Run To The Banner

Psalm 60 may have the longest introduction of any of the psalms, and it gives us some key historical information. David has been successful against the Philistines and the Moabites, and now he is fighting in Mesopotamia. While the army was focused elsewhere, the Edomites must have seen an opportunity to attack Israel, where they won a temporary victory (see the intro to Psalm 60 and 2 Samuel 8:1-3). 

David’s reflexive response to this temporary setback was not retaliation or blaming, but remorse and repentance. In verses 1-4 he says “You have” five times, acknowledging that God allowed this temporary defeat. He also acknowledges that only God can restore. 

Then David comes to the Selah pause: But You have raised a banner for those who fear You—a rallying point in the face of attack. Selah. (NLT) 

The Selah here is David calling us to evaluate our options just as he did. We are to consider things like: 

  • God’s help vs. our own strength 
  • the benefits of righteousness vs. the consequences of sin
  • depending on God vs. depending on man 
  • rallying under God’s banner vs. rallying under our own banner 

It’s interesting to note that in the list of David’s long string of victories in 2 Samuel 8, we read this: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v. 6). But how can that be since the Israelites were temporarily defeated by the Edomites? 

I think this is the key principle—We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent. 

When David confesses that God has allowed this temporary defeat, he is really confessing that he had attempted to navigate things on his own. Perhaps he thought his strategy would keep Israel secure, or that his men were trained and resourced enough to be victorious, or that David didn’t even have to pay attention to the Edomites any longer. 

Whatever went through David’s mind, it was clear that he had become more self-satisfied than he was God-dependent. So David correctly recognized that he needed to run to God’s banner. He recognized that was the only secure place for him to stay. 

The Bible DOESN’T say “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” but it DOES say “submit yourself to God—run to His banner and stay under His banner—and then you can resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 

Look at the keywords in the final verse of Psalm 60: “With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” 

WE WILL only because HE WILL. 

Has there been a temporary setback in your life? Repent and run to the banner of God. 

Have you felt under attack? Humble yourself and run to the banner of God. 

Have you recently won a victory? Stay humble and keep on running to the banner of God! 

If you have missed any of the other posts in this Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

C’mon, Let’s Go!

In May 1917, the British war cabinet was divided. Some of the generals wanted to continue a combined assault on the German forces, but other generals saw the need to confront the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. They selected General Edmund Allenby to lead the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force against the Turks.  

Allenby’s forces were able to quickly recapture Jerusalem, but the Turks had entrenched themselves at Micmash Megiddo, allowing them a place to launch counterattacks. As battle plans were being contemplated, Major Vivian Gilbert came to Allenby with an unorthodox solution. Major Gilbert was a student of history, and he remembered the name Micmash Megiddo from an ancient text. Reading in his tent by candlelight one night, he rediscovered the text. 

Gilbert brought his report to Allenby. To take advantage of this text, conventional battle plans would have to be scraped. Instead of attacking with overwhelming force, as was usually done, Allenby ordered one company out. This small force discovered just a few Turks whom they overpowered with hardly a sound. Then scaling the cliffs, the company took up their position just before daybreak. When dawn broke and the Turks saw Allenby’s men on the highest, most strategic point, they panicked, thinking they were nearly surrounded, and quickly retreated. 

In his journal, Major Gilbert wrote, “And so after thousands of years British troops successfully copied the tactics of Jonathan.” 

Who was this Jonathan that he referred to? He was the oldest son of Saul, king of Israel. 

Before his successful assault, Jonathan had another military campaign that ended poorly. The Philistines seized the high ground, the Israelite army was reduced to a fraction of its original size, and many of the Israelite soldiers who remained were defecting to the Philistines or deserting the army altogether. And if that weren’t bad enough, Israel had only two swords left: one for King Saul and one for Jonathan. 

Jonathan’s first military campaign had been with 1000 men. As he discovered, that was actually too many men! For his next assault on Micmash, Jonathan switched tactics: he alone would attack the enemy with only his armor bearer to assist him. 

Was Jonathan impetuous? reckless? a man with a death wish? No! He was a God-fearing initiator. He knew that God would fight for anyone who was fighting for God’s people. I think his inspiration came from this promise—Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as He has promised (Joshua 23:10). 

Knowing that God would help him, three times Jonathan implores his armor bearer, “C’mon, let’s go!” 

Jim Rohn noted, “The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn and shine with increasing clearness on your path.” 

Just look at the light that dawned with Jonathan’s c’mon-let’s-go initiative: 

  • his armor bearer said he was with Jonathan “heart and soul” even though he didn’t even have a sword!
  • God sent an earthquake that caused the Philistines to panic 
  • King Saul finally mobilized the remaining army that remained with him 
  • God so confused the Philistine that they turned and fought against each other
  • the Israelite deserters returned from Philistia 
  • the fearful soldiers that had deserted returned to their posts 

Could God have defeated the Philistines on His own? Of course He could have. But He was waiting for just one godly leader to say, “Enough is enough! C’mon, let’s go!” 

Godly men are never satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Godly men know that standing still is really moving backward. Godly men know that their initiative can start a momentum that liberates others. 

Fellas, your family needs you to initiate. Your Christian brothers and sisters need you to initiate. Your countrymen need you to initiate. 

Take the initiative for God’s glory, for your family’s protection, for your nation’s revival, for generations yet to be born. Let’s charge the enemy of our souls together—

C’mon, let’s go!  

Zero Casualties

The whole army then returned safely to Joshua… (Joshua 10:21).

The only time any deaths in battle are mentioned in the whole military campaign of Israel conquering Canaan is at Ai when 36 men died (7:1-5). Other than that, zero casualties.

A massive Israelite army, waging war against huge armies “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (11:4), many of them entrenched in fortified cities, several of the warriors are giants, fighting on terrain that is unfamiliar to them—zero casualties! 

But why should this surprise us?

God doesn’t see masses of people; He sees individuals. He knows how many hairs are on each soldier’s head! He is able to keep alive all His children despite the rigors of warfare.

Total victory. Zero casualties!

The casualties at Ai were due to Israel’s disobedience. The ongoing victories were due to Israel’s total obedience: “As the Lord commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (11:15).

“All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fights for Israel” (10:42), with zero casualties!

We wage a spiritual warfare today that is no less rigorous or dangerous than the military campaign the Israelite army fought. God is still able to keep those who are His until He calls them home. 

Missionary John Paton, while surrounded by hostile cannibals, said, “I realized that my life was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.” 

The same is true for you. Don’t fear the enemy. Don’t shrink from the battle. Obey God, and trust Him to bring you safely home to Heaven. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, as he neared the end of his campaign—

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Jesus is able to keep you from falling until He brings you into His Father’s presence—zero casualties!

Poetry Saturday—Beyond The Glittering, Starry Skies

Beyond the glittering starry skies,
Far as th’ eternal hills,
There, in those boundless worlds of light,
Our great Redeemer dwells.

Legions of angels strong and fair,
In countless armies shine,
At His right hand with golden harps,
To offer songs divine.

“Hail, Prince!” they cry, “forever hail!
Whose unexampled love
Moved Thee to quit those glorious realms,
And royalties above.”

While He did condescend on earth
To suffer rude disdain,
They cast their honors at His feet,
And waited in His train.

Through all His travels here below
They did His steps attend!
Oft gazed and wondered where at last
This scene of love would end.

They saw His heart transfixed with wounds,
His crimson sweat and gore,
They saw Him break the bars of death,
Which none e’er brake before.

They brought His chariot from above,
To bear Him to His throne,
Clapped their triumphant wings and cried,
“The glorious work is done!” —James Fanch

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Freed From Captivity And Fear

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Freed From Captivity And Fear

…The Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary. When You ascended on high, You took many captives; You received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—that You, Lord God, might dwell there. Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, Who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Surely God will crush the heads of His enemies… (Psalm 68:17-20). 

     The Lord Jesus, by His glorious victory here below, has subdued all our adversaries, and in His going up on high, He has triumphed over them all, exhibiting them as trophies. The imagery may be illustrated by the triumph of Roman conquerors. They were known to pass along the Via Sacra and climb up to the capitol, dragging at their chariot wheels the vanquished princes with their hands bound behind their backs. Christ has vanquished all those powers that held you captive. Whatever form your spiritual slavery took, you are fully delivered from it, for the Lord Christ has made captives those whose captives you were. ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you’ (Romans 6:14). … 

     True, the flock of the Lord is too feeble to force its way. But listen, ‘The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the Lord at their head’ (Micah 2:13). Easily may the sheep follow where the Shepherd leads the way! We have but to follow those heavenly feet that once were pierced and none of our steps will slide! Move on, O soldiers of Jesus, for your Captain cries, ‘Follow Me!’ … 

     How often we groan because the battle does not go as we would desire it! Yet there is no reason for dismay. God is in no hurry as we are. He dwells in the leisure of eternity and is not the prey of fear as we are. … He knows what He is going to do and we may lay our heads upon His bosom and rest quietly.

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

When we follow Jesus—The Ultimate Victor—we need fear NOTHING!

Listen to our Conquering God’s promise—You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves Me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name. He will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:13-19) 

As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy King too!

Live in Christ’s victory today—and every day!

The Need For Confession

Jesus taught us to pray to OUR Father. This speaks of community and accountability. Ken Blanchard noted: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

The part of accountability that some people don’t like is the realization that I make mistakes: I let people down; I sin. In a community of saints, my shortfall not only affects me but the rest of the community too. But there is a remedy—The remedy for my sin starts with my confession of my sin. 

If people like David, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Paul confessed their sin and called themselves sinners, what makes me think that I’m exempt from that diagnosis or that cure?! 

Confession is an owning of my sin. It’s saying to God, “I have sinned. I need forgiveness. I will repent of this. I need Your mercy.” And it’s saying to my fellow saints, “I need your help so I don’t have to repeat this sin.” 

Unconfessed sin is life-draining (Psalm 32:1-5). The word confess in the Old Testament Hebrew means to “throw out your hand.” Expose it all! In the New Testament Greek confess means to acknowledge that my life does not measure up to God’s standard. 

Confession may start in my personal prayer closet, but it needs to move to the public domain of the community of saints. Jesus made it plural, “Forgive US OUR debts, as WE have forgiven OUR debtors.” 

Sometimes I cannot see my own debts that need to be forgiven (Psalm 19:12), so I need the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the loving confrontation of someone who loves me (Psalm 139:23-24; Proverbs 27:6, 2 Samuel 12:1-13). 

The apostle James helps us see how a loving community brings healing, deliverance, and restoration. The key components that James lists are prayer and confession (James 5:13-16). 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer echoed James when he wrote, “A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.”  

Confession may be the most under-used resource for Christians to gain power in prayer and victory over falling into temptation!

Let’s continually make use of this wonderfully freeing discipline. 

Our Prayer Coach

I love football! 

The plays that the quarterback calls in the huddle are very creative. It may sound something like this: “soultrain alert 13 trap on 1.” Then after the team breaks the huddle with the play that they just know will be successful, the quarterback may look over the other team’s defense and callout something like, “check” or “sally” or “Omaha.” This is called an “audible” and it’s communicating to the team how they are now going to modify the play that they just called. The quarterback calls this audible because it appears to him that the defense may know what sort of play they were planning to run. 

The teams that can adjust better on-the-fly—or call audibles—usually win the game. 

None of this happens without lots of practice! Practice builds good habits. Practice helps teams learn from their mistakes and develop even better habits. All of this practicing also requires a good coach overseeing the process, and individual team members who are willing to submit to the coach’s direction and correction. 

Have you noticed that there are some Christians who “audible” well? Unexpected things pop up that seem to throw many people off their game plan, but these Christians seem to adapt so easily. Why is that? It’s definitely not because they are wired that way, or have a higher spiritual IQ, or they can think faster. It’s because they’ve practiced good habits, they’ve learned from past experiences which have developed better “audibling” habits, all under the guidance of a perfect Coach. 

Jesus told us about the amazing prayers that we would be able to pray, and how the Holy Spirit can be our perfect Coach in this process (John 14:12-17, 26; 16:13-15). 

There are some incredible things that happen when we pray consistently, when we pray boldly, and when we pray in the character of Jesus. 

John Piper asks, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer?” He answers his own question like this: “Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” 

Successful football teams don’t simply show up on game day and compete successfully. They plan to be successful. They practice and study the coach’s game plan so that they can be ready to audible when necessary. So too for Christians—we can’t just show up for spiritual battle and expect to be successful. We must also practice, and study the game plan laid out in the Bible, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He coaches us. That’s the only way we can successfully handle all that life and even the devil throws at us. 

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be sharing some hindrances that I see that can derail our practice of prayer. In the meantime, I want to challenge you—as I’ve challenged myself personally—to think on three questions:

  1. Do I really want to pray effectively? 
  2. Am I willing to put in the energy necessary to pray this way?
  3. Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit coach and discipline me in my prayer practice? 

If you can, please join me at Calvary Assembly of God on Sunday as we continue our series called Prayer Plan. 

What We Can Know

… we know … (1 John 3:16, 19, 24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:2, 13, 19, 20).

God clearly reveals Himself to us so that it is not a mystery of how to abide with Him. 

The word John uses for “know” in the Greek is ginosko. This is a knowledge through personal, firsthand experience; not knowledge someone told us about secondhand. 

God reveals Himself in Creation, in His law, in the rituals of worship, in our conscience, and in the voice of the prophets. Ultimately—and most unmistakably of all—God reveals Himself in Jesus (John 14:9). 

So here are 8 things we can now know…

  1. We know true love because of the sacrifice of Jesus (3:16; 4:7-10).
  2. We know we have God’s love in us by the way we treat others (3:17-19; 4:11; 4:20-21).
  3. We know our hearts our confident by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit Who assures us that we abide in God and He in us (3:20-24).
  4. We know how to discern deceptive spirits (4:1-6).
  5. We know what it means to be confident on Judgment Day (4:12-19).
  6. We know that loving others fulfills God’s commands (5:1-13).
  7. We know God hears our prayers (5:14-17).
  8. We know that we can be victorious over sin (5:18-21).

WE KNOW!

No doubts, no ambiguity. It’s crystal clear, pure knowledge through Him Who loves us!  

10 Quotes From “As A Man Thinketh”

As A Man Thinketh feels a lot like the biblical book of Proverbs, stimulating us to think about our habitual thought patterns. Check out my full book review by clicking here.

“As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.” 

“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” 

“The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires.” 

“Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not co-operate with it.” 

“Blessedness, not material possessions, is the measure of right thought; wretchedness, not lack of material possessions, is the measure of wrong thought.” 

“A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile.” 

“Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.” 

“They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pityings.” 

“This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph.” 

“The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.” 

12 Quotes From “The Art Of War”

Sun Tzu wrote in China in the fifth century BC to help military leaders hone their warcraft, but you might be surprised at the truths you can apply to your life today. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” 

“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: (1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. (3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.” 

“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 

“The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy. To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” 

“That general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.” 

“Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy—this is the art of retaining self-possession. To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished—this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.” 

“Do not linger in dangerously isolated positions. … If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.” 

“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.” 

He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.” 

“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death. … If, however, you are indulgent, but unable to make your authority felt; kind-hearted, but unable to enforce your commands; and incapable, moreover, of quelling disorder: then your soldiers must be likened to spoilt children; they are useless for any practical purpose.” 

“Carefully study the well-being of your men, and do not overtax them. Concentrate your energy and hoard your strength.” 

“Keep your army continually on the move.”

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