Navigating the Spiritual War – 3-1-22

Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” Acts 14:3 NKJV

Although today’s reading helps us understand our winning strategy in our spiritual war, we must keep in mind that a spiritual win may not manifest it’s self as a physical win in our world. We must trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our understanding – which is our new memory verse. We will find ourselves clinging to it more and more in days to come as our current events play out on the world stage and we feel the ripple effects in our lives. Thank God for our relationship with Him – without it we might not spiritually survive all that is to come.

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of Acts chapter 14 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

At Iconium

14 Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and [a]poisoned their [b]minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

But the multitude of the city was divided: part sided with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there.

Idolatry at Lystra

And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. [c]Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called [d]Zeus, and Paul, [e]Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out 15 and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, 16 who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. 17 Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” 18 And with these sayings they could scarcely restrain the multitudes from sacrificing to them.

Stoning, Escape to Derbe

19 Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

Strengthening the Converts

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.

Footnotes

  1. Acts 14:2 embittered
  2. Acts 14:2 Lit. souls
  3. Acts 14:9 Lit. Who
  4. Acts 14:12 Jupiter
  5. Acts 14:12 Mercury

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

Here is our new Verse for March:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL

As always I am a day or two behind with the news, because I write this a day or two before it publishes. Good thing this isn’t a news blog! Lol  
But, there seems to be a shift in the spirit that is making waves in our current events. It has been easier to praise the Lord and sing and worship – at least for me. I am getting over a sinus infection (I know I struggled with not feeling well for the last 2 months; please keep praying for me and each other). And felt like maybe that was what was hindering my praise. But I pushed through. And while talking with others, learned that many all over the world felt it was a struggle as well. But today there seems to be a shift.  In Canada, the truckers stood up against tyrannical / dictatorship style rule which went against their charter. In the USA, the truckers and many other have just begun their protest. (In response the leaders are quickly reopening everything up trying to prevent it as it is an election year.) In Australia, big revolts by the people! All over the world people are waking up, and have declared: ENOUGH. In the Ukraine there was already a civil war happening when the Russia attacked. The latest is the Russian people are now protesting the war and putting their own versions of boycotts and sanctions on their own government.  

I wish we were reading Romans 13 – so we can clearly see the ‘do and do not’s of civil disobedience. We won’t be there until May, and we will discuss it then and I am sure it will still be timely as God ordained our plan for this year. It is time to show the World leaders that we are more than them – and in spirit there are more for us than against us. It is time we break through this front. It is time to charge in with the Lord before us – so we can collect the spoils! (The battle? Well, it is the Lords!) If we truly understand these things, we would never have coward behind masks locking ourselves in our own houses. I mean that as a global majority – because we all know I seldom wore a mask and I refused to lock myself in. And yes, I did wear one whenever my spiritual authority told me to. Because masks, briefly worn, would further the kingdom in certain situations. It is like Gentiles not eating and serving pork when they were entertaining Christian Jews. I did it out of God’s love – which ALWAYS trumps my freedom!

All of the world AND SPIRIT events happening do occupy a lot of my mind and have kept me prayerful. But we do have a passage to review, dig into, and see what God wants to say to us today.

Paul and Barnabas (can I call him Barney?) Are doing their loop through the western central part of modern day Turkey, on their first mission’s trip.
I would love to visit Turkey and see all the ruins of where they walked. Roman roads are still there. They have found ruins and synagogues dating back to the Hellenistic era. Paul and Barnabas traveled during the Roman era, before that was the Byzantine era, and before that was the Hellenistic era (the Greek Empire, which emerged around the 8th century BC). So Paul and Barnabas were already among ancient structures that were beautiful and still being utilized.  

They were also walking through an area where Pirates had moved into the land and were dangerous thieves and the land is rough and has cliffs and difficult to navigate. Having to fight for your life while traveling between cities in this area was so common it is not news worthy and therefore would have been left out of the scripts. And we pick up todays reading after they safely arrived from Antioch in Pisidia to Iconium – mountainous terrain, fewer thieves and cliffs in that stretch of road.

And as they always did – first stop, the synagogue, to preach first to the Jews then to the Gentiles.
But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brethren. Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” verses 2-3
To win in our current spiritual war, we can learn from these two verses. First that it is a spiritual battle first and foremost! Second, that the tactic is to poison the minds of the people against the brethren and whatever is right. Let us recognize it and call it what it is and pray the Lord God inhibits the poisoning to have any influence on the harvest which is ready. Praying a hedge of protection, a barrier to the evil plot so that eyes are opened to the lies of the enemy and hearts are changed, souls are saved. Third, we must stay on it. Possibly a long time. But this very prayer is not a pray once and believe and therefore it is done.  This is an exercise in perseverance. BUT finally, God’s grace will prevail, granting signs and wonders so the truth is revealed and (like every time we see grace) transformation happens and God is glorified!!! Hallelujah!

As always – after half the city was transformed and saved, Paul and Barnaba had to flee for their lives! Which may even be a follow up to the above prayerful spiritual war strategy – we MUST be prepared for our lives to be at risk. The enemy may use people to try to silence you (by peer pressure, threats, or even to plot to kill you, or distractions or even illness – I have faced all three in the last few months – this is how I know I am obeying God. But if in a peaceful, easy-going, fun-loving nation like Canada, a pastor can be locked up for preaching Jesus, then all pastors, preachers, and those who testify of their witness of what the Lord has done, in this entire world, better wake up to the fact that we will be jailed, persecuted, and/or attacked using these three methods: people, distractions, and illness.

Paul and Barnabas arrive at Lystra, a city deeply involved in worship of Greek gods and goddesses. During the Byzantine era, there were so many gods and goddesses in this region that temples had to compete to gain the people’s attention and would purchase simple machines (we would now consider as toys and pretend magic tricks) to trick the people into coming to their temple. This area was not populated enough for all their temples.
This problem (more temples and gods than people) was most profound in Ephesus, and was also an influence in Laodicea, and Colosse (as well we see in Paul’s letter).

In Lystra the people were eager and hungry to believe and having seen a real miracle, all they could do is what they knew – call Barnabas, Zeus; and call Paul, Hermes (cause he talked to much).  So they wanted to adorn them and make sacrifices and worship Paul and Barney.
Paul and Barney, in an attempt to correct them and set the record straight tore their clothes (a sign of anger or disproval of what they were doing) and ran around telling them all to stop – and telling them about the ONE TRUE GOD. But they scarcely restrained the multitudes. Interestingly, scarcely means, narrowly (as in they almost could not restrain them, but did) AND it also means, “not quite” (as in they did not succeed in restraining them). In the effort or understand I am pointing it out – but I have no resolve. I am unsure if they did or did not succeed in stopping the sacrifice.

But he narration of the story move on to a more important point – the unbelieving Jews from the last two towns, caught up with them (did you realize that they were being chased?) and were now persuading these pagans to stone them. First, they are being worshiped and then they are being stoned.

They thought they killed Paul. They dragged his lifeless body from their city and left him for the animal to scavenge. Dear friends, if this is what real Christianity and witnessing / soul winning looks like, are you ready? Will you die for Christ if He requires it of you? Honestly, if this is how it all started, how did you think it would all end? I know we are all hoping for the rapture before the suffering – but are you prepare if the rapture is delayed so we can harvest more souls? Will you suffer, less than Christ suffered, so that more can be blessed with grace, transformed for eternal life?  It is my job to speak truths – and such a day is coming in the first world / free nations and is already here for many on this planet.
God is good – always remember that. Like Jesus had random unmentioned people following him (along with the called disciples) so did Paul and Barney. These men gathered around, Paul’s lifeless body (I will presume they were praying, as I would have been) and Paul rose up and went someplace safe, with them, for the night. The next morning they snuck out and headed to the next town.
Why didn’t they quit? Why did they flee to the next town and just do it all again? Why not keep their mouth shut and keep moving until they got home?  Have you been transformed by grace? I you have you know the answer. I ask the question to those who do not understand or know why. This is an important point for them. If you do not know why – please ask God for more grace, for an experience with grace, a renewal of your mind:
 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 NKJV
Please pray it. It is the only way for you to learn the answer to those questions. I cannot put into words the answer. You must experience more grace to understand it.

So in Derbe, again they preached.

God’s grace fell upon the city and many were saved AND strengthened, presumably even Paul. And Paul taught that: hey, y’all saw me flee for my life and get stoned – be prepared this is the path to salvation, heaven, deliverance, and the Kingdom.
So when you say to me I am wrong to prepare you for possible tribulations, including stoning because we are modern and civilized – I will point out that my discussion today lines up right here with Paul’s and that in our modern, civilized, and pride ridden world we not only imprisoned a few Canadian preachers, but we fined unreasonable sums against Californian Preachers and tossed a Floridian pastor in jail (just for one night as he made bail because unlike Canada, due process what met speedily).
That is in the USA, who the world thought was so untouchable by such uncivilized behavior. Give the USA a pandemic, and some racial tension (with the sad death of a person, a soul lost) and the USA will show you all just how under develop they really are. Like lord of the flies, quickly we fall, slip sliding in the enemies trap into our own evil propensity. Cured by sin, attracted like a moth to a flame. We are all sinners and in need of a pure sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who not only substituted himself for our punishment but beat death so we may be delivered from this madness. We only need to believe and surrender to Him will, so He can keep us safe. And by safe, I mean safe, with possible stonings and even death here on Earth. Keep your eyes on Christ – keep your eyes on things eternal. Let Him work out the details. To exhort means to encourage and strengthen you. By Biblical example, sometimes, but not often, exhortation correct as well, but the correction (if from God), is bathed in love and it encourages and strengthens you. If it does not, and it criticizes and condemns then it is NOT of God – it is the accuser influencing people and should be rebuked. If the correction is a Prophet’s warning, it may be more harsh – but prophets have a separate set of rules and punishments from God if they self proclaim. (Let’s not go down that rabbit hole. All we need to know is to test the spirits. I have fallen for some and found myself beat up and depleted, until God finally got through to me to free me from the manipulative oppression of the enemy. In which case I needed a time of extensive exhortation from Jesus Himself – reminding me I am made for such a time as this! So let me exhort you, my dear friends, as well navigate these perilous times together our love for one another, although we have not met is because of God’s love in us – let me remind you of our prize, the Kingdom. Stay Kindom focused. And:
“continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Verse 22b 

After a time of refreshing, going back to the cities where they fled from, and setting up churches with church structure. They baptized and laid hand on for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. When they fled, we thought it was over for those towns, BUT GOD! God made a way, with boldness and strength and power! Do not get discouraged. Sometimes we must flee the enemy, lose the battle – BUT IN GOD WE WILL WIN THE WAR!
Paul and Barney then pressed forward, preaching all the way till they met the ship which was taking them back to Antioch in Syria (where they came from – where believers were first called Christians).

When they arrived home. God bathed them in more grace and another time of rest and refreshing. They told of their adventures and spend much time thanking God for all of the soul’s transformed and saved, and for all that he did! We too must spend enough time worshiping and praising him for every little (and big) victory in our lives. If you are not grateful – God will give that grace it to someone else who is.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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