Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Living a Life of Prayer

young_prayer_by_abureauphoto-d36t6qd.jpg

Last week, while writing the first version of this blog, I received a phone call. The caller said I might not remember him. He said his name and told me he was a freshman in the church youth group where I volunteered at that time. I hadn’t seen him in more than three years, but I couldn’t forget him.

Every week, I drove more than 20 minutes from my house to his house and then another 20 minutes to church. After church, with one or two more kids in tow, I drove them home and then brought him home. If you think of a Y, I lived at the top of one end of the Y, I went to a church at the top of the other end of the Y, and he lived at the bottom of the Y. With the extra kids to drop off after the youth group, the round trip took close to two hours of driving.

At the youth group, the larger group split off into smaller groups. I sat with a small group of young men, they told me about their weeks, we did a Bible study, and we spent time in prayer. After a while, that young man stopped coming to the youth group.

Many years before I knew that young man, I went through an internship in another church. One of the requirements was that I and the one other intern arrive to the church by 7 AM and pray in the sanctuary for an hour. Every morning, we walked into the sanctuary, put on a worship CD, sat in silence on opposite sides of the sanctuary, and prayed.

The pastor took us through the book The Hour that Changes the World. It taught us to pray for an hour by devoting five minutes to various aspects of prayer. For instance, it taught to spend the first five minutes giving thanks to God, then five minutes in praise, then five minutes in intercession, and so on and so forth.

For several years after that internship, my prayer life went through ebbs and flows. Much of that time I had no prayer life other than praying over meals, at church, or in Bible studies. Sometimes, I went through seasons when I prayed more fervently. During those seasons, I prayed by using the principles of prayer I learned. Many times, school, work, something else caused me to get out of the habit of prayer.

Now, I practice the habit of prayer every morning. But, now, as I practice the habit of prayer, I am learning to develop a life of prayer. I believe when Paul told Timothy to “Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17),” he was telling him to develop a life of prayer by practicing the habit of prayer every morning. I believe there is a three-step method for developing a life of prayer, but that method takes a lifetime to perfect.

Developing a Life of Prayer

  1. Learn and develop a method of prayer
  2. Practice that method of prayer until it becomes a habit of prayer
  3. Practice that habit of prayer until it becomes a life of prayer

After I told the young man that I remembered him, he said he was not in a good place spiritually when I knew him. He said he got his life right with God, graduated valedictorian from his high school, and enlisted in the Marines. He told me he tried to pray and read the Bible everyday, but he admitted it wasn’t always easy.

I encouraged him to choose his principles, make God the center of those principles, pray and read his Bible every day, and allow those God-centered principles to guide his life and determine the person he would become. After we said goodbye, I read over the first version of this blog. I hadn’t thought of it during our conversation, but I realized the last line I wrote was,

“The principles you live by are the principles you teach the next generation.”

Before any other principle, a “Battle Ready Christian” practices the principle of prayer until they live a life of prayer. Jesus taught his disciples a method of prayer in Matt 6: 9-13, but He didn’t expect them to sit and recite ’The Lord’s Prayer’ every morning for the rest of their lives. He taught it to them so they would develop a life of prayer.

I do not believe it is when a person chooses to become intimately acquainted with God that they will develop a life of prayer. I believe that is when their faithful habit of prayer will begin to become a life of prayer. This is the place where I am. I believe it is when a person realizes God wants to become intimately acquainted with them that they will move further into living a life of prayer. But I believe it is not until a person fully realizes the weight of the truth that God wants so much to be intimately acquainted with them that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them (John 3:16) that they will fully live a life of prayer.

May we all, like the Apostle Paul, cry out, “I want to know you and the power of your resurrection (Phil. 3:10),” until we are so intimately acquainted with God that we understand the full weight of the words, “For God so loved the world . . . .”

Amen!

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Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Wielding Weapons of Warfare

Sword Fight

When I was younger, I would get into doctrinal debates with other Christians. We debated over scripture for hours, trying to convince each other that our doctrinal positions were correct. Not only did we risk a division in our friendship, but we also risked division in the body of Christ and hindered the furthering of the Kingdom of God. I learned many years ago that using the Word of God for such purposes is detrimental to Christianity.

In last week’s blog, I compared the role of a Battle Ready Christian to that of a sniper. Snipers can’t do their jobs unless they bring their rifles and other weapons of warfare. And they don’t use them to target soldiers on their side.

In the same way, Battle Ready Christians carry weapons of Warfare—the Sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17; Heb. 4:12), which is the Word of God. That doesn’t mean carry your Bible with you everywhere you go. It means know the Word of God well and use it in the way God means for to be used. While it is sometimes necessary to use the word of God to restore a Christian found in sin (Gal. 6:1), a Battle Ready Christian does not use the weapon of their warfare for selfish purposes. Here’s how you use the Sword of the Spirit.

Using Weapons of Warfare

2 Cor 10:4-6

  • Pull down strongholds
  • Cast down arguments
  • Cast down whatever exalts itself against God
  • Brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ
  • Punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled
In vs 4, Paul tells his audience that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. If the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, then Battle Ready Christians cannot be carnal, and they do not focus on the carnal.

Carnal Christians

I Cor 3:1-4

  • Are babes in Christ – V. 1
  • Can only receive milk – V. 2
  • Marked by envy, strife, and divisions – V. 3
  • Behave like mere men and women – V. 3
  • Are doctrinally prideful – V. 4

Of those two lists, which one describes you? Do you know the word of God well enough that you can use it to pull down strongholds, cast down arguments, and use it for God’s glory? Or do you use it for your glory? Battle ready Christians study the word of God and use it to build the Kingdom of God, not to tear it down.

If you haven’t opened your Bible in a while, other than in church, read it. If you read and study your Bible, but you use it to build your ego and not the Kingdom of God, stop. You are using the Word of God for selfish purposes (Phil. 2:3). That doesn’t mean don’t have discussions with Christians and even non-Christians about your differences in beliefs. It may even mean that you will have to use it such a way that causes offense. Christ, the Apostle Paul, and many others chastised others with the word of God. But make sure you are using it to build the Kingdom of God and not your ego.

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Abiding in Christ

In 2010, Chris Kyle, returned home after four tours in Iraq as a sniper. The U.S. Sniper Team Department of Defense confirmed he had 160 kills, and he claimed another 95 unconfirmed kills.  He was awarded several awards for his valor, was nicknamed the “Devil of Ramadi” by Iraqi Insurgents, survived two helicopter crashes and six IED attacks, and was an awesome Christian Husband and Father until the day he was killed at a shooting range in 2013. Chris Kyle’s and all snipers’ heroics teach us a great deal about what it means to be a Battle Ready Christian.

1. Be Purposed

Study God’s Word & Evangelize

John 12:27; I Jn 3:8; Heb. 2:14,15; Rom. 8:28; Eph 1:11,12; Matt 4:1-11; Matt 28:16-20

Christ remained focused on His purpose, which was ultimately to destroy His enemy target, and release those bound by the fear of death. Battle Ready Christians need to remain focused on their purpose in Christ. They know the Bible well enough to use it when the enemy tempts them and to lead people away from the fear of death into the knowledge of the saving power of Christ.

2. Remain Hidden

Be Content in Christ

I Cor 7:20 – 24; Phil 4:12

Just as a sniper must conceal themselves from the enemy, Battle Ready Christians must conceal themselves within Christ. Once a sniper finds that position, they can’t give that position away. They must remain hidden. A Battle Ready Christians must remain hidden in Christ, which means they must realize their purpose, remain within that purpose, and don’t think changing their circumstances will make life better.

Note: This does not mean stay in abusive relationships or other unhealthy circumstances. This means do not allow your circumstances to determine your faith in Christ.

3. Stay Focused

Pray, pray, and keep praying

Matt 24:42; 26:40, 41; Mark 13:33-38; Lk 21:36; I Cor 16:13; I Th 5:6

A sniper must be alert and watch. Jesus teaches that we must watch for the enemy through prayer. A sniper cannot casually glance toward their target, and a Battle Ready Christian cannot only spend a few moments in prayer everyday. They must saturate themselves in prayer.

4. Become Accountable

Develop Strong Relationships

I Th 5:11; Prov 27:17; Gal. 6:1-5; James 5:16

Snipers often go out in pairs. One is the spotter and the other the shooter. They sometimes switch roles to avoid eye fatigue. A Battle Ready Christian remains accountable to another Battle Ready Christian. There will be many times when they switch roles. There may be a time when one is experiencing fatigue and the other is praying with them, encouraging them through the word of God, or just being a friend.

In John 15:1-7, Christ tells  His disciples to abide in Him. The word abide is the Greek word Meno. It is translated throughout the new testament as abide, remain, continue, endure, stand, dwell, and tarry. Christ is telling His disciples to remain focused on their purpose.

Are you staying focused on God’s purpose for you? God’s purpose for every Christian is to be part of The Great Commission. Your part may not be to be a pastor, evangelist, missionary, or other. But He has purpose for you. Pray that God will reveal it to you. The more focused you become on God’s purpose for you, the more battle ready you will become.

Come back next week for another blog in my “Becoming a Battle Ready Christian” series, follow me on Twitter,  and Like the On Becoming Human Facebook page.

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Raising the Victory Cry

Lebron James

Lebron James

If you don’t recognize the man in the picture, there is a good chance you live under a rock. Lebron James is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. And if by chance, you don’t recognize him, and you insist you don’t live under a rock, he is the Roger Federer of basketball.

James’ net worth is an estimated $150,000,000, which includes his annual pay check and various endorsements. Even if you don’t like him, don’t care about him, or really don’t know who he is, you contribute to his earnings.

How You Contribute to Lebron James’ earnings

  • If you watched the San Antonio Spurs dismantle the Miami Heat’s dreams, you contributed to his earnings.
  • If you eat at McDonald’s or just watch their commercials, you contribute to his earnings.
  • If you’ve boughten a pair of Nike’s, or just watch their commercials, you contribute to his earnings.
  • If you drink Coke, purchase any Coke products, or watch their commercials, you contribute to his earnings.
  • If you own a Samsung smart phone, any other of their products, or watch their commercials, you contribute to his earnings.
  • If you buy anything from Dunkin’ Donuts or just watch their commercials you contribute to his earnings.
  • If you have State Farm Insurance, or just watch their commercials, you contribute to his earnings.

In the first six chapter of Joshua, God told Joshua to lead the children of Israel across the Jordan. God told Joshua He would give him all of the land he could see. The children of Israel were tired, hot, and hungry. Experiencing misery was their reality. But they told Joseph they would be faithful to follow his leadership. Just as James’ vision would be worthless without millions of people contributing to his goals, Joshua’s leadership would be worthless without the support of those following him.

Joshua vs. Lebron James

  • Millions of people contribute to Lebron James’ ability to fulfill his goals. The tribes of Israel contributed to helping Joshua fulfill God’s purpose for Israel. (Jos 1:16)
  • Lebron James surrounds himself with the best in order to fulfill his goals. Joshua surrounded himself with 40,000 men of war in order to praise God. (Jos 4:13)
  • Lebron James entered into the NBA expecting championships. Joshua crossed the Jordan expecting victory, so God would be glorified. (Jos 4:5-7; 21-24)

By the time the Israelites got to the walls of Jericho, they didn’t need to do much because it was like one of those movie scenes set in the 1800’s with the two men dueling at high noon. All of the shops closed up, the windows shut, and everyone cleared the streets. The only difference between those movies and the scene around Jericho was that 40,000 men circumvented Jericho.

Jericho vs. Our Lives

  • The people of Jericho shut up the city because they heard the Israelites were coming. Your enemies will become silent, as you are faithful to cross your Jordan and march around the walls in your life (Jos. 6:1)
  • The priests used trumpets of rams’ horns, which were used in Jubilee not war. Bring your praise to the battle. (Jos 6: 4, 16)
  • The walls fell in response to their ‘great shout’. Give God the praise, expecting Him to give you victory. (Jos. 6: 5, 20)
  • The men of war went first. Find God’s mightiest people, surround the walls of your lives with them, and set them in front. (Jos. 6: 8-9)
  • They rose early and readied themselves. Whether you’re an early riser or not, start each day by readying yourself for God’s victory in your life (Jos. 6:15)
  • They were ready to receive God’s blessings. We need to prepare our lives to receive God’s blessings. (Jos. 6:20)

Just as God led Joshua to those walls to lead the children of Israel into victory, God places wall in front of you to give you the victory. Just as God told Joshua to raise the victory cry in expectation of the victory, God is calling you to praise Him in expectation of victory in your life. Just as the walls of Jericho fell in response to their obedience and praise, the walls in your life will fall because of your obedience to God and praise to God.

So much more could be said about praise, but I must point out the irony that Israel’s men of war were called to praise. Do you want to be a battle ready Christian? God is calling you to praise Him for the victory. Though, remember, the victory God called the people of Israel to praise Him for was that the walls of Jericho would fall and they would take the city He gave to them. They could have marched around another walled city, blasted rams’ horns, and shouted for victory; but those walls would have stayed in tact. God would have said, “I didn’t call you to march around those walls. I’m not going to give you the victory here because it is not my will that you take this city.” The walls God placed in your life, and the victory He will give to you, will always further his purpose for your life and His Kingdom.

Are you facing the walls God set before you that will lead you into His will for your life, surrounding yourself with battle ready Christians, and praising God for the victories before you? What walls are you facing right now? God will give you the victory. Just be obedient to His calling, expect the victory, and praise God for that victory.

Tell me about the walls God placed before you. Let’s praise God for the victory together. Tell me about God’s purpose for your life. God has a much bigger purpose for me than to just write blogs, but starting this blog is me crossing my Jordan. Almost 16 years ago God called me into the ministry of writing. I left the safe path of my life, began crossing my Jordan, and am now gathering battle ready Christians to raise the victory cry with me.

I hope you are blessed by this blog. Come back next week to read the next blog in my “Becoming a Battle Ready Cristian” series, and get ready to raise the victory cry with me.

BTW, I would love if you would follow me on Twitter or Like the On Becoming Human Facebook page.

Becoming a Battle Ready Christian – Preparing Your Mind for Battle

Battle Ready Action Figures

Battle Ready Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Do you know what a battle ready action figure is? It’s just what it sounds like. It’s an action figure that’s ready to fight battles.

First, let’s get something straight! A doll is not an action figure, and an action figure is not a doll. C’mon parents, how many times has your kid reminded you of this truth!

Dolls vs Action Figures

  • Dolls carry combs and mirrors. Battle ready action figures carry weapons of warfare!
  • Dolls pluck and tweeze their eyebrows. Battle ready action figures shave with a machete!
  • Dolls get mani-pedis at the spa. Battle ready action figures don’t care if they break a nail (or a tooth)!
  • Dolls consider fitness fashionable. Battle ready action figures muscles’ have muscles (and working out is a survival skill!)!
  • Dolls scream when they see bugs. Battle ready action figures raise a battle cry when they attack!

Now chances are in your everyday life, you’re more like a doll than a battle ready action figure. That’s okay, so am I. The closest I’ve ever come to shaving with a machete is shaving with a razor with a dull blade and no shaving cream. The good news is even though you may be a doll in your day to day life, you can be a battle ready Christian.

Are you a battle ready Christian? You’re in the middle of a war zone, so I hope you’re battle ready. If you don’t think you are, know that Christ equipped you with everything you need to become battle ready.

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul talks about putting on the full armor of God. He begins with the word, “Finally,” which always sums up an argument or line of reasoning. In this case, you need to go back to the fourth chapter to read the beginning of Paul’s line of reasoning.

Ephesians 4:17-24

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned

21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;

23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Paul tells his audience not to walk in the futility of their their thinking. They need to identify and overcome the futility of their thinking.

Identifying the Futility of Your Thinking

  • Your understanding is darkened (V. 18)
  • You are alienated from the life of God (V. 18)
  • You are ignorant (V. 18)
  • You have hardened your heart (V. 18)
  • You’ve lost all sensitivity (V. 19)
  • You gave yourself over to all sensuality (V. 19)
  • You indulge every kind of impurity (V. 19)
  • You are full of greed (V. 19)
  • Your old self is being corrupted by deceitful lusts (V. 22)

Overcoming the Futility of Your Thinking

  • Put off your old self (V. 22)
  • Be made new in the attitude of your mind (V. 23)
  • Put on your new self (V. 24)

In Ephesians 6, before Paul talks about the Armor of God, he says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). He’s telling them that before they put on the full armor of God they need to be battle ready. They needed to put off their old self. They need to be made new in the attitude of their mind. And they need to put on their new self.

Are you battle ready? Have you put off your old self? Are you renewing the attitude of your mind? Are putting on your new self? What’s holding you back? Become battle ready! Before a soldier goes into battle, they are trained to be mentally prepared.

Training to Be a Battle Ready Christian

  • Find and get involved in a good church
  • Get on your knees and pray
  • Study the word of God
  • Memorize scripture

There is so much more I could say on the topic, and I welcome discussion in the comments below. I guarantee you the more you do these things, and make them part of your daily and weekly preparation in Christ, the more battle ready you will become. Come back next week. You won’t want to miss it. I’m going to keep writing about Becoming a Battle Ready Christian.