object of temptation is always to get us to do something. During the first three months of the Japanese war in China we lost a great many tanks, and so were unable to deal with the Japanese armor, until the following scheme was devised.

A single shot would be fired at a Japanese tank by one of our snipers in ambush. After a considerable lapse of time the first shot would be followed by a second; then, after a further silence, by another shot; until the tank driver, eager to locate the source of the disturbance, would pop his head out to look around. The next shot, carefully aimed, would put an end to him.

As long as he remained under cover he was perfectly safe. The whole scheme was devised to bring him out into the open. In just the same way, Satan’s temptations are not designed primarily to make us do something particularly sinful, but merely to cause us to act in our energy; and as soon as we step out of our hiding place to do something on that basis, he has gained the victory over us.

But if we do not move, if we do not come out of the cover of Christ into the realm of the flesh, then he cannot get us.

A great risk

He risked a great deal coming to the earth as a human, Jesus. One-third of the Godhead was at risk. Jesus, God the Son, was “tempted in all points like we are.” He was tempted to quit.

He could have avoided execution. He could have walked away. Even at the point of death he could have called angels to rescue him, or revive him.

Jesus knew who he was. He had always existed. He knew about heaven, about himself and his mission. He had the authority and the ability to go through with it, or not.

The greatest punishment wasn’t physical, emotional or mental. How long is a few hours compared to millions of years? Jesus had seen other men crucified; the Romans were known for it and they were good at it.

No, the split of the Godhead was his greatest test. That critical, essential division away from the Father, becoming guilty, black with sin, an elementally flawed human – that was the greatest punishment possible – and the moment of God’s greatest risk. Jesus could say no.

Oh, surely God knew how it would all turn out in the end. It was all pre-planned, pre-determined, I’ve heard people say, so there really wasn’t any question about the outcome, was there?

If that was true, Jesus faced no real temptation. But he did. And the risk was very real.

God the Father was putting a great deal at risk, he himself, personally. Had Jesus chosen to abandon his mission, his allegiance would be changed.

If he chose to change his mind, who would he then become? Another rebel? Would he draw followers away from Father God, or followers away from Satan?

Or would he become a follower of Satan himself? The deceiver’s abilities were no doubt working in full force, right up to the end. “Save yourself. I’ll give you the earth and all its kingdoms…”

Had Jesus failed, what would that mean for the survival of creation? Spiritual warfare has always been for control of God’s creation, after all. Without a permanent solution for sin, human beings couldn’t be inhabited by God the Holy Spirit.

They couldn’t be enabled to enjoy the Father’s fellowship, to learn, invent, explore the vast reaches of time and space.

The warfare raging between God and Satan would become more vicious and widespread, with no guaranteed survival of the creation that humanity is part of.

As a human being Jesus was excruciatingly, painfully tempted to abandon his mission.  He couldn’t have completed it in any other form, but God risked so much in sending him on it!

That fact, more than anything else I’ve ever contemplated, graphically demonstrates  God the Father’s love towards his children; towards me.