To fight or not to fight, that is the question. Or rather, to fight this enemy or that. There is a battle Christians all need to wage against the enemy of our souls, the enemy of the church - Satan. But there are many other skirmishes and insidious battles being fought by the brethren. These are the skirmishes of church warfare. There are lines drawn between this movement and that, between this crowd and that, battles being fought to divide the church. Every great move of God so far, has ended up first being persecuted by, then persecuting others in the Body. But the Bible teaches us that we should not skirmish and rail against flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers of the air, who influence and affect our brethren (Eph 6:12). We are to take up the shield of faith with the sword of the spirit and join God's warriors fighting a common enemy (Eph 6:16-17). I have asked myself why we are lead to divide the church, why we go into battle when we should be building the kingdom. Unfortunately it has always been man's intention to rule and reign, to set up kingdoms and have dominion. The moment we set up a kingdom we must have a king, and borders. We have points of difference, things to set us apart from `the others'. The corrupt nature of our hearts causes us to desire kings to be set over us, men of leadership to rule and take charge. We then have something to fight for, something to defend. The church today has many rulers - trained professional men and women who we have appointed rulers in our congregations. They gather together from time to time in larger groups and discuss ways to promote the doctrines and structure of their denomination, cause or movement. The fact of the matter is, we live in a church-system today which promotes self-preservation, an `us and them' approach to Christianity. Churches take special effort to make themselves `different from the rest' and thereby create a market edge for their brand or product. When we focus on attracting people to our cause, we end up focusing on our differences, how we differ from (and are therefore better than) others. These become the things that attract people to us. A PICTURE OF WAR I had an open vision in early September 1997 that showed me a startling reality of what is happening right now in the church. A cinema style video opened up before me as I was praying one evening. I saw a black and white film, which looked like it was made in the 1940's. It began on a farm. Dozens of men were working in the fields, preparing instruments for the harvest. Then suddenly, they began to leave the fields and walk toward a railway line. Trains pulled up with streams, banners and a band playing. Many of the men climbed aboard to go off to war. The scene panned back to the field where many shovels, spades, forks, scythes and machinery had been left idle on the ground. Before me was a vast harvest of wheat, with scarcely no one left to work the fields! The scene changed and I saw women and children learning in various schools and colleges. There were women learning trades and how to operate machinery, children at lathes learning woodwork and smaller children learning at school. So many women and children had been left behind as their men went off to war. They had to learn how to survive and remain productive without them. The vision closed with a picture of a lone man standing in the field. Behind him lay all the discarded tools of the harvest, before him was a huge field of wheat. He did not look perplexed or dismayed he simply prayed God's blessing and began to work. THE HARVEST Before the government brought conscription in, Australia was able to fill the ranks of its infantry with volunteers. So many elected to go to World War I that they were overwhelmed. As time passed they began to run out of volunteers and started the ballot election system. People were simply elected to fight by a random ballot selection process. We have not had a war to serve in for many decades, and no need has arisen for volunteers. Yet in many places I visit, the church is hearing the drum beats of war. Under the guise of joining an army, pastors are beating the drum of a movement for people to join. This is just like the train I saw with banners and music, which attracted so many away from the task they were called to - the Harvest! Now many good well meaning people are talking about joining Joel's army these days. You know the songs of these meetings, "Fire goes before us, and burns up our enemies," on so on. But I ask you, is God's agenda for us to lay down our tools of harvest and run off to war? I know for sure a battle is raging, there is not doubt of that! Indeed the enemy comes to devour our harvest, he comes like a plague of locusts to eat the crops and steal the seed before it can germinate. It is true we must fight, and fight hard against the devil today, but let me ask you - what war are you running off to fight? Where is our focus? Are we called to run off and join `Joel's army' or are we to take a stand for our crops, scare the birds away from the good seed and fight the devouring army who would eat up the crop? The truth about Joel's army is revealed in Scripture - it devours all before it. The fields are ripe for harvest, as green as Eden, but they become a wasteland of devastation (Joel 2:3) as they consume the land. It is an army which destroys the crop, and tears down the fruitful vines (Joel 1:4). I ask you, is this the end time army of God? Or is there another kind of army we should be joining - the army of women and children working diligently at the machines of the kingdom, standing in the fields to bring in the harvest? This is a question of focus. THE SAMARITAN WOMAN Do you remember the time Jesus and His disciples travelled into Samaria? One can suppose, since the journey to Samaria is hot and dusty, that the disciples had not eaten very much and were thirsty when they arrived at the well. As Jesus sat down, the disciples were probably grumbling about food and water. Jesus knew their frailty and asked them all to go get food from the nearby town. The disciples gladly went off and left Jesus sitting at the well in the midday sun. As we all know, Christ encountered a woman at this well not long after, told her everything she had ever done and convicted her to repent of her lifestyle. The woman was so changed, so challenged, so wonderfully blessed that she ran off to tell her friends! (John 4:28,29). Picture the scene if you can - a sinful Samaritan woman has just left Jesus when the disciples return. They are astonished to find Jesus had been talking to a local. On the one hand the disciples are salivating at the thought of eating, secretly wondering "Why did Jesus speak with her?" and on the other hand Christ is rejoicing that this lady had found salvation. The disciples have gladly brought food back, hoping to get a meal started, and in the background you can hear the noise of an excited crowd coming to the well to meet Jesus. Then a remarkable conversation takes place that reveals the need for the disciples to completely change their focus. They (like you and I so often), have their eyes on the wrong target. They are asking Christ to eat, and he says, "I have food you know nothing about." They are pursuing the temporal, whilst right in that very place, Christ is working the eternal. With bags of shopping in hand the disciples are dismayed that Christ has already fed, and behind them the noise of a crowd of Samaritans grows louder. They are wondering, "What food is this, and why was he speaking to this lady?" and He has just begun a great harvest of souls in that region! We are told that the entire town came out to see Jesus, and many were saved! (John 4:39). Herein lies the lesson for us - Christ turns to them and says, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, 'Four months more, then comes the harvest'? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together." (John 4:34-36). WHERE IS OUR FOCUS? We are no different from these disciples, the rumble of an exciting opportunity to go off to war resounds across the land. These days we run, leaving the weak and the young behind to do the productive work. We want to glory in the temporal, while Christ is working the eternal. We are putting down our tools, and taking up guns and weapons. We are encouraged to run to conferences, meetings, fly to cities to participate in an army. But friends, are we being encouraged to join a `Joel's army' which is destined to devour all before it - including our harvest, instead of reaping the harvest! And there is Christ, standing alone in the fields crying, "These fields are ripe unto the harvest, pray for labourers". Christ gently calls His disciples to `look up' from the temporal, and see the fields as he sees them -ripe and ready for bring in! Brethren where is your focus? Do you want the glory of joining Joel's army or do you want to labour with Christ in the harvest - one hand on the scythe, and one on your sword? Do you want to run off to war, or join him in the fields? Is your focus on asking him for money to pay the bills, your next meal, or eating the food most men and women know nothing about - to do the will of the Father? AN ARMY OF WORKERS I pray that we would learn to be like Nehemiah, who could work and fight at the same time. Nehemiah taught the people to work together in perfect unity, not toward division! He brought them together for the purpose of building up, not tearing down. He brought them together to restore Zion, not consume the land! But in doing so, they did have to fight. They faced constant danger of attack from the enemy outside the city gates. And so do we. They learned to, "carry their loads in such a way that each laboured on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon and each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built." (Neh 4:17). Nehemiah worked all day and night to see the kingdom established. He learned to work the harvest with one eye on the wheat and one eye on his enemy. He learned to work and fight at the same time. Where are you going Christian? What is consuming your energy right now? Are you running after the latest blessing, trying to get the most recent anointing, or are you prepared to get to work in the blazing hot sun? Are you one to run off and join the train, the band, the noise, the army gathering or will you stay and fight for the harvest? Will you join those who devour the land before them or strike at the plans of Satan to destroy the church? God is preparing a harvest, lift up your eyes and see the work it ready to be done! Behold the fields are ripe unto the harvest and the reaper is already collecting his wages.-Robert Holmes. Email:- firstname.lastname@example.org
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