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.

Hearing Someone Greater

A man of great wisdom and intelligence sat down with me recently, listening to me describe my bold plans for a new venture. After working in the music retail business for the last ten years in support of my teaching role at House of David Beit Midrash, I plan to leave the job in order to pursue traveling to teach/speak at congregations, and to build up a web presence to spread the message that I feel I have been given. The man’s eyes first stared intently as I spoke and then widened with approval. He then started to offer his insight so it was my turn to stare intently.

This wise man doesn’t claim to fit in any acceptable religious category, professing belief in the Master Designer and acknowledging that our lives are to have some higher purpose than merely existing until we die. While he wouldn’t fit in most church pews or synagogue seats, I know from our many conversations that when he speaks I need to listen. And I did.

Among the many things of which he spoke I have found one remark to remain in my thinking. “The key for your success is to realize a belief in something or someone greater than yourself. Otherwise we fall into the trap of becoming narcissistic and believing this is all about us.” I find this especially important insight as my whole goal is to teach others about the Elohim of Yisrael, indeed Someone greater than myself. Yet the trap of my labor, travel, and speaking opportunities lies in the very acceptance and hearing that I am praying for. Answered prayer can become a trap if it leads to promotion of self or if we take it as affirmation that we are someone worthy or special. The realization that we are being guided and aided by One Who is greater should humble us, not inflate us.

Another man of great wisdom and superior prophetic ability was told to confront the systems of religious deception and gross idolatry in ancient Yisrael. Eliyahu HaNavi [Elijah the prophet] contested the power of 450 priests of ba’al and 400 prophets of asherah at Mt. Carmel. At the end of the day, those 850 men were dead and fire sent from heaven was consuming Eliyahu’s offering. Shortly thereafter, the great prophet is lying under a broom tree, depressed, tired, and  praying to die. Somehow this extraordinary man became overly aware of his personal feelings. Anxiety and fear became the focus of his mind, leading him to think this whole adventure was about himself.

Believing in Someone Who is greater requires the process of humility and brokenness. Our journey demands that we learn to trust YHWH for our path and its required provision. Our reasonings and arguments that speak against His way and methodology must be cast down [2 Corinthians 10:1-6]. This process most often means testing, proving, enduring, and a long list of similar words. Ya’acov [James] 1:4 says that patient endurance leads to a state being complete and lacking nothing. BELIEVING in Someone Who is greater, YHWH Elohim of Yisrael, means that He will prove to us His Greatness in the place of our weakness and lack. For Eliyahu, that meant receiving food from birds and taking the last morsel of bread from a starving widow and her son. Her response in believing YHWH fed her family and the prophet.

This is not about you or me, but rather about Him and those He wants to reveal Himself to. There is a higher purpose, a greater goal, a more worthy endeavor IF we are willing to become set apart for it and give our selves to it. The process of humility and proving only make us more capable and resolved to get the job done. Believe in Him. Believe in your calling. Trust Him for your journey.