Not Your Battle: pt 2

*This post is the second of a two part series. “Not Your Battle: pt 1” was posted on 7/4/17*

“…Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s…You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…”

2 Chronicles 20:15-17

          In “Not Your Battle: pt 1” we talked about what to do in seemingly hopeless situations. We read the story about the Aramean army coming in to capture the prophet Elisha so they could get the upper hand against the Israelites. When it seemed Elisha and his servant were surrounded and outnumbered, God revealed Himself in a big way and spared their lives. They didn’t rely on their own strength to fight off the Aramean army, but instead handed the battle over to God.

          When we come up against dark forces in our own lives, we don’t always turn our struggles over to God right away do we? Just like Elisha’s servant, we tend to let our fear cast a shadow over our faith. However, there is another story I want to share with you. A story of another man who was also up against a vast army. Even though he was in a similar situation, his response was much different.

          Read the full text of 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. In verses 2-4 we read,

“Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea.” Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him.”

We can learn a lot from King Jehoshaphat. He hears terrifying news of a large army coming to attack him and his first response is to inquire of the Lord. Is that your first response? Or more of a last resort? All the people of Judah fasted along with Jehoshaphat so they could focus their attention on seeking the Lord for help and guidance. They were so serious about seeking God that they ceased eating for a designated time so they could devote more time praying. Now that is the response of a people who are pursuing God wholeheartedly!

          Next, Jehoshaphat stands in front of the assembly of people and begins crying out to God. He begins his prayer by recognizing God’s power and His rule over the world. Then, he recounts several instances throughout history where God has come through for them. Lastly, he asks God for help. In verse 12 he says “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” If we want to get a response from God, why not use King Jehoshaphat’s model of prayer shown here? Let’s break it down:

  1. Hears devastating news
  2. Drops everything to devote himself to prayer
  3. Recounts all the times God has accomplished great works in the lives of his people
  4. Admits he is helpless without God’s hand in the situation
  5. Keeps his eyes on God while he awaits God’s action

          A response from the Lord is exactly what King Jehoshaphat received! The Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel as he stood in the crowd. He relays the message in verse 15, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” The Lord goes on to give instructions and where to go to find the location of the enemy forces. In verse 17 He says,

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” 

Once again, they didn’t pick up their swords or their bows right away and lead a charge on the enemy. Instead, Jehoshaphat appointed men to… sing. Yes, sing. I know. Weird. I am willing to bet that singing isn’t a very popular tactic in today’s military, but this just reminds us that God’s ways aren’t always our ways. He is often unconventional. Throughout the Bible, God provides victories in ways that don’t seem to make sense to us, just so there can be no doubt that it was His doing, not our own.

          There’s more to this story so keep reading to find out exactly how King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered. Isn’t it interesting how God can work in our lives when we just let Him? He loves to provide, we just don’t like to ask. The next time I am faced with an obstacle, I am going to remember this story. It will be a good reminder to praise God at all times (maybe play some worship music!), give up control, and let God work!

8.4.17

*To read the second post in this two part series click  “Not Your Battle: pt 1”  (posted on 7/4/17)*

-Rugged Pursuit on YouTube-

Not Your Battle: pt 1

*This post is the first of a two part series. Click link for Not Your Battle: pt 2*

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

2 Kings 6:16-17

          Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were outnumbered, outgunned, hopeless, and helpless? I’m sure you can think of at least a few times when you were vulnerable or defenseless. Sometimes we feel like we are surrounded by strong forces, whether it be human or spiritual. Your boss is coming down on you. Your family cuts you out. Your peers gang up on you. You just can’t seem to measure up to the expectations others have for you, or you fall short of the goals you have set for yourself.

          These things cast a dark shadow over our lives. You start to feel inferior or incapable. You are scared about what the future might hold for you and you are afraid you won’t be able to face the challenges ahead of you. You might be tempted to just run and hide from the things that you come up against, but there is hope. Our hope comes from knowing we don’t have to face our enemies alone. There are plenty of examples in the Bible of God intervening and taking charge of these kind of situations. Today we will focus on a story of Elisha and his servant from 2 Kings 6:8-22.

          The Israelites and Arameans were at war with one another. The prophet, Elisha, was providing intel to the king of Israel on the plans and whereabouts of the Arameans. This, of course, enraged the king of Aram so he demanded his officers to tell him who was betraying them to the Israelites. They told him, “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” (verse 12). The king then found out where Elisha was and sent horses and chariots and a strong force to capture him (verse 14). They snuck in at night and surrounded the city.

          When the servant of Elisha woke up the next morning, he saw that they were surrounded by a large Aramean army. Naturally, he was terrified. He asks Elisha, “What shall we do?” In verse 16, Elisha tells the man not to be afraid because “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” It certainly didn’t seem that way to the servant, and I’m sure he was feeling doubtful. However, in verse 17, the Lord revealed to him what Elisha was referring to. His eyes were opened and he was able to see that the hills were full of heavenly armies. The servant was unable to see this at first. He was blinded by fear. He was so afraid and overwhelmed by his situation that he couldn’t see that God was already protecting him.

          This man lacked faith. Do you ever have a lack of faith when you come up against unconquerable obstacles? Maybe you don’t have soldiers knocking on your door, but you still have battles to fight. You wake up to emails pressuring you to finish the project faster. You wake up to kids that require more of you than you think you can give. You grapple with habits and addictions that you just can’t shake.  So what do we do? How do we face the uncertainty? Let’s learn from the story in 2 Kings 6.

Here are a few steps we can take:

  1. Ask
  2. Open Your Eyes
  3. Give it to God
  • Ask– the servant asks “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” We don’t always have all the answers. We need the help of other people. A different perspective can give great clarity. Surround yourself with Godly mentors that can guide you through tough circumstances. More importantly, ask God. Prayer isn’t always the first thing we do in a crisis. Usually we try to think of everything we can do to fix a problem on our own. When we can’t fix it, hide it, or pay money to make it go away, then we let God try, as a last resort. That’s backwards. Just ask.
  • Open Your Eyes (and your heart)- Look through the eyes of faith. God has more resources than we could ever hope to have. Spiritual resources are more easily obtainable than we think, even if we can’t see them. “God of Angel Armies” is more than a clever lyric from a church song. God’s armies are always there, fighting battles that we don’t see through our human eyes and protecting us from dangers we don’t even know exist. If you don’t see the ways God is working in your life, ask Him for a spiritual eye check.
  • Give it to God– Once the servant was able to see the vast armies around him and Elisha, he realized that he was no longer outnumbered. What happens next may come as a surprise. Elisha and his servant don’t pick up their swords and charge the enemy, like we might have expected. They let God take over and do as He pleases. They give the battle over to God. We sometimes forget that step. We don’t have to fight every war. We just need to give up control so God can deliver us.

          Next time you come up against a hurdle that you can’t clear, ask God. Take a look around with clear eyes, and let God work. You don’t always have to have a solution, you just need to trust in the Master.

7.4.17

*To read the second post of this two part series click Not Your Battle: pt 2*

-Rugged Pursuit on YouTube-

Cultural Trends & Fair Weather Friends

“So, because you are lukewarm -neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:16

1st century Jews were expecting a Messiah that would rescue them out of their oppression, strike down their enemies, and lead them to victory. They were expecting a king, a warrior, a powerful leader. What they got was Jesus. Now to you and I, having Jesus means everything! But to them, it was a disappointment. He wasn’t the man that fulfilled their expectations for a messiah.

Imagine how this timeline played out:

  • First, they hear news of a messiah coming to deliver them.
  • Next Jesus shows up and people are ecstatic. They think all their days of mistreatment are finally going to be reconciled.
  • Jesus gains tons of fans and is treated like a celebrity.
  • Shortly after, He is killed by hanging from a plank of wood.

Many of the 1st century Jews now believe they’ve been duped. They thought He was going to overthrow the government and rule them as king. How could He deliver them if He’s dead? They lost hope when He was crucified. Many gave up on Him and went their own ways, no longer believing He was who He said He was. He quickly went from stardom to disappointment in their eyes.

Then 3 days later, He came back to life. The people who witnessed it and heard of it were once again ecstatic at the news. Those who knew Jesus and His mission knew He was the risen Messiah and He was fulfilling exactly what He said He would do. But not all believed. Not nearly as many as before the crucifixion. His followers went around spreading the news of His resurrection and ascension into Heaven so that people would once again believe in Jesus.

And here we are now, in the present. I think we’re still on the mission of getting everyone back on board with the belief that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah. So where do we take it from here? Do we continue believing in Him and trusting that His words and teachings are true? Or do we start going along with the general consensus of the culture; that Jesus is dead and is no longer relevant? Do we still believe in Christ when His ways are questioned? Are we still His fans when His worldview conflicts with ours? Will we be yet another generation to turn our backs on Jesus just because He moved in a way that didn’t meet up to the expectations we created for Him?

When He died on the cross and was abandoned by that crowd who gave up on Him, it only proved who the true believers were. It separated the followers from the mere fans. The hot from the cold. I wonder if something similar is happening in our world again now. When biblical principles don’t match up to our cultural or political beliefs, how do we determine which to lean into? There are things the world accepts, embraces, and encourages that the scriptures are simply against. But many are too afraid to stand up for Christian values because they fear that they might be labeled judgmental or intolerant.

This used to really trouble me. However, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This doesn’t really mean people have changed their minds about Jesus, necessarily. It only shines a light on those who were never really fully committed to Him in the first place. When situations get sticky, people who aren’t “all in” throw in the towel and stay out of the mess. Sure, we may be noticing less people are claiming to be “Christians” than in years past. But I don’t think that really means people are no longer following Christ. I think it just means that the posers have decided to take off their masks. I think the roadblocks Christians are facing today are just hurdles and obstacles that allow only the truly committed to press on. We all have to decide how far we are willing to go to follow Christ. Will we hold to what the Bible says is true, or go along with the trends and agendas of the times?

Revelation 3:16 shows us that we need to pick a side, because we can’t be on the fence when it comes to God. Are we hot, or are we cold? Are we with Him, or are we against Him? There aren’t less Christians in the world. There are just less people pretending to be Christians. And that’s okay, because Jesus doesn’t want fair weather friends. He wants fully committed followers.

6.17.17

Your Life, Not Your Words

“Jesus instructed him, “Don’t talk about this all over town… Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done…”

Luke 5:14-16 (MSG)

          Read the full passage of Luke 5:12-16 in your bible. In this passage, a man sees Jesus in one of the villages and begs Him to cure him of a horrible skin disease. He says to Jesus, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.” Jesus responds, “I want to. Be clean.” Just like that, the man was healed of leprosy.

          Jesus tells him “Don’t talk about this all over town… Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” (MSG) He had been healed. And Jesus knew that everyone would be able to notice that right away. Not just by his appearance, but because of his “cleansed and obedient life.”

          What about you? Can people tell that you’ve been healed? Does your lifestyle exhibit someone who has been cleansed and is living obediently to Christ? If we have been changed and redeemed, I think people should be able to tell. In a world where words are becoming less and less credible, we need to make sure our actions line up to what we believe. Many have stopped trusting what we hear because we are so used to being lied to by the media, politicians, and everyone else.

          Isn’t there a phrase that says “Don’t believe everything you hear”? I think that is good advice. Even true statements are given out of context to bend them into what a person wants us to think. Words are often cheap. Don’t just tell people, show them. Some may listen to your words, but more will read your actions.

6.2.17

Who Do You Say I Am?

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29 NIV

          In Mark 8:27-30, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The disciples tell Jesus that people say He’s a prophet. Jesus asks them a powerful question “Who do you say I am?”

          What about you? It’s not that important what other people’s opinion of Him is. Who is Jesus to you? Because that’s really all that matters. Is he a prophet? A good person? A teacher? Or do you agree with Peter’s answer? Is He the Savior? Is He your Savior?

          Read the Mark 8:27-30 for yourself. How do you think you would have responded in that situation? Would you simply regurgitate what others have said to describe Him? Or would you be able to honestly answer that He is your Messiah, your Savior, the forgiver of your sins?

          At Rugged Pursuit, we put a big emphasis on reading the scripture for ourselves rather than simply believing what others say about God. Don’t just take your friend’s word for it, or my word, or even your pastor’s word! Read God’s Word and find the Truth. When you read about Jesus and read the words He spoke, what conclusion do you come to? Is He a prophet? A good role model? Or is He really the Son of God and Savior of the world, like He says He is? No one can make that decision for you. Only you can decide who Christ is to you.

          “Who do you say I am?” is possibly the biggest question we will ever face, because who He is determines who we are. And that changes everything.

5.26.17

Too Busy, Too Broke

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

James 1:27 (NLT)

          We are all guilty of not doing enough for the Kingdom. We know we should be “all in” when it comes to serving God and His church, but we can’t because we are “too busy.” Not only that, but we also can’t give our money to help others because “we don’t have any extra money to spare.” Look, I get it, times are tough. The economy isn’t what it used to be. I understand.

          You may not be in a position to give a “love offering” to pay off your neighbors mortgage or donate your mini van to the youth group. Certainly there are other ways you can make a difference though, right? Even if they seem small or insignificant? But how? What are some practical ways we can live out our faith and serve the Kingdom?

          Let me ask you this: How much time do you spend watching television? How much money do you spend on your cable/satellite bill each month? Would you be willing to sacrifice the NFL Network or Lifetime Movies in order to further the Kingdom? What if your $90 a month satellite bill went towards new school supplies for kids attending your local school that can’t afford them? Could you give up watching The Voice one evening to spend an hour mowing grass for the widow that lives next door?

          There is nothing wrong with watching television or spending your money on things you enjoy. My goal isn’t to shame anyone for the way they choose to spend their time and money. My point is, there are things we could all do differently. Sometimes I think I don’t have the time or resources to help in certain areas so I don’t even pursue it. The truth is that I am just spending my time and resources on other things that I am unwilling to give up. Are you willing to reallocate your time and money away from your kingdom and into His?

          James 1:27 tells us that God expects us to care for those around us and to refuse to be polluted by the world. Are you willing to give up something of this world in order to impact the next? Look, you don’t have to be a millionaire to impact people’s lives for Christ. Making small sacrifices can make a big difference to the people around you. We just have to decide if we are really “all in,” or if our religion is the type that is better enjoyed at home alone in our living rooms.

5.18.17

Withdraw to a Quiet Place

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.”

Luke 5:16 (NLT)

          The reason for this site is to help others get into the Word on a more regular basis. My hope is that, whether you’re opening a Bible for the first time, or you’ve been following Christ for years, you can grow closer to God as you read His words.

          I encourage you to make Bible reading, journaling, and prayer a regular practice. Luke 5:16 tells us that even Jesus took time alone to pray and seek the Father, and He did it often. In the New International Version, the verse reads “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I think there is a reason that He went off alone, away from the crowd, to pray. Sometimes we just need to remove all distractions, drown out the noise, and connect with God. And what better place to do that than in the wilderness? Being outside surrounded by nature is where I feel closest to God. Maybe that is because I am surrounded by His creation so it makes it easier for me to connect with the Creator. You might not be the outdoorsy type, and that’s okay! Maybe the place you withdraw to is the local coffee shop, or your bedroom, the garage, or even a closet! It doesn’t matter as long as you can be alone with the Father and learn to be in closer relationship with Him.

          Our alone time in the Word is important. We need to take time to seek God and pray, just as Jesus did. It is crucial that we spend time getting to know our Creator and that we do so on a regular basis. Our God desires to have relationship with us and, as Christians, we should want to draw closer to God and learn to become more like Him. We do that in more than one way:

  1. Spend time reading scripture.
  2. Try to understand what you are reading and how it affects you, those around you, and the original audience at the time the scripture was written.
  3. Apply what you’ve learned to your life and put your knowledge into action.
  4. Pray, so that you will have open communication with God.

So, use this site as a launching pad. Look up the scripture verses that are shared here and read it for yourself. Read the verses before and after the scripture so you can get a good idea of the context and the meaning behind each verse. Write down your thoughts and take notes on what God may have to say to you during the process. I hope you enjoy it and that it helps you take another step on your journey with Christ. Want to be more like Jesus? Withdraw to a quiet place and pray.

5.6.17