Tag Archives: war

The Two Sides of the Sword of the Spirit

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Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions?

Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions?

As Believers, we know that the Sword of the Spirit is referring to God’s Word. It’s a weapon belonging to the Holy Spirit – and He wants us to use it.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm…Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13, 17).

The Ancient Swords

Did you know that the ancient swords used in battle had two sides for two different functions? Centuries ago swords were used to attack the enemy and to protect one’s self. It had two functions–as a defensive and offensive weapon. For this reason, a soldier had to learn how to use it. The ancient swords had two edges which helped to penetrate the enemy with ease as well as to cut in every direction, laying open the wounds of the foe.

In the same way, the Word of God is like the ancient sword. It too can reach and penetrate the heart, but it goes further than just penetrating vital organs. God’s Sword, His Word can also cut deeply revealing our emotions, feelings, thoughts, and the intentions of our hearts. This is why God Word says it is sharper than the ancient sword.

“Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s Sword

Like the sword of the ancient soldiers, the Sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) also has two functions. God’s Word says the Sword of the Spirit is two-edged and it is also to be used defensively and offensively.  It is to be used to defend our faith as well as offensively to pull down strongholds and proclaim the truth of the Bible. It is the Holy Spirit Who reveals the truth to us and the Holy Spirit is our help during spiritual warfare.

Strongholds are a serious matter to the Lord. According to www.GreatBibleStudy.com , “a strong hold is a faulty thinking pattern based on lies and deception. Deception is one of the primary weapons of the devil, because it is the building blocks for a stronghold. What strongholds can do is cause us to think in ways which block us from God’s best.”

Besides being the longest psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119 is a beautiful example of the Sword of the Spirit.

 I cling to your decrees, O Lord; let me not be put to shame. I run the way of your commandments, for you enlarge my understanding…”Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart…”Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain. Turn my eyes from looking at vanities [worthless things] give me life in your ways. (vv.31-32, 34, 36-37).

Because of the destructive nature of strongholds, it is no wonder Satan resorts to the tactic of casting doubt on the Truth of God’s Word. He did it to Adam and Eve in the garden and he still uses this tactic today because it still works.

Pick Up Your Sword

We can’t allow ourselves to become complacent in our faith; we should be training ourselves in God’s Word–reading, learning and committing to memory Scripture. Our Sword , God’s Word does not prepare us to defend our faith if it is never opened and read. How can we defeat the devil in spiritual warfare if we do not train ourselves in how to use the Sword (God’s Word)?

Begin by opening up to Psalm 119 and experience the wisdom, guidance and its truth. God’s Word makes us wise by allowing what His Word teaches us to guide us.

Next: Have you ever heard of the Cloak of Zeal? The Roman army wore it. Although not part of Paul’s pieces of armor in Ephesians 6, it is mentioned in Isaiah and is no less an important piece to put on. I’ll explain what it is and the meaning behind the cloak.

Blessings,

Lisa

Does Your Shield of Faith Have A Door Knob? – Armor of God Series

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Ancient Roman soldier with his shield

There are three purposes of the Shield of Faith.

Today, we will take a look at the fourth piece of armor that Paul encourages us to put on–the shield of faith. My last three blog posts have dealt with items we wear: the belt, the breastplate, and the shoes. Click on the links to check those articles out.

Instead of the typical shield that we see depicted on movie screens, the shield the Roman soldiers carried were actually a slightly curved rectangular shape between three and three and a half feet tall, and equally as wide. And centered in the middle of the shield was a large metal knob. This knob was called a boss.1 The size of the Roman shield afforded the soldier a great deal of protection. Because of its curved nature, it could deflect attacks from the side. With the added metal knob, the soldier had an edge to knock down his opponent. So, what does the Roman shield have to do with faith?

What Is Faith?

To understand the link between the Roman shield and our faith, let’s understand first Hebrews 11:1:

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NRSV).

When we are hoping for something to materialize it means we haven’t seen it yet. When we do see it materialize, it becomes tangible or it becomes a reality. Faith then is the confidence in God that we already have what we are hoping for. It is the belief, or the confidence, that because of God’s faithfulness, He will fulfill His promises to us. This conviction is based on trust. We trust in God’s character, meaning we believe who He says He is, and we believe in His promises-that He will do what He says He will do. From the perspective of trust, we then have assurance and conviction and we will demonstrate our faith in that we will have what we hope for.

How Are the Shield and Faith Connected?

First, the shield guards. The shield of faith also guards us spiritually when we’re in the trenches of physical hardships. Remember Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-Nego? They were physically in a burning furnace – a real physical crisis. These three teenagers had an unwavering faith, supported by their obedience to God’s commands. As a result, God empowered them to hold onto their faith with the boldness to tell the king they wouldn’t bow to worship the golden image. Thus, God protected them physically, even though these boys didn’t know if God would actually deliver them from certain death.

If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).

Shield of Faith Averts

Since the ancient Romans used shields that were slightly curved around the edges, it had the ability to repel hits from their enemies. We have an enemy today-Satan. And he often pursues us by shooting his fiery darts of worry, doubt, and fear. These are some of his weapons to pull us off our game and to get us to doubt God’s faithfulness or that God isn’t in control of all that touches our lives. If we let our shield of faith down, then we are exposed and we are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

Shield of Faith Fends Off

Remember that boss- the doorknob? That doorknob-like structure has a purpose. It can be used by the soldier to shove back or repel his enemy. It can literally knock his foe to the ground, thereby incapacitating him for that final attack. What would we use as a modern day boss? The doorknob in our faith today would be our obedience to God’s will and His ways, and in our works of service. These actions build our faith, they repel attacks from Satan and help us to live a resilient life.

Shields Work As A Wall

I’m sure you’ve seen it–when enemies sent arrows up into the sky, soldiers closed ranks. Soldiers on the outside used their shields to form a wall around the perimeter. Then those in the middle raised their shields over their heads to protect everyone from free-falling arrows and other projectiles. This technique is called the “tortoise,” formation.2

The Call-to-Action

If Christians today use their faith to build up one another, we too, can become a strong soldier in God’s army.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 The Great Teachings of the Bible and What They Mean for You: The Armor of God, Lesson 5: The Shield of Faith, www.freebiblestudyguides.org/bible-teaching/armor-of-god-shield-of-faith.htm, accessed 9-1-16.

2 Ibid.

 

Breastplate of Righteousness – Are You Putting It On?

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Why are we to put on the Belt of Truth first as one piece of God's armor?

The Breastplate of Righteousness – it’s not what you think.

“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, … and put on the beastplate of righteousness…” (Ephesians 6:10, 14”

The breastplate of righteousness involves three areas: our heart, mind and emotions (our bowels). Today we will focus on our heart and bowels. But before the breastplate of righteousness can protect us, we first must pledge to a lifestyle of devotions. Putting on the breastplate of righteousness involves having a steadfast heart.

Goals are not reached without a steadfast heart.

A Pledge to Devotion to Commitment

Military members in our armed forces who lack a devotion to commitment are in the wrong profession. We can’t fight threats of war or terrorism without a strong commitment from our government leaders or our military members. One of the pitfalls of America is related to its ‘good life’ or its seemingly ‘life of ease’ is that it is very appealing to our young people. America already struggles with a lack of devotion to our country by many of its young people; they are disconnected from a sense of patriotism and duty. The correlation between freedom  and sacrifice is broken. A lack of commitment can be a deathtrap for America’s readiness to fight all threats. Likewise, without a devoted pledge of commitment to put on the breast-plate of righteousness, we can be ensnared by Satan’s assaults.

Breast-plate of Righteousness: Our Heart and Bowels

The breast-plate of righteousness refers to our hearts. We all know that the Roman’s wore a breast-plate to protect two important areas: their heart and their bowels. The bowels refer to the stomach area where other vital organs to sustain life are located.  Our bowels are associated with feelings and emotions.1 This makes sense because emotions affect us in the stomach.2 If we’re afraid, sad, lonely, happy, or excited we feel it in our stomach. We feel the ache in our gut when discouraged. Likewise, when everything is going well, our bowels feel wonderful.

The heart refers to our emotions and where our thinking originates. “For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” Matthew 15:19-20 NKJV.

Putting on the breast-plate protects our hearts. It’s possible that many of us are wearing the false breast-plate of righteousness. Satan tries to deceive us into wrong doctrine.3 It comes out this way: we know people who subscribe to their own righteousness. They think they’re all right because they are good people; they have morals and healthy values. God’s righteousness has to do with a certain standing with God. It means having a right relationship with God. And He approves of us. We have His stamp of approval. God determines, through His Word what is a right relationship, not us.

Satan’s Goal is to Destroy the Breastplate of Righteousness

Satan’s goal is to keep as many people from entering God’s kingdom, so his goal is to deceive, kill and steal. He tries to achieve this by affecting our thinking and our emotions–our heart and bowels – the two places the Breastplate of Righteousness protects. If we don’t put on our breast-plates of righteousness, Satan will make his attack. He’ll feed you with wrong information, such as a wrong doctrine of righteousness, such as “I’m a good person, I’ll go to heaven.” That is confidence in the flesh.4 Satan will also feed you lies, corrupt you with untruth about God and His Word, or get you to react with inappropriate emotions. He’ll entice you with sin and your heart will justify it with false doctrine. “Oh, it’s just a little white lie; it won’t harm anyone” we may tell ourselves. And before long we become tolerant to the lies Satan feeds us. But this is a snare. From here it only gets worse, he’ll move into other areas of your mind, such as your will and emotions.5  He’ll go after your will and try to break it down and he’ll get you to compromise your desires.

Breastplate of Righteousness Becomes a Fortress

If you protect your thinking and your emotions by checking it against God’s Word, you put a fortress around your heart. Satan won’t be able to penetrate it. When we are in a right relationship with Him, God’s stamp of approval will be our breast-plate of protection.

 Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 John F. MacArthur, “The Believer’s Armor, Part 2: The Breastplate of Righteousness,” http://www.gty.org (accessed 17 July 2016).

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

 

The Belt of Truth and the Presidential Campaign

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Why are we to put on the Belt of Truth first as one piece of God's armor?

Why are we to put on the Belt of Truth first as one piece of God’s armor?

What is the Belt of Truth and how can we use it in this year’s presidential campaign? I was drawn to post an article about the believer’s armor because of what we are seeing on our televisions­–the presidential race. As ugly as this race to the white house is, it can be hard to determine what we hear is a lie or the truth. We need the Belt of Truth to discern which candidate is worthy to serve our country as the Commander-in-Chief.

Hilary has a cloud of distrust over her and Trump is a loose cannon with a questionable faith. And both are slewing accusations and insults in all directions. It is hard to see the truth about a candidate behind the verbal darts of lies that sound like truth. We’ve heard it said that Americans want a third presidential candidate, somebody with a digestible character, integrity, and at least one godly trait.

As different as this presidential race is, what’s most befuddling to me is how all the other contenders of the GOP have fallen away, those with more integrity, who carried themselves more smartly, more presidential, and with more godly character and faith, leaving the least likely candidate to secure the presumptive nominee. Could it be that for whatever reason, God has given this man favor as televangelist Frank Amedia suggests in this Charisma news interview? Click here

On the other side of the coin, we have this Charisma News interview with David Ravenhill who states that Donald Trump is a Deceiver. Click here.

I only point these articles out to show the extreme spiritual views and to add how challenging and problematic this voting decision is. It reveals how urgently we need to be praying for who our next president will be.

What does the Belt of Truth have to do with the presidential campaign? Lies and deception. Not only does the Belt of Truth surround us in our battles with Satan, but it is useful as a defense against lies that are presented to us. Since God is the Source of our help, it makes perfect sense that He would provide His children a way to be strengthened in their faith and be prepared in this fallen, greedy, and selfish world. Satan is constantly at battle with those who belong to Christ. He uses various attacks to bring us down, to not only defeat the body of Christ but to get us to turn back to sin. This means we must put on the various pieces of God’s armor if we want victory.

Let’s start with the first piece of armor. This is the belt of Truth. We can’t separate Truth and Jesus Christ. Each one represents the other: Truth is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is Truth. Truth is a priority in the spiritual sense. In John 8:31, Jesus affirms:

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Belt of Truth Shields Us in its Freedom

Satan can’t handle Truth. He can’t stand to be in Truth’s presence either. When we accept, bear and stand firm in Jesus’ words and follow His examples, we are exercising Truth. It is this truth that sets us free because we have ditched a life of slavery to sin. If we have not aligned ourselves with the One who represents Truth, how can we expect the rest of God’s armor to protect us? We first must be in agreement that Jesus is Truth.

Belt of Truth Makes Us Ready

Why is Truth represented with the belt? The ancient Roman soldiers stored their swords in their belts. This way they were equipped, organized, set, or fixed. Anytime we are equipped, organized, and set, we are ready, trained, and prepared. The word girded comes to mind. It isn’t used all that much today, but it means to fasten something to yourself. In this context, used as a verb, it means to fasten yourself with preparedness for forceful and strong action.

Since Satan is a deceiver, his lies can sound like the truth. And thus we can be deceived. We need the Belt of Truth in order to discern lies from the truth.

Truth Directs Us

When we know what is true, we can safely follow. Think of navigation maps. My family enjoys boating. We have a GPS system installed on our boat. That system directs us because the information contained in the system is true. When it is true it means it’s also reliable. It shows us the dangerous areas so we can steer clear of them. The same goes for spiritual truth. The best route to follow is the one that reveals truth. Jesus is that Truth. He is our GPS system to navigate the risky, threatening, and scary seasons of our lives, like America’s future with our two presidential candidates.

Put on the Belt of Truth and Pray

As Christ-followers we ought to be praying for our government leaders and the upcoming presidential election. There is a lot at stake. Some of our freedoms, such as freedom of religion is under attack. Other biblical principles are being trampled upon and biblical truths have been watered down into lies and digested as the truth. We are a nation under the thumb of deception.

We need to be in prayer for our supreme court judges so they rule with godly wisdom. We need to be praying that our leaders would be God-fearing and recognize that they are accountable to God.

If you are interested in a thirty day prayer calendar by Intercessors For America, go to www.ifapray.org

Come back for the next piece of God’s armor: the Breastplate of Righteous

Blessings,

Lisa

Click here to order Faith Steps for Military Families.

Prayer for Protection Against Enemies

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Lord,

Lord, protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3).

Lord, protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3).

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand…the Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in” (Psalm 121:2-5, 7-8).

Lord,

Thank you for every member of our armed forces. Each one serves from the heart with a strong sense of duty for his or her country. Each one has voluntarily given up certain freedoms in order to answer to a higher calling. Lord, may their sacrifices be appreciated by the citizens of this country. Bring a revival in the hearts of the people of America to pray for our military so that under God we remain the strongest military force. May each military operation be just and carried out with a clear and honorable vision.

The challenges are many, Lord, and I pray for daily strength as they march into unknown dangers. Arm them with courage, shield each one from evil intentions, injustice, deceptive tactics, and reveal every unknown threat that would undermine their safety and the mission. Protect their feet from slipping (Psalm 121:3), no matter where they are, no matter the circumstances. In the light of day or the darkness of night, shield them with Your protection. When exhausted, be their Source of strength. I boldly come before You and ask that You would protect them against our enemies.

 Lord, like You did for the pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem, be the Keeper of our men and women in uniform (Psalm 121:5). Protect our military against all enemies. Should any return home wounded, physically or from the effects of posttraumatic stress syndrome, I pray that immediate help would be theirs for a complete healing and for the return of a sound mind. For those who have already given the ultimate sacrifice, comfort their families by encamping around their hurting hearts.

Faithful Father, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22). May the mercy You provide be experienced by my loved one and all our troops. Let Your compassion be theirs and give them opportunities to see Your faithfulness daily. Psalm 25:21 says: “May integrity and uprightness preserve me.” May our military leadership be men and women who value Your vital role in the affairs of our country. May our military commanders call on You for guidance, and give them understanding of things they don’t know (Jeremiah 33:3). In doing so, may Your name be exalted. In addition to physical readiness, may our government and military leaders be dedicated and speak out for preparing our service members with spiritual readiness, so faith can make a difference. In the mighty name of Jesus, I ask these things,

Amen.

Tweet: Protect the feet of our U.S. military. Shield each one. www.LisaNixonPhillips.com/blog

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click on the blue button beneath the book’s cover.

 

 

Lessons From the Wayward Nephew – Lot

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The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

The first recorded war was between 4 kings and money, but it also included a search and rescue mission.

While writing Faith Steps for Military Families, I learned about the Bible’s first recorded war. It’s found in Genesis 14. During Abram’s (later called Abraham) life, wars and rivalries among kings routinely happened, but the first recorded war in God’s Word was between four eastern kings most of us have not heard of before, except for possibly one, King Chedorlaomer (of modern Iran) and five southern kings, that included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Who was King Chedorlaomer?

Not much is known about him, except that he was quite powerful. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid tribute (money) to the king that overthrew that city.1 Five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. This is a testament to the might of King Chedorlaomer’s army.

“In the thirteenth year [those five cities paying tribute] rebelled” (Gen. 14:4).They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. They withheld the tribute owed to him. This kind of rebellion infuriated King Chedorlaomer. By refusing to pay the tribute, they predicted it would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.2 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.3

In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer wasted no time and swiftly conquered this quick-forming alliance. When King Chedorlaomer overtook Sodom, he captured Lot, his family, and his possessions. Recall that Lot was Abram’s nephew. Being a prisoner of King Chedorlaomer meant torture, slavery, or death.2

“When Abram [later called Abraham] heard that his nephew had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred eighteen of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and routed them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his nephew Lot with his goods, and the women and the people.” Genesis 14:14-16

It’s plausible that Chedorlaomer underestimated the warrior inside Abraham as he defeated King Chedorlaomer in Damascus, even with a measly 318 fighting men. But God showed His favor on Abram. But how did Lot get himself in trouble with Chedorlaomer in the first place?

Lot – the Drifter

Lot had a character flaw that we see in many younger men and women today. Having no firm goals or sense of purpose, he drifted through life.4 Lacking a father (his father died when Lot was a young boy) to act as a compass for his life, probably contributed to his hunger for the sinful lifestyle in the city of Sodom. Coupled with his greedy desire for rich goods, Lot lived for the moment. As a result, he didn’t contemplate the consequences of his short-sightedness. By seeking after the sinful and greedy lifestyle of Sodom, he eventually blended in with the other citizens in this doomed city. This choice cost Lot everything, including his freedom when King Chedorlaomer overtook the town to punish it for withholding the tribute. Wise ole Uncle Abram had to do the dirty work and go to war with King Chedorlaomer to retrieve Lot.

Why Is This Important?

This may have been an incident that crossed several kingdoms–Abram caught in the middle between Lot’s greed and sinful lifestyle and a scandal between kings. It reveals God in control of earthly situations between secular kings and His warriors. God’s men numbered just 318 compared to the armies of the four kings!5

In the midst of a power struggle to control the cash cow of the trade routes, at the center of this scuttle is the story between two related men. Abram knew the foolishness of his nephew’s decisions. He could have taken the approach that Lot got what he deserved and refused to go to war to get him back. After all, living foolishly eventually breeds trouble.

Abram, however, took the perspective of grace. Grace says, “to extend kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it.” Even God extended grace to Lot by giving favor to Abram to conquer the armies of the four kings in order to retrieve Lot. 

We Were Like Lot Once

Before the Lord reigned in our hearts, we were a Lot, too.6 Prior to giving our hearts over to the Lord, we were lured by the world’s goods and sinful offerings without thinking of the long-range consequences. We allowed our selfish desires to seek and obtain what didn’t satisfy. Sometimes we got away with a sinful lifestyle, but maybe for some of us it led us down the road of trouble. Was there an Abram in your life to go to bat for you? As Lot was carried off by King Chedorlaomer, considered part of the plundered loot, I wonder if he questioned where his lifestyle choices led him.

Is there a Lot in your family? Don’t give up on her or him. Instead, we can be an Abram in that person’s life and pray. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous (godly and upright) person has great power as it is working” (ESV). Your prayers, prayed in faith, will change things. There is power praying in Jesus’ name and that power will change the course of someone’s life, circumstances, and choices. While praying for the Lot in your life, your own faith will be strengthened as you see God move. We can trust God because He is sovereign over all our circumstances. One of my favorite Scripture verses is 2 Chronicles 16:9. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (NRSV). God is looking for faithful hearts to be prayer warriors for the Lots in our lives.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Genesis 14:4-16, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, Inc. 1989).

2 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

3 Ibid.

4 Bible Profile on Lot, Life Application Bible.

5 Officers’ Christian Fellowship, “Abram Goes to War,” http//www.ocfusa.org.  (accessed 29 May 2014).

6 Ibid.

The Unseen Commander

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“For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28).Pharaoh

What is it about the amusement we receive from watching ungodly people in positions of power and authority fall? We saw this with the former dictator, Saddam Hussein, of Iraq and the head of the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and other rulers in recent years.

 In the Old Testament there were several evil rulers, or commanders, who wouldn’t listen or alter their minds or decisions in light of God’s authority and might. Their hearts were hardened by their own proud estimation of themselves. When God sent Moses to go before Pharaoh and request that he let the Hebrew slaves go, Pharaoh gave it no attention. He saw himself as the supreme commander and even claimed himself to be a god. The Pharaoh didn’t give the Hebrew God much credibility. After all, how could their God be powerful if His own people were lowly slaves?  

Pharaoh’s doubt in a God above himself boosted his own confidence and he put some of this confidence in the strength of his army. Moses’ efforts to speak God’s truth to the Pharaoh at first failed, but in the end, God prevailed. The Pharaoh had to learn God’s truth the hard way. The death of his young son with the tenth plaque made his life uncomfortable, and he conceded, but only briefly. After letting his slaves go, His pride resurfaced again. God had to strike that final blow to his trusted army, by drowning them in the Red Sea.

  As God did then and still does today–He maintains control over earthy rulers. He sees their evil deeds and it will only prevail as long as God allows. In Psalm 125:3 it says, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous…” A scepter is a rod or a staff symbolizing authority. In other words, God will not allow ungodly rulers to reside and maintain authority in the land he designated for His people indefinitely. Nations and rulers continue to rise and fall as we have seen in recent years in the Middle East. There will be a day in which God will allow them to stumble and eventually fall. But He, at a time only He determines will execute His judgment and eradicate those with a scepter of evil. We can trust our God on this truth. Because He never changes He is completely trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast.

Delight in the Lord’s mighty power today,

Lisa

To order a copy of my book, Faith Steps for Military Families, click here. You can find me on Facebook.com/FaithStepsForMilitaryFamilies and Twitter @lisanixonphilli

 

Sennacherib’s Prideful Downfall

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King Sennacherib of Assyia

King Sennacherib of Assyia

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord

1 Corinthians 1:31

Do you enjoy watching movies about the battles fought during Bible times? I do, but I have to admit that I don’t enjoy watching spears slicing through the air and striking the heart of a soldier, or swords decapitating heads, or the sharp spikes on the wheels of chariots chopping up men as they crisscross the battlefield. No, that aspect of any ancient battle disturbs me, perhaps because it was how war was actually fought–facing the enemy, literally. For me, I prefer the behind the scene stuff, namely plot, character, and suspense. My favorite Bible battles are those that pit the character of the protagonist against the character of the antagonist, and watch how God determined their fates as the plot unfold. Take for example, two kings: Hezekiah and Sennacherib. Their way of ruling their kingdoms were as different as their personalities. But only one personality would ultimately triumph.

The Tale of Two Temperaments

 In 2 Kings 18 is the story of Hezekiah’s and Sennacherib’s battle of wills. King Hezekiah of Judah and King Sennacherib of Assyria each ruled their kingdoms differently. Hezekiah was a godly and humble king. He sought the Lord about matters regarding his kingdom. The priority of his heart was obedience to God and he “held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. The LORD was with him; wherever he went, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:6-7). On the other hand, King Sennacherib of Assyria was a calloused ruler (I can see trouble ahead already!). His armies were ruthless and enjoyed torturing his captives. By the time Hezekiah became king of Judah, Sennacherib had already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. He was convinced that his kingdom couldn’t be defeated. Sennacherib was a prideful man. He trusted in his own skills and means. Sennacherib was in his fourth year as king of Assyria when he threatened to conquer Judah, Hezekiah’s kingdom. The year was 701 B.C.

To make matters worse, Hezekiah defaulted on paying his tribute money, money paid to Sennacherib with the agreement that Assyria wouldn’t attack Judah. Hezekiah hoped Sennacherib hadn’t noticed, but he did. Hezekiah sent Sennacherib an apology letter, along with the tribute money he owed, but Sennacherib’s pride got the best of him and decided to invade anyway. Assyria was known throughout as a mighty nation and Sennacherib was designated as a great king, an association reserved in those days for a king who dominated a vast region. Prior to Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, he sent a delegation of men to Jerusalem to intimidate and persuade Hezekiah to surrender.

In their negotiations, the Rabshakeh, Sennacherib’s chief officer, met Hezekiah’s officials and said to them, “On what do you base this confidence of yours? Do you think mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? See, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff (a staff signifies a ruler, and in this case the reign of the Pharaoh of Egypt was considered by Sennacherib to be broken), which will pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him” (2 Kings 18:19-21). Sennacherib’s men performed a cleaver trick by mocking God and at the same time hoping to learn who or what was king Hezekiah placing his trust in, calling any efforts to align himself with Egypt foolish.  Can you perceive Sennacherib’s pride oozing through his own official’s words?

Sennacherib’s officials appealed to Hezekiah’s officials to surrender. “The king of Assyria says: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord  by saying, the Lord  will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’” By trying to convince them that no country would come to their aid as Assyria had defeated them all, the goal was to promote fear and doubt in the people of Judah. None of their gods protected them from Sennacherib, so how could the Lord protect Jerusalem? Furthermore, by using the words, “Do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, ‘the Lord will deliver us’” (2 Kings 18:32) this was Sennacherib’s final attempt to convince the Israelites to forsake King Hezekiah and create antagonism and disagreement in his kingdom. But what Sennacherib didn’t understand or appreciate about God is that He can take a godly nation with only a flicker of faith and strength and turn it into a strong nation.

When Hezekiah’s officials returned with Sennacherib’s threatening letter, he did two things:

He humbly approached God for His help. With the pending attack of the Assyrian army, he had a decision to make. Would he give into Sennacherib’s fierce intimidation and warnings to surrender, or a take a stand, with God going before him? After reading the letter, he “spread it before the Lord . And Hezekiah prayed: “Oh Lord the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have hurled their gods into the fire, though they were no gods but the work of human hands–wood and stone–and so they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, I pray you, from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone” ( vv. 14-19).

Can you detect Hezekiah’s desperate plea in which he incorporated God’s sovereignty and Judah’s full dependence on Him?

King Hezekiah trusted. After his bold petition for God’s help, all this godly king could do was trust–place his hope and expectation in God for the outcome. But true to God’s own nature, “…the eyes of the Lord range throughout the entire earth, to strengthen those whose heart is true to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God also keeps His promises. He will honor those who honor Him. He perceived the condition of Sennacherib’s heart and didn’t like what He saw–a healthy dose of pride. Sennacherib took all the credit for the growth and the military strength of his kingdom. He accredited his past success and future victories to himself. In reality, Sennacherib missed an important truth. His success came from God. But God only allowed it in order to fulfill His purpose. Sennacherib’s greatest mistake was that he never acknowledged that another ruler, the God of the Israelites who made heaven and earth reigned with ultimate power and authority. Pride is a serious offense to God (see Proverbs 6:16-19). And He dealt a deadly blow to this evil and prideful Assyrian king using the hands of his own children, a final humiliation of the worst kind.

That very night the angel of the Lord set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; when morning dawned, they were all dead bodies. Then King Sennacherib of Assyria left, went home, and lived in Nineveh [defeated and humiliated]. As he was worshipping in the house of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped into the land of Ararat. His son Esar-haddon succeeded him (2 Kings 19:35-37).

Pride was the ruin of King Sennacherib of Assyria. His arrogance and belief that his kingdom had become powerful was because of his own efforts and strength led to his demise. Today, the word pride has been stripped from its sinful nature and been given an elevated position, making it less offending.1 But God’s Word doesn’t view pride in the same manner as the world views it.2 There’s a difference between being proud of certain things or people–and being prideful.3 The sin of being prideful overestimates our own value and importance, ignoring God’s role in our lives and endeavors, including our successes and achievements.4 God calls this type of pride sin.5 “For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves” (Galations 6:3).

The difference between these two kings is that King Hezekiah knew the Source of his accomplishments as king and Who gave him his victories. He attributed full credit to God. Our heavenly Father doesn’t object to self-confidence, a healthy self-esteem, or feeling good about an accomplishment, but what He does object to is our taking full credit for what He does in and through our lives and for subscribing to the belief that we are superior to others.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families -Spiritual Readiness Through the Psalms of Ascent, (New York, NY:, Morgan James Publishing, 2014) 129.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

 

 

 

The Unseen Commander-(The Pharaoh’s Downfall)

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Pharaoh

Rulers who govern with an evil scepter will one day end.

“For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations”

(Psalm 22:28).

What is it about the amusement we receive from watching ungodly people in positions of power and authority fall? We saw this with the former commander and dictator, Saddam Hussein, of Iraq and the head of the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and other rulers in recent months.

In the Old Testament there were several evil rulers who wouldn’t listen and alter their minds or decisions in light of God’s authority and might. Their hearts were hardened by their own proud estimation of themselves.

When God sent Moses to go before Pharaoh and request that he let the Hebrew slaves go, Pharaoh gave it no attention. He saw himself as the supreme commander and ruler and even claimed himself to be a god. The Pharaoh didn’t give the Hebrew God much credibility. After all, how could their God be powerful if His own people were lowly slaves?

Pharaoh’s doubt in a God above himself boosted his own confidence and he put some of this confidence in the strength of his army. Moses’ efforts to speak God’s truth to the Pharaoh at first failed, but in the end, God prevailed. The Pharaoh had to learn God’s truth the hard way. The death of his young son with the tenth plaque made his life uncomfortable, and he conceded, but only briefly. After letting his slaves go, His pride resurfaced again. God had to strike that final blow to his trusted army, by drowning them in the Red Sea.

As God did then and still does today–He maintains control over earthy rulers. He sees their evil deeds and it will only prevail as long as God allows.

In Psalm 125:3 it says, “For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous…” A scepter is a rod or a staff symbolizing authority. In other words, God will not allow ungodly rulers to reside and maintain authority in the land he designated for His people indefinitely.

Nations and rulers continue to rise and fall as we have seen in recent years in the Middle East. There will be a day in which God will allow them to stumble and eventually fall. But He, at a time only He determines will execute His judgment and eradicate those with a scepter of evil. We can trust our God on this truth. Because He never changes He is completely trustworthy, consistent, and steadfast.

Blessings,

Lisa

War (What God’s Word Says About It)

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What is God’s perspective on war?

War. It’s been going on for centuries. Just like in the days of the Old Testament, countries today still invade and take over other countries. It’s the same purpose, just a different century.

The first recorded war was in Genesis 14. And not surprisingly, it was over money. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid money, called a tribute, to the king that overthrew that city. In the first recorded war five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. However, those five cities decided they would withhold Chedorlaomer’s tribute money. “In the thirteenth year they rebelled” (Gen. 14:4). They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. This kind of rebellion didn’t sit well with Chedorlaomer so he retaliated. He joined forces with four other eastern kings. What fueled his anger? By refusing to pay the tribute, the king realized this would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.1 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.2 In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer overtook the city of Sodom, carrying away its people and their possessions.

But who doesn’t love the underdog! Who doesn’t love the one who comes in and saves the day–turning the tide of the outcome. That person was Abram, later called Abraham. Abram was actually a warrior. In fact, Abram, wouldn’t of even been involved in this first war if it wasn’t for his nephew Lot. Lot was living in Sodom when King Chedorlaomer conquered it. Like the others, Lot and his family, along with all their possessions were carried off as captives. Abram took 318 fighting men and charged after Chedorlaomer solely with the purpose of retrieving his nephew and his family.  So what does the Bible say about war and the military?

God and His Military

We see God directly involved in establishing a military in the book of Numbers 1:2-3. “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai,… ‘Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites, in their clans, by ancestral houses, according to the number of names, every male individually; from twenty years old and upward, everyone in Israel able to go to war…”’ From this census, we can assume that God revers organization and considers the cost of any military endeavor a wise course of action. Moses counted the Israelites twice.1 The first census organized the people into marching units to better defend themselves. It was important to know how many fighting men Israel had so they could determine their overall military strength.

 On a side note, the organized census also provided genealogical records. As it turned out, the first census had a total of 603,550,000 fighting men all from the twelve tribes of Israel.2 The second census takes place in 2 Samuel 24: 1:2 and it prepared the Israelite army to conquer the promise land.3 It’s easy to see that God not only instituted a strong military, but His military agendas played an important role in carrying out His will. God used war and the Israelite army throughout the course of Israel’s history. God’s warriors, men like Moses, Joshua, and David were His instruments, to carry out His plans. And He gave them His blessing. For King David, God gave him victory in every battle.4 “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psalm 18:34). David had victories over the Jebusites, the Philistines, Hadadezer of Zobah, the Syrians, the Edomites, and the Ammonites–all from the book of 2 Samuel.5

In Acts 10 is the story of Cornelius, a Roman soldier, who was the first Gentile convert as a soldier.6 Being a Christ-follower, combined with military service, is highly regarded in the Bible.7 If this were not so, how could we explain the portrayal of David, also a soldier, as “having a heart after God”?8 We know that God highly esteemed David, a brilliant warrior, and blessed his military efforts. And in Matthew 8:5-13 when Cornelius approached Jesus and asked Him to make his servant well, Jesus wasn’t disheartened or try to discourage Cornelius from having a military career. God is Sovereign and this means He doesn’t play favorites. Cornelius imparted personal integrity into his everyday duties as a high-ranking soldier.9 Even the Jews, who despised the Romans, respected this godly Gentile warrior who honored God and in return God honored him.

God is still involved in the military affairs of countries today. Nothing escapes His attention. And like He uses other aspects of events on earth to carry out His will, He also uses the world’s military campaigns of today to bring about His purposes. No country, even America, can thwart His will and plan. The Bible, even though it is predominately God’s love story to you and me, is also a military book.10 If God felt it was necessary to institute an organized military in the fourth book of the Bible, then a strong American military, in which its service is conducted with biblical character, integrity, and honor is a blessed occupation. And like the Jews who respected Cornelius, we, too, ought to show our respect for those who humbly serve under the supreme commander-in-chief. And like Cornelius, God will honor our military members today for their honorable service.

Blessings,

Lisa

Notes:

1 Bible Note for Numbers 1:2-3, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible

  Publishers, Inc., 1989).

2 Bible Note for Numbers 1:20-46, Life Application Bible

3 Bible Note for 2 Samuel 24:1-3, Life Application Bible

4 Bible Note for Psalm 18:34, Life Application Bible

5 Ibid.

6 Ron Knott, “God and the Military,” www.ronknott.net/id29.html (accessed 6/10/14).

7 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families, (New York, NY: Morgan James

  Publishing, 2014), 144.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ron Knott, “God and the Military