Choose how you will fight your battles!

“This is how I fight my battles! This is how I fight my battles! It might look like I’m surrounded, but I’m surrounded by You.”  (From “Surrounded” by Michael W. Smith)


Did you know the inspiration of this song came from the Word of God?  In II Kings 6:15-17, Elisha’s servant is terrified because a death squad has been sent out to kill his boss, Elisha.  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”  Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. (NLT)


You can usually tell when someone is having a rough time. If you pay attention to body language, a person who usually walks around with their head hung low is probably having a hard time. This is how they avoid contact with others and it’s a defense mechanism. Elisha’s final words to the servant were “look up.” The servant literally lifted his eyes to the heavens and away from the armies. You can choose to look away from the armies you face and lift your eyes to the heavens in prayers, praise, and worship, in thanksgiving and adoration. 


Have you been “surrounded” by your enemies? Overwhelmed by bad reports? Tired of seeing sickness overtaking you and your loved ones? Surrounded in debt or in lack? Are you surrounded by accusers, persecution, slanderers? Like that servant, are you fearful of the “invading armies of the enemies”? 


Psalm 121:1-8  I look up to the mountains, does my help come from there?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!   He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.  The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.   The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.   The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.   The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.


It’s time to lift up your eyes once again! It’s time to remember. Remember who your God is. Remember His faithfulness to you in every situation. It’s time to worship again. I say again because fear will steal your worship, it will rob you of praise, and hinder your praying. Praise the chains off! Be thankful again, and again, every day. Pray again.

If you don’t know where to start, just begin by simply looking up. Become aware of the Lord God omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. The creator of heaven and earth has not forgotten you. He thinks of you. He knows what you’ve been going through.

For further thoughts on this, look up Gloria Robles.


The previous day had been difficult.  Then that night I had gotten too little sleep, the weather turned cold and rainy.  How comfortable my bed covers felt and how cold the apartment was.  Not a “zippity-do-dah” day!  I wasn’t prepared for what happened at work that morning when I ended up with two phone calls from what I will politely call “screamers”.  Definition: customers who assume if they don’t like the explanation that they should keep ratcheting up the volume hoping to beat the other person into submission. I was rattled.


After a few other things that went wrong, I finally arrived home and nestled into the couch.  Within ten minutes, the phone rang and it was just what Doctor God ordered.  My friend at the other end is also a believer who also finds the work world, especially in the existing culture, challenging. We had a lively discussion regarding what it means to be a believer in a hostile and increasingly virulent society.  If you still exist in a sunny bubble where life is not challenging, either the tide will soon turn on you or else Satan doesn’t feel he has much to fight over in your life, especially with the decisions you have been making.


What does God say in light of this? “Remember your roots.” It’s not an hourlong sermon. A common theme to the letters to the 7 churches in the beginning of the Book of the Revelation is that church life can be really messy.  False teachers and heresies were coming out of the woodwork, people were getting caught up in following their culture, and a great deal of believers were drifting along with sin.  Many were floating along with the current without making waves over what was right and wrong.


In Revelation chapter 3:1-3 is the note for the church at Sardis: I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.  Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.


“Dead” is not exactly a stellar description. Goggle defines the word as: “deceased, extinct, lifeless, referring to something that does not have or appear to have life. Dead is usually applied to something that had life but from which life is now gone.” I don’t think anyone in Sardis ever got up in the morning and planned that day to live as if they were spiritually dead, however they had slowly adopted a new persona. God was fed up.  He was saying, “Run back to the basics! Remember what it felt like to be spiritually new in Christ?  Recall what you earlier would have staked your life on? Turn around back to Me.  If you don’t, things will definitely not go well.” (My paraphrase).


I recently read a well-researched novel about the persecution of the Jews in WWII. The plot’s location is Poland, where at least 3,000,000 Jewish people lost their lives.  This quote stayed with me: “There is evil and there is good and there is the space between.  We are given free will to choose where we stand. Evil thrives when good men choose the space between.” Barratt, Amanda. Within These Walls of Sorrow: A Novel of World War II Poland)


To those of us who have been merely floating along with the current, there is hope. In Revelation 3:19-21, Christ says: I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.”


Yes, as a believer, maybe you are having a rough time right now.  I believe that life will grow increasingly difficult.  However, don’t just walk, but run back to your First Love, Jesus Christ.  Let Him give you the backbone you need and the wisdom for these times.  There will be lots of days ahead that will rattle the bones of all believers.  Remember your roots!


“We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what.

It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving and everything was going well with my class of 4th and 5th graders. They were beginning to understand the importance of the resurrection and how vital it was to the Gospel. A man (the God-Man) died on the cross and within three days He was walking around, talking to everyone, even to the skeptics (sorry Thomas!)


It was at that point that I decided to give everyone a chance to say what they were thankful for., To avoid repetition and to get the class thinking a little deeper, I instituted a rule: Nobody could repeat what someone else said! Uh oh! They were a little nervous, but it worked. We went around the room, and everyone said something.  (Some variations on the family theme were still repeated, but that’s okay!) About halfway through we came to a young girl and what she was thankful for caught me completely off guard. She quietly spoke words that I wasn’t ready to hear: “I am thankful that I no longer have cancer.”


Every child who shared what they were thankful for was sincere in what they said, but to hear those words out of the mouth of a 5th grader made me think of Isaiah 55:8: For my thoughts, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. No kidding! We dream, we think, and we pray. However, in the end, if we truly want to obey Jesus Christ, we will follow His lead. Sometimes it takes us just where we want to go. Other times, it takes us far, far, away!


For example, I didn’t always want to be a preacher. During my High School year, I had a love for drawing. I was always sketching something, whether I was supposed to or not. (We’ll save that for another ReCharge!) My plan was to become a graphic artist and I would attend Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. A lot had transpired that senior year. I was leading a local boys club, I was teaching Bible Studies, and I got to speak at my church. It was there that a gentleman, who I had a great deal of respect for, came up to me and said “Bill, you’re going to become a preacher.”  I thought to myself, “No I’m not, I am going to become a graphic artist.” But God thought differently. And so, I began to pursue the pastorate.

Why does God allow some things to happen to us that are so good and encouraging to our souls and at other times it seems like He leaves us seemingly alone; unable to defend ourselves?  To answer that question, I would need a few more ReCharges or you could go Pastor Addison’s Thanksgiving sermon, where he did a great job in explaining this whole dilemma. The answer to the question is very simple: “We don’t know.” What we do know is this: We need to trust God no matter what. We need to trust Him when we see the answer and when we don’t. We need to trust him when we survive cancer, as well as when we have just been diagnosed with it. Romans 8:28 is used often but rarely believed. And we know that all things work for the good to those who love God.   Remember, you can trust what the Bible says, you can trust what the Spirit says, and finally, you can trust the God who loved you so much, He was willing to die for you! It took a 5th-grader’s simple thanks to remind me of that.


It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God? 

It was my first miscarriage.  We had been helping out at a summer camp and were hours away from home.  I ended up losing our baby in a strange hospital without any friends or family (other than Bill). The wounds were raw.  It took a long time for me to be able to look at anything to do with babies without my heart going to a dark place.  How could I trust God?  We were faithful followers of Jesus. How could this be part of God’s plan? It was not my dream.


Maybe this is also what Zechariah and Elizabeth wondered: how could they trust God?  When we are introduced to them in Luke 1:5-25: they were both very old. In other words, one foot in the grave.  Over the years how many births of friends and neighbors had they repeatedly participated in celebrating? Zech and Elizabeth would then return to their own home where their cradle just gathered dust, season after season. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive. When was the day they finally gave their unused cradle to another family? Or did they chop it up for firewood?  I think I may have done the latter.  It is hard to let go of dreams.


It may have seemed God was hearing everyone else’s prayers except the prayers of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Yet they chose to trust God and maintain a spiritual life that was: righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.  They were not only outwardly good, but decided to continue to follow God with all their hearts. In spiritual terms, this is the season where the battle is either won or lost.  The victory is when genuine faith becomes a conscious decision to continue to cling to God, regardless of the circumstances. Zech and Elizabeth still clung to the goodness of God, whether or not their cradle was filled.

It is understandable that Zechariah had a problem comprehending the message from the angel. At his age, it’s a wonder he didn’t have a heart attack when the angel appeared to him with the message: God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. At the back of Zech’s mind, maybe he was saying, “Yeah, sure, it’s about time…”


In the twilight of their lives, Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to experience great joy and gladness.  This long-awaited baby would be everything they had ever prayed for: filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.  Their son John’s mission would be the ultimate answer to the prayer that any believing parents ask for their children. John would not only give them great joy and gladness, but he would also be a godly man, great in the eyes of God, and he would prepare the hearts of his fellow countrymen for the coming of the Messiah.  What more could a parent ask for?


God had never forgotten the prayer of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He felt their grief all those years, especially when the prayers of others were answered. He heard their laments. Psalm 5:1-3: Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help,  my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;   in the morning I lay my requests before you    and wait expectantly. It may have seemed that God’s timing was off regarding Zech and Elizabeth, but it fit perfectly into God’s perfect calendar for humanity.  God was with them even during the darkest times.  Our Father understands all about empty cradles. Are you waiting for the God Who can be trusted? He may not answer in the way you are expecting, but He is the God Who is good. How about giving Him your dreams?

For further encouragement, listen to the story of Loryn Smith


I was greatly moved as I watched the movie The Insanity of God. It follows missionaries Nik and Ruth Ripken as they explore the persecuted church to see if all of the suffering is worth it. The Ripkens had a crisis of faith following the death of their son and their experiences with the struggling church in Somalia as relief missionaries. They were left with the burning question: “Is any of this worth it?”


Read Hebrews chapter 11 and ask that same question. All of the individuals listed had to accept great hardships while still under the providence of God.  Abraham had to wait decades for God to give him his promised son via a wife who was well past the age of child bearing.  Abe is ready for a nursing home when God chooses to make him a proud daddy.


Someone else on the list is Moses, the pride and joy of the Old Testament.  Moses endured the school of hard knocks: 40 years branded an outcast and a murderer. His new career was the dead-end job of herding sheep in the desert.  Finally, at age 80, Moses is commissioned by God to lead a people whose second nature was to continually complain and to question his leadership.  It would seem that God would give that kind of job to someone young and bursting with energy, not to a man with one foot in the grave. Did Abe or Moses ever wonder, “Is any of this worth it?”


Hebrews goes on to mention those who experienced mocking and flogging, and further, chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented(people of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts, on mountains, and sheltering in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:36-38) Did they wonder, “Is this worth it?”


The Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Philippians from the isolation of a prison cell.  He was lonely, cold, missing and out of touch with his loved ones, not knowing if his stay would stretch into days or years. Yet he wrote in Philippians 4:12-14: I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general, and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. (J.B. Phillips)The secret is total dependence on the strength of Jesus Christ. One’s own natural strength is never enough.


What kind of season are you currently going through? Has the going been rough? Take courage, you have the company of heaven. You also have the fellowship of believers around the world. At this minute they are calling on the presence of Jesus to walk them through the dark. Philippians 4:13 I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] (Amplified).  The tough times may be the greatest gift of all.  It is worth it!


Has God sent a skylark to you during this past year?  Maybe you have forgotten to look up and to listen.

I talked to a friend recently about the shutting down of businesses in her home town.  Crime has gotten so bad that even the Walmarts have closed their doors.   Cracker Barrel has also shut down, however my friend didn’t even know they had a Cracker Barrel, so that point was moot. A spirit of fear can fill our hearts.


Corrie Ten Boom was a survivor of Ravensbrück concentration camp. If ever there was a place for fear, it resided at that death camp.  The largest concentration camp for women in the German Reich, it was second in size only to the women’s camp in Auschwitz. The first prisoners interned at Ravensbrück were approximately 900 women in May 1939. By the end of 1942, the female inmate population of Ravensbrück had grown to about 10,000. In January 1945, the camp had more than 50,000 prisoners, mostly women. Can you imagine the despondency, terror, and desperation of the women interned there?


Corrie recorded in her memoirs regarding Ravensbrück,“Once, while we were on a roll call, a cruel guard kept us standing for a long, long time. Suddenly, a skylark began to sing in the sky, and all the prisoners looked up to listen to that bird’s song. As I looked at the bird, I saw the sky and thought of Psalms 103:11. “O love of God, how deep and great; far deeper than man’s deepest hate.” God sent that skylark daily for three weeks, exactly during roll call, to turn our eyes away from the cruelty of man to the oceans of His love.”


Has God sent a skylark to you during this past year?  Maybe you have forgotten to look up and to listen.  Maybe you have forgotten to let Him drill into your soul these truths: “For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth. The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. (Psalm 33:4-11) Listen for the skylark!

For further reflection, read This is My Battle Cry