April 2, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Wartime approach to Life”

Exodus 17:8-16

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. 14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” 15 And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The Lord Is My Banner, 16 saying, “A hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Check out the following core value of Bethlehem Baptist Church (John Piper’s church):

BUILT ON A WARTIME APPROACH TO LIFE, EDUCATION, AND MINISTRY. As a nation during wartime focuses its collective resources on winning the war, so also we seek as individuals and an institution to focus our resources on the goal of achieving our shared mission. We believe that this involves pursuing strategic simplicity with regard to non-essentials in order that more resources may be channeled to the war effort. As an institution we will seek a wartime approach not only in the use of resources but also in pursuing strategies and processes that are effective in winning the war.

What really impresses me about this value is what it says about this church’s outlook – they realize that we are living in the middle of a war. This is impressive because America is not at war – compared to many countries around the world we enjoy relative peace and prosperity. In terms of our faith, yes, there is some persecution, but nothing worth comparing to what many of our brothers and sisters in the 10/40 window are suffering. The reality is that it’s easy for us to forget what reality is – that we’re in the middle of a war for our souls. As Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).

So how do we fight this battle? With the sword and with staff. In what we do and in how we pray. That’s what we learn from Moses and Joshua. The war with the Amalekites took place on two levels. First, Joshua had to line up toe to toe with the enemy and engage in mortal combat. They did that for the entirety of a day. Unbeknownst to Joshua, however, there was another battle taking place nearby on a hill, one without swords and armor, but the result of which would decide the entire fight. That battle was one Moses, Aaron and Hur fought in prayer. It was so important, in fact, that after the battle Moses made sure that Joshua heard about it, lest he thinks that he won the battle with the sword.

In Christian life, we do, but more importantly we depend. A spiritual battle cannot be fought with the flesh alone – we must fight fire with fire. This is why we can never underestimate the importance and centrality of prayer. Prayer displays faith and dependence on God, which brings glory to God. Perhaps Martin Luther addressed this duality best when he said, “Pray like it all depends on God, then when you are done, go work like it all depends on you.” Heeding his words, let us work hard, but pray harder.

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the spiritual reality around me. Increase the sense of urgency in my spirit. Awaken me to last days living. Grant me that I may not get caught up in civilian affairs, but rather that I may live as a soldier in the field. May I be like Uriah, who when summoned to Jerusalem by David during war, would not sleep in his home, but rather, slept in the doorway of his house because his heart was always with his brothers who were at war. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 27


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Chronicles 4:9-10: Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Questions to Consider

  1. How would you describe Jabez’s background/past experiences?  What does this teach us about how our past should affect our future?
  2. What did Jabez ask of God?  Do you think this was easy for him?
  3. What kind of change or freedom do you need to ask of God and to believe in Him for?

Notes

  1. In spite of the fact that his identity was so caught up in his mother’s negative experience, he cried out to God that his life wouldn’t be bound or limited by the past.  No matter what you’ve experienced in the past, through Christ’s power you can have a different future.
  2. What Jabez asked for took faith.  Oftentimes, even though we may wish for freedom from the past, we fail to seek it aggressively because we just don’t believe it could ever happen.  We become prisoners of the past. Jabez, however, in asking God took a step of faith.
  3. Be bold!  There is nothing in your life that God cannot change.

Evening Reflection

“Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.” – John Bunyan

Wrap up this day with a quiet time of meditation and prayer.

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