Bookish Musings, Banter & More
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
About the Author:
Amy Barkman is the Director of Voice of Joy Ministries, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and the pastor of Mortonsville United Methodist church. She and her husband Gary live in Danville, KY and together have seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and one great grandson. Amy loves to read and to travel. (ISBN#9781937671006, 246pp, $12.99)
Praise the Lord for His mercy endureth forever.
II Chronicles 20:21
I came up out of the baptismal waters with eager anticipation. Rising to newness of life – what a relief. But as soon as I got to the changing room it was obvious that my extra twenty pounds rose with me. And the straight auburn hair I’d longed for all my life had not replaced my curly brown tresses. Within an hour there was no question about the desire to smoke a cigarette passing away; it didn’t. By the end of the month the blood test proved that my triglyceride level was still as high as ever. “Hey God, what happened? I thought you said all things would be made new.”
There’s a story in the Bible that reminds me of the way I felt after my baptism.
The Nation of Judah settled in the land that God promised them. And most of their enemies were destroyed in battle. But one day three armies showed up to surround them.
King Jehoshaphat called a fast and they all went to God in prayer. They said, in essence, “Hey, God, what happened? Here are three armies come to destroy us. They are from the three tribes you wouldn’t let us destroy when we came into this land. We don’t have any power against them so we’re looking to you. You do something!”
One day, many years after my disappointing baptismal experience, I was reading this story and the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “Look up the meaning of the names of those three armies.” So I did. The three armies are Moab, Ammon, and Mt. Seir.
Moab means “of the father,” Ammon means “tribal,” and Mt. Seir means “goat or devil.” Light dawned into my mind concerning the plight of the reborn, new creature in Christ that is the true Church.
We who accept Jesus Christ as our savior are born again. We begin a brand new life – the promised land. And just by that act of receiving Jesus as Savior, we defeat more enemies than we can imagine. But there are three enemies that are left in our promised land. Three armies that come against us to destroy.
Moab, “of the father,” is symbolic of the genetic conditions we inherit in our bodies and personalities. When we are born again we do not get a new body but are stuck with the DNA given to us.
Ammon, “tribal,” is symbolic of the cultural situation into which we are born.
When we are born again, we are not transported into a perfect society but are bombarded all our lives with the evils in the world around us.
Mt. Seir, “goat or devil,” is symbolic of the forces of the devil who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. When we are born again, we are not automatically placed out of reach of the enemy.
We are born again children of God with the new life He promised but these three armies want to destroy us. And here they are – right in the promised land – genetic inheritance, cultural surroundings, and the devil with his destructive forces.
You may ask, “Why doesn’t God get rid of these enemies for us?” The answer is simple. He will. God did not leave these three enemy armies here so they could destroy us. He says to us, just as He said to His chosen people centuries ago, “… Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15).
His plan is to overcome them.
Paul wrote “… we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
What does it mean to be more than a conqueror? The Greek word means preeminently victorious, or a winner before you even enter the battle. Wow! That’s good news indeed. And that is what God wants us to understand and practice.
But the way of winning battles through God is not the way of the world. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (II Cor. 10:4). There are some basic principles of spiritual warfare and we have to learn them if we are going to be winners in life. The first, and most important, principle is:
ONLY GOD CAN SUCCESSFULLY DEFEAT EVIL
This doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. God’s Instruction Book, the Bible, is full of exhortations such as, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7) and “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). You are to resist the devil and stand against his schemes.
But did you notice? When your battle against the devil is mentioned, your relationship with God is also mentioned. You can’t win against evil in your own strength. But God won’t win in this physical realm without your cooperation.
When the nation of Judah sought the Lord for help against the armies that came to destroy them, they were told to present themselves but not to fight. Their response was to put a group of singers in the forefront of the army. Order of presentation was a way of protection in ancient times. The strong men, who were trained and able to fight, were at the forefront when meeting an opposing force, with the women, children, elderly and weak at the rear in the place of protection.
This time, however, the strong fighting men were among those being protected and the singers and praisers, which may have included women and children, went out first. We are told that when they began to sing and to praise God for His mercy, the Lord Himself caused the three armies to be defeated.
This story illustrates several principles of spiritual warfare. The first is evident and stated above … only God can successfully defeat evil.
“Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Psalm 108:13).
The second basic principle of spiritual warfare is:
PRAISING GOD BRINGS HIM ON THE SCENE
This principle is illustrated in the story we just examined. When the tribe of Judah praised God for His mercy to them, He showed no mercy to their enemies but caused them to be destroyed. “And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten” (II Chronicles 20:22).
King David, from an earlier time in the history of God’s people, mentioned this principle in several of his songs. He sang, “I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence” (Psalm 9: 2, 3). When David sang praises to the name of God, He showed up in person.
What does it mean to sing praises to the Name of God? In today’s society, we have largely lost the understanding of names. When ancient men talked about the name of something or someone, they were talking about its or their essential nature or character.
God revealed Himself to Israel throughout the centuries by His Names through His actions. He revealed Himself, His essential nature, His character, as
Jehovah Jireh – the Lord your Provider
Jehovah Rapha – the Lord your Healer
Jehovah Tsidkenu- the Lord your
Jehovah Rohi – the Lord your Shepherd
Jehovah Shalom – the Lord your Peace
He revealed other aspects of Himself through names and eventually revealed Himself as Jesus – the Lord your Salvation.
When we praise His name, we are to be praising that aspect of Himself that we need to see active in our situation. Jesus quoted Psalm 8: 2, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings has thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” He quoted it on the occasion that we know as Palm Sunday when the chief priests and scribes were upset because the children were crying out, “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matthew 21: 15,16).
Hosanna is a word which means “Save.” By shouting out that word to Him, the children were recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior – and the religious people didn’t like it. Jesus then quoted Psalm 8, but instead of saying, “out of the mouths of children you have ordained strength”, He said, “out of the mouths of children you have ordained praise.” Jesus equated strength and praise, validating this principle that your battles are won by God as you praise Him for His mercy toward you in that area.
Some people say “Praise the Lord!” a lot. And there is certainly nothing wrong with saying that, but think about it. If you are going to praise a family member or friend, you don’t just say “Praise Richard!” or “Praise Tracy!” You say “Richard has a wonderful sense of humor.” Or “Tracy is very generous and kind.” So it should be with God. To truly praise Him is to announce gratitude for His specific acts and attributes. And most often it will be as the army of Judah proclaimed, “Praise the Lord for His mercy endures forever.”
One problem in our society that keeps us from understanding this principle is our picture of God as separate from us, doling out punishment or reward from outside our world. Many see God as an old man sitting on a throne pointing a finger downward toward earth and shooting lightning bolts to affect the physical realm. We can’t praise Him if we don’t really understand what He is like.
The apostle John opens his gospel by giving us the true nature of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). God is Spirit, Jesus tells us in John 4:24. He is Person who defines Himself by concepts and ideas. The very meaning of the word Word is “thought expressed.” WORD becomes flesh and has ever since God defined and spoke the physical universe into existence with the concept “Light!” Light energy is the basic component for all physical existence. God and His Word are the source of all Life. When we understand that, we can praise Him for being the ongoing Creator.
This concept of God as Spirit and Word is too big for our finite minds to understand completely all at once. But when we plant the seed of understanding and let it grow, we will one day know why Jesus told us that the parable of the sower sowing the Word was necessary for understanding all He teaches (Mark 4:13, 24). God is Spirit and He defines Himself in words. Those spoken words change our circumstances. To praise Him for specific actions and attributes is to bring those actions and attributes into the physical realm. “It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
We need to recognize that the devil and his followers are also spirit – evil spirits. They convey evil concepts – ideas and concepts that are contrary to the thoughts that God expresses to you through His Word. Just as we know God is not an old man sitting on a throne, the devil is not a man in a red suit holding a pitchfork, and evil spirits are not gargoyles. The Spirit realm, both good and evil, wants to affect the physical realm.
The more we understand God’s nature, the more we will praise Him, and the more we praise Him, the more we will see Him active in our lives.
The story of Jehoshaphat and the battle against the three armies illustrates a third principle.
EVIL ATTACKS ON THREE FRONTS
We’ve already looked at those three fronts in the account described in II Chronicles 20. Remember that in the Bible, names are very important because a name designates the nature of something. We often miss a lot of information that God wants to convey to us in His Word by not discovering what a person or group or place symbolizes.
The first thing I noticed the day the Lord was teaching me from this passage was that the third army is not mentioned at the beginning. “It came to pass after this also that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle” (II Chronicles 20:1).
Moab, representing our genetic inheritance, and Ammon, representing our cultural situation are identified right away. The third army is only mentioned as “and with them, other besides.” The group that came along with the first two armies isn’t named until verse 10.
“And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom thou would not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt …” Mount Seir comes along with those things that attack us through our birth and cultural situations in life. As we saw earlier, the name Mount Seir means “goat or devil” and represents evil spirits, devils, demons, messengers of the enemy.
Spiritual enemies, evil spirits or devils, cannot just attack you physically – they have no bodies; they come in with the inherited and cultural enemies of your perfect happiness and your perfect good. When something has been established in you through your family heritage or cultural situation, then spiritual evil comes along with it to create and insure a stronghold.
My father’s family has a history of blood lipid disorder so out of balance that it was reported in medical journals. My brother and sister and I were the subjects of experimental research to develop drugs to reduce blood lipids. I inherited this disorder as extremely high triglycerides. With medication and moderate obedience to dietary good sense, my triglycerides stay at a healthy level, for me. Without medication and eating right, I get very sick.
The proclivity to high triglycerides is a genetic thing (Moab); the wrong diet is a cultural thing (Ammon); and the enemy (Mount Seir) comes along with those things to kill, steal, and destroy my life and the ministry that the Lord Jesus wants to accomplish through me. But when I praise Him for His mercy and thank Him that He is my life and my health, I receive His health and restoration, even when I have been unwise.
When the people of Judah went to God with their plea for help, they reminded Him that He would not let them invade and destroy these three armies at the time they entered the promised land. He left these possible enemies in the land.
In the same way, when you became a Christian you did not get a new body with a new genetic makeup. You were not translated into a perfect society with perfect cultural habits.
You were left with your genetic and cultural situation in a place where evil spirits operate through these things to kill, steal, and destroy all that God has promised you. In other words, you are in a war against the flesh, the world, and the devil. And you can’t win.
But God can.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Principles of Spiritual Warfare
Only God can successfully defeat evil.
Praising God brings Him on the scene.
Evil attacks on three fronts.
“Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” II Chronicles 20:15
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1
“And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord sat ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.” II Chronicles 20:22
“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings has thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2
“I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.” Psalm 9:2,3
HE SENT HIS WORD AND HEALED THEM AND DELIVERED THEM FROM THEIR DESTRUCTIONS.
Everyday Spiritual Warfare
© 2011 by Amy Barkman
Published by Next Step Books, P.O. Box 70271, West Valley City, Utah 84170
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise – without written permission of the author, except for brief quotations in printed reviews.
All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.
Everyday Spiritual Warfare
Click the bookcover or title for more info or to purchase a copy. Look for other FIRST Wildcard member posts and opinions also. Don’t forget to click the author’s name or photo to visit her website. My review is coming soon. Thanks to Next Step books for a review copy.