Prepare for Battle

Our nation is in serious trouble. The fact of the matter, if you read the first chapter of Romans, our nation is experiencing the judgment of God. While writing of the rebellious nature of man in general, the apostle writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth….For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. ~ Romans 1:18, 21-22

History bears witness to this. Anywhere Christianity has taken root, positive changes happened in societies (e.g., the value of children and women, the abolishing of slavery, healthcare, etc.). Opponents will say things like, what about the Crusades, etc. But we must understand the reality of the sinful heart of unregenerate men. As for the Crusades, Roman Catholicism is known for many corrupt popes, cardinals, and priests who were obviously not born again. Many of the Crusaders, too, were worthless men who loved violence and conquest. Corrupt men using religion to camouflage their wickedness is nothing new. We read about it in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., the Pharisees and Sadducees). And we see it today in politics and in churches promoting the false prosperity gospel. Nevertheless, wherever a people are truly yielded to the authority of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, these communities develop stability, as well as goodwill toward others. (For further study on the positive impact Christianity has had on the world, read How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt).

We also see the evidence of what Paul writes even in our own nation. Despite the good Christianity has done, godless men in our government, universities, and corporations seek to destroy such evidence by rewriting history, grossly editing original manuscripts, removing statues, etc. And what are many trying to replace all this with? Many of these men, with all their prestige, credentials, and forked-tongue rhetoric are promoting Marxism (socialism/Communism), which history repeatedly shows it strips people of dignity and value, and is known for its cruelty, violence, and genocides. They claim to be wise—far wiser than the ignorant masses—they have become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are horrifically darkened. They continually promise a golden age of utopia—without God—but all they will deliver is misery for the populace.

Further down, the apostle writes,

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. ~ Romans 1:24-25

Immorality, infidelity, and perversion have always found safe harbor in the hearts of godless individuals. So yes, there has always been cases of adultery, child molestation, and the like. Nevertheless, even in our nation, these were once considered taboo. Pregnancy out of wedlock and divorce were once shameful. Then came Hollywood with all its productions and godless promotions, increasingly stirring the lusts within people. During the 60’s came the “sexual revolution.” A generation no longer wanted the constraints of godly living. So, God gave them over to what their foolish hearts desired.

But the depravity of the sinful heart is like the grave and is never satisfied. The apostle writes,

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their woman exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. ~ Romans 1:26-27

During the 70’s and 80’s there became a push from Hollywood and universities to legitimize homosexual behavior. Today, not only is this behavior staunchly defended in Hollywood and Washington, but even many churches professing to be ambassadors of Christ. And there is a growing persecution (as evidenced in Canada) against those who would stand against the authority’s acceptance of this lifestyle. Nevertheless, we cannot nullify what God’s Word says, regardless of what side one chooses to stand.

The apostle then delves into the third wave of God’s judgment on a people.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. ~ Romans 1:28-31

Our society laments the violence in our city streets, poverty, broken homes, and threats of terrorist attacks. Yet, it is offended when the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, or the Ten Commandments are displayed. Our schools fully embrace evolution and deny any Intelligent Design (let alone the Creator as declared by Christians). Lascivious and blasphemous celebrities are idolized, while manipulative and corrupt politicians are applauded. Child-molesters are being defended by those claiming their desires are legitimate. Abortion is defended, even applauded, by many, despite the fact footage shows the real brutality which takes place, as babies’ body parts are ripped apart. Planned Parenthood, which claims to be “non-profit,” is somehow a multi-billion-dollar industry. And speaking of multi-billion-dollar industries, let us not forget to mention the tragic reality of human trafficking—a modern slave trade supported by many of our celebrities, politicians, and businessmen. This is the reality of societies without God. Utopia is the myth believed by fools.

It is strange that so many are looking to politicians to fix the problems when they, and their policies and exchanging of money “under the table,” are a vital part of the problems. Understand, this isn’t to casually dismiss the voting process. Citizens must be wise in who they vote for. But what good is this if the citizens are unwise and godless? The church must understand the issues go deeper than politics. Far deeper. If there is to be any hope for our nation, then God’s people must pray. This means seeking His face, as well as confessing the sins of our nation—as well as our own (see Nehemiah 1:6-7). But it also means preparing for spiritual war. The apostle writes in the sixth chapter of Ephesians,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:10-12

While we are responsible for the choices we make, and societies are responsible for the ideologies and beliefs they hold to, there is the reality of evil demonic beings influencing the events of our world. Have you ever wondered why universities, politics, Hollywood, Communism, Islam, New Age Occultism, etc., are hostile toward Christianity specifically and directly? In any case, while not dismissing the wickedness of people, our real enemies are not the people but the demonic forces influencing them. Sadly, many churches are not only standing alongside the wicked, but many are just as influenced by the spiritual forces of darkness. Why else would the Cross and Blood of Jesus Christ be deemphasized in some churches—even despised? And too often Christians are so busy warring against one another, completely oblivious to the fact the real enemies are unseen and working behind the scenes, not only in the world, but in our associations, conventions, seminaries, etc.

The apostle goes on to write to followers of Christ,

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. ~ Ephesians 6:13-18

The real battle does not take place on the streets of Washington, but on our knees in prayer. But we must have the complete armor on. We have a worthy adversary. Some don’t like it when I use the term “worthy,” thinking I mean he is worthy of some sort of praise. Still, others boast of the Victory we have in Christ, and mock the adversary as being a “toothless tiger.” But let us understand, while we are not told to be afraid of him, we are certainly to be aware of him. He is extremely crafty and manipulative. He knows our weaknesses quite well. In fact, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s deliverance from temptation and evil (Matthew 6:7). Peter warns us of the devil, who is like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Again, we don’t need to be afraid, but we must be aware, and we must be willing to battle in prayer with complete dependence on God. We must be girded with truth. As Neil Anderson writes in The Bondage Breaker, the power of the devil is in the lie. We must conquer using God’s truth. We must be covered and protected with righteousness. Unrighteousness will only play right into the enemy’s hands to his advantage. We must have the shoes on, firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The evil one is a fighter, and he will unleash lies and persecution against us. Whether through other people or whispers to our mind. We must lift our shield of faith in resistance to these fiery arrows. With this, we need to protect our minds with the helmet of salvation. Always remembering what Christ has done for us. We are saved by His grace and sacrifice, and not of our own works. And our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the Bible. Too often, people want to use the ideologies and trends of men, but these are like J. R. R. Tolkens’ golden rings described in his masterpiece, Lord of the Rings. These are crafted by evil, benefit evil, and enslave to evil. Our only true weapon is the Word of God in against the spiritual forces of evil. Lastly, we must be in constant prayer in the Spirit, in accordance with God’s will and ways, and praying for all fellow followers of Christ.

My friends, if there is any hope whatsoever for America, it will only come because of God’s mercy and power in response to the sincere prayers of His people. Only if we are willing to prepare for, and engage in, battle in prayer will be see hope and healing for our nation and world. But the question is, will we prepare for battle in the heavenlies?

But Do We Desire Him?

So many worship songs today declare how God’s love and grace make us feel. He showers on us His love. He gave His life for us, and fills us with His peace. “I could sing of Your love forever,” we sing, but does this include when a driver cuts us off or a restaurant employee messes up our order?

We talk and sing about God’s great love and sacrifice for us—that He gave His all to redeem us, to make us His own. But do we love Him? Do we genuinely desire Him? Please consider what I’m about to say. We modern Christians have made our feelings and worship into idols. I’m afraid, if we are honest, many love the emotional stimuli surrounding worship far more than the God whom is being claimed as being worshipped. 

Another thing we’ve carved into an idol is knowledge. Many take great delight in studying the Bible, theology, and hearing a good sermon. Mind you, of themselves these are good things; however, do we love the knowledge more than the Giver of knowledge?

We will spend hours at concerts, conferences, seminars, or in studies. But how much time will we be still in God’s presence, simply conversing with Him in prayer? For the vast majority, such time is significantly decreased. How can we truly love and adore one whom we don’t want to be with, who cramps our style, whom we’re too busy for, and not worth sacrificing other things for just to be with Him?

Leonard Ravenhill observes, “A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge, even Bible knowledge. But he prays because his soul is hungry for God.” How many of us can truly say our soul is hungry for God? What about when we set aside the music, the lights, and the various nuances and stimuli? Do we desire Him, to talk to Him, and to hear directly from Him? The psalmist writes,

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” ~ Psalm 42:1-2

How many of us can truly say this? God doesn’t only want our praise and worship (although He does want these). He also wants our hearts, our time, and our presence with Him. Do we give Him these from devoted hearts filled with love and desire for Him? If we can only muster a couple of minutes to Him, can we truly answer affirmatively? Oh, we desire warm-fuzzies, entertainment, and motivationals—but do we desire Him?

Let Us Reason Together 

Our world, our nations, and our communities are becoming increasingly confounded and divided. Politicians continue giving empty promises with ulterior motives, and every side seems to be slow to listen but quick to anger and speak. 

Washington, Hollywood, the United Nations, universities, and the like often criticize Christianity, some even going so far to say Christians are the problem. But this seems highly unlikely, considering godless people have the most influence in our schools,world affairs, media, and pop culture. The more our nations and communities scorn Christ and indulge in vices and behaviors that break down the family and community structures, the chaotic our world becomes. This is not to be blamed on Christianity. The teachings of Christ clearly discern between right and wrong, but we are living in a time reflecting the days of Isaiah:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! ~ Isaiah 5:20

Understand, this blame shifting is nothing new. The godly have always  been accused of “cramping” other’s styles, then blamed further when godless living faces consequences. In fact, Augustine’s, City of God, is largely a response to those of the day who blamed Christianity for Rome’s fall (of course people’s decadence and rulers’ corruption couldn’t have had a part).

Nevertheless, despite the world’s (and many churches) growing scorn, hostility, and unbelief of the Bible and the God it represents, God is not indifferent or callous towards people. While He has every right to tell us, “You made your bed, now lay in it,” He does not have this attitude.  He is not aloof to our increasing guilt, shame, anxiety, or fear. Rather, what does He say?

When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” ~ Isaiah 1:15-20

No doubt Jesus says of the nations today as He did of Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.” ~ Matthew 23:37-38

Some time ago I came across an event being promoted called, “Give Christianity the Middle Finger,” and elsewhere saw pictures of some young girls at a protest rally, holding placards which read, “We’re going to hell and proud of it.” While I won’t deny that some who profess Christ are blowhards, but what offense has God committed? Despite the behaviors of people, God remains consistent with His character and nature. And He tells us,

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? ~ Micah 6:8

Yet, our world applauds and defends injustice, delights in strife, arguing, and division, and walks proudly without God or thoughts of Him. Indeed, God is not the problem, but we are. If we would yield to Him and His ways, so many problems would seem to take care of themselves. People would look after one another and care for one another. Still, God invites us to “come, and reason together.” It is our sins that are as scarlet and staining, not His. But He can wash us and heal us. But we must first be willing to reason. Can we do this?

This article is not simply intended for the “godless,” but is just as much for modern churchgoers. Many churches and their leaders are running in various directions other than the direction Christ directs us. This is just as evil as anyone else’s resistance (Jer. 2:13).

Let us be reasonable and approach the Lord with humility. Whether we want to acknowledge the truth or not, the further we get away from Christ the more dark and turbulent our world becomes. And we only have ourselves to blame.

A House of Prayer 

Jesus says explicitly, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’” (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Therefore, not only is He stressing the importance of prayer, but it is to be of highest priority of any congregation gathering in His name—from the vocational ministers to the attending laity. So we should ask ourselves, how did churches become houses of worship? Understand, this is not simply a changing of terms. These are not synonymous. No, this shift is quite consequential.

“My house is to be a house of prayer,” the Lord declares. Yet, consider the emphasis of most churches. Is it prayer? No, most churches emphasize the preaching, worship, or missions/outreach of some kind. Yet, typically in any service prayer is given only a couple of minutes. Certainly the preaching of God’s Word, worship, and missions/outreach are all important. However, it is through prayer churches show their dependence on God and seek His directives. Furthermore, it is through prayer these other things are infused with the power of the Holy Spirit versus man’s ingenuity and activity (there is a distinction). Incidentally, it is by the lack of prayer churches reveal their trust in themselves (rather than on God) and seek after their own agendas instead of God’s will. Oh sure, in many cases buildings are erected and congregations grow numerically—but not infused with the power of God and a deeper knowledge of Him!

Henry Blackaby writes this haunting observation, “Those who know they can do nothing apart from abiding in Christ will cry out to God continually (John 15:5). People who become self-confident and proud will find they are too busy to pray.” How much do you and I, as well as our churches, genuinely cry out to God in total dependence and with abandonment of ourselves?

We say that we follow Christ and that He is our Teacher and example—that we want to be like Him. But is this true? Do we follow His example? Do we really want to be like Him? Oswald Chambers is right when he says, “Prayer seems like such a small thing to do—next to nothing at all in fact. But that’s not what Jesus said. To Him prayer is everything.”

Consider how many times in the Gospels we read of the Son of God rising up early in the morning while it was still dark or staying up late into the night for the purpose of praying. Before calling His disciples, He prayed. So devoted was He to prayer that His disciples (who no doubt were familiar with prayer) requested that He teach them to pray. Before His passion, knowing the cup of suffering was being given to Him to drink in its entirety, He pleaded that there was some other way; nevertheless, He wanted the Father’s will to be done. Is this our mindset—our desire—to seek long and hard after God, to enquire of His guidance in every decision, and to surrender our desires and agendas in order to align ourselves with His? This is difficult. In fact, this is impossible if we are not being infused with His Spirit. Cheryl Sacks rightly notes that this cannot happen apart from fervent prayer.

Please understand, I’m not speaking as one who is some great prayer warrior. But I see so much powerlessness of the church as darkness spreads further and many people falling away from the faith. We have Christian literature and media galore, but where is our influence? We have plenty of nice facilities and events, but where is the power? Is not our lack of influence and power simply a result of our lack of prayer?

The purpose of this article is not to shame the church or put her down. Rather, I am simply wanting to encourage you, and that we may encourage one another, to seek passionately after the heart and face of our Father—just as our Savior exemplified. By the moving of the Holy Spirit within us, may our church buildings be restored to houses of prayer instead of houses of worship. May we become completely dependent on God rather than our own abilities, and may we learn to sincerely pray patterned after His, “Your will be done.” From here, only God knows what incredibly positive effects this would have in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, and our world. We won’t ever know, except churches becoming what God has willed for them to be—houses of prayer.