Tag Archives: Spiritual warfare

Think About a Hymn

Open Hymnal

Lord Keep us Steadfast in Your Word 

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word;
Curb those who by deceit and sword
Would wrest the kingdom from Your Son
And bring to naught all He has done.

Lord Jesus Christ, Your pow’r make known,
For You are Lord of lords alone;
Defend Your holy Church that we
May sing your praise eternally.

O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth;
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

By Martin Luther
Text is in the public domain
Source: http://www.hymnary.org/text/lord_keep_us_steadfast_in_your_word

  • The hymn addresses the three persons of the Trinity in sequence, but each verse focuses on a specific element of godly living. What three things does Luther consider essential to the Christian life?
  • In your daily life, where do you see people who work by deceit to destroy Christ’s kingdom on earth? In a choice between deceit and sword, which weapon do you think does the most damage to the people of God’s kingdom?
  • What does Luther think is the best way to resist enemies of God’s kingdom?
  • Where do Christians find the power to stand strong when under attack?
  • What Bible verse comes to mind when you read the second verse of the hymn?
  • Who is the Comforter mentioned in the third verse? What essential role does this Comforter fill when we read the Word, mentioned in the first verse?

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com. Watch for the release of Thrive! Live Christian in a Hostile World, planned for release in the winter of 2016

Image: Open Hymnal Source:http://foter.com/
License: CC BY-NC-SA

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A Hymn For Meditation

hymnalLead On, O King Eternal

Lead on, O King eternal,
The day of march has come;
Henceforth in fields of conquest
Thy tents shall be our home.
Through days of preparation
Thy grace has made us strong;
And now, O King eternal,
We lift our battle song. 
 

Lead on, O King eternal, T
ill sin’s fierce war shall cease,
And holiness shall whisper
The sweet amen of peace.
For not with swords’ loud clashing,
Nor roll of stirring drums;
With deeds of love and mercy T
he heavenly kingdom comes.

Lead on, O King eternal,
We follow, not with fears,
For gladness breaks like morning
Where’er Thy face appears.
Thy cross is lifted over us,
We journey in its light;
The crown awaits the conquest;
Lead on, O God of might.

  • The scene depicted in verse 1 is that of an encampment for soldiers about to march into battle. The hymn writer says, “The day of march has come.” What does this statement mean for you? Are you prepared to march into battle for Christ? What do you think it means to march into battle for Christ? How have you been prepared for this day? (Hint: what has made you strong?)
  • The world is full of scenes in the battle between God and Evil. Describe the last time you saw evidence of “sin’s fierce war.” The author mentions the sounds of swordplay (or hand-to-hand combat) and drumrolls as signs of the action of an earthly army. What are signs of the action of the heavenly army? What was the most recent deed of love or mercy that you would describe as defeating the army of Evil?
  • Why does the hymn writer say that we are not fearful when we follow our King in the battle against Evil?
  • What is the symbol that lights the way forward for people who follow Christ in the war against Evil?
  • What is ahead for people who follow Christ obediently and confront Evil in the world? Give an example of some time when you have confronted Evil recently. Do you know a friend who is battling Evil right now? What battle tactic will you deploy on behalf of your friend?

How Can Christians Prevail in a Hostile Culture?

Many Christians feel completely flummoxed by daily developments in the USA. Having grown up believing that the USA was a country where Christian values predominated, many Christians are mystified by evidence that those values do not predominate in the culture today. When employees are told not to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas,” when government does an end run around parents by asserting that children will have sex and must have Plan B medications, when the idea that a homosexual union could be called a marriage is even discussed publicly – in the midst of such events, many Christians feel that they must be having a waking nightmare. What became of the USA governed by the Constitution? What causes voters to elect people with no apparent principle except “What’s in it for me?” US currency still bears the phrase, “In God We Trust,” but it doesn’t appear that the majority of the US population has any connection with God at all. What happened?

Christians have not yet come to grips with the fact that people with Christian principles are not the most numerous component of the US population or the US voter rolls. It is still statistically true that more people self-identify as Christians than any other religion, but close examination reveals that many of those who consider themselves to be Christian do not hold a Christian worldview. Since politics is fundamentally the enactment of a worldview into law, the worldview held by voters is extremely important. If most people do not hold a Christian worldview, then how shall Christians protect the culture from changes that feel at least uncomfortable and at most threatening?

The answer isn’t simple or satisfying. Every law represents a majority of the people who had a chance to vote on it. Every cultural trend must be satisfactory to more people than not, or it would not be a trend. If the culture or the government takes on traits that don’t feel right to Christians, some sort of majority choice is, nevertheless, at work. Perhaps the most honest thing to say about it is that even a lot of people who call themselves Christians don’t actually want a Christian world. Christians must remember that Jesus said, “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14) Later he said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

In other words, Jesus warned Christians not to think that being Christian would be the popular thing. Christians in the USA can be grateful they don’t live in some of the other countries around the world.

In Uzbekistan, government authorities recently broke into the home of an elderly Christian woman. They found her Bible and some other Christian literature, all of which they declared to be unauthorized religious material. They confiscated all of it, took her to court, and fined her ten months’ pay.

In China, the widow of the pastor of a house church is daily pressured by the Chinese government to merge her church into the Chinese Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the authorized Christian church in China. TSPM reports the names and addresses of all members to the government, uses only government-printed materials such as Bibles and study guides in the activities of the church, and allows only pastors authorized by the government-appointed national bishop of the TSPM. This widow knows that most of her church’s members will simply disappear and may or may not join other house churches if she signs this document.

In Laos, church members watched in dismay as government officials brought earth-moving equipment to their church site and demolished the building before their eyes. The building was alleged to be an unregistered church meeting in an unauthorized building, despite the fact that church members have submitted required documents several times, only to have them returned for alleged errors and omissions. Recent submission of new documents were at the time being processed, but the local officials refused to allow the church to exist any longer.

In Egypt, many long-standing Coptic Christian congregations have been shattered by violence in the country’s ongoing unrest since former president Mubarak stepped down. Buildings and individuals are attacked and abused while police stand by and let it happen.

How do Christians remain strong and faithful while under such pressure? Can the persecuted church teach American Christians anything about thriving under cultural and governmental restrictions? The answer is unequivocally YES.

Christians have survived and thrived for more than two thousand years, not because of political power, but rather, because of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They have trusted God and acted in obedience to him, and God has blessed that faithful commitment. Christians in persecuted countries know that they are targets, but they also know that the real target is Christ. They cling to Christ’s promise “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:24)

If you want to learn more about the weapons Christians have available in the culture wars and in the conflict with Satan and Satan’s people, read Ephesians 6:10-18. There you will find a clear statement of the problem Christians face in the US and the real solution to this problem. It is both comforting and disconcerting. People hope to find an answer that puts an end to the problems, but God doesn’t give us that option. In Ephesians you will find an answer to the question, How can I deal with this situation? But you won’t find an answer than ends the situation. You need to go to Revelation for that answer, and that will be part of some future post. For now, take the time to read Ephesians 6:10-18. Then pray for insight to understand how you can take up these weapons and use them every day. God has not left us destitute, but he hasn’t made it easy for us, either.

It is impossible to predict when, or if, the Christian worldview will again prevail at the ballot box. Don’t let the ballot box be the focus of your hope for the future. Rather, put your hope in God, and start learning to use the weapons he provides for your protection and victory in daily life. Leave a comment if you have suggestions for others from your own experience.

 

Christians feel Battered

Many people in the US today feel as if their world has been turned upside down. They feel almost adrift in a tumultuous sea. They feel that events swirl around them completely out of control.

What causes this feeling?

Probably one of the big issues is the nagging feeling that somehow the threat voiced long ago in the Soviet Union that “we will bury you” has come true. After all, the Soviet Union was a place where the government owned everything. Everybody worked for the government.  Businessmen were reviled as filthy capitalists. All healthcare was free, but it was administered by the government, and many people waited so long for service that they died waiting. Healthcare institutions looked more like prisons than hospitals. Christians and their churches were scorned and even punished. The government confiscated churches, stole anything valuable from the buildings, and turned them into government offices and agencies. Five-year plans for economic recovery never recovered anything and the country ultimately collapsed. Former refugees from the Soviet Union cry out that they came to the US to escape this sort of thing, yet it has now caught up with them. Both the culture and the government in the US are starting to look a lot like the former Soviet Union.

The refugee testimony that verifies the changes taking place makes it clear that Christians are not crazy when they feel battered on the one side by rampant secularism expressed both in the culture and in government and on the other side by Islam, which for reasons unknown, is accommodated by the government in deference not accorded to any other religion.

Secular pressure on Christians arises spontaneously in the culture with rising numbers of secularists who claim no connection to any religion while scorning those who do connect. Government in the US has historically been neutral or even benevolent toward religion in the culture, but in recent years it seems to be developing an aggressive and antagonistic attitude toward Christianity. (It might look equally antagonistic toward other religions if their adherents were as numerous as self-identified Christians.) Rulings forbidding prayer in schools or Christmas displays in parks or monuments to the Ten Commandments portend future policies and legislation that will make it difficult to exercise Christian faith in the public realm. Laws that upend moral codes that Christians believe to be the revealed will of God make it hard to express Christian teachings in public.

Islam presses for change in the culture more than it presses directly on Christians. Yet Christians are caught up in the pressure, because Christians are affected by every trend that develops in the culture. For example, there is no outcry from Muslims in the US to make Christian evangelism illegal, (as is normal in Islamic republics) but there is an outcry to apply sharia law in the courts when a Muslim is involved. The ultimate effect of invoking sharia in the courts, however, would be to risk suppression of Christian evangelism if a Muslim were involved. The Quran teaches that it is a deadly sin for a Muslim to convert to any other religion, and the Christian who may have led the Muslim to conversion would also be regarded as a threat. Couple Muslim rejection of a right for Christians to evangelize Muslims with secular demands that Christians refrain from “proselytizing” and a Christian is caught in a pincer attack from secularism and Islam.

Christians experience such challenges every day in the US. This threat level will not likely be reduced in the foreseeable future. How can Christians remain strong and faithful when under threat?

Christians in the US must look to the persecuted church around the world for inspiration and education in standing strong. Christians must learn from the persecuted church worldwide to be fearless in using the weapons God provides for this sort of warfare – truth, Christ’s righteousness, ready testimony to the gospel, faith, salvation, the Bible, and prayer. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to get the whole picture of the way God intends for Christians to defend themselves. In many countries, the church thrives under oppression US residents have never seen, because the persecuted church uses these weapons with fervent commitment. US Christians must live the love of Christ in the cultural “no man’s land” between secularism and Islam. Christians must be the love of Christ to everyone who enters the “no man’s land” which is God’s workspace where he transforms darkness to light and death to life in the hearts of humankind for Jesus’ sake. There is a reason Christians feel battered; they are under attack. Nevertheless there is a way to thrive and live fulfilled lives if they use the tools God has provided for their well-being. This blog is devoted to helping people find and use these tools for blessing in their own lives and the lives of others.

A Hymn for Meditation

The Church’s One Foundation hymnal

The church’s one foundation
is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
by water and the word.
From heaven he came and sought her
to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her,
and for her life he died.

Through toil and tribulation
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore.
Till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth has union
with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won.
Oh, blessed heavenly chorus!
Lord save us by your grace,
that we, like saints before us,
may see you face to face.

  • Why is it important to know that the church is built on Christ alone?
  • Where does the Bible teach that the church is the bride of Christ? (Hint, Revelation 21 is only the last place. Where else in the Bible do we find this image? Hint, Song of Solomon is a great place to look for God’s model for marriage, the relationship between a man and a woman, as a picture of his relationship with his people. Hint, the book of Hosea is a poignant cry from God to his people, his chosen nation, which has cuckolded him with idol worship and a profane lifestyle. Where else?
  • The image of “peace forevermore” is appealing. When will it happen?
  • What elements of the Creed are recalled by verse 3?
  • In what ways does this hymn encourage you as you face daily challenges or even threats to your faith?