第1テサロニケ 3:13 また、あなたがたの心を強め、私たちの主イエスがご自分のすべての聖徒とともに再び来られるとき、私たちの父なる神の御前で、聖く、責められるところのない者としてくださいますように。

This is a continuation of the prayer that Paul began in verse 11, and again I like the turn of phrase used in the NIV: “strengthen your hearts so that ...” Purity and holiness come from heart attitude long before they are expressed in action. That's the problem with legalism: it only addresses external matters. Jesus dealt with this repeatedly with the Pharisees, who were very focused on externals. When we find ourselves doing things that aren't pleasing to God, we need to examine our hearts. Jesus said that it is out of our hearts that evil words and actions come. (Matthew 15:18-19, Luke 6:45) Legalism seeks to attach the fruit of the Spirit to people by rules and regulations, but that would be like tying apples onto a tree. At best, they are there only briefly before drying up, rotting, and/or falling off. Real change comes from the inside out. That's not to say that rules and guidelines aren't helpful at times, because in our immaturity we don't always distinguish between things that please God and things that are of the flesh. Spiritual children are just like physical children in that respect. However, again like physical children, unless right values are internalized and owned, things go out the window the minute outside pressure is removed.


This is an immediate, pressing issue to me as a pastor, as it is to every spiritual parent. Like Paul, we pray that the hearts of believers may be strengthened, because it's for sure outside rules aren't going to do the job! We are charged with expressing Biblical standards so that people will know what they are aiming for, but trying to run a church by rules is exhausting as well as futile. I am not to run from admonishing and correcting, but my focus must be on the internal spiritual development of each believer, rather than on specific activities. That's why training and encouragement in personal devotions is so important. However, people need to grow spiritually enough to make having a devotional time each morning a priority. The devil, society, and our flesh cooperate to make that a steep hill to climb, but once the commitment is there, the rewards are abundant.


Father, I find myself surprised and disappointed so often when I ask believers about their devotional life. I ask for wisdom and anointing in communicating what a rich blessing it is to spend time just with you at the start of each day. I ask that You give each believer wisdom to know how to arrange their schedule to make that time, and give them the will to follow through. Help them recognize the traps that steal time from them, and desire fellowship with You more than the empty pleasures of this world, so that their hearts may indeed grow strong as You intend, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



第1テサロニケ 1:3 絶えず、私たちの父なる神の御前に、あなたがたの信仰の働き、愛の労苦、主イエス・キリストへの望みの忍耐を思い起こしています。

The NIV gets slightly creative with the prepositions in this verse, but I don't think it does violence to the meaning at all. The trio of faith, love, and hope are most famous from 1 Corinthians 13:13, but this is also a very important verse on the subject. The point is that faith works, love labors, and hope endures patiently. If we claim to have these qualities yet aren't involved in the activities they produce, then we are deceiving ourselves. The letter of James is the best known exposition of the principle that real faith works, and the 1st letter of John has a strong exposition of the labors of love, while references to the patient endurance of hope are found throughout the Bible. Various statements in the Bible are sometimes taken as abstract, but closer examination will always show that they are real and practical, applying to concrete, verifiable circumstances. It is said as a joke that “I love humanity; it's individual people I can't stand.” However, it's in individual interactions that our love is tested and demonstrated. We might say, “I believe,” but it is our lifestyles that show what we really believe. We might think that our hope is in Christ, yet find we are unable to tolerate delays in the fulfillment of our desires. God knows all these things, yet He loves us anyway! Perhaps that is the greatest miracle of all.


Time and time again I have had to face up to the reality that my faith, love, and hope were/are not as I would like them to be. Like all of us, I'm growing! I am to welcome the specific correction and encouragement the Holy Spirit gives, but I am to stand firm against the blanket condemnation the devil tries to dump on me. As a pastor, I need to teach the believers to do the same. Accepting ourselves as we are and yet not being satisfied to stay as we are is sometimes difficult, but it is a vitally important skill in overcoming the devil and becoming like Christ. I must be very careful that my words of correction to others are clear, specific, and loving, to give the devil as little chance as possible to twist them into condemnation. I need to lead the church in having patient endurance toward ourselves, each other, and our circumstances, expecting great things of God and expressing love and faith in the process.


Father, thank You for not giving up on us! Help me be an accurate expression of Your attitude toward us, believing, loving, and hoping as You intend, so that I may lead this flock into the abundance that You have planned for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!



コロサイ 4:2 目をさまして、感謝をもって、たゆみなく祈りなさい。

People who like to think of themselves as scientific consider prayer impractical, but Paul certainly has a different opinion. In this extremely practical letter he tells his readers to pray without giving up. The two conditions he gives for prayer are certainly worth noting. First, we are to be awake or alert. Christians should never be in a fog about what is going on around them. In this Information Age it is easy to be so inundated with information that we pay real attention to almost none of it, but that is not the right response. We need to be alert and discriminating to know what is of importance to us and what is not, and responding to the information by “forwarding” it to God in prayer. These days everyone gets lots of e-mail forwards, and that's a good metaphor for how we should respond to much of the information that comes our way. The second condition we need to maintain in prayer is thankfulness. Particularly through the news media, much of the information we get is essentially negative. Even if we can't be thankful for the particular thing we're hearing about, we can be thankful that God is still God, and no matter how severe the problem, God is much bigger than that and He can and will use it for good, if we will release it to Him.


This is certainly an important point for me, because I'm something of an “information junkie,” always wanting to learn more. The past couple of years in American politics have been a very good case in point. I have allowed myself to get upset at what was happening far too many times, failing, however briefly, to remember that God was still in control. I need to focus on being thankful, allowing the Holy Spirit to use me to pray God's will without giving up. That, of course, applies to the many things I pray for much closer to home as well. Every concern needs to be converted to prayer without delay, and with thanks that we have been given access to the throne room of God by the blood of Jesus. As a pastor, I need to be teaching and training the believers in this approach to prayer. So many see God as distant, and so they are hesitant to pray. I need to help them understand that He is closer than their own skin, that He cares, and that He's always listening.


Father, thank You for the message You're building in me for Sunday. So many people see You as so different than You really are, and it warps their perception of, and response to, everything else. Help me not only walk in an accurate, healthy relationship with You, but also lead others to do the same. May I indeed be alert and thankful, praying without giving up because I know You and I delight in Your love and grace and holiness. May I draw many more with me into that sort of relationship with You as well, so that together we may overcome the traps of the devil and walk in all that You intend for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 3:17 あなたがたのすることは、ことばによるの行いによるとを問わず、すべて主イエスの名によってなし、主によって父なる神に感謝しなさい。

When you think about the fact that Colossians was written to a group of believers Paul had never met, but had only heard about, it is easy to think of it as written to us, whom Paul knew about only by faith. That makes it all the more significant that it is an extremely practical letter, dealing with the nitty-gritty details of living as a Christian believer in this decidedly non-Christian world. This one verse could be said to sum it all up, because doing things in someone's name meant doing them in keeping with the character, values, and personality of that person. (That's a good think to remember when we tack “In Jesus' name” on the end of our prayers!) Here Paul is very specific that this applies to both words and deeds. Sometimes we think we are fine because we haven't overtly done bad things, when our words have deceived and wounded, and that is hardly in keeping with our Lord Jesus. And it is significant that here again Paul brings up the matter of being thankful. A heart of gratitude goes a long way toward keeping us right before God. The devil is all too successful in convincing us that the Christian lifestyle is restrictive, when the reverse is true. When we walk in obedience and gratitude, our eyes and hearts are opened to recognize the abundance of God's grace toward us, and that is enormously liberating.


Like Paul, I often deal with people who honestly don't know how to live a Christian life. The things pointed out in this chapter are in many cases at variance with societal norms and expectations, particularly in the areas of sexual morality, honesty, and forgiveness. I am to be patient and gentle, but unyielding in proclaiming the Biblical principles in each of those areas. I was able to do that this past Sunday when I helped people understand that other people are never their enemies, only Satan is. That was an eye opener for some of them! And as I proclaim the truth to others, I must be careful to walk in it myself, never thinking that because I am a teacher I have it all down pat. I have a wealth of experience behind me, but fundamentally I am as vulnerable to deception as anyone, and I must not forget that, or in that moment I will be deceived.


Father, thank You again for all You are doing here. Help us live out all You are showing us and leading us into. May we grow in trust and obedience as we walk through the issues we face: jobs, relationships, finances, or whatever. May we learn what it is to do everything, in word or in deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that everything will indeed be done according to Your will, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

父よ。あなたはここでなさっているすべてを感謝します。あなたは私たちに示したり、導いたりしていることをすべて実現できるように助けてください。私たちは直面している問題 - 仕事、人間関係、経済、何でも - を通ると信頼と従順に成長できるようにお願いします。すべてが御栄光のために、御心どおりにされるために、私たちは言葉によっても行動によっても、すべてを主イエス・キリストの御名によって行うことを学べますように。ハレルヤ!


コロサイ 2:6-7 あなたがたは、このように主キリスト・イエスを受け入れたのですから、彼にあって歩みなさい。キリストの中に根ざし、また建てられ、また、教えられたとおり信仰を堅くし、あふれるばかり感謝しなさい。

This appears to be one of those rare passages in which the NIV is slightly more accurate than the Japanese. Neither language has a tense that specifically indicates continuing action, while Greek does. The Japanese uses the simple present, “walk in Him,” but the NIV uses “continue to live in Him.” (Actually, the Greek says “walk” instead of “live” here, but that's simply a turn of phrase here.) All that aside, the major point is that Christian faith is far from static. Salvation is indeed an eternal transaction, but the commitment involved is ongoing and growing. One of the biggest hindrances to that is the failure to be thankful. Three days ago the Lord spoke to me about the severe danger of a sense of entitlement, and here it is again. When we think we deserve stuff, we fail to be appropriately thankful for it. When we overflow with thankfulness because of our faith that God is meeting all our needs (Philippians 4:19) and that He will use everything we experience for our good (Romans 8:28), then we will grow spiritually by leaps and bounds, continually experiencing more and more of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

こんなことは珍しいが、この箇所にはNIV訳は新改訳より正確です。英語にも、日本語にも、「継続形」はありませんが、ギリシャ語にはあります。新改訳では現在形( 彼にあって歩みなさい)を使っていますが、NIVは「彼にあって生き続けなさい」を使っています。それはともかく、ポイントは、クリスチャン生活は静的なものではありません。救いは確かに永遠の取引ですが、それに関わる決心は継続し、成長するものです。それに対する大きな妨げは、感謝しないことです。三日前、主は私に「権限感」の危険を語っていたのに、またありますね。よいものは私たちに与えられるのは当たり前と考えると、感謝しないのです。神様が私たちの必要を満たしていること(ピリピ4:19)、私たちの経験するすべてを益に用いてくれることに対して感謝にあふれると、私たちはぐんぐんと成長し、御霊の実をますます体験します。(ガラテヤ5:22-23)

I'm happy to say that thankfulness has been on the rise in me for some time. That's not to say that I don't have problems and disappointments. I have plenty of those! However, I am more and more aware of how richly I have been blessed. As a pastor, I am constantly dealing with those who don't have that awareness. Ungratefulness is such a burden and a curse! Frankly, some people look at how I have been blessed and are jealous, unable to recognize the blessings God has poured out on them. I must be consistent and faithful in pointing people to God, and I must be open about the negative things in my life as well, to help people understand that everything is by grace, and must be received that way.


Father, thank You that I'm not responsible for other people's attitudes. Help me keep my own straight, and help me point them to You. I ask for wisdom and anointing to be effective in leading people to walk continuously in Christ, recognizing Your grace and blessings and overflowing with thankfulness indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 1:28-29 私たちは、このキリストを宣べ伝え、知恵を尽くして、あらゆる人を戒め、あらゆる人を教えています。それは、すべての人は、キリストにある成人として立てさせるためです。このために、私もまた、自分のうちに力強く働くキリストの力によって、労苦しながら奮闘しています。

Once again we encounter my job description! The goal of Christian life is to glorify God and enjoy fellowship with Him. The goal of Christian ministry, which every believer should be involved in to some degree, is to bring everyone to full maturity in Christ. This of course involves getting them saved in the first place, but it certainly doesn't stop there. I recognize an interesting struggle in myself in comparing the NIV, which uses the word “perfect,” with the Japanese translation, which uses “fully mature,” Jesus did indeed tell us to “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), but our full perfection awaits our arrival in heaven. Maturity, on the other hand, is something we have much less trouble understanding and aiming for. No minister can make his flock perfect, but he can lead and encourage them in maturity. It can be exhausting work, which is why it is so important that it is Christ's power that works in us to accomplish the task.


I am a perfectionist in a number of ways, which has interfered with effective ministry and made life difficult for those closest to me. I have been slow to praise and encourage progress, as apposed to completion. That has discouraged some people and even driven some people away. I need to work on my own maturity as well! I need to remember that instant maturity is an illusion, but God can give insight that leads to maturity. I think maturity could be defined as insight combined with follow-through. My job as a pastor/teacher is to make insight available to people. The follow-through is their responsibility! I know that my biggest personal struggle is not in understanding what God's will is, but in following through consistently in doing it. I must remember that, and exercise patience and grace toward those I lead.


Father, thank You for the magnificent service yesterday. Thank You for the Word you spoke through me, and for how it was received. Thank You for how You are indeed maturing each member of the flock, and for how that is so evident. Help us all grow in insight and follow-through, so that we may be powerful in destroying the devil's works and setting people free, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



コロサイ 1:13-14 神は、私たちを暗やみの圧制から救い出し、愛する御子のご支配の中に移してくださいました。この御子のうちにあって、私たちは、購い、すなわち罪の赦しを得ています。

Sometimes people, who weren't “bad” by the world's standards before they became Christians, forget how much Christ has done for them, because they don't really understand that being apart from Christ means being under the dominion of darkness. It really helps to have a grasp of just how bad sin is, not just to help us avoid it but also to give us an appreciation of God's grace. God didn't choose the cross as the means of redemption because He had a flare for the dramatic, He did it because it was absolutely necessary; sin is that bad. In ancient times, in many countries, simple disrespect for the monarch, or even one of his high officials, could easily get you killed. In modern, democratic times we are horrified by that, but even in supposedly Christian Europe they had a doctrine of “the divine right of kings.” In the case of God, He is the one who gives us life and existence, and it would be impossible to overestimate the seriousness of failing to recognize Him for who He is. That is why sometimes, people who have been criminals end up as better Christians that those who never did anything the police would be interested in: they know from what they have been saved. Thankfully, it doesn't take committing a serious crime to have a revelation of sin, righteousness and judgment. That's the work of the Holy Spirit, and He's good at it. (John 16:7-11) However, we must be willing to accept that revelation and repent indeed of our sin, or we are playing around in the dark and don't know what pit we might fall into.

This is a reality for every Christian, and I am no exception. Meditation on the cross will help me understand how bad sin is, and help me communicate that to others, as is my calling. I cannot be really effective in sharing the Gospel if I don't have a firm grasp of how and why it is such good news. Most people seek salvation simply because their sins and those of other people have put them in unpleasant circumstances. God will use that, and it is a major reason why He allows unpleasant circumstances, but once those circumstances have changed, all too many people forget why they needed Christ in the first place. I need to remember, and help others understand, that we are no less in need of God's grace, mercy and love after a 70 year history of serving Him than we are at the moment of salvation.

Father, You had me preach on salvation, but I barely scratched the surface. I ask for a deeper understanding and appreciation of it myself, and for anointing to communicate its reality to others. Words fail me, and I'm not used to that! Help me be fully open to all Your Spirit wants to do and say in and through me, so that I may be an agent of salvation indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 4:4 いつも主にあって喜びなさい。もう一度言います。喜びなさい。

Rejoicing is fundamentally a choice. Anxiety is one of the biggest hindrances to joy, and Paul deals with that in verses 6-7, but even without that, we need to choose to rejoice. Some people rejoice for the wrong reasons, such as the misfortune of others, and that is certainly a bad mistake, but many people simply fail to rejoice, not recognizing the abundance of blessings God has poured out on them. A sense of entitlement is probably a bigger hindrance to consistent rejoicing than even anxiety! That is why people who have been through great danger or hardship are often so joyous: they know what a blessing ordinary things are. I'll never forget being told by a young woman who was dying of leukemia how much it meant to her to be able to visit her home and just stand in the garden, smelling the smells and feeling the sun and breeze on her. She said her sense of joy was indescribable, even as she knew she was dying. Since then I have tried to be more appreciative of the little things I usually take for granted. God is indeed gracious and loving toward all, if we will only choose to recognize it. If we will do that, we can indeed rejoice.


I do better now at rejoicing than I have at some times in my life, but I still have a lot of room for improvement. Fairly often I take a mental inventory and marvel at how gracious God has been toward me. That's not to say I don't still grumble and gripe over various things, most of them insignificant. Such behavior certainly doesn't help me rejoice! I need to be intentional in my priorities and focus, not letting minor things distract me from the abundance of God's grace and provision. God is never stingy, but often He waits for us to recognize what He has already given us before He gives us something even better. As a pastor, I need to help others cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” as well, so that we may rejoice in the Lord together!


Father, thank You for helping me understand more and more how insignificant most of the things that upset me really are. Help me choose to rejoice in You whether I have a headache or not, whether the computer system is working or not, whether I have a bank balance or not, whether people seem to like me or not. Help me encourage the believers to do likewise, so that together we may escape the traps of the devil, who only comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and instead walk in the peace and joy that You intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 2:5 あなたがたの間であは、そのような心構えでいなさい。それはキリスト・イエスのうちに見られるのです。

The Japanese makes a much stronger connection between verses 3-4 and verses 6-11 than the NIV does. Verses 3 and 4 deal with how we should relate to one another within the Church, and Paul is saying that attitude is what Christ Jesus expressed in His incarnation. If we are worth Christ coming down from heaven and dying for us, then our brothers and sisters in the Church are surely worth inconvenience and even sacrifice on our part! This is something we logically agree to, but we often have difficulty carrying out. However, Paul's language is clear that this isn't just a suggestion, it is something we must do. Failure to do so means loss for us, not just for the brother or sister we failed to respect or help. That is something our flesh has a hard time grasping, so it is very helpful to spend time meditating on the incarnation of Christ, as in verses 6-11. The better we grasp just what He did for us, the easier it becomes to follow His example in our relationships with others.


In marriage counseling I always use Ephesians 5:25, which tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and that's another expression of this same thing. That's why Paul brings up the marital relationship when talking about qualifications for Church officers. If a man doesn't treat his wife right, he isn't going to treat anyone right! Once again I have the enormous advantage of having grown up with good, godly examples in my parents, but most have not had that advantage. I'll never forget the time I told one man that wives aren't to be beaten, and he responded with “Who says?” It is sometimes hard for me to remember that not everyone has the same framework for interpersonal relationships that I do! At the same time, I must remember that my blessings are all by God's grace, and extend that grace to others as it was given to me. I'm just as self-centered by nature as anyone else!


Father, thank You yet again for Your patience with me. By Your grace I was taught the Bible from my childhood, and yet I still so often stumble in living it out. Help me indeed express to others the love You have poured out on me, lifting them up, encouraging them, and pointing them to You, so that together we may give You the praise, worship, and obedience that You deserve. Thank You. Praise God!



ピリピ 1:21 私にとっては、生きることはキリスト、死ぬことも益です。

Many Christians would like to make this statement in honesty, but they aren't there yet. Most of us are too attached to the world! God intends us to live as Christ. This is evident in many, many places, starting with Jesus saying that He was sending His disciples as He was sent. (John 20:21) However, being attached to the things of the world interferes with that. When our perspective is on the basis of what feels good to the flesh, we aren't going to be very good ambassadors for Christ! (2 Corinthians 5:20) The second half of the verse is a good check as to where our priorities are. From the world's standpoint, saying “to die is gain” is to be suicidal. That is never the attitude of someone who is walking in full obedience to Christ. However, the more we know of Christ, the more attractive eternity with Him becomes. The toys and pleasures of this world can't begin to compare!


This is an attitude I have been growing into over the years. I find that I really understand my father as he waited for the surgery from which he didn't wake up. He had strong emotion and even tears as he thought of leaving people behind, but he certainly had no fear of what lay ahead for him. He knew that it would not be easy for those he left, especially my mother, but he also knew that God's grace would be sufficient for her, as it had been for him. I find that for myself, I enjoy life, its toys and activities, and especially speaking the Word of the Lord, but I know that it doesn't begin to compare with what is laid up for me in heaven. I am to be focused on living for Christ here and now, not letting my longing for heaven distract me from the task at hand but rather letting it be a comfort and encouragement to me. There are so many I want to take with me to heaven who haven't accepted their ticket yet!


Father, I am sharply aware that I am only two years younger than my father was when He went to be with You. My talking about that understandably bothers Cathy. I know of no reason that I would not far outlive him physically, and You know I try to be a good steward of this body You've given me. Help me be a faithful steward of all the time and each opportunity You give me on this earth, so that I will leave nothing undone of what You have for me when I go to be with You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!




ピリピ 1:6 あなたがたのうちに良い働きを始められた方は、キリスト・イエスの日が来るまでにそれを完成させてくださることを私は堅く信じているのです。

I have loved this verse for a long time, quoting and singing it on many occasions. Even so, it bears further reflection. There are many fundamental concepts expressed or assumed in this short verse. For starters, there's the basic conviction that Christ Jesus is going to return at a specific point in time to judge the living and the dead, as is expressed in much more detail in many other places in the Bible. We sometimes forget that, getting caught up in the here-and-now to our peril. We need to remember that life has a final examination! Another vitally important thing that is expressed here is spiritual growth. We don't instantly become mature, complete Christians the moment we commit to Jesus Christ as Lord. We might desire that, but it would be no more natural than for a baby to come out of the womb able to speak and do gymnastics! We are created to grow, and we need to remember that. We are not to condemn ourselves or each other for being immature, but neither are we to be satisfied with that condition. We are constantly to be pressing into God, learning more of Him and exercising our faith in day-to-day situations, so that when big things come along we'll be able to sail right through them. Another thing expressed in this verse is the awareness that it is God who works maturity in us; we don't do it on our own. We are called to cooperate, and indeed, some people refuse to do so, to their own great loss, but we can't generate maturity in ourselves. Emotional and spiritual maturity is the end result of a series of choices, some of which might seem totally insignificant at the time, but which have an effect on our direction. Remembering that God is the source of our maturity and strength – and everything else good – helps us make the right choices consistently.


I certainly haven't made the right choices all the time, but God has been faithful, occasionally knocking me back on course. Those knocks haven't always felt good, but I'm deeply grateful for them! I need to remember God's grace toward me as I deal with others, being quick to encourage and slow to condemn. There are some who are in despair about their own lack of progress, as they see it. I need to help them understand that their very concern over the issue means that God is working in them, and they don't need to be anxious. I need to help the whole church understand the principle of growth, so that we will be able to rejoice in Christ even in the middle of our imperfection. That will happen only when we take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Almighty God.


Father, thank You for this Word this morning. Guide me in sharing it tonight at prayer meeting. We don't usually have a teaching time at prayer meeting, and I don't want to shift the focus away from prayer, so I ask for wisdom in how to do this. I am so quick to kick into “teacher mode,” and that could really squash the spirit of prayer, not to mention taking up all the time. May we grow and mature in our prayer meetings, as in every other area of church life, so that we will indeed express the full stature of Christ Jesus our Lord, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!



エペソ 6:12 私たちの格闘は血肉に対するものではなく、主権、力、この暗やみの世界の支配者たち、また、天にいるもろもろの悪霊に対するものです。

As often as we are reminded of this, we still tend to forget it. We are physical beings and so tend to fixate on physical things, forgetting that we are also spiritual beings, and even that there is a spiritual world. That is dangerous from two standpoints. First, we fail to recognize traps and attacks for what they are, and second, we tend to focus on other people as our enemies. Both can be disastrous! Lots of people in mental hospitals are there because of spiritual attacks that they had no idea how to stand against, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Some teachers downplay the idea of spiritual attacks because there are indeed a few people who use this as a cover for irresponsibility. They rightly say that we shouldn't give the devil more credit than he's due. However, incessant spiritual warfare was the rule in the early Church, and it is the rule today. Christians are called to submit to God and resist the devil. (James 4:7) Claiming that is not so, is in clear violation of Scripture and lays a burden of guilt on earnest believers that God doesn't intend for them to carry. The other side of the problem is in fixating on people as our enemies. People are indeed used by our common enemy, the devil, but that means they are to be pitied, not hated. That can be difficult when we encounter individuals like Bin Laden and Hitler, but it is true none the less. However, such “super baddies” aren't the biggest problem. We get into the most trouble when we fixate on that co-worker, or even that church member, as our enemy. That gives the devil his biggest pleasure. We must not give him that satisfaction!


I couldn't begin to claim that I'm not in the middle of a fierce battle, or that I haven't slipped up at times in both of the areas I've just outlined. However, I need to remember, and teach, that life in Christ isn't just a battle, it's also resting in Him, sometimes at the very same time! Our rest comes from submission to God, and that is also our strongest fortress in battle. Choosing to rest in Christ is often the wisest course when we recognize an attack. I need to remember, and teach, that God allows nothing in our lives that He can't use for good, if we will submit it to him. The key comes in the submission!


Father, I'm used to spiritual warfare and it comes as no surprise, but my heart aches for the believers who don't yet know how to stand. Help me strengthen and encourage them, giving no foothold to the devil through either bitterness or false guilt. I have not known how to stand on behalf of those who were under attack in the past, and I still have no wisdom of my own in that area. I ask You to open my eyes and my heart and guide me in standing in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30) on behalf of the sheep You have given me, so that together we may be strong in Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!