More Strange Weapons: A Bone (Singular and Surprising)

July 5, 2011 at 11:53 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 7 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.

When in Rome, Preach to the Romans

December 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts, Resurrection | 7 Comments
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Acts Chapter 24 tells us that Ananias followed Paul to Caesarea with his lawyer, Tertullus. There, they brought false charges against Paul under Roman law. The charges were as follows:

1. Disturbing the peace (being a pest by preaching the only way to true peace).
2. Sedition by leading an illegal religion (being a true Christian).
3. Profaning the temple (being friends with gentiles).

The Jews were afraid of a revival, but they wanted the Romans to fear a riot.

This was Paul’s summation:

Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.

Acts 24:20-21

He brought up the Resurrection, which forced the Pharisees’ hand, and we see that Felix had some knowledge of “the Way.”

Paul was given certain liberties, but he was chained to a new Roman guard every six hours. Talk about a “captive congregation!” For two years he witnessed for the Lord in Caesarea as a prisoner.

He also got a chance to preach to Felix and Drusilla. Before them, he explained a fact of life that we don’t often call by its real name anymore. We tend to call it mistakes, weaknesses, tendencies, faults, errors, immaturity, or illness. But its real name is sin. Felix was convicted and he trembled, but he decided to procrastinate. Procrastination is one of Satan’s greatest tools. Felix thought Paul was his prisoner, but Felix was really the prisoner.

By Chapter 25 Felix had put the high priest, Jonathan, to death. The new high priest was Ishmael. Festus had replaced Felix as governor. Festus had to report to Marshal Dillon. (Sorry, I grew up watching Gunsmoke, and couldn’t resist!) Ishmael and the Jewish council revived the plot to kill Paul, so they wanted him returned to Jerusalem for his trial. They were going to kill him on the way there. However, Paul – as a Roman citizen – applied to Caesar Augustus (who we know as Nero), so he had to be protected and taken to Rome.

The last “King Herod” (Agrippa) shows up (possibly in an incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice), and he and Festus decide that Herod will examine Paul. But Paul turned into the judge and proclaimed the Truth to Festus, Herod, Bernice, and everyone else in attendance. This is the longest of Paul’s sermons recorded in the Bible. It is found in Acts 25:32 – 26:32. Here is a loose outline of it:

1. Paul used to be very religious.
2. His eyes were opened by the Light.
3. His ears were opened by the Word.
4. He obeyed the Word.
5. He began his new life by seeing a vision and hearing a voice, but he had continued faithfully as a willing slave – even when things seemed impossible.

Festus accused Paul of being “beside himself,” and King Agrippa mocked him. However, we must wonder if this mocking was covering up an inside struggle when he said:

…Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Acts 26:28 (emphasis added)

Do you know somebody who thinks he or she is too wicked to be a Christian?

Paul was officially declared not guilty, but still had to be sent to Rome by virtue of his appeal to Caesar. Chapter 27 shows that Satan very badly wanted to keep Paul out of Rome. Paul had already survived plots to kill him, riots, arrests, two illegal trials, and now a shipwreck!

Paul advised that they wait in Fair Havens for safer sailing after the winter, but the Roman captain listened to the pilot and the owner – the “experts.” (Warren Wiersbe says that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.) These experts were under pressure to deliver grain and make money.

Even in Acts 28, Satan is still not done – he sends a snake to bite Paul on Malta! When Paul doesn’t die, he is tempted in the area of pride by people who want to worship him. Satan is pulling out all the stops.

For two years Paul was chained to Roman soldiers in Rome, witnessing, preaching, and being used to write Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was probably released, and he probably went to Spain where he was used to write I and II Timothy, and Titus. He was arrested again in A.D. 67, and tradition says he was beheaded. The Gospel he preached and lived so passionately lives on, and it always will.

Quarterback Commandment No. 10

July 13, 2009 at 5:39 pm | Posted in John, Quarterback Commandments | 8 Comments
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Only two more to go… We are nearing the end of the list of 11 Quarterback Commandments which Bill Parcells gave to Tony Romo during their time together with the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Commandment No. 10: Don’t panic. When all around you is in chaos, you must be the hand that steers the ship. If you have a panic button, so will everyone else. Our ship can’t have a panic button.

Spiritual Application: In the heat of spiritual battle, when things seem as though they are getting out of control, God’s leaders must be thermostats, not thermometers.

We’ve all been there. You have been planning some event or occasion in detail. Maybe for hours, maybe for days, or even weeks, you have pictured in your mind just how it will go. You finally arrive and nothing is the way you expected it. Things are in disarray and people are panicking. What will you do?

A good quarterback knows that even the best gameplan does not contain a solution to every possible predicament. Sometimes your star receiver is injured in pre-game warmups. Sometimes the opposing defense has concocted a blitz package you’ve never seen in your life. Once in a while you find yourself trailing by three touchdowns halfway through the fourth quarter, and there is no play in the playbook for making a first down when it’s third and 29 to go.

When ten anxious faces gathered around a huddle stare pensively at their leader, there’s only one right response: calm collected confidence tempered with firm determination. If the quarterback loses control, everyone else is going to lose control.

On the football field, leaders need a steady hand and a positive demeanor. Christian quarterbacks need the same attitude and posture during regular counseling sessions, church services, hospital visits, and in all types of spiritual calamities and unforeseen chaos.

When God prepared his people for battles in the land of Canaan, He told His priestly quarterback to tell the troops to:

…approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;

Deuteronomy 20:3

Peter hit the panic button when Jesus was arrested, and almost interfered with the plan of redemption:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

John 18:10

But Jesus, the greatest Spiritual Quarterback of all time, stayed cool:

Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

John 18:11

Read Acts 27:41-44 for the account of a shipwreck, and the Apostle Paul’s great response, and you will almost be tempted to think Parcells was reading his Bible when he said, “Don’t panic. When all around you is in chaos, you must be the hand that steers the ship. If you have a panic button, so will everyone else. Our ship can’t have a panic button.”

As a Christian quarterback, when I walk into a chaotic situation, I must ask God to help me not to be a thermometer. A thermometer just reflects the temperature of a room. When things get hot, the mercury goes up. When things are cold and dead, the mercury dies down, too. I must instead ask God to make me a thermostat. A thermostat is not controlled by the temperature; it does the controlling. When I walk into a room of spiritually cold people, I need to warm things up in the Spirit of God. And when I walk into a room of hot-headed chaos or knee-knocking panic, I need to be calm, and help to cool things down.

The Backstroke

January 12, 2009 at 9:51 am | Posted in Acts, BiblicalSwimming | 8 Comments
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According to USA Swimming, the different types of recognized repetitive swim motions are called “strokes.” One of these, the backstroke, “consists of an alternating motion of the arms with a flut­ter kick while on the back.” Anyone who has seen this type of swimming in action knows that the swimmer is in the unusual position of being flat on his back, looking up, yet moving swiftly.

Scripture is silent on the subject of exactly what type of swimming stroke the Apostle Paul used, or whether he used a 1st Century “floatation device,” to make it safely ashore when he experienced a shipwreck.

And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.

Acts 27:41-44

What is certain from Scripture, however, is that the Apostle Paul was someone who, despite being knocked flat on his back many times, always looked up to God, and kept moving forward. The soldiers were afraid of escaping prisoners, but Paul was a man of faith, not a man of scheming. Some saw the storm and shipwreck as reasons for despair, but Paul saw an opportunity to glorify God, and to serve others. Can we say the same when we’re in the midst of a “storm,” or when we find ourselves in “deep water?”


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