Weapons Not Carnal In A War On Carnality

Some many years ago, in the mid to late 90’s, I was pastoring a crusty old church tucked away in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. The area is rugged, the economy is challenged, and the people are unique and interesting. In the public arena, you will find most folks friendly, warm and apt to smile while they call you “Sugar”, “Sweetie”, and “Darling”, even to perfect strangers. I remember going to the local Piggly Wiggly [Supermarket Chain] and the lady checking out my groceries called me “Sugar”. I went home and confessed to my wife that a woman had been flirting with me and I didn’t know what to do about it. After a few weeks in town I realized the local custom and understood that I wasn’t that special after all.

In the church arena, things were and are much more challenging and difficult to understand. There was an often repeated phrase of “…the real power of God…” that spoke of their desire to get back to something they believed was missing. Lost somewhere in the 40’s and 50’s was a fervor and intensity of spiritual experience that had since become  legendary. Much time and talk was given to searching for the missing formula to accomplish the return of power and presence, and unfortunately, determining the hindrances that prevented the legend from being realized again. These hindrances most often were found in people, who were then put at arm’s length and corporately shunned until they found themselves somewhere else to go. My family and I were so charged and found guilty. After 2 years of struggle and mistakes, theirs and my own, we found somewhere else to be, embarking on our own search for the legend of Yah’s Real Power and Presence.

When insulted our normal response is to return words in kind. When we are accused, we tend to defend ourselves by finding fault in the accuser. Y’shuah’s teaching about “…turn the other cheek…” must have some sort of mystical application because it can’t work in real life or so we reason. There is a better way, a more righteous way to deal with accusers and slanderous defamation of our character. Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons we fight with are not fleshly but mighty in Elohim for overthrowing strongholds, overthrowing reasonings, and every high matter that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to the Messiah…” [The Scriptures, 2009] Note that the goal is to fight spiritually against the flesh and its carnal tendencies, bringing it to obedience to Messiah. When rebellion of flesh has been transformed into obedience to Y’shuah, we win and not until then.

It is the weapons of humility, brokenness, and obedience that conquer religion, that overcome accusations, and destroy the strongholds of wrong thinking. It was the assumption among my former congregation that if they could achieve unity, then power could be more than legend. But the form of unity sought was more accurately named uniformity. They pushed aside anyone or anything not thought to be like themselves. In all honesty, these dear people didn’t realize that they were only doing what had been taught to them by people they loved and respected. They fondly remembered an era of time filled with excitement and fervor, but forgot the reality of hard lines drawn and the many people that were shunned out of not conforming to someone’s ideal example. That kind of thinking is but a stronghold of religion and the very thing that prevented their finding what they were yearning for. Until the minds and hearts are changed, the power and presence of Yah will remain but a legend.

Rav Shaul says that there is a better way. We must change our minds and renew our understanding from justifying ourselves by accusing others to walking in humility and seeking ways of obedience. Familiar strongholds teach us to reason and explain away our failures while pointing long fingers at those whose sins are less than our own. But our most effective weapon is to be totally obedience to Y’shuah and His Commands; the Torah. Revelation 14:12 “Here is the endurance of the set-apart ones, here are those guarding the commands of Elohim and the belief of Y’shuah”   [The Scriptures, 2009]

In Mattithyahu/Matthew 5:25, Y’shuah taught us to be well minded with or to agree with our opponent promptly. We know that our accusing opponent in hasatan, who stands before the Father slandering and accusing us of not be righteous and faithful to His Word. When he accuses you of not praying enough, agree with him and ask the Father to teach you to pray more and more effectively. When he says that you haven’t forgiven or that you don’t love others, quickly agree and seek to release those who have wounded you and love them instead. When his accusations only urge us to grow in Messiah’s likeness, he will cease…for a season. Kefa/Simon Peter instructed us in 1 Kefa 5:6 “Humble yourselves, then, under the mighty hand of Elohim, so that He exalts you in due time.”  [The Scriptures, 2009] The way up is down, in humble servanthood, preferring others over yourself. In the right moment, at the time of our maturity, we will find a place higher to stand before Him.

Finally, I’ve learned over the years to not fight battles not worth winning and to never engage in a war that can’t be won. I knew that I could not win that former congregation over to a new way of understanding and I certainly wasn’t going to die on that mountain trying. But this warfare, this struggle against the prevailing religious mindsets and strongholds of our day, is one that can indeed be effective and one that we can be victorious in. Our overcoming is found in not resisting religious carnality with carnality, returning in kind what we are assaulted with. Rather, it is in humility, choosing to find a place to quietly serve without fanfare, and walking in obedience to Messiah that grants us a crown. Y’shuah prayed, “Father, if it be Your counsel, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My desire, but let Yours be done.” Luke 22:42  [The Scriptures, 2009]. Rav Shaul spoke of his fight saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race I have guarded the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7  [The Scriptures, 2009] Keep fighting the war worth winning.

Going Against the Grain; Again

So we’re at the climatic stages of the football season, with the Super Bowl in sight and the College Championship being played tonight, as of this writing. I’ve been a major fan of the game for as far back as I can remember, and to be honest, I can very easily get too wrapped up in it. In fact, I was watching my team play last evening in its first playoff game and they lost. I yelled at the officials, I pleaded for the blitz, and I groaned at missed opportunities. In being a little transparent here, I HATE TO LOSE. I’m not a sore loser, but I hate to lose, at anything from board games, to cards, to party games, and especially sports. I have to admit it. I am too competitive.

This urge to win is complicated by my tendency to choose the less popular brands or teams and follow my Dad’s propensity to cheer for the underdog. Growing up, most of my friends and family preferred Chevy’s, but I’ve always liked Fords. The popular team was the Dallas Cowboys, but I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan forever. As a musician I play Fender, when the popular choice for many is Gibson. Why can’t I simply go mainstream and take the popular choices and be happy with the majority when they win? The answer is I’m just not wired that way. I was designed with a preference to go a bit against the grain and see things from a different angle.

I found myself in the middle of mainstream church life, pastoring and shepherding, leading worship, and administrating a local church. I preached the acceptable and standard doctrines that were expected, trying to keep them fresh and appealing, but to a desired result. However, that thing that makes me different, that part of the wiring schematic that is unique started to affect my heart. I became discontent and wanted to find a sharper spiritual edge. I grew dissatisfied with the status quo and the urge, no, the urgency to find more depth in my prayers began to consume me. I had to go beyond talking at my Redeemer up there somewhere to finding the place where I could look into His Face and into His Eyes. I had to know Him, not just about Him. This pursuit of Him cause my reference point to turn completely to the opposite direction. I was now going against the grain and finding myself out of the mainstream; again.

In the wisdom of Mishlei/Proverbs 27:17 we read, “Iron is sharpened by iron, and a man sharpens the face of his friend.”

For an effective edge to be gained there has to be something abrasive, capable of removing that which is not needed, and able to refine and hone. When it comes to applying this thought to your friends, you don’t want to destroy them, rendering them dulled with no edge at all. You want to refine them, reveal the unnecessary parts and help them become their best. This is my hope and desire for you. You may have found the opposing grain too rough to endure and no longer can simply go with the popular flow. But there are others like yourself and others who understand how you feel. Remember that I tend to choose the underdog and the less popular. This wiring that Yah chose to put inside me causes me to believe that hurting and frustrated people can find Him and look into His Eyes. They can learn to discern the tone of His Voice. People such as yourself can absolutely find His Heart and determine what and who it beats for. It requires a process and a commitment to letting go of whatever stands in the way. You will have to choose to go against the popular and the mainstream, but that’s the path that leads to Him.

I’m just offering a word of encouragement. I choose you. I believe that Y’shuah chooses you. We may disagree and even get abrasive, but let’s sharpen one another until we both find the edge we need. Come on. Take the more narrow, less traveled road that leads to a place worth finding. That’s where Y’shuah waits.

 

Shalom, shalom