Monday, December 3, 2018

This is War!

We sang This is War, by Dustin Kensrue in church this week. I had never heard the song before and as we started singing the first stanza, I wondered why we were singing it during the Christmas season. The beginning, beautiful as it is, sounded like anything but a Christmas song. 

          This is war like you ain't seen.
          This winter's long, it's cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned.
But the tide turns at Bethlehem.

Oh, the last line of that stanza grabbed my heart and turned it toward Christmas. It introduced what was meant by the words, "This is war." The next stanzas explain it's classification as a Christmas song: 
This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, The Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born King;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing. 

This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take its final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans: 
The mystery of God as man. 

As we sang, I began to think about God's story. The war on sin and death was declared long before the baby Jesus was born. It was declared in Eden when God came to Adam and Eve after they sinned. I've always heard the consequences God gave the couple and the Serpent referred to as curses. But what a different tone the story takes when we read it as a declaration of war against sin and death. 

It was a war that began long ago in the heavenly realm when Satan rebelled against God. It was a war man was unwittingly drawn into as the couple listened to the Serpent's voice. It was a war that was won in the mystery of God as man. It is a war that is still being played out in our lives every single day as the enemy continues to try to thwart God's plan. The Christmas story is important because without the little Babe, we would not have had a Kinsman Redeemer who laid down His life to bear God's wrath for our sin. I think there is a whole lot more to the war than this song states. 
It is not only a war on sin, it is a war on our inborn tendencies to do wrong, to become enslaved to sin, to go our own way, and to put our will and our fleshly desires above our Creator's. The war is won for each of us as we humble ourselves, recognizing our depravity against the backdrop of God's holiness. It is won as we come to the end of ourselves and come to Jesus and His finished work by faith. It is won because we have the ability in Christ to refuse to submit to the yoke of slavery again. 

It is a war on death. When we come to Christ by faith, our dead spirits are raised to life and we are given the capacity to see and understand great spiritual truths and given the chance to relate to our God freely. And when He comes back, those who are His will not see death and those who have died in the faith will be raised to life again. Death no longer has a sting for the believer. 

It is a war on the Evil One and his dark forces. Colossians 2:15 tells us, "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them." One of the youth pastors I served under used to say, The only power the enemy has is a lie." We can choose not to believe the lie. 

It is a war on our unhealed wounds. I serve wounded women who often come to us feeling angry and abandoned by God. I witness them come to trust Him when they meditate on Isaiah 53. Jesus was despised and rejected as many of them have been. The God-man experienced sorrow and grief just like they have. He was one from whom men hid their faces, which speaks to those who cried for help and had people turn their faces away, pretending not to hear. Just as some have carried the grief and sorrows of their families, they are touched when they realize Jesus has carried theirs. Just as people have viewed them as stricken and smitten by God because of the abuses they endured, they realize Jesus understands as people of Jesus day viewed him the same way. He was pierced, crushed, oppressed, afflicted, misjudged, and chastised as He paid for sin He didn't commit. By coming to understand the depth of the wounding of the Savior who loves them, they realize suffering can serve noble purposes and they come to trust Him with the deep wounds only He can heal. They realize He is their in their suffering and they hold on to the truth that suffering is only for a season.  

It is a war on the powerlessness we feel as a result of our weaknesses. We are strengthened with  power through His Spirit that resides in our inner being (Eph. 2:15 and Col. 1:11). Because of this, the mom who sits beside her suffering child's hospital bed can live with gratitude and hope. Because of this, the person living with chronic pain can bless the lives of those who come to minister to her. Because of this, the woman who just buried her husband can rise up out of her bed of grief and love her little ones well. Because of this, those who have suffered multiple trauma's at the hands of abusers and shooters can still rise up and say, "I will not live in fear." 

It is a war on broken relationships as He is our peace and has made us one by breaking down dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14). Because of this, couples can thrive as they allow God to repair their broken marriages. Friendships can endure the thoughtless actions and hurtful words of people still learning to love well. Women can forgive and move past horrendous betrayals of fathers who groomed them to abuse and then cast the shame of their actions on them. And, people of all races can come together, casting aside their preconceived prejudices to love one another well as they lift  voices in one accord to worship the King.   

It is a war on alienation from God. For as we are rooted and grounded in love, we are adopted into His family and are given the strength to comprehend the richness of Christ's love and to be filled with the fullness of God. If our roots go deep, there is nothing that can come against us that will cause us to doubt the Lord's love. (Gal. 4:5, Eph. 1:5, Eph. 2:18-19).

It is a war on anxiousness for the Lord is ever near. We now have direct access to Him through prayer and can cast all of our cares on Him, knowing He cares for us and that He is the source of the peace that surpasses understanding. That is how President Bush could tell his family he did not fear death. That is why first responders and soldiers can run into the face of danger as the rest of us flee. That is why in this unstable world that is marred by sin, catastrophic natural disasters, and horrible crime, we can still lay down and sleep a peaceful sleep. 

It is a war on shame--that toxic emotion, telling us we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough and too much to be truly loved. It is that emotion that comes from unresolved guilt and the lies the enemy whispers in the aftermath of a failure or a trauma. Because of the work of Jesus, the Lord clothes us with garments of salvation: and He covers us our unrighteousness with robes of righteousness. Instead of shame we receive His blessing. Instead of dishonor He gives us everlasting joy. 

The war declared in Eden had promises of redemption and victory strewn throughout the Old Testament. The war commenced when Mary carried and birthed the baby who was God incarnate. The war was ultimately won in Gethsemane when Jesus set His will to lay down His life on the cross that the Father had set before Him. 

Oh, we struggle and often live as if the battle has not been won as we are waiting for Jesus to return and bind the Enemy. As we wait the enemy and his cohorts relentlessly whisper insidious lies about God, our loved ones, and us in our ears. We must remember the only power they have is in their lies and we can take their power away by destroying arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God and by taking every thought captive to God's truth as we set our wills to obey Christ. 

You and I can walk in the Lord's victory when we remember God is ever present and knows just what it takes for us to be transformed into the people He created us to be. We walk in His victory as we remember we are never alone, never helpless, never hopeless, and never invisible. For, we are His beloved children, bought with His blood, set free by faith in Him, sealed by the Spirit, and given truth and power to navigate this life until He returns. The war. The war has been won.   

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!