Going to War!

Keren Hannah Pryor sends out an email teaching every week for free. She and her husband run the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies. Their website is http://jcstudies.com. To sign up for Keren’s free email teaching, go to http://www.jcstudies.com/about_emailUpdates.cfm.

In this week’s message, she talks about the way that praise and worship is actually warfare. Here are some excerpts from this week’s teaching:

The Scriptures record the strong God-forged link between worship and warfare. The study and proclamation of His Word is a form of worship, as is prayer. God calls His dwelling place “a house of prayer.” I am reminded of a meaningful, anonymous quote:

“Something happens when we pray, powers of evil lose their sway, we gain strength, and fear gives way; therefore, let us pray.”

Prayer and praise are both ‘weapons of our warfare’. The Temple in Jerusalem was not a hushed, silent sanctuary; it was continually filled with vocalized prayer and also with the anointed song and music of the Levitical priesthood. King David is the archetype. He was a skilled warrior, who with his band of mighty men fought valiant battles and “struck down the Philistines; and the LORD saved them by a great victory” (1 Chronicles 11:14). At the same time, he was “the sweet singer of Israel” who directed the Levites who “were trained in singing to the LORD…all were skillful” and employed “cymbals, harps and lyres, for the service of the House of God” (1 Chron. 25:6-7).

The first powerful sign of a worshipful act influencing a physical battle occurred when Moses looked down from a hilltop and raised his arms while the Israelites were doing battle in the valley against the attacking Amalekites (Exodus 17:10-15). While his hands were raised, the people of God prevailed; when he lowered them they weakened. We understand that as long as he raised his hands to the LORD, with the help of Aaron and Hur, God fought for Israel. After their victory Moses built an altar of remembrance and called it YHWH Nissi – God is my Banner. Joe Garlington, a powerful modern-day worshipper and prayer-warrior, declares that, likewise, “Battles are won wherever holy hands are lifted up to God.” [4]

Another powerful example of the connection between worship and warfare is found in the book of Second Chronicles, when Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem are facing invasion by a large enemy army. The king, Jehoshaphat, declares a fast and he and the people gather in the Temple court and pray and cry out to the LORD. A prophet, Jahaziel son of Zechariah, says to them: “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (20:15). He presents them with a practical strategy and then proclaims, “You will not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of YHWH on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem!” (20:17). How do they respond to this awesome news? King Jehoshaphat humbly bows down with his face to the ground, “and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before YHWH, worshiping YHWH. And the Levites … stood up to praise YHWH, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice” (20:18-19).

Early the next morning they went out to face the enemy. The king addressed them and “he appointed those who were to sing to YHWH and praise him in holy array, as they went before the army, proclaiming:
Hodu la’Adonai ki tov, ki le’olam chasdo!
Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures for ever.

“And when they began to sing and praise, YHWH set an ambush against the [enemy] who had come against Judah, so that they were routed” (20:21-22). As prophesied, the army of Judah did not need to fight and the LORD gave the victory. With joy and praise, “they came to Jerusalem, with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of YHWH. And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that YHWH had fought against the enemies of Israel” (20:28-29).

I have seen this work in my own life. God gave me those same verses when we were going through our Journey of Fire. We praised the Lord at some of the strangest times. Like when we didn’t know where we were going to sleep that night. Or when we needed food and didn’t have any money to buy groceries. As I wrote in the last post, He always came through for us. We never spent a night in our van or on the streets, and we never even felt hungry during the whole time of our Journey of Fire. Our praise and worship was our warfare, and it was our show of faith that gave God an opening to work for us in miraculous ways.

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Keys to Surviving Seasons of Lack

Sometimes God lets us go through some hard times. Suffering produces good things in our lives.

Rom. 5:2-4
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Rom. 8:17, 18
If we share in His sufferings, we will share in His glory (my paraphrase).

Phil. 3:10
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death,
and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

We went through some major suffering in the form of having no income for four years. Because of the lack of money, we were attacked on all sides. Our society does not like you if you don’t have money. Our government, especially, looks unkindly on people who don’t have money. The devil used the state government, the federal government and other government agencies to hurt us while we were living by faith.

But God delivered us from every attack. We emerged victorious every time it seemed like the devil had us down.

We found some keys to live victoriously even when everything seems to be stacked against you in the natural.

Keys to Surviving Seasons of Lack

1. Praise Him in the storm. One time when we had a utility bill that was due, and we had no money to pay it, I took my song book and just started praising the Lord. I got to a place of peace. I didn’t think about it any more. Soon after that, we got a money order in the mail for $800. It was a gift from Jesus, no other name on the card. Things like that happened over and over again. Our whole family sang together a medley of songs about God’s greatness often. When we were tempted to feel down, we started singing. We always got to a place of faith when we did this, and soon after God answered our prayer.

2. Don’t look at your circumstances. Look at God and His Word. Don’t believe what your circumstances tell you. Don’t believe what your senses tell you. Believe what God’s Word says. Find His promises and pray them over and over again. Believe it or not, your circumstances really don’t matter. I know what you’re thinking – well, maybe not to you! But they sure matter to me! What I mean is – God is not affected by your circumstances. They could be any kind of difficulty. What He is after is your heart. The trouble may seem like your worst nightmare coming true, but it’s not a problem for God. What you’re going through may seem like it’s impossible to fix, like there’s no solution. Like your life is ruined. You may even feel like you’re going to die. But nothing is too difficult for God. I know those feelings. God brought me through. And I know that if you’ll keep holding on to God and trusting Him, He will come through for you, too. Keep your faith strong. Your faith means everything to God. Your faith in Him proves to Him that you love Him. He wants to be loved by you.

3. Give. The law of sowing and reaping really works. We gave whenever any money came in at all. We prayed together about who to give to and how much to give. There were times when the Lord told us to give everything we had. That was hard. The Lord dealt with me and Gary about this on the same night, but in two different locations. I was at a conference, and Gary was at home lifting weights. He was praying about what God wanted us to do to break the cycle of lack. The Lord told him, “If what you have is not enough, give it all away.” The conference speaker who I was listening to was giving testimonies about how God had blessed her time and time again because she gave extravagantly in obedience to His leading. When I got home, Gary met me at the door and said, “What did you learn?” I said, “We need to give!” He said that he got the same thing. So he said we were going to give the whole amount in our checking account away. I was shocked and said, “Really???” I wasn’t sure we should go that far! We gave to some people who had been ministering to us. Our bills were paid. I don’t even remember how God did it that time. He used so many different people. Men stuffed a hundred dollar bill in Gary’s shirt pocket many times. Or they gave him a $100 handshake. I would find $20 bills in my purse that I knew weren’t there before. God gave a dream to a friend of a friend, and because of the dream she came and gave us a check for $1000. We helped a friend move to another state when we couldn’t even pay our own mortgage payment. It cost us about $1000 to rent the U-Haul. The Lord gave us a couple thousand dollars from other sources after that. We are still reaping from the sowing we did during that time. Before we moved from Kansas City, the Lord moved on someone’s heart to give us $20,000. We are in a place of abundance now. We give all the glory to God, and we know that He has honored our giving by prospering us.

4. Stay in unity with your spouse no matter what. Pray together. Wives, let your husband lead. Let him handle the bills and the calls from debt collectors. Don’t answer the phone. Let your husband decide how the money that God provides is to be spent. Let him be the leader God called him to be. Trust your husband much the same way as you trust God, without knowing what is going to happen. Don’t try to figure things out or make things happen. Just keep praying and listening to what God might be saying to you. Learn to hear His voice. Be on your husband’s side, no matter what you might think about his decisions. If he stops trying to get a job, find out if the Lord has told him not to get a job. There were some good reasons that God let my husband go without a job for so long. He learned how to integrate into the family instead of just working and bringing home the paycheck and letting me handle everything else that had to do with the family. And God told him not to try to get a job. So I would have been going against God if I had demanded that he try to find a job. I realize that it’s hard to hear from God, especially if you’re not used to it or you haven’t really believed it’s possible. Now is a good time to learn how.

5. Read books about people who have lived by faith. George Mueller, Rees Howells, Lillian Trasher, Hudson Taylor, John G. Lake, Gladys Aylward, to name a few. This will build your faith, and enable you to believe when things seem very grim and impossible. I also meditated on Daniel, Joseph, Abraham, and David. Especially Abraham, Joseph and David. They had to wait SO long before God’s promises to them were fulfilled. And Joseph and David went through the opposite of their promises before their promises were fulfilled. But they believed all along, and in the end they received His promises. The Lord had me read the Psalms and Isaiah constantly during our Journey of Fire.

6. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you. All of the things you need. You find out what your true needs are during a time like this. You may not get all of the things you want, but pray and ask God what you really need and then pray for those things to be provided. You may be surprised to find that some things you considered absolute needs, God considers luxuries. What He wants from us most of all is to trust Him like a little child trusts his parents. He wants us to love Him and believe that He is good no matter what is happening in our lives. He wants us to believe that He has good things in store for us. He has told us that He would provide for us. How does He know that we believe this- how do we know that we really believe this- unless we need Him to provide for us some time? As Americans, we pretty much provide our own needs, and if things get tough, we rely on someone in the natural to provide for us, such as our family or the government. But God wants us to rely on Him, not Egypt.

Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man’s hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 2 Kings 18:21

Whoever or whatever has been the Egypt that you ran to in trouble, stop running there. Turn to God. He is always faithful.

7. Watch your words. Speak only words of faith. Don’t say what you see or what you fear will happen. Talk about the goodness of God. Talk about what God is showing you. Talk about God’s promises. Talk about your dreams and what you are expecting God to do for you.

8. It’s about “being” not “doing”. We realized that God is not that interested in our works. What He is after is our heart. Even though we weren’t in a position to “do” anything, God was pleased with us. We couldn’t minister to anyone else. We didn’t feel like we had anything to offer anyone. But we knew that God was pleased with our faith in Him.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Heb. 11:6

Don’t worry so much about doing something. Just work on your relationship with God. Realize that your walk with Him is far more important than your temporal needs. Concentrate on spending time with Him and becoming the person He meant for you to be. Also realize that there are purposes beyond what you can see or understand for God doing what He does. He may wait because of other people that He wants to be involved in your deliverance, but they’re not in place yet. There are a multitude of scenarios that could be the reason for your prayers not being answered yet.

9. Waiting is a form of suffering, and it’s also a form of worship.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. Ps. 37:7

The same kinds of things that suffering adds to our lives, waiting develops those, too.

10. Keep your hope alive.

Hope does not disappoint. Rom. 5:5.

God will come through for you. Don’t give up, and don’t give up hope. He loves you. He’s your Father. He’s your Shepherd. He’s a Good Shepherd. He takes good care of His sheep. Remember, this is just a season. No matter how long it takes to get to a place that feels safe and normal again, just keep trusting Him. You will feel His pleasure. You will make Him feel loved. Our faith is THAT important to Him. Do it for God!

If you’re really struggling to understand why God would let you suffer, and you want a thorough biblical treatment of God’s purposes in allowing suffering, read a book by Bob Sorge called The Fire of Delayed Answers. It really helped my husband through our ordeal. It pretty much saved his sanity!

Another good teaching about the reason God allows bad things to happen to good people is this one by David Wilkerson.

The Meaning of Hope

Rom. 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

I had just told God, “I hate to say it, but I’m kind of disappointed with the way things have turned out.” I didn’t want to complain. I had just spent the last four years carefully watching my tongue and not complaining about anything, no matter how distressing the events were. I was completely caught off guard by what God allowed to happen to us. I never would have dreamed He would let such bad things happen to me. I thought I was above such things. But I had so much pride, arrogance, jealousy, and lots of other nasty hidden things in me that I needed a jolt of reality. I needed to see what was really in my heart.

By the time of my confession of disappointment, I had been thoroughly humbled. But I was tired. My husband was so frustrated and angry about the things that were happening at work and in his life in general. The kids and I were doing spiritual warfare for him every single day. Things were better. We had a stability we hadn’t had in months. But things were still bad. We were cramped. Our house felt unhealthy. Allergies were bad. And we still had no options. We couldn’t do anything to make anything better.

Then I cried out to God. My heart was hurting. I felt disappointed. I knew God hadn’t let us down, but things were still so far from what we had prayed and sown for. I knew He was going to come through for us… but when?

I never asked that. That was Gary’s question. That… and “why”? I never let myself ask those questions. But I had come to the end of my stamina. I finally let out what I was feeling. I told Him the truth about how I felt. And then I opened my Bible. The first verse my eyes fell on was Romans 5:5. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” I didn’t really understand the whole thing, but I knew that God was telling me to keep hoping. He was telling me that the things we were asking and believing for were going to happen, and that I should not give up hope, because hope doesn’t disappoint. That’s all I needed to hold on to. Hope does not disappoint. That phrase helped me make it through the next three years of waiting for things to really get better.

And one day, they did get better! And they’ve been getting better all the time. We are going from glory to glory. My husband has had promotion and is expecting more. We are expecting great things financially, physically and spiritually. All for His glory.

Don’t give up hope. Hold on to it while you wait. Like a life preserver. And remember, Hope does not disappoint!

Dying to Save Our Marriage

When we first got married, I was selfish. So was he. But neither one of us knew it. We were both Christians. We were both following Christ. We loved each other. We thought we were Christ-like. We were clueless.

I had some issues. So did he. I wanted all of his attention. He wanted to watch TV or play video games all of the time. I hated games. He didn’t care for chitchat. I wanted to tell him all about my day. He was bored by all of my rambling and wanted me to get to the point. The problem was there was no point. I just wanted to talk. He didn’t see the point. It was a vicious cycle.

Throughout our years of marriage, we had several epiphanies. One happened for me when we had been married for 3 1/2 years. I was listening to a song from Robin Hood (the one with Kevin Costner), because we were going to sing it together in a wedding. The song was called Everything I Do (I Do it for You). I was sad and lonely in our marriage because of the reasons stated above. Oh, yes, he was also a workaholic. I was lonely because I hardly ever saw him. He worked late every night that he didn’t go to the gym. I had a baby boy and stayed at home with him all the time. I really resented the fact that the few moments my husband was at home, he was watching TV or playing a video game. I never got any of his attention. And I wanted ALL of it! I felt like he wasn’t meeting my needs at all. I resented the long hours he put in at work, too. I knew that he was trying to get ahead. I knew that he was having problems at work. I knew that he was trying to prove himself in his very first real full-time job, and that it was very stressful. But that didn’t stop me from resenting the time he spent away from me and our son. I stuffed all of my feelings inside, so he didn’t know how I felt. But as I listened to that song, I was suddenly struck by the knowledge that everything Gary was doing, he was doing for me. I was absolutely dumbfounded. It didn’t feel like he was doing anything for me. I felt like he was just doing whatever he wanted to do. But the Lord revealed to me what was really in Gary’s heart. He was trying to do the best job he could at work, hoping to make more money for me and our family. He believed that if he worked long hours and showed his willingness to work and did the best work he could possibly do that he would get a raise and possibly be promoted, and we would make more money. I never saw it that way before. I wanted time with him more than I wanted more money, and I just couldn’t get past that. Money didn’t mean much to me, and I didn’t understand how important being a good provider was to him. But, ultimately, he really was working long hours for me, and the Lord made me see that. Even lifting weights at the gym was as much for me as it was for him. He wanted to look good for me and to stay healthy and fit for me. I had been too selfish and self-focused to realize that, in doing those things, he was trying to let me know how much he loved me.

I felt a little better about things after that. I appreciated his efforts more. But I still felt like he wasn’t meeting my deepest needs. I needed attention. I needed for him to ask me how I was doing. I needed for him to talk to me like a friend. But he didn’t know I needed those things. And I didn’t know how to tell him. I was putting so much of my time and energy into my children that I wasn’t taking care of myself. We had 5 more children in the next 8 1/2 years. I had six children 10 years old and under. And I was doing almost everything for them and all of the housekeeping. Besides that, I was tutoring other children and trying to homeschool my own that were of legal school age. I was also doing homeschool assessments every summer for 100 homeschool families. In between all of that, I had to take classes to keep my teaching license current. As if that wasn’t enough, I acted in a Christmas play and started singing in a quartet. I was a bona fide “Mommy Martyr” to quote Cindy Rushton. I thought the busier I was, the better I was.

About this time, he had an epiphany at a Promise Keepers conference. The speaker challenged the men to do one thing each day to improve their marriage. Gary thought, “I don’t need to worry about that. My marriage is just fine.” Then he said he felt like a spotlight shone on him, and he heard a voice saying, “Your marriage is just fine? Do you really believe that? Your wife is caught up in singing in a quartet and busy with that all the time, and you’re busy working all the time, and you barely see each other, and you think your marriage is just fine?” He said he looked around to see if everybody in the stadium was staring at him, because it felt like he had just been put on the spot. Nobody else seemed to notice anything unusual, so he wiped his brow and thought about what the Lord had just said to him. When he got home, he seemed really serious and said, “We need to talk.” I was in such a state of mind that my thought was, “Oh no, he came back worse than when he left.” I always wanted him to act happy and excited. I hated to see him depressed. When he got down, I got mad at him. But when we went to our room to talk, and he told me what happened during the conference, I knew God was helping us to get this communication thing going. We talked and decided that we needed to do more together. I ended up quitting the quartet. He tried to spend more time with me. We prayed together more often. He asked me to tell him what I was really thinking, how I was really feeling. I still had a hard time with that, because I was always afraid of making him mad. It wasn’t that I was “afraid”. I just hated for him to be mad, and I avoided causing him to be angry at all costs. I assumed that things would make him angry that I know now wouldn’t have. But my desire for him to be happy all the time was so strong that I avoided communicating with him things that I should have.

To make a long story short, we went through some perilous times together, with no one but each other, the Lord and our children to depend on. We had the stuffing knocked out of us. We went through devastating loss and humiliation. But we made it through it together. I found out some more of my issues. Like how I expected Gary to meet some of my needs that only God can meet. I found out during our time in Kansas City that I was wrong to insist that Gary be happy and jolly all the time. I was wrong to get angry at him for not being happy.

Most of all, I learned that I needed to die. I had to die to myself and my desires. I had to turn to God for every need. I had to love Gary and pray for him as if my life depended on it. Because it did! Whatever happened to him happened to me. I was told by a mentor that I should pray down blessings on Gary’s head even when I felt like I hated him. There were times…! I started praying for him in a less selfish way. I started seeing things from his perspective. The Lord helped me to put myself in his shoes and sense the frustration he felt at work. I was able to build him up and encourage him in his efforts, because I got my eyes off of myself and my needs and the things I thought he should be doing and onto what he was going through and how he was feeling. I became a help meet for him in a way that I had never been before. I saw for the first time how talented he really was at technical writing. I became proud of his ability and thanked God for it in Gary’s hearing. I praised his abilities and talents and encouraged him to stand up for himself at work, instead of wishing he would just be content and not rock the boat. I was on his side for the first time. I was in his corner. We were a team working together. I got myself out of the picture altogether. I wasn’t worrying about my needs. I was too focused on his to even think about mine. And as I did this, he gave me more attention. He wanted to hear what I had to say. He shared with me every detail of what he was going through. He started trusting me to take his side.

We both died in a lot of ways during our journey of fire. Many of our dreams died. Many of our concepts died. But in the kingdom of God, life comes out of death. And sometimes you have to die to live.

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed;

10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Cor. 6:9,10

He Knows My Name

Nahum 1:7 The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you. Isa. 43:1,2

It’s so good to know that He knows us. By name.

From My Journey of Fire Journal – Jan. 12, 2006

We’ve been learning how to live as a family that tries to deal with everything in a scriptural, godly way. Our settling of disputes has revolved around being unselfish and kind. We’re trying to do everything in love. We’re praying about everything. We ask the children what they think about things and how they’re feeling. We’re trying to discover their individual gifts and encourage them in developing and using their gifts.

We’re trying to learn to live all over again. Living by our spirits instead of our souls, by our intuition instead of our minds. Hearing the voice of God, waiting in His Presence. Developing a real, intimate relationship with God.

We like being together, working together. We don’t want to be separated. We believe God wants families to spend lots of time together. Quantity of time is as important as “quality time”. We believe that God teaches us how to build good relationships through families that put God first. We believe there should be an “iron sharpening iron” effect that happens in a godly family. We believe that children raised in this kind of home will be better friends and “neighbors” because of the love and support they’ve received in the home. We believe that love will be the motivation for everything they do, not selfishness. They won’t be searching for approval or significance. They won’t put others down to try to lift themselves up. They won’t go around trying to get their own needs met. They’ll be able to reach out to others.

We want our children to know that God is real. So we put our lives in His hands and only did what He told us to do. We prayed and waited on Him even when it seemed like He was not speaking and He was late. We were willing to look foolish to man in order to obey God. We have let Him prove Himself to us and our children. We have proven that we believe in Him. He has been faithful to us. We have never been forsaken or had to beg for bread. We never had to sleep on the streets or sidewalks of Phoenix! Quite the contrary. We had luxury accommodations!

Our faith has grown by leaps and bounds. We have all grown spiritually. We’ve learned to be more open and honest with God and with each other.