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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Call to Arms

Last week, I began a series on listening.  This week was supposed to be Part 2: Listening to God.  However, when I started this blog, I promised God and myself to let Him dictate my topics.  Sunday night, this topic/idea came to me and I realized that it could not wait until my series on listening was finished.  How hypocritical would it be if God wanted me to write on this topic, yet I ignored Him in order to write a post titled Listening to God?

It appears as though my brother also received the same message from God because yesterday, he wrote a post titled Game On.  I would encourage you to read it if you haven’t already.  It’s obviously well-written, but I’m also going to use it as a lead-in to this post in order to cut on some of the back story.  In short—Satan has come at my family hard this year.

I’m going to split this post into two sections: First, I will piggyback on Joe’s writing of spiritual warfare.  Then I will focus on why Satan has chosen this method to attack my family.

Spiritual Warfare:
In John 17, Jesus is praying, and basically what He’s doing is asking God to keep us safe as we enter into this battleground against Satan.  See…Jesus knew.  He knew that those who followed Him were going to be the subjects of the devil’s attacks.  A lot has already been written about this notion of Christian suffering, so I’ll just encourage you to look at past posts.  Still, we would be naïve if we believed that with God on our side, Satan will just leave us alone.  The Bible says otherwise:

Genesis 12:10; 35:10
The entire book of Job
Matthew 5:11-12; 24:13; 26:35
Virtually the entire New Testament

Now, I have become exhausted of how cliché we have made “war.”  Two reality stars hate each other, and the TV commercial says, “This.  Is.  War.”  No, it isn’t.  Sports are ridiculous with this.  We have: Throwing a bomb…Throwing a missile…Hitting a rocket…Hitting/Firing/Throwing a bullet…The line of scrimmage in football is known as in the trenches…The lane in basketball is known as the war zone.  They’re relentless, and this trivialization of war really irritates me.

However, make no mistake about it, there is a spiritual war going on, and it’s a matter of life and death, so you better take it seriously.

Joe made mention of being so focused on the smaller battles that he forgot the big picture: The War.  He’s right, in a war, you will lose specific battles.  However, one battle you cannot afford to lose is the battle for your soul.  Once you have lost that battle, the war is over, and the enemy has won.

How do we fight this battle?  How do we win the war?  I watched an online sermon last night from Joshua Walker regarding spiritual warfare.  The majority of his sermon came from Ephesians 6:10-20.  Here is the abridged version (with his actual words in quotes):
How We Fight:
Truth:  We have to know God’s word and be true to His word.
Righteousness:  We have to live like Jesus.
Foundation:  You need to have solid footing to stand strong. You need to have a solid understanding of the gospel.
Faith:  “Faith is what allows us to look into the next world, and it’s what makes everything here make sense, and all of the lies of the evil one are exposed.”  Satan’s lies put us in this massive, dark space where it’s impossible to find the exit…but faith turns on the light, and we realize that we’re actually in a tiny room with multiple exits, and we’re like, Oh…that’s no big deal.
Salvation:  Salvation should give us the confidence to fight in battle because we know that we are saved in Christ.
Spoken Word of God:  “Speak forth the Word of God and the world will be transformed…people will be transformed…and it will be easier to stand against the evil one.”  When Jesus was being tempted by Satan, how did He respond to each temptation?  By speaking the Word of God.
Prayer:  Prayer is something we must do at all times, not just during the battle.

Don’t be foolish and arrogant, Satan is stronger than you.  It is impossible to defeat him on your own.  That’s why Jesus was praying in John 17…so God could give us the right weapons…and we have the right weapons:

1)    God.  Satan may be stronger than you or I individually, but no being in existence is stronger than God.
Deuteronomy 33:27 – “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.  He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, ‘Destroy him!’”
Joshua 1:5 – No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Psalm 3:3 – But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
Psalm 7:10 – My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.
Psalm 18:2 – The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; the Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge.  He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:32-34 – It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.  He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 – Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
2)    Each other.  Only Chuck Norris, Rambo, and Jack Bauer have won entire wars single-handedly, and last I checked, we are not them.  During his sermon, Walker said, “We are called to take a stand…but we can’t stand alone.  We have to depend on each other.  We have to go into battle with each other…When you’re in the trenches together is when you put your differences behind you.”
3)    A guaranteed victory.  If you had the ability to look into the future, how much easier would that make your life?  All fear and worry would be gone.  God has given us a look into the future.  We know how this is all going to end.  A favorite quote for years in my family came from Christian comedian Mike Warnke, who once said, “I’ve read the end (of the Bible).  I know how this turns out…WE WIN!!”  And from Walker: “The enemy is real, but don’t give him too much credit, for he is a defeated foe.”

Sounds easy, right?  With God on our side, we have a guaranteed victory!!  Problem solved.  No more Satan.  Except…we’re smarter than that.  The devil is too stubborn to just surrender…so he comes at us with his greatest weapon: Fear.

The Bully:
Satan is a bully.  Plain and simple.  He’s the big kid on the playground pushing the smaller kids down and demanding their lunch money.  Bullies get away with their bullying through fear.  They’re unnaturally aggressive.  They’re intimidating.  No one wants to tell on them or stand up to them for fear of repercussions.  What’s interesting about bullies is that it’s rare for them to actually fight.

Growing up, I was bullied a lot.  I was tall for my age and about as thick as a pencil.  I was smart.  I ran my mouth a lot.  Any one of those will get you picked on, and I had the trifecta going.  However, I almost never backed down from the bullies.  I knew that if a fight happened, I would get my butt kicked, but I refused to let them push me around.  And you know what?  I have never been in a fight.  I have never been punched.  Not once.  There have been some scuffles…some shoving…I had a baseball whipped at my head once…but no real fight.

Yet in the battle for my soul, I have repeatedly backed away from Satan.

I’ve actually wanted to write this post since January, but I kept chickening out.  My wife and I will celebrate our ten-year anniversary in August.  In those ten years, we have been able to go on one—ONE—vacation.  We didn’t even get a honeymoon.  For the last two years, we have been saving so that this July we can take a trip to Hawaii.  For two years, we have been holding our breath…almost waiting for something to come up that will keep us from going.  Even now that our airline and hotel costs have been paid for…still, we keep looking over our shoulders.  I haven’t written about Satan being a bully—I haven’t even allowed myself to include it on my list of future topics—for one reason: Fear.  I have been so afraid that the second I called him out, he would strike back in such a way that our Hawaii trip would vanish.

I am such a coward.  This is how bullies win.  They find your weaknesses and exploit them until you are paralyzed by helplessness.  This behavior should make us angry, but instead it has the bully’s desired effect—it makes us afraid.  Afraid of what they’ll do next.  Afraid of what they’ll say next.  Afraid of whom or what they may go after next.

It’s time to stop being afraid.

Genesis 15:1 – After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.”
          (From the notes in my Bible): “God gave Abram two reasons for courage: 1) He promised to defend Abram, and 2) He promised to be Abram’s ‘very great reward.’  When you fear what lies ahead, remember that God will stay with you through difficult times and that he has promised you great blessings.”
Deuteronomy 3:21-22 – At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings.  The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going.  Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”
Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
Luke 4:36 – All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What is this teaching?  With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!”
          (Notes): “Evil permeates our world, and it is no wonder that people are often fearful.  But Jesus’s power is far greater than Satan’s.  The first step toward conquering fear of evil is to recognize Jesus’s authority and power.  He has overcome all evil, including Satan himself.”
John 14:27 – (Jesus talking) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
          (Notes): “Sin, fear, uncertainty, doubt, and numerous other forces are at war within us.  The peace of God moves into our hearts and lives to restrain these hostile forces and offer comfort in place of conflict.  Jesus says he will give us that peace if we are willing to accept it from him.”

(Satan) has no real power over you other then what you give him. – Joshua Walker
The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him.  He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless.  He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit.  This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administering Spirit.  A Christian is fearless. – Tertullian (Christian author from around 180 AD)

When we fear Satan, we doubt God.  We show our true heart, our true faith in moments of persecution (Genesis 21:7, Nehemiah 2:2-3, Mark 4:38-40, Hebrews 3:6).  By cowering to fear of the devil, we are questioning God’s power and love.  Who is more powerful: Satan or God?  What is more powerful: Satan’s attacks or God’s love and protection?  It’s easy to say the words, but what do you actually believe?  How you respond when times are tough accurately displays your true belief.

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4:18
If we yield ourselves to fear, we will think too highly of Satan and his servants and think too lowly of God and His powerful authority. – Mark Driscoll
We are children of the most powerful being in existence, and it just looks weird when we’re scared. – Francis Chan

Furthermore, in my American Heritage Dictionary, the third definition for fear is, “reverence or awe.”  Reverence: “Profound respect.”  And to take it to the next step, Humble: “Deferentially respectful.”  In short, when we cower in fear to the devil, we are humbling ourselves before him.  We are giving him our respect.

I will humble myself before God.  I will humble myself before others.  But I’ll be damned (literally) if I humble myself before Satan.

What were our favorite Sunday School stories?  David and Goliath.  Joshua and the walls of Jericho.  Moses leading the people out of Egypt and parting the Red Sea.  Daniel in the lion’s den.  All stories of strength.  All stories of God’s strength working through us.

(As children), we loved seeing the strength of the Lord working in others.  Yet the older we get, as the world knocks us down repeatedly, we lose that courage. – Francis Chan

It’s time to get that courage back.  It’s time to put a little fear into Satan for a change.  It’s time to take a stand.  How do you stop a bully?  You stand up to him.  You and everyone else.  Together.  United.  Most bullies have no intention of fighting, but even the ones that do will run away when they’re outnumbered.  Strength in numbers.  Strength in God.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:29-31

Satan is blitzkrieging my family right now.  Why?  Is it because he wants me to defect, so he’s trying to break me?  Perhaps, but I doubt it.  Because he’s trying to break Joe?  My parents?  My grandparents?  No, no, and no.  I’m certain that we are being targeted because the devil wants everyone else.  Ringle Nation is currently networking to insane numbers.

Joe has hundreds of people reading his Facebook and blog posts every day.  Impressionable people.  I don’t have nearly his audience, but I do have teenagers.  Very impressionable people.  These impressionable people are seeing the Ringle faith and what’s happening around us.  Satan is trying to scare them off: “See what happens when you love God?  Bad stuff.”

Satan is bullying us in every way he can think of: injury, illness, even death.  It would be so easy to give in and crawl away.  But it’s bigger than me.  It’s bigger than us.  Others are watching, and we must illuminate God’s light through this darkness so that our impressionable friends and family can see.

Luke 5:18-20
          (Bible notes): “For better or worse, our faith affects others.  We cannot make another person a Christian, but we can do much through our words, actions, and love to give him or her a chance to respond.”
Acts 5:40-42
          (Notes): “We should live as Christ has asked us to, sharing our faith no matter what the cost.”
The point of this warfare isn’t for us to have more comfortable lives.  The purpose of this warfare is for us to display Jesus Christ.  The purpose isn’t for us to be rescued out of our circumstances; the purpose is for us to display Jesus in the midst of our circumstances. – Joshua Walker

To my impressionable readers:
          Have you ever stood up to a bully?  Have you ever stood up for a friend who was being bullied?  There are few things in life that bring more satisfaction, more joy, than that.  Except this: Defending Jesus.  When we stand up against Satan, we are defending our Lord.  Can you imagine anything greater?  Joshua Walker says, “When we fight for God’s glory, when we fight for Him to be revealed, we ultimately are fighting for our greatest joy…When God is most glorified, we find the most satisfaction and joy.”
          My friends, you will be hunted.  You will be persecuted.  You will feel pain.  But as long as we all stay together and keep God in our hearts, we will not lose.  It’s been guaranteed to us.  Promised to us.  We may lose a battle here or there, but God will protect us from losing the war.  We will protect each other.  We must stand strong.
Make sure to pray for each other in this fight.  Don’t just pray for my family right now because we’re being attacked right now…pray for us all, so that when we are ALL attacked, we will be ready, we will be prepared, and we will stand.

To Satan:
          Don’t you get it yet?  You’ve messed with the wrong family (blood and spiritual).  You’ve come at us from nearly every angle, and we keep returning it stronger and harder.  We should probably thank you because every time you attack us, you give us the opportunity to praise God even louder.
          Your barrage is failing because with every strike you hit us with, we increase in number.  It was said a couple months ago that we’re on the road, and we’re picking up anyone that wants a ride.  We have a straight-up caravan happening now.  You may slow us down with violent storms and flat tires…our progress may be impeded briefly…but we’re moving forward nonetheless.
          You may be arrogant, but you’re not stupid…you know how this ends as well.  You know that you lose.  We know it, too, and we’re no longer afraid.  In fact, it’s time for you to be afraid, because we’re coming.  We’re coming hard and strong and with the love and power of God on our side.  We’re calling you out for what you are—a bully and a coward—and it’s time for you to run away.

In Christ Jesus’s name,

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