More Strange Weapons: A Bone (Simple, Silly, Serious, and Successful)

July 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Posted in Strange Weapons | 3 Comments
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The jawbone of the donkey that Samson used to slay 1000 Philistines was not only a strange weapon – as we saw in the last lesson:

1. It was a singular weapon.
2. It was a surprising weapon.

Now we will see that:

3. It was a simple weapon.

In other words, it was an unsophisticated weapon. I for one am glad that the weapons of our spiritual warfare in New Testament Christianity are not overly complex or difficult to use. In fact, God sometimes blesses the crudest means when there is both faith and zeal in the one who wields the weapon. Samson had many faults and flaws, but he had two big advantages when it came to fighting: faith and zeal. The jawbone that he picked up must have looked pretty weak to the Philistines who were ready to attack him, and to the men of Judah who were standing by watching. But in our moments of simplicity and seeming-weakness God often shows Himself strong.

For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

II Corinthians 1:12 (emphasis added)

Samson’s “conversation” on that day was very simple. In fact, he didn’t have to say a word. He let his weapon “speak” for him, and his weapon said, “This is not of the world – this is of God and by His Spirit.”

I find it humorous and fitting that God arranged it so that Samson used the jawbone of an ass. The jawbone is an instrument of speaking, and previously in the Bible (in the case of Balaam), God had spoken through a living donkey. Here, he “speaks” through a dead donkey! God is certainly not limited in His ability to use the simple to confound the wise.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

II Corinthians 11:3 (emphasis added)

There are times in spiritual warfare when the simplest weapon is the best. What could be simpler than a soft word to turn away wrath? What could be simpler than asking a hard-hearted lost person, “What are you going to do about your sin?

In spiritual warfare some of our weapons are strong in the sense that they are built to last. But sometimes God wants us to use a weak weapon because we are more inclined to use it trustfully and obediently. Many of our specific, situational weapons just are what they are. They don’t need to be adorned to be effective. Your physical appearance is a gift from God to be used in spiritual warfare. He designed you to look the way you look partly in order to help you connect with and influence others. Don’t be too quick to change your appearance in order to make yourself more “attractive” according to worldly standards. God has blessed each of us with certain natural talents. Some are better at teaching publicly; some are better at ministering privately. Some have a great memory. Some have the gift of not being easily offended. Natural talents are some of the simplest, and yet most potent, weapons that God has given us.

4. It was both a silly and a serious weapon.

When I say silly, I mean downright absurd when you think about it! Killing 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone??? Samson must have looked at least a little ridiculous using the mandible of an ass as though it were a sword or a club! He didn’t look silly for long, though – at least not to the Philistines. What seems silly to us was deadly serious to them.

https://i1.wp.com/www.jentronics.com/bible/Plate_096close.jpg

In spiritual warfare our “silliest” weapon may also be our most serious.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18 (emphasis added)

The Gospel message is life and death to those of us who have been regenerated and are willing to wield it for the glory of Christ. But it is foolishness to those who are unregenerate, and who will not receive it – all the way up to the point where they will be slain by their rejection of it. I wonder if our enemy, the devil, can even comprehend how he is defeated over and over again by the simple preaching of the Truth.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I Corinthians 1:27 (emphasis added)

When the Apostles were thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel, did it seem foolish that they would sing songs of praise in their cells? Do your lost friends think it’s idiotic that memorizing verses from an ancient Book could drive away something as mighty as a massive wave of depression? Don’t be afraid of looking silly for the cause of Christ. Humility itself can be a weapon in spiritual warfare. Humility is revealed in circumstances. An embarrassed person is not necessarily a humble person. We can be in a humbling situation, but still think about ourselves. Humility is not deciding to think too little about yourself in contrast to thinking too much about yourself. True humility is not thinking about yourself at all.

5. It was a successful weapon.

Samson’s victory with the jawbone was not his last exploit, nor his greatest. In fact, he wound up killing more Philistines in his death than he did in his life. When Christians today talk about “flowing in the Spirit” it conjures up images of a sort of effeminate passivity where church people are just “letting go and letting God,” focusing on their personal worship experiences and hoping that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally bless them without any effort of their own. We would do well to take a lesson from Samson. He certainly isn’t the ideal Old Testament saint to emulate when it comes to victorious Christ-like living, but you have to give him one thing: In the days in which he judged Israel, nobody flowed in the Spirit like Samson! Samson’s problem wasn’t the ability to receive God’s Spirit. His problem was that he could not be consistent – he could not get his life organized. He could not get himself organized and he had little interest in getting the people he was supposed to be leading organized. The jawbone that he wielded so effectively was what the British call a “one-off.” It is a picture of the type of unpredictable, unexpected, spur-of-the-moment weapon we encounter in our spiritual warfare all the time. We pick them up, and we throw them away, forgetting that they were successful weapons. If you have been a Christian for several years, take a moment to look back over your life at some of your spiritual victories. Was there some type of strange weapon that worked then which might work again now? Occasional, circumstances-specific weapons may seem strange and impractical, but it is God’s power, not the weapon itself, which makes a weapon successful. One time a great preacher told me that when you talk to children, you should get down on one knee and look them in the eye instead of towering over them: that has turned out to be a great spiritual weapon for me over the years. A note or a greeting card sent to someone who is hurting or discouraged can be a weapon. A bouquet of flowers delivered to a hospital room can be a weapon. One of the deadliest weapons in my wife’s arsenal is her smile. Many a time I have seen her turn a friendly smile and an unexpectedly kind word on the scowlingest, most negative person you would ever want to meet, and just absolutely route whatever demon was making that person so mean! A telephone can be a weapon when it is used to call up someone and invite him to Sunday School, or to tell someone you are praying for her.

After Samson killed all those Philistines he made up a song about piling their bodies in heaps upon heaps. When you get discouraged in spiritual warfare, and you think God is not coming through for you, take heart! Are there not heaps and heaps of slain sins in your past? Are there not heaps and heaps of slain temptations? Heaps and heaps of slain doubts? Heaps and heaps of slain fears? Sure, we’ve lost our share of battles, but the battleground is strewn with our enemies and we’re still standing. If no weapon formed against us can prosper, then it stands to reason that any weapon formed for us – to God’s glory – must prosper against our enemies.

Samson ultimately surrendered to the Philistines, and God made him the victor only in his death. God is not asking us to surrender to our enemies – He’s asking us to surrender to our King and Father. One day Jesus is coming back to vanquish all His enemies once and for all. Have you made sure you that you will be on the right side when Jesus starts conquering HIS enemies?

More Strange Weapons: A Bone (Singular and Surprising)

July 5, 2011 at 11:53 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 6 Comments
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Strange Weapons (Series 1): A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

More Strange Weapons: A Stone and a Bone

The Bone (Judges 15:15-16)

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

John 18:33-36

Christ’s Kingdom is “of the world” in the sense that He owns everything, but it is “not of this world” in the sense that His followers don’t use the same weapons that warriors involved in worldly warfare use. As followers of Christ, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly) or physical, but they are mighty to the pulling down of (spiritual) strongholds. Christ does not say that His followers do not fight, but that we do not fight in a worldly way, and that we do not use worldly weapons. We are not out to conquer by force. We want to conquer by love. Our goal is not to create a worldly government or to some day elect government officials who are Christians. Our goal is to establish the kingdom and government of God in the hearts of men and women and boys and girls. We are engaged in a strange war and we use strange weapons.

Previously we have looked at some the strange weapons in the Book of Judges – cattle prods, tent pegs, water pitchers, millstones – and we have compared them to spiritual weapons. These spiritual weapons may also seem strange, but they seem less and less strange the more you learn about spiritual warfare. Most Christians are aware of the role of the Bible in spiritual warfare, and of prayer, but we are learning to think of other things – such as love, the role of the Holy Spirit, our own bodies, and even God’s sovereign will – in connection with spiritual warfare.

This lesson will focus on some unpredictable weapons which are dependent upon specific circumstances and occasions.

In Judges 15 we find Samson – bound and betrayed by his own countrymen – depressed and discouraged – when the Spirit of the Lord suddenly comes upon him again:

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

Judges 15:14-15

The jawbone which Samson found was a “new” jawbone – a “fresh” jawbone. It probably still had some flesh or skin on it – maybe some teeth in it. With it he killed 1000 men by himself.

The jawbone of a donkey was perhaps the strangest of all the strange weapons we have considered from the Book of Judges, and it teaches us about the unexpected and unpredictable nature of some of the spiritual weapons in our daily warfare as Christians.

1. The jawbone was a singular weapon.

As spiritual warriors, God has given us freedom to think creatively within the boundaries of His Word and His will. I am glad that we have a number of Christian organizations. In fact, the Body of Christ, which is more of an organism than an organization, must still be organized, since an unorganized organism will not function properly. We must be organized, but we must have a healthy suspicion of routines.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Colossians 2:8

Rudiments are things ordered by the wisdom of man as opposed to God. Traditions are not bad (although traditionalism is), and traditions and discipline are useful in Christian warfare. They are more in the category of training than in weapons. Samson needed a weapon, and God provided a jawbone. It was a singular, unexpected weapon. You may encounter a circumstance where you find yourself having to apply your spiritual disciplines – love, prayer, Bible study – in a way you never have before. So remember, discipline is the way to experience the Person of God, not a means in and of itself. Weapons are gifts from God, and must be seen that way. The jawbone “just happened” to be there when Samson needed it, and he used it effectively even though it was a “singular” weapon.

2. The jawbone was a surprising weapon.

In an intense battle, if we wait around for the perfect weapon to be forged, the battle may be lost. My wife used to like to say, “Some is better than none.” There are times when sudden action is required and we need to use whatever God has placed near at hand. Satan loves sneak attacks and God often calls us when we least expect it. In Acts 27 the Apostle Paul found himself in the middle of a shipwreck and still managed to use it as a ministry opportunity. In the course of Christian ministry you may suddenly find yourself somewhere you never thought you would be invited to go. When this happens, do not keep silent. Pick up whatever “jawbone” or spiritual weapon that God has provided, and by faith start swinging: slaying doubts and fears and demons. We must not think that God is limited in what He gives us as weapons. In the Kingdom of Christ nothing is supposed to be secular – it’s all supposed to be sacred.

The next post in the series will focus on the simplicity of the jawbone.

More Strange Weapons: A Stone (God’s Will Is Functional)

June 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Strange Weapons | 2 Comments
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In a previous lesson we saw that the weapon of a millstone reminds us that God’s will is like a weapon in spiritual warfare in that stones are foundational.

This time we will see that stones are also functional. Stones do a variety of jobs. In Bible times they not only made up the buildings, they were sometimes the tools for building. Sometimes they were also monuments for remembering. Other times they were weapons for throwing. God’s sovereign will is the ultimate in functionality. It not only creates or allows all circumstances, but it functions and operates in all circumstances.

Under the heading that “Stones are Functional” I want to use the memory device “CPR:”

Career: When you are building a career, will you trust God’s will, and seek out a “vocation” (a calling from God)?

Priorities: When you are considering your priorities, will you trust God’s will and let Him order your priorities and arrange your time? His Word settles the “first things.”

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 6:33

Things that are “added” are things that come “later.”

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Revelation 2:5

The best place to get back into God’s will is the place you got out. Do the “first works.” The freedom we have in the Spirit is not freedom to do what we want. Relaxation is not true freedom. True freedom is freedom from the selfishness of sin, and it is the freedom to obey God. The good works that God has ordained for us to do are prioritized by His sovereign will.

Relationships: When you are building your relationships, will you trust God’s will and let Him pick your friends? God has appointed your spouse to be your special friend over and above other people in your life. Beyond that, He has sovereignly appointed who your neighbors happen to be, who your acquaintances happen to be, and even who your fellow church members happen to be. These people are in your life for a reason – they are not “random.” Trust God in your relationships – you need this weapon on your side in spiritual warfare.

The strange weapon of God’s sovereign will can be found in every locality and in every situation, because, in spiritual warfare, the place where you are subject to being attacked is everywhere: at home, at church, on your job, in your relationships, in Bible study, in prayer, in Christian service.

Stones are wonderful weapons because of their functionality. They can roll down mountains and crush cities, or they can fit in your pocket. There is nowhere you will not be able to see the weapon of God’s will at work in the battle.

Stones are foundational, stones are functional, and stones are used for friction.

The weapon used by the woman in the tower to kill Abimelech was a millstone. A millstone is a large stone placed on top of another stone. These stones are usually round, and they are used to grind against each other and smash into powder or “flour” the kernels of different kinds of grain (i.e. wheat or corn) that are fed between them. A millstone works by grinding and crushing, and it produces friction. Do not think that God’s will is not going to involve you in a great deal of friction.

John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

Luke 3:16 (emphasis added)

Notice that this verse says “and” with fire, not “in” fire. It is speaking of the heat of persecution not a “fiery” emotional manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

I Peter 4:12

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

Malachi 3:3

Christ the Lord – the Great Refiner – the Great Purifier of the Church – uses heat – friction – to purge impurities out of the hearts and lives of His people. If you have been a Christian for very long, then God’s sovereign will has sent circumstances into your life, sickness into your life, suffering into your life, even people into your life – to grind on you – to scrape away the rough edges and the impurities, so that you may be more conformed to the image of Christ.

The millstone in Judges Chapter 9 – the millstone that killed Abimelech – was the perfect weapon for the time and place of its use. It crushed Abimelech and cost him his life, his reputation, and his would-be kingdom. God’s will is perfect. Will you love it and trust it? Or will you try to resist it and be miserable? It is a weapon which we observe, not a weapon which we yield. The way to take advantage of this weapon is to stay close to God.

More Strange Weapons: A Stone (God’s Will Is Foundational)

June 3, 2011 at 11:23 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 7 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

More Strange Weapons: A Stone and a Bone

Last time, I reviewed the Biblical account of Abimelech’s death.

Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place. Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:

Judges 9:50-56

Before I start making the application, we need to remember something very important about God’s will: God’s will is perfect.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2 (emphasis added)

Many people will acknowledge that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. But if God’s Word is perfect, so must His will be perfect also. If you hold an extravagantly expensive diamond up to bright light, it will reveal a myriad of different views – all breath-taking. Even the slightest change of perspective will cause the viewer to see new refractions of light through its facets. The clarity, color, and cut of some diamonds seem to offer endless worlds of beautiful variations. However, even the most exquisite diamond will eventually reveal some flaw somewhere in its make-up. God’s will is like a diamond without a single flaw. If we could inspect God’s will from every angle, each millimeter of movement around it would reveal only more absolute perfection for all eternity. God’s will is completely FLAWLESS.

Faith is a great challenge for Christian believers, and it is prone to much misinformation and misunderstanding. Faith is not me pronouncing my will to God. It is trusting that His will is right, and will ultimately be for my good – even when His will seems completely against my will.

The Bible calls the woman who hurled the millstone down from the tower at Abimelech a “certain” woman, meaning she was a “particular” woman. She was distinguished from the others by the fact that she is the one who threw down the stone. But, in our idiom, we have another meaning for “certain:” someone who is “sure,” someone who is absolutely convinced. Are we “certain” men and women when it comes to trusting God’s will in our lives? Do we know that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28) to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose? Or do we have uncertainty – do we think a few things can’t really work out for good?

The weapon of a millstone reminds us that God’s will is like a weapon of spiritual warfare in that:

I. Stones are foundational.

Stones form the underlying structure of things. In the Old Testament, the millstone was one of the basic, foundational tools for sustaining life.

No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man’s life to pledge.

Deuteronomy 24:6

It would have been difficult to grind grain for making bread without a millstone. In the New Testament, we have better Bread. Jesus said, I AM the Bread of Life. He proclaimed that He was the foundational Rock of the Church – all other ground is sinking sand. Upon this Rock I shall build My church, He said – that He is the Christ – the Son of the Living God. If we are going to utilize the advantage of God’s sovereign will in our spiritual warfare, we are going to have to build our house upon the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ. Anything that we are hoping to build to last is going to have to be built on Jesus.

A. The foundation concerning God’s will is for building.

We must build our lives on the foundation of God’s sovereignty. When the people of Thebez ran into a tower to escape Abimelech, that seemed like a foolish plan. Abimelech was setting towers on fire, and battering doors down. But he could not defeat God’s will. God’s will was for him to die in defeat and disgrace – and God accomplishes His will.

When you are in trouble – financial trouble, relationship trouble, sickness, confusion – will you go through the Door which is Christ Jesus, and hide yourself in the Tower which is Almighty God? The Name of the Lord is a strong tower – the righteous run into it, and they are saved.

B. The foundation concerning God’s will is broad.

Remember, Abimelech had a will, too, but Abimelech’s will was opposed to God’s will. Abimelech wanted to be King, and among his followers he was popular and supported. But man’s will is fickle and transient. People can love you and support you one day, and betray you and desert you the next day. God’s will is a foundation that is broad in the sense that it covers all contingencies, and remains firm. God’s will is a rock that you may fall upon – but it is also a rock that you may never fall off. God is immutable. God does what pleases God, not what pleases man. In the warfare of the Christian life, you are going to want a weapon that is dependable – that will not let you down. You are going to want to place your trust in God, not in men. Even when God’s circumstances make it seem like He doesn’t know what He is doing, and people are giving you what sounds like good reasonable advice, trust God, not people.

C. The foundation concerning God’s will is found at the bottom.

Remember, Abimelech wanted to be the “head.” He concocted his scheme to be King in his own “head.” And he was defeated when God’s strange weapon – His sovereign will in the form of a stone – struck him on the head.

The foundation of a building is located at the bottom – it is the base. When a foundation is too narrow, too limited, and you try to build on it, to build upwards, it gets too “top heavy.” The things stacked at the top fall easily and they fall hard – and they destroy much around them.

If you are building your life on the world’s ideas of the future, on your own ideas of the future, on what you can only see – apart from faith – with your own eyes trying to look into the future, then your plans are liable to fall easily, fall hard, and to destroy those around you. The 9/11 terrorists flew their hijacked planes into the top of the World Trade Center. They would not have caused much damage if they had hit a building with a broad base and a narrow top. Church steeples are more sharp and pointed the higher they go in order to symbolize the fact that the closer we get to God, the smaller we realize we are, and the bigger we realize He is. Abimelech was a terrorist who wanted to cause maximum destruction.

When the tower in Siloam fell, what did Jesus say? “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” God is sovereign – He’s in control.

God’s will, like a stone, is foundational. Next time, we will see that stones are also functional.

More Strange Weapons: A Stone (narrative)

May 16, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 3 Comments
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Strange Weapons (Series 1): A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Part One: The Prod (Judges 3:31)
A prod is used in provoking.
A prod is used in plowing.
A prod is used in purifying.

Part Two: The Peg (Judges 4:22)
A peg is a hidden weapon (like prayer).
A peg is a honed weapon (like the Bible).
A peg is a handy weapon (like love).

Part Three: The Pitcher (Judges 7:20)
Pitchers can contain.
Pitchers can conceal.
Pitchers can crumble.

Now we start series 2:

More Strange Weapons: A Stone and a Bone

The Stone (Judges 9:53)

Gideon had been used by God to defeat the Midianites. To his credit, he had no interest in being a king. But to his shame, during the “mopping-up” operations, he stopped honoring the Lord. He gathered a large fortune, and had 70 sons. When he failed to set a good example for the nation, the people fell back into sin. Judges 9 is the account of one of the sons he had with a slave. This son’s name was Abimelech.

Gideon did not want to be a king, but Abimelech did. His name meant “son of the king.” Abimelech started a political campaign to become king of both the Israelites and the Shechemites. By covetous scheming, by accepting money from Baal-worshipers (thereby promoting idolatry), and finally by murder, Abimelech sought a dual throne.

And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him. And he went unto his father’s house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself.

Judges 9:4-5

This is the first mention of a stone in the story of Abimelech, but it won’t be the last. Abimelech appeared to be successful for three years, but his whole plan fell apart in three days.

He had a falling-out with the Shechemites, instigated by a man named Gaal. After putting down the challenge of Gaal and punishing the Shechemites, Abimelech moved on to the city of Thebez, which had sided with the Shechemites.

Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died. And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place. Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren:

Judges 9:50-56

Next time, I will make three comparisons between the weapon of the millstone hurled down onto Abimelech, and God’s sovereign will. God’s will is not really a “weapon” per se, but it is an important part of the warfare of the victorious Christian life.

Strange Weapons Lesson 3: The Pitcher (spiritual application)

April 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Strange Weapons | 3 Comments
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The factual summary of the account of Gideon highlighted the use of some of the strangest weapons in any Biblical battle: pitchers. In the spiritual warfare which Christians are called to wage, we have a corollary for Gideon’s pitchers: our bodies. The Christian’s body sounds like more of a physical than a spiritual weapon, but the key is in how God works in us.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

II Corinthians 10:3-4

1. Pitchers can contain.

The purpose of a pitcher is to hold something. Just as Gideon’s pitchers were used to contain something, our bodies also serve as containers.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1

The bodies of born-again believers are the containers of God’s Holy Spirit.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

Is God’s Spirit directing your body, and controlling it? Are you an obedient container? Do your feet go where God wants them to go? Do your hands touch only what God wants them to touch? Are you placing in your mouth and your stomach those things which help, instead of hurt, your body? Are your eyes looking at what God wants you to see? Are your ears listening to what God wants you to hear? Is your tongue saying what God wants you to say? Pitchers don’t decide for themselves what goes into them. The owner of a pitcher puts into it what he thinks is best.

When Gideon’s army brought their pitchers to the battle, God had a plan for them. In the spiritual battles we fight every day, we have our armor to protect us. We also have have prayer, the Bible, and love to help us fight. But don’t forget, your physical body is a part of the spiritual battle, too.

2. Pitchers can conceal.

Gideon’s pitchers concealed lamps. As Christians, we are to be light in a dark world, so we do not want to conceal the light of Christ, but there are times when the container of your body must be used to conceal things.

Nothing can be concealed from God. He looks on the inside, at the secret things. He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. The pitchers of Gideon’s army concealed their lights from the enemy until the time was right. The devil can’t read your mind, but he is watching you. There is a principle in the Bible of controlling yourself so that your weaknesses are not exposed.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

I Corinthians 9:25-27

We are to bring our bodies under self-control. Gideon’s pitchers contained nothing but light.

3. Pitchers can crumble.

Gideon’s army had to use pitchers that were breakable.

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

I Corinthians 1:26-29

God has given us a great treasure – greater than wealth, health, fame, or influence. It is the Gospel message. He could have entrusted it to an angel. He could have given it only to powerful, wealthy, or influential men.

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.

II Corinthians 4:4-7

This way, God gets the glory, not men. Pitchers are fragile, but there is power even in a broken pitcher.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 12:10

When we are broken, empty, and weak, then His glorious light shines forth and frightens and confounds the enemy, and causes him to flee.

Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you.

II Corinthians 13:3-4

When we look meek to men, we are strong in Christ. His power is strong in us. When Jesus was going toward the Cross He emptied Himself out of everything we tend to rely on for strength – He had no wealth, no reputation, no family, no friends, not even any clothes! On the Cross He was the emptiest Man Who ever lived. He even lay His Own life down when no man could take it from Him.

Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

Psalm 31:5

I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.

Psalm 31:12

Pitchers can contain. Does God’s Spirit live within you? Pitchers can conceal. Are you able to surrender to His Spirit and be controlled in your body? Pitchers can crumble. Have you ever been broken before God? Does His light shine through your brokenness? Will you make noise for the Lord in the midst of His enemies, even if it means you have to be broken into pieces to do it?

Strange Weapons Lesson 3: The Pitcher (factual summary)

April 15, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 8 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Lesson Three: The Pitcher

For this lesson I am not using the word “pitcher” to describe the player who stands on the mound and tries to strike out the batters. Nor am I talking about the word we used back where I grew up for a photograph. The “pitcher” to which I’m referring here is a large jar or a container for holding water.

Gideon's pitcher

 

 

And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon.

Judges 7:20

In Judges Chapter 7 it is the Midianites who have been oppressing God’s people – stealing their crops every year for seven years. God was allowing this to happen because God’s people had not been acting like God’s people. In previous lessons we looked at two of the strange weapons (a tent peg and a cattle prod) which God used to defeat the enemies of His people when He was ready to deliver them from oppression. Today, I want to look at perhaps the strangest weapon of all: a pitcher.

The account of Gideon begins in Judges Chapter 6. Gideon was a simple farmer. His name meant “hewer” – possibly referring to someone who hacks down crops, wheat, or maybe weeds, or possibly referring to someone who hews out stones from a field during plowing. Little did Gideon know he would be called by God to hew down the enemy.

Gideon had a great deal of trouble accepting the fact that God was calling him to deliver his people.

And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

Judges 6:15

He was the only one is his father’s house who did not worship Baal, but he was very reluctant to place his faith in God for such a big task. He kept requiring visible signs from the Lord.

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.

Judges 6:25-26

The men of the city wanted to kill Gideon for what he had done, but God moved in his father’s heart, and he defended Gideon. Gideon finally became convinced that the Lord would get the victory over the Midianites through him. He called an army of 32,000 men to fight against 135,000 Midianites. However, God wanted Gideon’s army to be even smaller. First he narrowed it down to 10,000, then to only 300! Imagine: 135,000 against 300!

And on top of that the Lord designed one of the strangest battle strategies of all time:

And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled.

Judges 7:16-21

Gideon gathered up some more troops, pursued, wiped out the Midianite army, and delivered God’s people. The pitchers used by Gideon’s army were instrumental in the victory, but they were very strange weapons. These days, as Christians, we are in a spiritual war that cannot be won in our own strength or power. However, our Lord is no less powerful now than He was in the days of the Judges. Next time, I want to compare Gideon’s pitchers to some of the strange weapons that we wield (and yield) in the power of God as we fight for His Kingdom today.

Strange Weapons Lesson 2: The Peg (illustrations)

April 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Posted in Strange Weapons | 6 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Lesson Two: The Peg (continued from previous post)

Here are three illustrations drawn from Jael’s “nail” (what we would call a “tent peg.”)

1. The peg was a hidden weapon.

The first thing Sisera would have done when he entered Jael’s tent would have been to look around for a sword or a dagger. Being a trained warrior and a man on the run, not sure who he could and could not trust, he would have immediately scanned the tent for possible threats or advantages. But he probably didn’t even notice a peg and a hammer. These items would have been common.

The weapons of our spiritual warfare are spiritual weapons – they don’t look like material weapons. Prayer, for example, doesn’t seem like a weapon, but, like a tent peg, it stabilizes. It also marks out the boundaries of the territory God has given you. Maybe God has given you a spouse or children. Maybe he has placed you in a Sunday School class or some organized group of fellow Christians. If so, those are some of your “territories,” your “tents.” The peg of prayer is very important. How would you like to come back to your tent and find that it has been blown away? Prayer is simply talking to God. It should be an everyday, ordinary thing. It’s always lying around the tent. You mostly use it in secret, but it is potent. When the enemy invades your tent, you can reach for it and defeat him.

2. The peg was a honed weapon.

“Honed” means “sharp.” Jael’s tent peg had to have a very sharp point in order for her to be able to pound it into the hard baked earth in that part of the world. When it comes to spiritual weapons, we have the sharpest weapon of all – the Bible.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

The Word of God pierces and cuts. It stings. It gets past the superficial into the heart of the matter. It breaks up hard ground. A Bible looks like a book – everyday leather and paper. Like a peg, it doesn’t look especially dangerous – until an expert pegswoman or pegsman wields it. The business end of the Word of God can go right into a man’s brain and it can make a serious difference.

3. The peg was a handy weapon.

Prayer and the Bible should always be handy if you are a Christian. However, there are times when your Bible might not be right there next to you. There may be times when you are willing to pray, but, in a crisis, you are not always afforded the time to gather your thoughts, have some peace and quiet, and pray effectively. One of the handiest weapons we have in spiritual warfare – the one that’s always right there – is love. Love is always right at hand. You don’t have to special-order it. If you’re truly a Christian, it is not even “second nature” to you – it’s first nature! Love is the key component of Christianity.

Prayer, your Bible, and love are three of the tent pegs of the Christian life. They are the hidden, honed, and handy weapons of our warfare. Jael’s tent peg slew Sisera; these weapons slay sin. Sin is kind of like Sisera if you think about it. Sin is an oppressor. It will control people. It will dominate their lives. It will steal their possessions, but, more importantly, it will steal their joy. It will put people at risk. It will create danger in lives. Sin is cruel to begin with, but when it starts to get routed – like when Barak routed Sisera – and when it gets “on the run” in our lives – look out! Sin will get desperate, and will be especially eager to come into your home.

And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle. And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

Judges 4:18-19, emphasis added

Sin wants to be hidden.

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

Proverbs 28:13

And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

Judges 4:19, emphasis added

Sin is thirsty. It will dry you up, and create a desire for more.

Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.

Judges 4:20, emphasis added

Sisera wanted Jael to lie. Sin breeds more sin – and different kinds of sins.

And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

Judges 4:19, emphasis added

Deborah was the one who encouraged Barak to fight against Sisera. Her name meant “bee.” Bees are associated with honey. Jael used milk to sedate Sisera. Therefore, Sisera had trouble in the “land of milk and honey.”

Now, here is something that many Christians don’t realize: Sin can be sedated. I Peter 2:2 calls the Bible the sincere “milk” of the Word. Sin can be sedated by Bible study, prayer, accountability, safeguards, even will power – to some extent. But those things can’t “kill” sin. It will inevitably (and sooner rather than later) wake up, escape, and wreak havoc. Sin can be sedated by the lesser “pegs” we have talked about, but it can only be killed by one truly great PEG.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples.

Judges 4:22, emphasis added

Christ was held to the Cross by “pegs” (nails). He knew no sin, but was made sin for us. To claim the victory that Christ wants you to have in Him, you are going to have to come into the tent and see sin slain. Get a good look – see sin slain on the Cross of Christ – then look in the tomb and see the Slayer of sin has risen – victorious!

I find it significant that the Bible makes a point of saying that the peg went through Sisera’s “temple.” Your temple is the place between your eye and ear – the place where you “conTEMPLate.” It is also the word we use for the place where people worship. Have you made your mind a place of worship – a place where Christ is the center of all your thoughts?

So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

Judges 4:23

That’s when God will subdue the “Jabin” that is invading your thoughts. Worship Him – the Lord God – as King of your “temple.”

Strange Weapons Lesson 2: The Peg (introduction and narrative)

March 18, 2011 at 11:55 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 6 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Lesson Two: The Peg

[In Lesson One, I renamed Shamgar’s ox-goad a “prod” (as in cattle prod). Now I’m going to call Jael’s “nail” a tent “peg” – even though, where I’m from, “Jael” and “nail” rhyme.]

Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Judges 4:21

Both Shamgar’s prod and Jael’s peg were strange weapons, even though the days recorded in the Book of Judges were not such strange days. In fact, they were eerily similar to our “days,” in the sense that people were generally doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, when Ehud was dead. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, that reigned in Hazor; the captain of whose host was Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles.

Judges 4:1-2

It appears that Jabin was king of the Canaanites, but his captain, Sisera, who had 900 chariots of iron, was the one who really terrorized the Israelites. He did not, however, terrorize their God:

And the LORD discomfited Sisera, and all his chariots, and all his host, with the edge of the sword before Barak; so that Sisera lighted down off his chariot, and fled away on his feet. But Barak pursued after the chariots, and after the host, unto Harosheth of the Gentiles: and all the host of Sisera fell upon the edge of the sword; and there was not a man left.

Judges 4:15-16

This battle took place in the area around Mount Megiddo where – according to Revelation 16:16 – the battle of Armageddon will be fought. There were a number of Biblical battles fought at this location, and it is also the place where Napoleon defeated the Turks under similar circumstances in 1799. God sent a storm, the river overflowed, and the chariots bogged down and got stuck in the muddy and drenched ground.

Barak (who shares a name with our current U.S. President) wiped out Sisera’s army as they fled on foot. Sisera himself, however, escaped to the the village of Heber the Kenite, and to the tent of a lady named Jael. Which brings us to…

And Jael went out to meet Sisera, and said unto him, Turn in, my lord, turn in to me; fear not. And when he had turned in unto her into the tent, she covered him with a mantle.

Judges 4:18

The “mantle” was sort of a blanket (maybe one of those “snuggies?”). Sisera was tired and he wanted to hide.

And he said unto her, Give me, I pray thee, a little water to drink; for I am thirsty. And she opened a bottle of milk, and gave him drink, and covered him.

Judges 4:19

The “milk” was sort of like what we would call “half and half” or “yogurt” – it was possibly fermented. Jael tucked in Sisera with his milk and his blankie and put him “night-night.”

Again he said unto her, Stand in the door of the tent, and it shall be, when any man doth come and enquire of thee, and say, Is there any man here? that thou shalt say, No.

Judges 4:20

Sisera asked Jael to lie for him.

Then Jael Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

Judges 4:21

Jael, whose job, as a woman in a tribe of nomadic desert-dwelling people in those days, would have been to regularly take down and put up the tent in addition to other hard physical types of labor, was probably big and strong (with arms like the Arm and Hammer Baking Soda man).

arm and hammer

The name “Jael” meant “mountain goat,” so it’s kind of hard to envision her as petite and dainty.

And, behold, as Barak pursued Sisera, Jael came out to meet him, and said unto him, Come, and I will shew thee the man whom thou seekest. And when he came into her tent, behold, Sisera lay dead, and the nail was in his temples. So God subdued on that day Jabin the king of Canaan before the children of Israel.

Judges 4:22-23

There is a tendency here to feel a little sorry for Sisera, considering he was on the run, desperate, and hunted. He turned to this woman for help, and she coaxed him to sleep and slammed a tent peg through his brain!

https://i1.wp.com/trendsupdates.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/jael-and-sisera1.jpg

But before we feel too sorry for Sisera and start being too critical of Jael, we need to remember that if Sisera had won the battle against the Israelites, or if he had escaped and raised another army, or if he had been able to come back with reinforcements, he and his men would have raped the women and taken all their valuables.

Jael’s weapon – her tent peg – was a strange weapon in her day. So too are the weapons of our spiritual warfare in our day. Next time, I want to make three comparisons between the peg and the spiritual weapons we must wield against our enemy who has come to kill, steal, and destroy.

Strange Weapons Lesson 1: The Prod (comparisons and conclusion)

March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in Biblical farming, Strange Weapons | 9 Comments
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Last time we looked at the background information on Shamgar and his ox-goad (or cattle prod), which you can read about in Judges 3:31 and 5:6. Here are three comparisons between Shamgar’s prod, which he used as a weapon, and the weapons of our spiritual warfare today:

1. A prod is used in provoking.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Acts 9:1-5

Before the Apostle Paul became the Apostle Paul he was the dreaded Saul of Tarsus, the scourge of the early Christian church, and one day he was charging down the road to Damascus like an angry bull. Suddenly, he felt the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever been prodded by the Holy Spirit?

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added

The Greek word which is translated as “provoke” in Hebrews 10:24 is paroxysmos, from which we get the word “paroxysm,” and which means “a violent fit.” This shows how serious and earnest and even urgent we are to be as we provoke each other to love and to good works. The Holy Spirit prodded Saul as he was traveling to attack Christians, but we, as Christians today, are supposed to prod each other and exhort each other to get into the battle and fight our enemy, Satan.

2. A prod is used in plowing.

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.

Jeremiah 4:3, emphasis added

If you’ve ever done any farming or gardening, you know that ground must be broken up before seeds can be planted.

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

In addition to breaking up the ground before planting, there are usually stones which must be removed from the earth before the ground is soft and useful.

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

Plowing is not a one-time-only event for a farmer. Plowing is continuous work in the life of a farmer. Allowing the Holy Spirit to use us to break up hard hearts, to remove stony obstacles, and to stay busy moving forward in the Christian life are all important parts of our spiritual warfare.

3. A prod is used in purifying.

Remember that part of Shamgar’s prod (ox-goad) was used for cleaning off dirt. There was a sharp point on the front end and a small spade on the back end. This is a picture of the Holy Spirit’s role in cleaning out the sin in our lives so that we can be pure and used of God. The part of the prod that cleans the plow also makes the plow lighter, thereby making it work better and more efficiently. As a Christian I certainly want to be free from sin, but there are many things which may not necessarily be sinful in and of themselves. These things become a problem when they consume my attention and energy, and take me out of the battle that Christ wants me to be fighting.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The Holy Spirit may be speaking to us right now and telling us to lay aside every weight that would keep us from finishing the work in our assigned field.

CONCLUSION AND REVIEW

A prod is a strange weapon, but Shamgar lived in a time when the Philistines had taken away all the Israelites’ conventional weapons (I Samuel 13:19). I am afraid that the world and the devil are stripping Christians of our weapons today. The world may take away public prayer, Bible study in the schools, the right to speak out at work, but, if and when that happens, will you take your “prod” and use it for the Lord? Our warfare and our weapons are not conventional because we are in a spiritual, not a physical, war. Does your automobile become a strange weapon when you use it to drive to someone’s house to tell them about Jesus or to the hospital to pray for a sick person? Do your shoes become strange weapons when you wear them to walk up and down the streets of your neighborhood, inviting folks to church and sharing the Gospel? Is a pecan pie a spiritual weapon when you bake it and take it to your neighbor who needs a friend in times of trouble? Is your telephone a strange weapon when you use it to call someone who hasn’t been to Sunday School in a while and invite them to come back? Will you take whatever is at hand to provoke, to plough, to purify?

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