ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

Each waking day we are in a battle. The battle is against the world, satan and our own flesh. The great majority of the world fall in defeat dying to a death they do not understand.

One of my favorite hymns is Onward Christian Soldiers. I never truly understood it until I put it together with the verses found in Ephesians 6:10-17. As Christians if we stand strong in our faith we have already won the victory. In WWII it was symbolic of capturing Berlin and papers proclaimed in their headlines ‘Victory in Europe’. For Christians it is our taking captive the knowledge of God and the headline reads ‘Salvation’.

To win this fight in faith each day we put on the Armor of God. Each day we fight not with sword but with: truth, righteousness, the Good News, trust, salvation, the Spirit and prayer. The spiritual forces of evil cannot withstand this weaponry. We see these battles fought daily when truth destroys lies, the Bible continues to be referenced where evil flourishes or when prayer heals. This and so much more.

Paul charged Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18 to “wage the good war”. Many try to do this using the mind alone. That will have its conquest but overwhelming victory comes when the heart and Spirit are a part of the battle plan. Now it is time for us to go into battle. ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Spiritual weapons are necessary as we wage war against the world, the devil and our own flesh.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:10-17 “the armor of God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord clothe me with Your armor.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the smaller battle fronts we face each day that the world, satan and our flesh present us?
  2. How do we see the spiritual forces of evil responding to the weapons of God in today’s world?
  3. How do faith, the Holy Spirit and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) give us victory?
  4. Do you have a battle plan for life?

THE TRANSFIGURATION

One of the key events in the life of Christ during his time with us on earth was his transfiguration. The change in appearance was in the presence of his elect of the elect: Peter, James and brother John (Sons of Thunder). Also on the Mount of Transfiguration were Moses who had died 1500 years earlier and Elijah who had been gone 900 years. It is believed this event occurred on Mt. Herman for various reasons and was a time when the true divine nature of Christ was to be shown with the effects not unlike Moses was seen to have when coming down from Mt. Sinai after having communicated personally with God. This transfiguration is what we in a very real sense experience partially when we take on the Holy Spirit into our very essence to guide our lives. What we would call being born again.

The transfiguration left us with many spiritual lessons including that it occurred while Christ was praying we are told in one of the texts. Christ as our example shows us that a simpler life is one that is more responsive to what I believe God desires for us. In fact I believe with our many schedules and desires that it is near impossible to walk in the footsteps of Christ. Perhaps this time of year we can resolve to focus more on the truth of Scripture shown through the life of Christ and less on the commercial aspects that secular society desire we get wrapped up in.

The key takeaway from this event for each of  us I believe is that we need to be daily in the transfiguration. That is to say that we need to be in communication with God every moment possible and allow His presence through the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. We too can then be transfigured to the extent this life allows until one day we will be totally transformed into the image God would want for us for all eternity.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The transfiguration turns us toward God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 17:1-13 “the transfiguration story”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord transform me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Why were Peter, James and John considered the elect of the elect?

2. How do we show Christ’s radiation through our lives today?

3. What do we know of God’s presence at Christ’s transfiguration?

4. What is Shekinah and how relate to this text?

THE BATTLE PLAN TO WIN AT SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Each of us are in a personal battle far more deadly than any conflict ever fought in this world. It is the battle for our spirit which has eternal implications. There are four opposing armies that have united against we who claim the cross of Christ beginning with the world around us. James 4:4 tells us clearly that “whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”. The battle begins with our own flesh and its natural (human nature born in sin) desires as explained in 1 Peter 4:1-4. Conquer the flesh and you can conquer the world.

The one to be most vigilant of in these battles is the devil (1 Peter 5:8) who at any moment is ready to attack along with what Ephesians call the spiritual hosts (demonic forces) of wickedness. It is no wonder, knowing this, that so many fall in this spiritual warfare battle. With each breath a new battle confronts us and only through the presence of the Holy Spirit within us are we able to continue to win.

Key in the battle is God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) which we must put on each day and with it carry the only sword that can bring down our enemy which is the Word of God (vs. 17). We can all carry in our pockets the battle plan that will not allow us to be defeated. A promise of victory from and through Christ Who has conquered all (John 16:33).

Until our personal battles are over it is advisable we avoid worldly entanglements (2 Timothy 2:4) which will mean that we must often deny ourselves as Paul experienced (1 Corinthians 9:27). We must be always alert (1 Corinthians 16:13) and continue in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). This is THE BATTLE PLAN TO WIN AT SPIRITUAL WARFARE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: We must never worry when we do battle on the fronts of spiritual warfare.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 16:33 “Christ’s promise of conquest”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord with You at my side I am ready to do battle.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What spiritual warfare battles are you fighting?
  2. Are you in prayer each day?
  3. Do you seek other prayer warriors to fight at your side?
  4. What is your battle plan?

GOD HAS A PLAN FOR EACH OF US

One of societies problems is lustful behavior or a sense of ‘wantonness’. Some who feel they lack what others have and which they also desire so they begin not to just want it but even lust after it.

The cause for this begins with people being hasty to receive (Proverbs 21:5) that which with diligent effort and time they might acquire in an honest way. Sadly a society that seems focused on instant gratification does not leave much room for patience.

To this we add greed which often leads to oppression (Proverbs 22:16) and then you compound the problem. Inequality, most especially when Christian faith is no longer a part of the equation, creates the issues we face today that can literally tear a society apart. Out of this you have many who now feel society and life owes them something and so sloth or laziness sets in (Proverbs 24:30-34) and you bankrupt not only a nation through an entitlement mind set but you begin to destroy the very soul of the people who make up this world. Certainly far from what God created.

This type of world that Paul writes of in Romans 13:13 is unbecoming to a Christian and furthers that which satan desires. Sadly the Christian church through preaching doctrinal error has often encouraged this adding to the problem rather than helping to provide a cure. It is time we recall one of Scriptures most quoted verses which is that “the Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). Indeed GOD HAS A PLAN FOR EACH OF US. Let us wait on it with patience.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Want often causes us to wage warfare rather than to wait on the Lord.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Psalm 23:1 “trusting the Lord protects against want”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I wait on You patiently.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  How does society further a sense of want through the idea of instant gratification?
  2.  How does greed lead to oppression?
  3.  How does greed and lessened faith tear a society apart?
  4.  How has church doctrinal error added to the problem of want?

WALK IN THE TRUE SPIRIT

At times I suspect many of us have moved around aimlessly without any purpose. It certainly has no exercise benefit due to how its carried out. If anything it allows the ‘wanderer’ a time to think and organize their thoughts.

Today zombie movies are all the rage. They personify an aimless lifestyle best. In Scripture Cain had this curse placed upon him for having killed his brother Abel. We are told in Genesis 4:12 and 14 that he would be a “fugitive and vagabond on earth”. Truth be told no matter what form it takes all wicked for their unrepentant sin will wander continually (Psalm 109:1-13) and sadly so will often be the fate of their families.

When sin takes over a life it digs in deep. It builds fences around people where it often seems impossible to find even a small gate by which you, through the power of God, can break through. That in fact is the only way to help someone end a futile life. To command the evil spirit leave (Acts 19:13) and by the power of God once again return to a life created in God’s image and WALK IN THE TRUE SPIRIT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Wanderers are most often in spiritual warfare waiting for someone to show them God’s way.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Genesis 2:14 “an aimless life is a curse”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord give me continual purpose.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Have you ever had ‘wandering’ experiences?

2. Who are the wanderer’s in today’s world and why are they wandering?

3. How can you help someone break out of this vagabond lifestyle?

4. What is it to walk in the Spirit?

 

PAYMENT FOR WORK PERFORMED

The discussion of wages causes conflict in so many ways that it is appropriate we have a basic understanding of God’s Word regarding the matter. The phrase that comes most to mind when speaking of wages is Romans 6:23 that the  “wages of sin is (spiritual) death”. Since wages are a payment for work performed we know that continuing in sin leads one to spiritual death now and for all eternity. Thankfully the remainder of vs. 23 tells us a way out.

Three principles regarding wages are important to know. First they must be paid promptly (Deuteronomy 24:15). When payments are delayed you get into situations of credit and loans which can easily lead into some tragic outcomes. It seems to me the view of cash and carry and keeping bills paid currently is very scriptural.

Principle two is that holding back wages is a sin and forbidden (James 5:4). In fact it is considered fraudulent. At times someone might feel a person’s work is poorly done and so something is held back. Problem is the quality of work received and the agreed upon wages are two separate matters.

Finally monies gained from means that are contrary to Scripture should not be given in church coffers. Monies where some fraudulent method was used are not what God seeks. A days work for a days wage that is carried out to the best of ones abilities are wages well deserved and to be tithed back to the work of God’s Kingdom. In this way we honor PAYMENT FOR WORK PERFORMED.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Watch carefully how wages are earned and withhold not from willingly giving to the work of furthering God’s Kingdom.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Deuteronomy 24:15 “wages must be paid promptly”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord guide me in my money management.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  Loans, credits and holding payments can cause what sort of conflict?
  2.  Some countries for their church membership assess a tax. Is this Biblical?
  3.  How do you separate work done from wages received?
  4.  What are sinful ways money is gained that should not go to churches?

A HEAVENLY FRAME OF MIND

To be a person of the world for many is an important matter. We strive to be well traveled, well read and well connected. We desire to be linked in as one internet program encourages. To the extent that it adds meaning and purpose to life it is not all bad unless it leads one away from God’s Kingdom and the furtherance of it. Christ said as much telling all to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Here He was speaking of basic things yet I believe the Lord blesses those who call Him Father often in far greater ways as well.

Each of us need to join Paul and say “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 5:20). In fact how we live in this world takes on a whole new dynamic. We now become “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-2) to God not “conformed by this world but transformed”. We now seek a heavenly mind (Colossians 3:1-2) looking for and toward Jesus (Hebrew 12:1-2).

Things of this world play a much smaller role in our life. The ways of the world discussed in the media and elsewhere now fall into a different perspective. You see life in a new and more vibrant way. You now have A HEAVENLY FRAME OF MIND.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: To be unworldly requires we understand the importance of being united with Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Galatians 2:20 “Live for Jesus”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I look to You in all matters.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Should a Christian believer mix in worldly affairs?

2. How do worldly affairs have an evil influence?

3. What does it mean to seek God’s Kingdom first?

4. Describe a Heavenly mind?

SEEK THAT WHICH IS PURE IN ALL THINGS

Some years ago I met a Jewish rabbi on his way to Bridgewater, SD where he was involved in making kosher (clean) the killing of buffalo if my memory serves me correct. At that time the concept of ‘uncleanness’ was not on my mind as it is this morning.

Throughout history of Jewish and Gentile people we have attributed uncleanness to demonic forces which cause illness, mental issues such as depression and moral temptation plus so much more. As a body humanity desires purity in all its many aspects. In fact we live in a world of contrasts with the demonic side representing death, illness, sin and hell while God in all His purity represents life, health, freedom from sin and Heaven.

The laws of purity are many and good for us to be aware of and follow. We should all seek purification such as spoken of in Isaiah 6:5-7. That involves a knowledge of God’s Word (Bible) and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5).

This process of purification (in a sense being made kosher) is necessary because we are all unclean (Ecclesiastes 7:20) even if righteous. That includes our entire body, soul and spirit (Isaiah 1:5). If we wish to be found blameless we must repent crying out the words of Psalm 51:4 “against You (God) have I sinned…” With this renewed faith (belief) we then should desire to be baptized (Ezekiel 36:25) with the cleansing water of forgiveness. Take captive every thought, word and deed and SEEK THAT WHICH IS PURE IN ALL THINGS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Uncleanness is brought about by a lack of understanding and unbelief.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Ezekiel 36:25 “cleansing by water”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire all that which is pure in Your Kingdom.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the laws of purity?
  2. What contrasts exist in life between pure and evil?
  3. How does the devil play on our human nature causing us evil?
  4. What steps are you taking to purify your life?

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE

Every day most of us make a vow of one sort or another. A vow is a voluntary pledge to fulfill an agreement. It is often done in holding to traditions and is no more or less than what Christ tells us in Matthew 5:37. Today we would say our word is our bond or our handshake is our agreement. Those who hold to this understanding are those who are constrained by the Holy Spirit to act accordingly.

Jewish tradition generally held that vows were short term lasting 1-3 months and could only be broken if done in exaggeration (see Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11:1-12:7), made in error or made under duress.

Oaths, especially done in the name of God, on the other hand were forbidden (Matthew 5:33-36). Oaths have a more solemn and eternal aspect. They are held in abeyance to God’s Word, his command to love and to live in righteousness. The key is when we use the name of God we need to be careful how we do so.

Returning to vows there are numerous examples such as what one gives to the church (Psalm 76:11) especially in tithing (Genesis 28:22), or perhaps pledges made when becoming a part of a tradition (Numbers 6:1-21). The key whatever the pledge is it must be voluntary , spoken and binding save for the earlier explanation. All this being said may we pledge our thoughts, words and deeds to God in fulfilling His Word in our lives and all those we touch in His Kingdom and may our OATH OF ALLEGIANCE be to God first and foremost.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Vows should never be spoken in vain.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 5:33-37 “oaths and vows”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord You are all I need.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  How is the pledge of allegiance a vow and not an oath?
  2.  How have vows changed especially in recent years?
  3.  Is it right to say ‘so help me God’ in a court of law or elsewhere?
  4.  What oaths and/or vows have you made?

REMEMBER TO STAY IN THE WORD

Life is not complicated. Each of us can choose one of two paths. A way of righteousness (acceptable in the eyes of God) or unrighteousness (wickedness). The paths are so far apart you cannot bound back and forth. At the end of the righteousness path is reward and the Kingdom of Heaven. At the end of the unrighteous path of life is a burning fire of punishment (Isaiah 66:24). Harsh words that you can choose to believe or not but if you accept the Bible as God’s Word it is reality.

The good news is we have a righteous Messiah who died for all including the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8). That death gives us opportunity to change. We can remain in wickedness or turn in obedience to God. Either way know that one day ALL will be raised from the dead (Daniel 12:2). Some to everlasting life and others to everlasting death.

In this world we need to be aware of who the unrighteous are. First they are all who would suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). As God’s Word is truth they would want to remove it whenever possible and at the very least argue against it. Examples of unrighteous behavior can be found in Romans 1:29-32. Not only do they act in such wicked manner but they take great pleasure in their unrighteous lifestyle. For their doing so we know the outcome.

For the righteous our response to this behavior is guided by God’s Word. In the Word we are told not to fellowship with the unrighteous (2 Corinthians 6:14). For indeed light is incompatible with darkness. Always remain humble in God’s Word but also REMEMBER TO STAY IN THE WORD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The unrighteous are unworthy of union with Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 6:14 “the righteous must not fellowship with the unrighteous”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord keep me in the truth.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. What is your attitude toward the unrighteous?

2. Where is unrighteousness most evident?

3. How does understanding the end result affect you?

4. How did Christ relate to the unrighteous?