2011 - Vol. 51
of the Bulwark
secure is your family and community from the destructive forces that seek
by Don Schwager
When a great earthquake and tidal wave was spotted off the northeast
coast of Japan on the afternoon of March 11 2011, a warning went out across
the land. A few heard and fled to high ground. But within minutes after
the tsunami hit the coast, more than 15,000 people perished. The destructive
tsunami waves of up to 38.9 metres (128 ft) swept houses, bridges, roads,
trees, and everything else into a massive ruble of destruction. One coastal
community survived intact from the full onslaught of the destructive
tsunami waves. This city had decided many years previously to build an
enormously high bulwark as a protective wall, after they had suffered the
destructive force of a tidal wave which caused great damage and loss of
life. Their wise mayor had convinced the residents that it was worth the
enormous financial cost and sacrifice of great human effort to build a
high protective wall for future generations as well.
Bulwarks in the ancient world were a common strategy for protecting
cities and nations from invading forces. The image of a bulwark was used
in the Scriptures to describe how God both dwelt with his people and protected
them from their enemies. Paul the Apostle described the church as a “household
of the living God” which stood strong as a “pillar and bulwark of the truth”
(1 Timothy 3:15). The Apostle Peter also used the image of a fortified
house to describe how Christ called his followers to be joined together
as “living stones built into a spiritual house” with Christ himself as
the foundation and cornerstone (1 Peter 2:5,6).
Jesus, in one of his parables, contrasted two kinds of disciples – one
who built his house on sand and the other who built his house on firm rock.
The house built on sand was swept away when the storms and floods beat
upon it, while the house built on rock stood secure and firm (Matthew 7:24-27).
Today, unfortunately, many Christians have built their lives on the shaky
sands of spiritual indifference, moral confusion, and preoccupation with
worldly success and possessions. It doesn't take much to sweep them away
from allegiance to Christ and the protection which he provides.
|“We are not fighting against flesh and
blood, but against the spiritual army of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians
Jesus warned his followers, “Do not fear those who kill the body but
cannot kill the soul, rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body
in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The Apostle Paul stated that “we are not fighting
against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual army of evil in the
heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The main battle in the universe is not
good versus evil, but God versus Satan (1 John 5:19). The Apostle Peter
reminds us that “our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:9). John the Evangelist in his first
letter declares that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John
3:8) in order to rescue us from Satan’s power and transfer us to Christ’s
kingdom of peace and righteousness (Colossians 1:13).
Can Christians afford to remain neutral while the enemy, Satan, continues
to wage war on God and his people?
The two kingdoms
The Scriptures make clear that there are ultimately only two kingdoms
and two banners that determine the course of our destiny – the kingdom
of light and the kingdom of darkness, and the standard of Christ and the
standard of Lucifer. There are no neutral parties – we are either for one
kingdom or the other, we either follow the standard of Christ or the standard
How does Satan wield his power and influence the hearts and minds of
people over the earth? He seduces people through lies, deception, and false
promises of reward. John the Apostle states that the whole world lies in
the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). John speaks of the “world” as
that society of men and women who are closed to God and not following his
plan (John 17:11,16; 1 John 2:15-17).
The spiritual battle
In the spiritual battle we face today, Christ our Captain raises a
standard to rally his people to fight and defend the honor of his name
and the truth of his gospel. Are we prepared to follow him into battle?
Or do we sit in ease in the comfort of our homes while the enemy overtakes
our land, schools and media, our cultural and entertainment outlets, our
courts, hospitals, and seats of government?
In a prophetic word to the Sword of the Spirit, the Lord has urged preparation
for the spiritual storms and battles that are sure to come.
The storm is rising, the clouds gather, lightning, wind and
storm great enough to carry off even the strong, the unprepared, the confused.
Where now is the shelter? Where the bulwark, the refuge? Where is the strength
of my church when the storm is upon it?
What use is there in building an island of peaceful ease while all around
you spiritual war rages? Either I will take your ease from you, and in
exchange for it a place in the battle, and with it my everlasting favor,
or the enemy will take you from your ease, and give you in return for it
punishment and terror. There is no other alternative. You are a spiritual
nation at war, and the spiritual war will grow and draw you in, whether
you wish to join or not. …Act, train, and live as if you were at war.
Satan’s goal is to bring as many people as possible into his kingdom,
and to neutralize or remove anyone who tries to stand in his way. Satan
is fiercely determined to not rest until he has won over the hearts, minds,
and souls of every person living on the face of the earth today.
Satan is a very powerful master of deceit, and he knows our weaknesses
better than we do. He is always looking for ways to gain mastery over our
hearts and minds. He deceives human beings and robs them of their spiritual
authority and confidence, often working through his human agents (worldly
individuals and groups who use their influence and the media to promote
a lifestyle and way of thinking which is contrary to the gospel).
If Satan can’t get Christians to join his side, he tries to weaken and
neutralize them through intimidation, isolation, and the promise of false
rewards. Why do many Christians come under his spell? Because the world
is very attractive, many compromise with its ways, yield to the flesh,
and fall into Satan’s traps (1 John 2:15-17). Satan uses the world and
its powerful tools of propaganda to make good look evil and evil look good
(Isaiah 5:20; Psalm 52:3).
Some areas vulnerable
to Satan’s attack
Strong men and women of God have become a vanishing species today –
too few, too intimidated, too distracted, or discouraged. He doesn’t want
Christians to exercise moral leadership and spiritual influence in their
homes, schools, and communities. Satan will do everything he can to distract
and weaken us spiritually, especially in our personal prayer life, in our
marriages and families, in our social relationships, and in our communities
and churches. Men are genetically wired to protect their families and communities.
But something radical has changed in our Western secularist culture. Through
intimidation and persecution from the world, Satan has robbed many Christian
men today of their rightful authority to govern and defend their
families, communities, churches, and society at large. Too many have abandoned
their posts or given up the fight and left the woman to defend their families
and communities alone.
As an inventory of your own situation, ask yourself:
One of our key sources of protection is our fellow Christians – our brothers
and sisters in the Lord who stand firm in their faith. The wisdom
of scripture attests to this truth: “A brother is born for adversity and
a friend helps at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). “Woe to him who is alone
when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
“Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand
him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Who do
you turn to for support, counsel, and spiritual protection? Do you have
a spiritual mentor and a small group you can meet with regularly for prayer,
support, and accountability?
Where am I vulnerable to Satan’s lies and attack? Do I make use of
the spiritual wisdom and protection the Lord gives me in his word and through
the support of other Christians?
Who is the real master of my life? Whose voice do I listen to and obey
– the voice of the world, the devil, or my unruly thoughts and passions?
Do I regularly read God’s Word, obey it, and allow it to shape the way
I think, act, and speak? When I struggle with temptation, besetting sin,
and harmful habits, do I seek out the support and counsel of others, especially
those in my small group?
Am I spiritually in the right place with the Lord or am I undisciplined,
lazy, or distracted with other occupations and interests?
Do I neglect daily prayer and interceeding for my family, community, work,
and other responsibilities?
Do I nourish and protect my spouse and family spiritually? Do I strive
to build a Christ-centered environment for my family? Do I lead my family
in prayer, teach my children reverence for God’s Word, and help them grow
in Christian wisdom and maturity? Do I protect my children from spiritual
and moral harm, teach them to distinguish good from evil, and help them
recognize and resist the temptations of the world, the flesh, and devil?
Satan uses pride and shame to keep Christians from living in the light
with their brothers and sisters in the Lord. Here is some more inventory
to help you assess your own personal situation, and to help you move towards
greater inner freedom:
God’s strategy for overcoming
Do I neglect to pray regularly for my those in my small group, to meet
with them regularly, and to come prepared to give some spiritual input
and encouragement to help them grow spiritually?
Do I allow pride and shame to keep me from sharing honestly and openly
with my brothers, especially in areas where I need to be accountable (i.e.
care for my spouse and family, stewardship of my time, money, and possessions)?
Do I hide my areas of personal weakness and vulnerability to temptation
(i.e. irresponsibility in the home, addiction to pornography, excessive
drinking or eating)?
Am I possessive or protective of my personal time and resources? Am I willing
and ready to serve where I am needed in community and to share what I have
with others in need?
The enemy is powerful and easily outnumbers us. And he tells us that
we cannot win back the territory and the lives he has claimed for himself.
What chance of success do we have against these odds? Can an outnumbered
army defeat a stronger enemy? God has fortunately not left us to our own
devices. He fights for us and with us. The Lord's spiritual army vastly
outnumbers the forces arrayed against him and his people. A great example
of this spiritual reality can be found in the Old Testament in the Second
Book of Kings, chapter 6. Elisha the prophet, through his intercessory
prayers, thwarts the work of the Syrian army who has come to destroy the
people of Israel.
And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because
of this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, "Will you not
show me who of us is for the king of Israel?" And one of his servants said,
"None, my lord, O king; but Eli'sha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells
the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber." And he
said, "Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him." It was told
him, "Behold, he is in Dothan." So he sent there horses and chariots and
a great army; and they came by night, and surrounded the city.
The Lord Jesus promised his disciples that he would be with them always,
even to the end of the ages and that the enemy would not prevail against
them. In our struggle against the spiritual forces of evil we do not need
to fear, for those who are with us [the spiritual armies of heaven] are
more numerous than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16). Our spiritual
strength, protection, and authority come from God – not from ourselves.
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went
out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was round about the city.
And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?" He said, "Fear
not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
Then Eli'sha prayed, and said, "O LORD, I pray you, open his eyes that
he may see." So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw;
and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round
about Eli'sha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Eli'sha
prayed to the LORD, and said, "Strike this people, I pray you, with blindness."
So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Eli'sha
(2 Kings 6:11-18).
Shoulder to shoulder
We are not called to fight alone, but to stand united as “one man,”
a “band of brothers” who can take back and defend the territory which the
enemy has taken from us.
The Roman phalanx
In any warfare the only sure defense is total protection. What good
is a bullet-proof vest if the head is left unprotected, or the back exposed?
Ancient Rome equipped their armies with full protective gear. Each soldier
wore a full set of armor, including helmet, breastplate, and shin guards,
along with a sword, dagger, and shield.
Soldiers were trained to work and fight in unison, to provide protective
covering for one another, and to march together on the opposing army.
One example of how the Romans succeeded in conquering superior forces
was their use of small tactical forces called the phalanx. The Roman phalanx
was a tight-knit fighting unit protected on all sides by use of their shields.
It was literally a wall of armed men with tall shields – a living bulwark
– used for protection and for advancing against enemy forces. When a small
phalanx came under attack, it could hold its ground as a protective wall.
It could also advance on a much larger force and overtake them. [You can
see an example of the Roman phalanx in action in this video clip.]
The Lord Jesus has not left Christians defenseless against the attacks
of Satan and his spiritual forces. The Lord has equipped us with the spiritual
weapons needed for today's spiritual combat.
|“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength
of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand
against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10,11).
The armor of God
Paul the Apostle tells us that we can “stand strong in the Lord and
in the strength of his might” if we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians
6:10). God gives us all the spiritual armor and weapons we need to “stand
against the strategies and tricks of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Paul
uses the analogy of a Roman soldier’s equipment to show us how God equips
us (Ephesians 6:13-19).
Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able
to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore,
having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate
of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel
of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you
can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of
salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray
at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end
keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints
Roman soldier fully armed
Are you wearing your spiritual armor? Do you strive to wear the whole
armor of God in all the situations that you find yourself in?
Wearing the belt of
truth. Do you fight for the truth or do you compromise with
the world’s way of thinking? Do you allow God’s word to form the way you
think, act, and speak? Does your practice match your speech, or do you
say one thing and do another?
Breastplate of righteousness.
you love God’s wisdom and obey his commandments? Do you fight evil with
good and strive to root out wrongdoing in your personal life, and in your
home and work environment? Do you quickly repent of wrongdoing or do you
tolerate sinful habits and worldly ways of thinking?
Shoes fitted with the
gospel of peace. Do you share your faith with others and
strive to lead them to Christ? Do you strive to live peaceably with all
as far as you am able?
Shield of faith.
Do you fight fear with faith, lies with God's truth, discouragement with
hope and perseverance, worldliness and insincerity with godliness and zeal?
Helmet of salvation.
Do you protect your mind and heart with the truth of the gospel? Do you
love your neighbor – and your enemy as well – and show them kindness, compassion,
Sword of the Spirit.
you believe in the power of God’s word to transform your life, your family,
and your community? Do you engage in mission and support it with prayer
and confidence that God will use you to speak his word, defend his people,
and advance his purpose wherever he places you?
The Medieval walled community
of Carcassone, France, was a center of trade and Christian renewal for
the surrounding region. It was originally built in the 5th century A.D.
Fighting as a bulwark
For thousands of years fortified cities and settlements not only kept
hostile intruders out, they provided centers where people who lived nearby,
as well as travelers passing through, could find shelter, medical care,
hospitality, vocational training and education. These settlements were
also places where poeple could share their goods through trade and commerce.
Fortified cities are largely a thing of the past. If Christians are to
thrive today, especially in environments that are de-Christianized or opposed
to the gospel, then new spiritual bulwarks must be built. Like the Japanese
city, we need to be ready.
I believe that the key to effectiveness of many Christian renewal movements
today, such as the Sword of the Spirit, is their understanding of the need
to build spiritual bulwarks. This approach not only enables them to succeed
in building Christian communities with a strong and vibrant Christian way
of life. It also allows them to fight on the front lines of mission, the
spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of people who are being seduced
by the false gods of atheism, hedonism, materialism, and by a false humanism
that justifies the sacrifice of unborn children and pain-ridden parents
on the altars of Moloch.
Overcoming the evil
If we take the whole armor of God, we can be confident that the Lord
will place us in the battle where we can take our stand for the truth of
the gospel. We can defend our families and communities if we hold to the
truth and fight with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which
is the word of God.
He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who
has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Revelations
I believe that God wants every Christian – man, woman, and child – to take
their shield and sword (the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit) and
fight for his honor, for the truth of the gospel, and for the advancement
of his kingdom. The victory is assured because the Lord is the Victor,
and as we stand united with him, our own victory is assured, as well.
[Don Schwager is a member
The Servants of the Word
and the author of the Daily Scripture
Reading and Meditation website.].
based on the parable of Jesus about the house built upon a rock standing
firm against the storm and raging flood waters (Matthew 7:24-27)
meditation by Ignatius of Loyola
with comments by Don Schwager
of Loyola (1491-1556), a Spanish soldier who converted to Christ after
a near fatal battle injury, wrote The Spiritual Exercises, a series
of meditations based on the Gospel texts, to help people discern the call
of Christ in their personal lives.
one of the meditations, called The Two Standards, Ignatius paints
a vivid picture of two opposing armies and their captains. The first captain
is Christ, our commander-in-chief and Lord; the other captain is Lucifer
(also known as Satan and the Devil), the mortal enemy of our human nature.
Each captain calls the inhabitants of the earth to follow their respective
standard, the flag of their army, raised on a pole to indicate the rallying
point in battle.
The deceits of Lucifer
sets these two armies in a great field around their respective capitols
– Jerusalem and Babylon. These great cities symbolize the two opposing
kingdoms – one established by God (Revelations 21:2) and the other ruled
by Lucifer (Revelations 18). Ignatius points out the importance of exercising
spiritual discernment in order to understand how Satan works on huma beings
to win them over to his side. Ignatius explains what kind of spiritual
discernment we should pray for:
for knowledge of the deceits of the bad chief [Lucifer] and help to guard
myself against them, and for knowledge of the true life which the supreme
and true Captain [the Lord Jesus Christ] shows, and grace to imitate him.
first point is to imagine that the chief of all the enemy was seated
in that great field of Babylon, as in a great chair of fire and smoke,
in shape horrible and terrifying.
second, to consider how he issues a summons to innumerable demons and
how he scatters them, some to one city and others to another, and so through
all the world, not omitting any provinces, places, states, nor any persons
third, to consider the discourse which he makes them, and how he tells
them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a
longing for riches – as he is accustomed to do in most cas – that
men and women may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then
to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second,
that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he
draws on to all the other vices.
does Christ our Lord, the true supreme and good captain, call us to his
standard? Ignatius uses three illustrations in his meditation to help us
understand how Christ draws us to himself:
first point is to consider how Christ our Lord puts himself in a great
field of that region of Jerusalem, in lowly place, beautiful and attractive.
second point is to consider how the Lord of all the world chooses so
many persons – apostles, disciples, friends, helpers, et alia – and sends
them through all the world spreading his sacred doctrine through all states
and conditions of persons.
third point is to consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes
to all his servants and friends whom he sends on this expedition, recommending
them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual
poverty, and – if his Divine Majesty would be served and would want
to choose them – no less to actual poverty; the second is to embrace
scornful treatment and contempt; because from these two things humility
that there are to be three steps; the first, poverty against riches; the
second, contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride.
And from these three steps let them be drawn to all the other virtues.
by Martin Luther
fortress is our God,
bulwark never failing.
helper he amid the flood
mortal ills prevailing.
still our ancient foe
seek to work us woe.
craft and power are great,
armed with cruel hate,
earth is not his equal.
we in our own strength confide,
striving would be losing,
not the right man on our side,
man of God's own choosing.
ask who that may be?
Jesus, it is he.
Sabbaoth, his name,
age to age the same,
he must win the battle.
though this world, with devils filled,
threaten to undo us,
will not fear, for God hath willed
truth to triumph through us.
Prince of Darkness grim,
tremble not for him.
rage we can endure,
lo, his doom is sure.
little word shall fell him.
word above all earthly powers
thanks to them, abideth.
Spirit and the gifts are ours
him who with us sideth.
goods and kindred go,
mortal life also.
body they may kill,
truth abideth still.
kingdom is forever.
– shieldmaiden of Rohan
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
by Blanca Morales
is dangerous, her enemy says
strength is exhausting
femininity – powerful
modesty annihilates harm
her purity defeats all evil
defender of all innocence
of man's virtue
can endure great pain
great amounts of love
shield is patience
helmet is peace
sword is the kindness
which she kills
is escorted by the angels
army of guardians
is guided by the Spirit
Light, Life, and War
and courageous is she
behind enemy lines
the enemy's head
every single act of love
laughs in the face of evil
is never frightened.
a woman of Truth
only the Lord to fear
has a new enemy
warriors of Heaven's army
hearts on enemy territory
she turns doubters into believers
by side with the man God made
will fight to the finish
her children, her husband, her people
daughter, servant, princess, warrior
for the victory of the Father Almighty
you not see her eyes glow with fire?
to her heart
the drumbeat of war
Morales is from Florida, US, and is a member of New Jerusalem Community
in Miami. She is a freelance writer of religious nonfiction. You can see
her blog at http://blamor.blogspot.com]
Preparing for War
by Servants of the Word
and words by Stacey Whitfield
with power by your King.
gird up the loins of your mind
you may be fully prepared.
forth now in great confidence
you shall not be put down.
is the captain of your army
him ride out ahead of you
the path you are to take
riding alongside of you.
in the strength of your God
clothed in the armor he provides
there one to overcome you
you shall not be disturbed at all.
alone is your rock
fortress for you in time of need.
he is the source of your strength
him you could not succeed.
too the love of your brethern
it encourage you.
though you go forth from their midst
you remain one with them.
forth now in great confidence
you shall not be put down.
your God goes forth with you
shall not be put down.