Friday, September 20, 2013

Winning the Victory

I was talking recently with my friend, Stephen, describing to him a serious issue my family was facing. He said, “You realize that this is a spiritual battle, don’t you?”

In the Christian life we can expect to be attacked, especially if God is working on something significant in our lives. So, what should we do when we sense the enemy coming after us?

The following is a tool that I have found very helpful over the years. Written and adapted by Avery Willis as a part of Lifeway’s MasterLife discipleship process, this has been proven to be an extremely helpful tool by missionaries, ministers, and God’s faithful followers for years.

First, we need to understand the nature of the conflict. It’s a spiritual battle. Paul reminds us of this in Ephesians 6:10-20. We don’t wrestle with flesh and blood, but with spiritual forces of darkness. And we, as followers of Christ - as soldiers, if you will - are instructed to engage this enemy, particularly through prayer.

God equips every believer for this struggle. He has given us the means to victory. He wants every believer to:

• Stand against Satan and his schemes.
• Withstand his assault.
• Be standing when the battle is over.

In 2Chronicles 20 is an account of God’s people facing a daunting foe. As they considered what to do, the king called the people to prayer. Following this period of fasting and prayer, God spoke through one of the prophets to assure them that he will fight this battle, and that they are to 1. take their positions, 2. stand in place, and 3. watch God win the battle.

The battle is won in prayer, and the victory is claimed as we advance and engage this unseen foe. Here are the means to put on the armor for waging spiritual warfare.

The Helmet of Salvation

1. Thank God you are his child. Remind yourself that “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world."
2. Praise God for eternal life, and remember that this salvation cannot be taken away.
3. Claim the mind of Christ. (1Corinthians 2:16) It is yours because of your salvation.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

1. Ask God to search your heart and reveal any wicked way.
2. Confess any sin.
3. Claim Christ’s righteousness, that covers your sin and gives you right standing with him.

The Belt of Truth

1. Ask God to sanctify you in the truth, which is his word. (John 17:17)
2. Hold firmly to the truth. Pray that God will reveal his truth to you. Remember that Jesus promises us that we will know the truth.
3. Master your emotions. Don’t trust your feelings, that can deceive you. Ask God to fill you with his Spirit and produce in you the love, joy, and peace that are yours for the asking. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Shoes of the Gospel

1. Be prepared, before the struggle begins. Know how to verbalize your faith.
2. Share the gospel. Look for how God can use you to declare his grace and mercy.
3. Intercede for those who are lost, and who may be tools the enemy is using to come against you. Pray for their salvation.

The Sword of the Spirit

1. Grasp the Word. Know it. Spend time in it. Speak it to remind the enemy that he is defeated.
2. Let the Spirit use the Word. It is his tool.
3. Pray on the basis of the Word. If you know that something is God’s will, pray for it boldly, confidently. (see 1John 5:14-15)

The Shield of Faith

1. Claim the victory.
2. Advance in faith. Put feet to your prayers.
3. Use the Word to quench the fiery darts of the enemy.


You are now clothed and ready to move forward. Talk to God about the concerns of your heart. Intercede for those who need to know Christ. Claim the victory that is yours. And STAND firm against the fiery darts of the enemy.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Of Heroes and Villains

First Platoon, Co A, 1/46 Infantry

A few years ago the American Film Institute came up with a list of heroes and villains from the movies. At the top of the hero list was the character, Atticus Finch, from the film To Kill A Mockingbird. And leading the villain list was Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs.

This topic of heroes and villains is of interest to me because of my combat experience. I’ve often wondered, given the right set of circumstances, if it would have been possible for me to have played either role. In my position as a combat platoon leader, I saw heroism demonstrated by the young men under my command. However, I never witnessed any of the villainous acts attributed to some soldiers who fought in Vietnam. Apparently such despicable acts did take place, and some American fighting men allegedly did horrific things, but I wasn’t an eyewitness to any of this.

It’s my contention that every person is capable of great heroism, and may also be capable of despicable, even villainous behavior.

Take, for example, Lieutenant William Calley, who was convicted of ordering the slaughter of the entire village of My Lai. As a young, inexperienced junior officer, Calley was caught in an ambiguous situation in an area that had been declared a “free fire” zone. Some have argued that Calley was unprepared for the command he was given. Prior to his commission as an officer Calley had been an unemployed college dropout who had managed to graduate from Officer's Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1967. ( However, other young men, also lacking in education and without the advantage of several years of officer training, were recognized for great heroism. A recent visit to the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning underscores this. An entire section is dedicated to the OCS hall of fame, a tribute to OCS grads who performed acts of heroism in combat.

So what makes the difference in whether a person is a hero or a villain? It has always been a troubling question in my mind, especially given the fact that I came from a similar background as Calley. I flunked out of college and was drafted as a young husband and father, despite my protestations and attempts to obtain some other kind of deferment. While in basic training I tested and applied for both officer candidate school and flight school, and, to my surprise, was accepted into both.

I graduated from OCS on October 16, 1969, just a few weeks before the My Lai massacre came to national attention. However, instead of being sent to Vietnam, I was given orders to an infantry unit in Germany. But after eighteen months the Army sent me to Vietnam. By this time much had changed in our rules of engagement, and there were no longer any free fire zones. Also, by this time our mission had changed to providing security for a gradual withdrawal. As a result, I never had to deal with the ambiguous circumstances faced by Calley and his platoon, even though my unit was a part of the same Americal Division.

There was nothing particularly heroic in my service as a combat commander. But there was also nothing villainous about my conduct or that of my men. We did our job the best we could and served with honor, then came home, took off our uniforms, and tried to return to a normal life.

I am proud of the men that I had the privilege of leading, and I’m thankful that we never had to discover how we would react under such ambiguity as that faced by Calley and his men.

By the way, the photo is of some of the men I commanded in combat. At this time I had been reassigned to the firebase to command the battalion mortar platoon, and, to my delight, my rifle platoon pulled a week of firebase security, giving me an opportunity to see all of them again. I only regret not being able to remember all of them, 42 years later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lost, But Making Great Time

During our college days, my friend, Ken, and I decided to drive to Chicago, wanting to see the big city while in that part of the country for a wedding. After the wedding rehearsal on Friday night, Ken and I struck out for the Windy City. As we traveled up I65, we could see the lights ahead. Soon we were on the edge of the city. As we got closer, we saw what appeared to be a sea of headlights and taillights, flowing along the Eisenhower Expressway. Drawing nearer, we suddenly found ourselves sucked into the eastbound traffic, and were soon flowing along at 70 plus miles per hour. After a few minutes I looked at Ken, who was driving, and asked,

“Do you have any idea where we are?”


“Do you have any idea where we’re headed?”


“You mean we’re lost?”

“Yes, but we’re making great time.”

Now I’ve embellished the story a little to make a point. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. Sadly, many people wander through life with no real direction, just drifting along aimlessly.

But God doesn’t want His people to live this way. As followers of Christ, we are admonished to do just that – follow Him.

Some years ago I developed and led a seminar for a national Christian singles event. Entitled “GPS – God’s Positioning System,” it was designed to enable single believers to gain a better understanding of how to follow God’s will on a daily basis.

The central Bible truth for this study was:

God has a will for all creation. Some aspects of His will we can understand. Other areas of God’s will are beyond our understanding, which requires us to trust Him explicitly.

Now I find myself leading a home Bible study dealing with this same topic. After all, every believer is exhorted to know and do God’s will.

Last night we began to take a look at two dimensions of God’s will; first, His sovereign will, and secondly His moral will. My main source for this is a book by Gary Freissen, “Decision Making and the Will of God.”

So let’s first take a look at God’s sovereign will, which is His predetermined plan for everything that happens in the universe. Here are some biblical truths concerning God’s sovereign will.

1. God’s sovereign will is perfect. We understand, through the Bible, that God knows everything. Nothing is hidden from His view. Nothing takes Him by surprise. So, since God has perfect knowledge of everything, when He decides to do something what He wills to do is also perfect.

2. God’s sovereign will is certain to be fulfilled. When God chooses to do something, it will be done.

3. God’s sovereign will is hidden from human view. He doesn’t consult with us when He decides to do something. As He asked Job, “Where were you when I formed the earth?” (Job 38:4) In other words, Job wasn’t around and God wasn’t dependent on him or any human in any of the decisions God made regarding creation.

4. God’s sovereign will is exhaustive, meaning that nothing is left outside His will. God, who is in control of the entire universe, has a will concerning all of creation. Every atom that has every existed is included. The farthest star in the remotest galaxy is a part of God’s will.

Based on these realities, here are a couple of ideas for application:

First, consider the fact that God knew you before the foundation of the world. His word states this in Ephesians 1:11. This means that, long before you turned in faith to Christ, God had already planned for the day when you would experience forgiveness for your sins.

Now, think about a Heavenly Father who is so awesome and sovereign that nothing is outside His will. How does this make you feel? Do you sense peace and joy knowing that your life is in the hands of the One who holds and sustains the universe?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Prayer for wisdom and courage

A local group of conservative businessmen will meet for lunch and hear the Republican candidates for the 11th Congressional seat. I've been asked to pray. Here is the prayer:

Father, we are grateful for this new day. We thank you for your provision for us and for your watchcare over us.

Lord, we acknowledge you as the giver of every good and perfect gift, and as our Creator, the One who has endowed us with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

You, Lord, are the God of grace and glory, and, as the hymn implores, we ask that you grant us wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour.

First, Father, grant us wisdom. There are crucial choices before us as we elect leaders who will represent us. We need to hear from you, Lord. You have told us in your Word to pray for our leaders, and we call on you today to guide us in this endeavor.

And we ask, Lord, for courage. May we be emboldened to stand for those values we cherish – particularly the values of individual liberty and personal responsibility. We are reminded that you have called us to freedom. Help us to persevere as we see our freedom’s eroded by those who currently lead us.

Now, Father, bless us as we gather for fellowship around the table and enjoy the bounty of your hand. We thank you for those who have prepared this meal for us, and for the opportunity to enjoy the company of each other.

So it is, Lord, that, with respect and acknowledgment of persons of all faith, I offer this prayer in the Name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Grant Us Wisdom

This great hymn was written by Harry Emerson Fosdick during a time of crisis in 1930. I have little use for his liberal theology, but this hymn speaks to the world today.

God of grace and God of glory,
On Your people pour Your pow'r;
Crown Your ancient Church’s story;
Bring its bud to glorious flow'r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.

Lo! the hosts of evil round us
Scorn the Christ, assail His ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

Cure Your children’s warring madness;
Bend our pride to Your control;
Shame our wanton, selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Your kingdom’s goal,
Lest we miss Your kingdom’s goal.

Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore;
Let the gift of Your salvation
Be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Serving You whom we adore,
Serving You whom we adore.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

An Open Letter to Cal Thomas

Evangelicals are desperate, Cal? Please. We of biblical faith are admonished to speak up and stand up for those who have no voice. It’s called social justice. And the greatest victims of injustice are the millions of children murdered before they were born. So, yes, we support Rick Santorum, especially on this issue.

As far as Jesus’ teachings, your column underscores what someone once said: that “a text taken out of context becomes a pretext for a proof text.” You criticize followers of Christ for being a part of the political process, when it is we, His people, who can be thanked for, among other things, the First Amendment. Look up John Leland, Baptist preacher from Virginia, and take note of his influence on James Madison’s final version of the guarantee of religious liberty. Were we invisible, who would have stepped forward on behalf of liberty? The ACLU?

When you consider the full counsel of scripture, not just a few selected verses from the Sermon on the Mount, which was, in reality, an admonition to the self-serving, self-righteous Pharisees, you’ll realize that over and over again Christ’s followers are told to be salt and light in the world. It is we Christians who have “flavored” society for good, standing for the rights of others and sharing what we have through soup kitchens, crisis pregnancy centers, homeless shelters, and so on. In just that regard alone, we have more than earned the right to be heard.

Furthermore, Paul tells us to be model citizens, which, one could infer, means participating in the full political process. And you twist his words in saying that we walk by faith, not by sight. This in no way means that Christians are to be invisible, but rather that we understand that we can trust God and take Him at His word, even when we can’t trace His hand. Paul underscores this point in declaring that Abraham “believed” God (i.e. walked by faith, not sight) in departing his home and traveling to a place he had never been before simply because God told him to.

Finally, Jesus’ teaching on private prayer is, again, a response to the showiness of the Pharisees, not a proscription against public prayer. The Pharisees wanted to impress others with their rigid adherence to the Torah and the 640 laws they built around it, but Jesus called them hypocrites, vipers, and poisonous. However, the early church often prayed corporately, and, at times, publically. Take a look at Acts 4, for just one example of corporate prayer. Even Jesus tells us to pray with one another.

My admonition to you is to stick to what you understand, and leave it to us who adhere to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to flesh out our faith as we feel led.

Let us pray. Tebow, if you feel so led.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Like A Mighty Army

2Chronicles 20 gives the account of a time in the life of King Jehoshaphat when the nation of Judah was threatened by the forces of Moab and Ammon. This was a vast army, according to the report given to Jehoshaphat, and the threat first struck fear in the heart of the king, then drove him to action.

Whether we like it or not, we’re in a struggle ourselves, not against Moabites or Ammonites, but against spiritual forces of darkness in high places. There is much we can learn from how God’s people responded to this threat.

The first thing we note is PREPARATION. As soon as the king got word of the attack, he prepared by declaring a fast and inquiring of the Lord.

The Bible tells us that we also need to prepare. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul exhorts us to put on the whole armor of Christ: the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, and the shoes of the gospel. Then he reminds us that we are to take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Thus armed, we are ready to meet the foe. Paul reminds us, in 2Corinthians 10:4, that our weapons are not worldly but mighty. Our only weapons are the Word and prayer, but what else could we possibly need?

After the preparation the king called the people together for PRAYER. And his prayer is an earnest plea to God for guidance, wisdom, and strength. Note the honesty of the king as he pours out his heart. He prays, “we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." When we come honestly and earnestly before the throne of grace, God hears and answers.

After the prayer came the PROCLAMATION. God spoke to the king and the people through the prophet. His words were, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.” He goes on to declare, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you."

Emboldened by this promise from God, the people began to PRAISE. Moreover, obeying God’s command, they went out to meet the foe with such confidence of victory that they put the choir in the front of the army, singing and shouting,
"Give thanks to the LORD,
for his love endures forever."

When they arrived at the battlefield, they found that the Moabites and the Ammonites had destroyed one another because of the Lord’s hand. God’s people were victorious because of their prayer and their praise.

At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.

Like a mighty army moves the church of God.
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided. All one body, we.
One in hope and doctrine, One in charity.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.