CLAIMING GROUND FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
It is vitally important that we Christians get out and claim ground for God’s kingdom. Satan’s servants do this all the time. They claim the ground that is over looked from their high places. As they do this, they send out demons to rule over the ground. They have claimed our schools, cities, and even rural areas. This is why the bars, night clubs, pornography stores, occult stores, and abortion clinics flourish in most of our cities. It is the Christians responsibility to go out and claim the ground back for God’s kingdom. This is the first step in reclaiming our country for God.
God gave the Promised Land to the Children of Israel, but they had to go and claim it and fight for it. God told Joshua:
“Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people to the land which I am giving them…Everyplace that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:2-3,9
Over the next 16 years Joshua lead the Children of Israel to fight and destroyed 31 kings. It took WORK to claim the Promised Land. So it will take work today to reclaim our nation for God. Most Christians are not aware of it, but our nation of America is in a covenant relationship with God, just as the Children of Israel were. That covenant stands today for America just as it does for Israel.
On May 14, 1607, Pastor Robert Hunt led the English settlers that landed at Cape Henry in prayer to make a covenant for our nation with God. They knelt in the sand by a wooden cross they had erected and prayed:
“We do hereby Dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with this generations to take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations as long as this earth remains…May all who see this Cross remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit this land join in this covenant and in this noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.”
When the Children of Israel broke the covenant with God and gave their land over to serving demons, terrible things happened. When a good king such as Hezekiah reigned, (2 Chronicles 29-31) the first thing they did was destroy all the centers of demon worship on the high places, destroyed the various alters, and things the people used to worship demons. They reclaimed the land, rededicated themselves to serving the Lord and only then was the Lord free to bless them. It is a terrible thing to break a covenant with God. This will eventually bring awful consequences upon this nation and the people who do so. God’s word says:
“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples.” Deuteronomy 7:12-14
This is exactly what has happened to America. As a result of the work of our forefathers in forming this nation in covenant relationship with God, America has been blessed far above all other nations. This is why so many people from other nations desire to come here to live. Unfortunately, since the end of WWII, witchcraft, paganism, Asian religions, and the resulting sin has grown rapidly, claimed ground, and has turned America away from her God. We would do well to remember God’s instructions to Israel as they went into the Promised Land.
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you,…you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: “you shall destroy their alters, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire.” Deuteronomy 7:1-5
The Christian churches have been disobedient to God by not controlling and hindering the work of Satan and his servants here in the US. Satan’s people are claiming grounds everywhere! They have taken over almost all recreational areas such as state and national parks, our schools, colleges, and universities, even whole cities like Sedona, Arizona, which is the national headquarters of the New Age Movement. In most all gift and souvenir shops of America, you will see idols and all sorts of unclean objects for sale as “culture” souvenirs. Remember, the word “culture” is actually another word for “religion.” In every city, town, and even rural area of the US., local witches have claimed all the high points and grounds below them. However, the witches are not only working to control the geographically high places, they are also taking over ALL areas that involve recreation and tourism, areas around all the military bases, schools, and colleges. What is called “liberal” or “progressive” is actually New Age teaching and philosophy. What have the local Christian churches done about this? NOTHING! For the most part, Christian churches have not even walked to anoint and cleanse the grounds the church building rest on. We must ALL do the same thing for our homes. If we don’t stop them and retake this country for God, we are very close to the fulfillment of God’s word that says, “…so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” Deuteronomy 7:4
The first step in turning our nation back to God and winning souls for His glory is reclaiming the Land. There are several goals to be accomplished as we do this:
1. Claim ground for God’s kingdom. As we do this, Satan’s demons and servants can no longer legally work on the ground belonging to God’s kingdom.
2. Bind up and get rid of all evil spirits on the land which have had such a big part in causing the people to sin. Break all evil curses off of the land.
3. Close all portals placed on the land by Satan’s servants. These are legal doorways that allow demons to come up onto the ground from Hell below, even if the ground has already been claimed for God’s kingdom. These portals are especially placed on church properties.
4. Cleanse the land by removing and destroying all things used in the service of demon spirits. This includes removing ALL unclean objects.
5. Ask God to place powerful warring angels on the land to prevent any of Satan’s servants from coming back onto the land to reclaim it for Satan, and use it for his evil purposes. This is especially true for the high places.
6. Work to sever demonic influences, bondages, and curses from the lives of unbelievers so that they can come to Jesus. “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the gods of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” 2 Corinthians 4:4
I will tell you step by step how to do these things.
Do you recall Joshua chapter 1, quoted earlier in the message, God promises to give us every place the sole of our foot will tread. This is a very important weapon in the war to establish God’s kingdom. We must WALK the land, not drive it. In Malachi 4:3 God says, “You shall trample the wicked. For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.” Satan’s kingdom understands this principle. They use it to great effect. They walk the land anointing it with various substances. Then they place demons and curses onto the land to control and manipulate the people living and walking there. Many times they will place small occult objects or emblems on the ground, in the grass or leaves where they cannot be easily seen. Sometimes, they will use blood or scarified animals or birds. All these need to be removed.
Wherever there is a hill or mountain providing a high place, Satan’s people can send out curses onto all the land visible from that high place. This is one of the reasons why Satan’s people so value the higher land. They claim both the land on the high place, and all the land it over looks. We must remove the high places from their use by claiming it back for God’s kingdom; placing warrior angels on it to stop any servant of Satan from being able to use it. In our personal experience, after destroying all Satan’s high places and reclaiming the land back to God, we discovered that even the trails have no longer been available for use by Satan’s people. As we have asked God to place His warrior angels on the land, we have also asked the Lord to fulfill His word in Jeremiah 48:26: “Make him drunk, because he exalted himself against the Lord. Moab shall wallow in his vomit.” It is very hard to do anything when you are vomiting violently. We have seen the Lord do this over and over as we have claimed and cleansed the high places, even the meeting places witches used.
HOW: Fill a bottle with oil – any kind of oil. It is easiest to use a colored soda bottle with the little tube you pull up to drink from. As you walk, hold the bottle inconspicuously down at your side, pull the drinking tube only part way up, and dribble the oil unto the ground. If you are going into a business such as an occult bookstore, anoint the bottoms of your feet and fingers. Do not touch the merchandise, just lightly touch the shelves holding it up. Whisper or quietly say the following:
In the name of Jesus Christ, I claim this ground for God’s kingdom and bring it under His ownership. Lord I ask you to close this place down.
As you walk the land and high places, in addition to claiming the grounds for God’s kingdom, use the following commands as well:
In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all curses on the land to be broken now and forever.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all evil spirits to get off this ground immediately and forever.
In the name of Jesus Christ, I command all portals to be closed forever.
Remove all occult objects, remains of sacrifices, drawings of occult symbols, etc. Do not handle dead animals or birds with your bare hands.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Father I ask You to fulfill Jeremiah 48:26 in the lives of every servant of Satan who tries to walk on this ground. This includes all ungodly protesters.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Father I ask You to place powerful warrior angels on this land and the trails up to this high place so that Satan’s people can no longer walk on it.
Often, we also make metal crosses about 6 inches tall with a hole on the top and nail them up high in trees on the high places where we have claimed the ground for the Lord. People rarely look up.
Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, we ask You to cleanse and seal this ground for your kingdom forever.
You can walk the streets of your neighborhood, churches, and the shopping malls, etc. These are all public places. It is especially important to walk around government buildings and through them as much as possible. When walking through them, first anoint the soles of your shoes. You CANNOT dribble oil through the buildings. Walk around known satanic businesses and ask the Lord to stop people from going into them so that they will shut down; especially bars, night clubs, abortion clinics, etc. Anoint the ground outside these places as you sometimes cannot legally walk on to the grounds owned by these businesses. You can ask the Lord to place warring angels at all entrances to stop people from entering. Ask Him to fulfill Jeremiah 48:26 in the life of anyone attempting to go into that business.
Recently, my husband talked with a Christian couple who were upset because a large New Age book store had opened up in their town. Daniel told them how to walk the grounds claiming it for God’s kingdom and ask the Lord to stop people from entering into the store so that it maybe shut down. In two weeks the store was closed! It turned out they could not get the necessary permits to do business in that location.
Our schools are another place that we MUST take authority and claim the ground for the Lord. Please read the vision the Lord gave Daniel of what Satan is doing to our schools this year (2016). You will see how important it is that we take authority over our schools and break all curses off the children attending them.
As you walk through your city and town streets, pray for the people living or working there. Command all the curses to be broken off their lives that are hindering them from coming to the Lord. Ask God to do whatever necessary in their lives to bring them to Jesus. If you know of specific needs in their lives that is a good time to pray for them.
Satan knows he and his people must work within the principle of God’s kingdom. They do so to their benefit. Claiming ground is one of their first things to do anytime one of them moves into a new area. They understand and use the kingdom principles to claim ground so that they can legally work to place demons and curses to influence the people living or working in those areas. They will also place demons to stop people from coming into Christian businesses and churches.
As committed warriors of Jesus Christ we MUST do the work of claiming ground back from Satan’s kingdom. Find out from your local government where gay marches or protest marches will be. These have to obtain permits. Protesters often do not do so, but you can frequently find out where protest will be from the media and/or social media. The Lord has commanded us to walk the streets where such things are to be held, anoint them with oil, claim the grounds for God’s kingdom. Then, based on the fact that the grounds now legally belongs to God’s kingdom, those who use it for marches or parades that exalts themselves before God are doing so illegally. They maybe perfectly legal according to man’s law, but they will be illegal according to God’s law. Therefore, we have the right to ask the Lord to post angels all along the streets were we walked and fulfill Jeremiah 48:26 in their lives. You will be surprised how quickly the marches, etc. will break up.
We are to be wise. Do everything as inconspicuously as possible. Go out in twos, if possible. If you are in a larger group, split up so that you cannot be noticeable. We suggest you use colored soft drink bottles so that the people will not see the oil in them. Stay off private property, for the most part, walk on the sidewalks, streets, and other grounds surrounding the area. Go into public businesses quietly. Anoint the soles of your shoes and do not do any damage physically while you are in there. Pray and command in a whisper so that others will not hear you. Remember, demons have very sharp ears!
WARNING – Satan and his demons will not be happy with what you are doing. You will be walking on unclean ground, and you MUST protect yourself. Before starting, ALWAYS ask God to renew His full armor on you, shield and hide you from the demons so that they cannot see what you are doing. When you prepare to leave and head home, BEFORE you get into your car, or enter your home or church, first command all curses put onto you to be broken at once in the name of Jesus. Command all the demons that have attached themselves to you, your vehicle, or have followed you to leave immediately. Ask the Lord to shield both you and your family.
“When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19
Standard – any figure or object, especially a flow or banner, used as an emblem or symbol of a leader, people, military unit, etc. (Webster’s New World College Dictionary)
Flags are our modern day “standard.” A flay is lifted up high on a pole to claim ground, or as summons to soldiers to come where the flag is displayed to organize then go out to battle. In war time, when a city is conquered, for example, the original flag of the defeated country or city is taken down and replaced with the flag of the conqueror. When people look on a flag, they know who is in authority over that area or country. Many times flags are flown or carried as a proclamation of allegiance to the country or government it represents. Flags are often flown at half-mast to honor someone who has died.
Thus, a standard, or flag, brings great influence. The Lord has shown us that this also is important in spiritual warfare. Satan’s people know this as well. They anoint and claim flag poles placing demons at the top of the poles to reach out and influence the people’s lives who live or work in the vicinity of the flag pole. The Lord has instructed us to anoint all the flag poles in our area commanding all demons off of the flags and poles that fly on them. We also command all curses placed on the flag poles to be broken. Then we ask the Lord to send powerful warrior angels to guard and remain at the flag poles to influence the people in that area for the Lord. We have had some amazing results from doing this, especially the ones in school yards. We ask the Holy Spirit to lift up His standard on the flag pole and send out God’s power to effect the lives of every person in that area for the Lord. It is our prayer that the Lord will send out warring angels from that anointed pole to defeat demons in that area drawing people to a realization that they need a Savior.
Recently, a dear friend of mine decided to go after work in the evening to anoint the school grounds along with the flag pole of the public school in her area. Dusk was just falling as she did this. When she came to the flag pole, as she anointed it and started to pray commanding all the demons to leave, strange creaking, groaning noises came from the pole. She was very frightened at first and started to run away. But then she got angry and shouted at the pole: “You demons are not going to scare me away! This flag pole no longer belongs to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, I command every demon to get off of this pole and flag, and leave this area immediately and forever!” Immediately the noises stopped and she felt a peace come over that area as she asked the Lord to raise up His standard on that pole sending angels to minister to the children and workers in that school. There are many flag poles in our community. As you are claiming grounds for God’s kingdom, don’t forget to claim the flag poles as well.
THE WRATH OF GOD
Why teach only one side of the truth: This message is about the wrath or anger of God as shown to us in the Bible for the punishment of sin both to all lukewarm, lazy, apathetic Christians and unrepentant sinners. This is something most preachers don’t want to preach and Christians don’t want to hear. Evangelical preachers always emphasize one side of the character of God, his love. So, John 3:16 has become the slogan of Christian preaching and teaching: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” While this is the center of the gospel message that God is love, God is also a God of justice.
Early in the Bible, God told us this: “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming: The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He punishes the children and their children for the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7) We can’t just preach or teach half of the truth about God. We need to preach and teach all the truth about God: God is both love and justice.
The other half of the truth: “My son, do not make light of the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when he punishes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6) Many thousands of years have passed since the Exodus time, yet God continues to show us his love. Here, God shows his love by punishing us with discipline. Both are ways God shows us he loves us. We all know that being parents, we can’t just blindly love our children without disciplining them when they have done wrong. Both love and discipline are means parents use to help children grow the right way. We do this by following the example of how God loves us.
GOD’S WRATH IN THE BIBLE: In both the Old and the New Testaments, multiple records show us that God is both loving and just in dealing with the sins of men.
God’s punishments in the Old Testament: God punished Adam and Eve by driving them out of the Garden of Eden after they violated God’s command. (Genesis 3:24)
God punished Cain after he murdered his brother Abel by putting him under a curse, driving him out of the land to become a restless drifter, and making the land not produce crops for him. (Genesis 4:11-12)
God punished evil in Noah’s time: “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Genesis 6:5-6) These are the words recorded in the Bible why God wiped out the population of the earth with the flood, saving only the family of Noah.
God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah: In Genesis 18, God informed his servant Abraham of his plans to destroy those two wicked cities. Abraham pleaded with God to save the population of those two cities. He begged God not to do it if there were 50 good people in them. He changed the numbers 5 times to 10 good people, and God agreed not to destroy them if there were 10 good people, but there weren’t 10 good people in those 2 cities. (Gen 18:20-33)
God punished Egyptian Pharaoh: In the Exodus story from chapters 7-12, God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to repent but he refused until God punished all of Egypt by killing all their first born, including the eldest son of Pharaoh. Then the Israelites were allowed to leave Egypt. I have more to list here but why do I need to do that to make the point?
God’s punishments in the New Testament: Jesus pronounced woes on the Pharisees: In Matthew 23:13-36, our Lord pronounced woes on the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in their teaching and ceremonies and for their wicked lifestyle. “Woes” are painful life experiences God inflicts on evil doers.
Jesus warned of judgment on Jerusalem: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:2-3) Jesus wanted them to repent or face imminent judgment from God.
God punished the cheater couple: In Acts 5:1-11, the Bible records one of the vivid punishments God exacts on evil doers. When Ananias and Sapphira, his wife, cheated the Holy Spirit and the apostles by their scheme in giving, God didn’t allow them to live. Some may ask if that is fair when people are not honest in their giving, but God had a purpose to set a standard in the early church that no one may cheat God and his church in their giving.
Paul warned of God’s judgment: Both in Romans 9:22 and Colossians 3:5-6, Paul announced God’s wrath and judgment on those who willfully do not believe in God and do evil.
God’s final judgment on evil: In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, God pronounced that his wrath will be poured on Satan and all his followers, evil doers and all who do not repent of their sins. (Rev 16-19)
THE CAUSES OF GOD’S WRATH: (Romans 1:19-32) This is only a simple or panoramic description of God’s wrath. God’s wrath will pour out on people based on their sins. Their rejection of God’s revelation: “… since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been created so that men are without excuse.” (1:19-20)
This is the first reason God will judge men: their willful rejection of God’s revelation. God will judge all those who don’t care about God because God made it clear for man to know him, but man willfully rejected knowing God. Most of these people don’t want to know God because they don’t want to follow God.
Their sinful nature on the inside: (1:23-25) In this passage, Paul details the sinful nature of man on his inside. This includes people’s pride, their impurity, and their worshiping of idols. In ancient times, idols might have been man-made images of things, but today’s idols include sinful desires and pursuits of evil intentions.
Their sinful actions on the outside: (1: 26-27) In these two verses, God has clear commands about the sin of obsession in homosexual relationships. This sin of homosexual acts is almost universal since the beginning of human history, just like the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. No matter what man may think or what godless governments may declare, homosexual acts are sinful and evil and against the nature of sexes that God created.
Their sinful actions against others: (1:28-32) This part covers the sins of men against each other, family, friends and society at large. When man makes himself as the lord of his own life, he will follow his sinful heart to do things that he thinks will benefit his own life, regardless of all the injury he may cause others. Freedom of man, if not under the righteous control of God, can be deadly and vicious to others and to society. For this, God will pour out his wrath and judgment on man without a doubt.
Build a strong conviction: And the conviction is that God will judge the ungodly and the unrighteous, and no one can escape from this judgment. This is the most serious step we all need to take. Never ever think you are exceptional and God may not judge you.
Don’t try your luck: It won’t work. We all have to face God someday and give him an account of our life, good or bad.
Take a serious look on the inside: No one can run away from God or hide where God cannot see. Instead, it is much better to be honest and see your inside. Do a self-examination, compare it to this part of the Bible, and find out what is wrong, bad and evil really is there. Even King David asked God to help him take a serious look at his life to see if there are any offenses. (Psalm 139:23-24) Never allow evil to stay in your heart because it can only drag you farther away from God. Prepare a checklist and jot down things you have done wrong.
Make an immediate U-turn: This starts with a confession of sins and asking for forgiveness from God. No confession, no forgiveness of sin. That is simple. No one will continue to drive when he realizes he is going in the wrong direction. Why would you continue the path of sin when you know it’s wrong and the wrath of God is waiting for you? God will not be mock or ridiculed. His Word is Just and Justified against all sinners who continue along the path most Christians want to follow. LIVING FOR THE WORLDLY WAYS!
ENTER THE WILDERNESS OF GOD
Too much to do. Wanted, needed, pursued. Too many people. The ongoing pressure to serve, to help, to do, and very little time to simply be. And so you go, escape, dis-entangling yourself from the strings of want and need and doing to find space. Space, a place that is far from the bustle of town or city, a place that may seem dry and lifeless but where you know there is simply enough. Not enough for want or need but enough to be.
Leaving the sounds of the sleeping town behind, the gentle hum of night-time humanity, you take a hard road into the earliest of lights, the hint of the dawn that is yet to come. You head for a secret place, secret because it is yet unknown, secret because there you can reveal your own secrets.
It is a cold place, but it is not too difficult to build a fire, a light shining in the darkness, offering protection but also a cleansing flame. A burning place.
And there alone you unlock your secrets to none but the air, the dimming stars, the scattered vegetation and the chittering of desert life. And underneath that almost-silence another layer of presence, of Angels, of the Divine, and a dark voice of accusation. As the world around you thinks you cannot ignore them. Slowly, your heart is a vault of many rooms, you unlock each secret place. With each comes the darker voice, it cannot be passed over, yet you sense there are lies in its truths and there is truth in its lies. You speak words out loud, none hear those accusations apart from the rocks, the sky, the angels and God.
With each confession there is release. In this wild open space accusations cannot rebound off others, but are embraced by the sky, dissipating with the smoke from your open fire. Or perhaps they are carried away by the angels you feel so close? As the darker words fade there are new words, forgiveness and peace, words from God. As those words fill the secret places prayer begins, a conversation, an intimacy.
Hours pass, the fire dims, and with it any thought of the secrets you once carried. Hours in the wilderness, yet years could have passed since you confessed in the secret place, a lifetime since the doing, the wanting the needing. Instead there is being, and with that being a closeness to the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
Now the darkness is passed and the light of new day brightens the sky. Voices can be heard from travellers from the road, calling, searching for you.
Restored, renewed you rise to greet them. Like our Savoir Jesus we to must enter a wilderness at times.
12-11-17 LIFE IN THE DESERT
“At certain times and places, God will build a mysterious wall around us. He will take away all the supports we customarily lean upon and will remove our ordinary ways of doing things. God will close us off to something divine, completely new and unexpected and that cannot be understood by examining our previous circumstances. We will be in a place where we do not know what is happening, where God is cutting the cloth of our lives by a new pattern and thus where He causes us to look to Him…… the souls that God leads into unpredictable and special situations are isolated by Him. All they know is that God is holding them and that He is dealing in their lives. Then their expectations come from Him alone”
IT IS NORMAL FOR GOD TO PLAN SEASONS IN THE DESERT IN THE LIVES OF HIS SERVANTS
So important is the desert experience in God’s leadership emergence process that it is unlikely that the persons God uses will avoid a season in the desert at critical occasions in their lives. There are some lessons that can only be learned in the desert. Besides, who has ever heard of a course in a Bible College called DESERT 101. It would be impossible to compose such a course and even if it wasn’t impossible, who would willingly apply for such a course anyhow? There are some things that can only be learned in the desert. Those of us in the Western world, are steeped in affluence and immersed in a culture that demands instant gratification of our material needs and desires, have no concept of life in the desert. We are so use to plenty we take anything else for granite. This concept has been translated into our Christian walk.
THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US INTO THE DESERT AND THEN OUT OF THE DESERT AT THE FATHER’S APPOINTED TIME. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the desert…..” –Matthew 4:1
Desert experiences do not take our sovereign God by surprise. Rather they are purposeful and serve as times of preparation for God’s future purposes. Sometimes it might even seem that it is a consequence of the sinfulness of other people that causes us to end up in the desert, but God’s purposes can still be worked out in these circumstances, as Joseph would ultimately testify, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about as to this day, to save my people alive.” (Genesis 50:19-20) Joseph teaches us of the importance of attitude and focus as we make our way through times in the desert.
IN THE DESERT, GOD ALLOWS MANY OR ALL OF OUR FOUNDATIONS TO BE REMOVED FROM UNDER US.
Initially, the desert can be a lonely place. It was for Rebecca and me. However, we have grown to appreciate life in the desert as we have pressed into God and found that we are indeed not alone. One of the early characteristic of life in the desert for us was the closing of anger, bitterness and discouragement, in the process, God has been repositioning us to ensure that our identity is found in our relationship with Him and not in the things we have been doing for Him and the titles and roles that come with these responsibilities. Essentially, it is any experience which seems to, on the face of it, contradict God’s revealed purpose or promise for you. It is in these times, however, that we need to hold on fast to these promises and not allow despair and hopelessness to take hold. In the desert God is taking us to a place of total dependence on Him that will be characterized by a new level of living by faith and trust in Him.
THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF TESTING TO PREPARE US FOR A NEW SEASON OF LIFE AND SERVICE.
It is important that we understand these tests and pass these tests. The desert is not a place of punishment or banishment, but rather, a place of preparation and transition. Paul explains this process in his first letter to the Thessalonian church. “….we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” –1 Thessalonians 1:4
There is a process that takes place in the desert: TESTING TO APPROVE TO ENTRUST new responsibilities.
THE DESERT IS AN INTENSIVE TIME OF PERSONAL CHARACTER GROWTH, WITH THE MOST IMPORTANT AREAS OF FOCUS BEING OUR FAITH AND OBEDIENCE.
We read of John the Baptist in Luke 1:80, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.” The desert is a place where God focuses on growth in our character rather than growth in our competence. Growth in our gifts that outstrips growth in our character can be a recipe for some disaster that is waiting to happen. The desert is a place of humbling and brokenness where we are stripped of our independence and (painfully) learn to become God dependent. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments…. He gave you manna to eat in the desert….. To humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.” –Deuteronomy 8:2,16. The desert is a place where we learn to walk by faith and trust God for our needs, where we are totally dependent on Him. As we have been walking through this desert season, Rebecca and I would look at one another and comment that this has been the most stimulating time in our lives, but also the scariest as well.
THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF CHOICES
Continually, I have found that I have two options as life in the desert unfolds. I could take situations into my own hands, and have good reason to do so, or I could trust such situations to God and leave them in His hands. God kept saying that I had a choice. But if I took a situation into my own hands, then he would need to excuse Himself because there wasn’t room for the two of us to address a particular situation. I am now learning to trust God and wait on Him for His timing and His open doors and His resolution to difficult challenges and His provision of necessary resources at a greater depth. The greatest choice that summarized all other choices was communicated to me by God at the time I entered the desert. He said,
“In the desert, Daniel, you can give birth to an ‘Isaac’ or an ‘Ishmael’. Make sure you give birth to an Isaac.”
The contrasts between these two possibilities that faced Abram and Sarai in their desert experience were extreme.
Born of the Spirit ——————————————————————–Born of the flesh
Wait on God ————————————————————————–Rush ahead
Humanly impossible —————————————————————-Humanly possible
God’s glory —————————————————————————Man’s glory
God closes and opens doors —————————————————- I close and open doors
THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the desert to be tempted by the devil.” -Matthew 4:1
Satan realizes the critical nature of the desert and the consequences of us passing the tests of the desert, perhaps even more that we do. In the desert our points of vulnerability become even more acute and Satan, who is aware of them, will press in to try and cause us to fail the tests of the desert. The book of Psalms talks about “remembering” God’s works of the past. It also urges us to “give thanks” to God for his faithfulness and mercy. When we are weak and under spiritual attack, all we have to get us through will be our past experiences of God. We must, therefore, cultivate these times of intimacy with Him in our daily walk, so when the tempter comes, he will have nothing to hold on to. We must also hide God’s Word in our hearts. God’s Word alerts us to when the battle is spiritual. It also teaches us how to respond. God has given us everything we need to get us through this season of warfare. (Ephesians 6:17)
THE DESERT IS A PLACE WHERE WE LEARN TO EXPERIENCE INTIMACY WITH GOD AT A DEEPER LEVEL AND SEE THINGS FROM HIS PERSPECTIVE.
Life in the desert is less cluttered and more simplified. In the desert God strips us of the things of the world and frees us to go deeper with Him so that He might reveal Himself to us in a fresh way. The wells of necessity are deeper in the desert. More and more we will begin to see things the way God sees things. This is perspective, that quality which separates leaders from followers. The desert is a place of revelation, as we see in the case of John the Baptist…. The word of God came to John….in the desert Luke 3:2
The desert is a time of preparation for the future and is a time where God teaches His chosen servants to learn how to follow His prompting and partner with Him in what He is doing. In the desert, we transition from knowing about God to knowing God, as we are weaned from the accumulation of things that have hindered us from hungering and thirsting for the Living Water. “But when God who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see these who were apostles before I was, but went immediately into Arabia (the desert) and later returned to Damascus” -Galatians 1: 15-17
THE DESERT IS A PLACE WHERE WE RESTORE THE DISCIPLINES THAT FORM A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR OUR FUTURE LIVES AND MINISTRY
God has no shortcuts in His training program and the dropout rate can be high. The desert has a way of stripping life down to the basics and causing us to evaluate what is ultimately important and what is not. In the desert we are set free from the Western world’s agenda to create a materialistic heaven on earth and we realize that it is in the establishment of disciplines that we can move beyond the superficiality of our culture and deepen our foundations.
THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF VICTORY THAT LEADS TO NEW BEGINNINGS AND A NEW FUTURE IN THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S TIME
“Forget the former things;
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
And streams in the wasteland…” -Isaiah 43:18-19
“But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I will come Forth as gold” –Job 23:10
“…And the God of all grace, who called
You to His eternal glory in Christ, after
You have suffered a little while, will
Himself restore you and make you strong,
Firm and steadfast.” -1 Peter 5:10
There comes a time when life in the desert comes to an end. For life in the desert is a time of preparation, a time of revelation and new perspective, a time of learning how to walk in the presence of God, a time to pull all the props away and move on from the things of the past and a time to walk by faith and trust God to be our provider. Just as the Lord leads us into the desert, so it is that He leads us out of the desert, often with the promise that the best is yet to come.
Elijah Repairs the Ruined Altar
So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
I Kings 18:30-39
The climax of Elijah’s struggle for Israel which took place at Mount Carmel. From early morning the prophets of Baal called on their god. In vain. When the sun began to set down, Baal’s prophets fell silent. No one had answered them. No one had responded.
This in itself was Elijah’s victory, for the people saw that their idol was silent and would not help. And this is often the first step how a man can start to seek the true God. Until we live in illusions, until we are happy with the values which we rely on, we can hardly be led to change our opinion. But when crisis comes and reveals how vain and empty what we have relied on is, then we might start to seek a different God. When we are disappointed, when we get our fingers burned, when our would-be certainties and false self-confidence crumble, then something new can begin.
Elijah calls the gathered Israel: “Come here to me!” And they come. At this moment mere onlookers become active participants. Until now they have just watched. Until now they have silently waited what would happen. But now they come to Elijah. Now they are asked to fill jars with water and pour it out on the altar of the Lord. Three times over! Now they themselves must decide. To come to Elijah and do what he said meant to give up Baal. And at that moment they really gave him up. The Lord won’t reveal himself to disinterested observers nor to scandal-hunting journalists at Mount Carmel; will he give sign to those who seek him. The Lord never gives an unshakable proof of himself to anyone. Instead, he confirms the faith of those who wait for him by his actions.
But before that happens, Elijah repairs what has been forgotten, covered with dust, torn down and destroyed in the long years of unfaithfulness. He repairs the old altar of the Lord. No one has sacrificed there for a long time. He rebuilds it with twelve stones although everyone knows that the tribes of Israel have long ceased to live together but live in two kingdoms. He creates space around the altar which resembles the courtyard of the tabernacle when the people still wandered through the desert. And finally he has 12 jars of water poured out on the altar, similarly to the prophet Samuel when he and the people confessed their sins. And we may understand his actions like this: “If something genuinely new and blessed is to begin in the church but also in our personal lives, we won’t make it happen by just starting over without further ado. On a blank page. If a person wants to begin a new life, he or she must return to where they made a mistake. It is important to acknowledge our past. To repair what has been torn down.” Elijah wants to emphasize: “The new begins by repairing the old.” That’s why the church always comes back to Scripture. That’s why we should confess our sins. That’s why we should remind ourselves of our vow at baptism. That’s why wives and husbands should remind themselves of their marriage covenant. That’s why a nation should remember its past and not draw a line under it. But that is also why coming back is so hard. It means to acknowledge what we would rather forget and what we have perhaps really forgotten. Now Elijah reminds all this to Israel at Mount Carmel with his words and his actions. He goes back to the times of Jacob, Moses and Samuel. He wants to return and pick up where the mistake was made. To continue on the road from which they turned away long ago.
Elijah’s prayer carries the same emphasis. He even appeals to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is more than just rehearsing history. For Elijah and also for us this is a great encouragement. Our prayers never need to start from scratch. When we call on God, we turn to someone who has already done much for us. Our faith has a history. There is much that it can rely on. It has good experience with God. The Christian knows on whom he calls. Every prayer we pray may begin with thankfulness for what God has done for us. When we realize this, we can pray a much stronger prayer than if we just pop at God what we want right here and right now.
And that’s another remarkable thing about Elijah’s prayer. He doesn’t want anything for himself from God. Instead, he prays for what God wants to happen. “Let it be known that I have done all these things at your command.” The success of Elijah’s prayer is not in its urgency or in Elijah’s skills or eloquence. God answered his prayer because Elijah asked for what God wanted. It might seem unnecessary to you, to pray for something that God wants. But this is where a biblical prayer differs from all other prayers. Jesus, too, prayed: “Not as I will, but as you will.” And we, too, pray: “Your will be done.” When we as Christians pray, it is not in an attempt to have our wishes fulfilled. Our prayers have a different goal: Accord with God. In prayer we wish to concur with our Lord as much as possible. To identify with his will. To wish and to do what God wants. What happened at Mount Carmel was not what Elijah planned but what was God’s desire and goal. When Elijah prayed: “Let them know that you are turning their hearts back again,” he expressed precisely what was most important to God. God is not uncaring and indifferent. The God of Israel loves his people and longs for their love. And Elijah is great and holy because he understood this, because he risked his life for it and because he prayed for it.
There is another remarkable thing about the sacrifice at Mount Carmel. Elijah prepares everything but God finishes it. All what Elijah does, the rebuilding of the altar, the preparing of the sacrifice, the pouring of water as a sign of repentance, yes, even the gathering of the people would make no sense if God himself did not finally intervene and set it on fire and accepted the sacrifice. There’s no point in speculating how it happened. The story wants to say something else very clearly: “In our actions we may, and we should, count on God’s help.” Our work, our ministry, our effort should be like Elijah’s actions at Mount Carmel. Our task is to prepare many things. To respond to God’s challenges and calling and begin boldly to work. But at the same time we can never do it all alone and manage everything. Our work, our share stops at a certain moment, and then everything is left to God. Often our situation will be similar to Elijah’s. We will risk much for God’s Kingdom: our strength, our efforts, our name, our honor, our property. Some will risk their lives. If God doesn’t help, we run the risk that all our efforts will be in vain, useless, often even ridiculous—just as the dripping sacrifice at Carmel would have been ridiculous if God hadn’t intervened. But, God did intervene! God owns his work.
Faith, however, means that we take the risk. That we go to a foreign land with Abraham, build a ship on dry land with Noah, wait in Egyptian prison with Joseph, go to Pharaoh with Moses, hide before Saul with David, go gather every forgotten grain with Ruth, plead with the king with Esther, build the city walls with Nehemiah, stand up against enemies who outnumber us take up the cross with Jesus, enter a pagan house with Peter, walk through the world with Paul, make the gospel comprehensible with Cyril and Methodius, hold on to the truth. Perhaps our actions won’t be known in history but God still waits for them and values them just as highly as the actions of the famous. Every one of us can repair or rescue something in our lives, or start something new. And even if they are tasks that surpass our strength and ability, we may believe that God will gladly own what he himself has called us to, what he has led us to, what he has inspired.