Category Archives: Church

How To Build A Life-Ruining Stronghold In 4 Easy Steps

When you come into the church, there’s often a whole new language to learn. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘Christianese’ – words like redeemed, sanctified, fellowship and altar call can be commonly used, which never get a hearing outside the church community.

To help with the culture-shock, Tim Stewart has gone to the trouble of setting up a whole website called The Dictionary Of Christianese – so now you can know the difference between a testimony and a bragimony, and where the 10/40 window actually is! There’s a few beauties on this site that really made me laugh.

But despite what some people say, it’s not wrong for us to use spiritual language in the church – in fact the apostle Paul said that we are ‘explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words’ – 1 Corinthians 2:13.

But what IS important is that we understand what the words we’re saying actually mean. Otherwise we end up saying them or singing them and they’ve lost all power for us.

The Location

I came across one of those words while I was reading the Bible this morning… the word STRONGHOLD! The church spent much time in the 80’s and 90’s ‘breaking strongholds’, and it became a common theme of many of the songs written during these years. For me, when I was praying for someone and asking God that ‘strongholds would be broken’ I would see in my mind a person being set free from a spiritual prison, or having spiritual chains removed from their lives.

But these days I’ve come to the realisation that although the sentiment and picture wasn’t wrong – maybe the LOCATION of the stronghold was something that I missed. Maybe it wasn’t so much around their body, as much as around their MIND.

The Progression

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention [lofty thought] that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

This is an upside-down passage. What I mean by that that instead of starting with something small and zooming out to something big… it starts with the big thing, and zooms in to the root cause. When you look you see four things:

1) Strongholds ….which come from
2) Arguments ….which come from
3) Lofty thoughts against God’s knowledge …. which come from
4) Our thoughts

So we can see that strongholds are literally ‘strong holds’ on our life which have their origin in unchecked thoughts which don’t line up with what God is saying about Himself, the universe and our lives.

How To Make Your Own Stronghold At Home!

Let me show you how to make your very own stronghold at home, in four easy moves!

1) Have a thought
This part is pretty easy. In life, a few people ‘think’ but pretty much everyone has ‘thoughts’. But in order to make a really good stronghold, ensure that your thought is about something important – like what you are on earth for, who you are as a person, what your future is going to hold, or what God is like.

2) Have a really good thought
The next step to building your own stronghold is to have an epiphany – a ‘Eureka’ moment. It’s a really good thought – a ‘lofty idea’ that stands out amongst the rest of your thoughts. The kind of thought you share with others when you’re sitting around the barbecue or hanging out with mates.

What is CRITICAL at this point though, in order to make a really good stronghold, is that you DO NOT check that thought against the Bible! Otherwise you’ll realise that it’s a lie, take it captive, and your stronghold will crumble.

3) Build an argument
Having now created the basis of your stronghold with a great idea, you now need to strengthen it with an argument. The Greek word used here is ‘logismos’ – you want to use logic and reasoning here to demonstrate why your idea stands up.

To get a solid stronghold, you also need to think about actions that go along with your arguments. If you’ve constructed the first part well, then the actions will come pretty naturally.

4) Complete the stronghold
Another word used in the Bible for stronghold is ‘fortress’. Having started with your great idea, and built your arguments and reasoning around it, you now need to protect the idea like a fortress against anyone who may see things differently. The Greek word used for ‘fortress’ is pretty close to the word used for ‘lots of people’, so you’ll want to find others who agree with you. Together you can stand strong and mock those who disagree with you.

Congratulations… your stronghold is now complete!

The Scary Reality

Maybe you’ve noticed something as you’ve been reading. Perhaps you can see actions that you’ve done yourself in the list above. The truth is that every single human has strongholds built around what they believe. This is why it’s a struggle sometimes for people to come to Christ… in order to receive Him they have to dismantle a lot of what they formerly built.

But what I hope will be a little more of an awakening is just how important it is that we do what Scripture says and ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’. If we allow stray thoughts that are at odds with what God says about Himself, the universe and our lives to start to take root and grow in our mind… the eventual destination is a stronghold.

The Good News

But the good news is this – we’ve been given divine power for the demolishing of strongholds! We can, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God together, set people free from strongholds of the mind that are ruining and wrecking their lives.

One of the most powerful ways we can experience life transformation is to be ‘transformed by the renewing of [our minds]’, – which means that as we start to think differently, we live differently.

So let the combined power of God’s Word and His Spirit into your thought process – and you’ll find that instead of ending up with strongholds in your life against God,you’ll be like the person who built their house on the rock. The storms will come and you won’t be shaken – standing firm in the promise and the knowledge of God!

The Call Of A Minister

“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.” – 2 Chronicles 29:11

Been really struck recently about how EVERY Christian is called to be a leader, a minister – ‘Senior Pastor’ of their world.  It’s a mindset change that is necessary for the people of God to get out of child mode and into maturity mode!

A few notes out of this verse:

* Ministers stand before God. They hang around him and are ready to do His bidding at a moments notice.  They live as servants firstly of God.  They belong to Him.

* Ministers minister to God.  Not for Him but TO Him.  His pleasure and delight is the focus of their ministry.  They give their devotion and affection to the Lord.

* Ministers minister with a sense of God’s closeness.  They minister ‘before Him’ – although their ministry may be to people, their eyes are firmly fixed on God.  They live for the applause of One.

* Ministers burn incense continually.  Incense speaks of prayer.  They live with a continual connection with God.  There is always a sweet fragrance coming off their lives.

The Call Of A Prophet

In 1 Kings 13 there’s this strange little story about a prophet who goes to Bethel to speak against the altar that Jeroboam had set up there.  On the surface it seems like a bit of a weird account – but there’s some insights in it as to how we follow the call of God, and how we treat those who have made mistakes in their ministry.

1 Kings 13:1-32 (NIV)
1 By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering.
2 He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD: “O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.'”
3 That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the LORD has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.”
4 When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back.
5 Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD.
6 Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the LORD your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.

There is no doubt this man is a prophet – he has spoken out against the idols and altars that Jeroboam has set up, and his word immediately comes to pass.  This would have been a very clear sign to the king that God wasn’t into what he was doing.

7 The king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.”
8 But the man of God answered the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here.
9 For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'”
10 So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.

This prophet not only had a message from God, but he had a METHOD that God had given Him concerning that message.  He was not to eat or drink in the land, and he was to return by a different route.  When it comes to us walking in our ministries – it’s not just our message that’s important, but it’s also those things that we feel like God has told us to do or not to do as we bring that message.  There are things that God drops into our hearts and consciences – and these things are of vital importance as we will see.

11 Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king.
12 Their father asked them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken.
13 So he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it
14 and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” “I am,” he replied.
15 So the prophet said to him, “Come home with me and eat.”
16 The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.
17 I have been told by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.'”
18 The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.'” (But he was lying to him.)

19 So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.

So the prophet  again tells this other prophet about his call.  But this is interesting – the old prophet says an angel has told me something different.  And based on this he manages to turn the young prophet away from his call.  The key here is that the word from a visible angel should never be greater than the word of our invisible God.  Paul said to the Galatians to hold fast to what they had originally received from God ‘even if an angel should bring you a message that is different to what we have brought you’.  In God’s word alone is the protection for us as we walk out the ministry he has called us to.

So the young prophet goes home with the old prophet, and eats and drinks – and then the old prophet declares that the young prophet will be judged from turning away from God’s word.  I think it’s important at this point to move around questions such as ‘would God really send a prophet to try to take down another prophet?’ – and look at what happens next.

24 As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was thrown down on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.

The young prophet ends up being killed by a lion – but the lion doesn’t eat his body, nor does it attack the donkey with him.  It simply stands next to the body, which is highly unusual for a lion.  It’s a sign to everyone around that something is happening here which is from the hand of God.

The point which I want to make out of this part is that if the young prophet had ignored the lying voice of the old prophet, and stayed true to what God had originally sent him to do – he wouldn’t have been killed by the lion.  In the same way there are those who are called by God into particular ministries, and this needs to be a sharp reminder to us all that we have to take God’s METHODS that He’s given us seriously.  They may just save our lives and ministries!

26 When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God who defied the word of the LORD. The LORD has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the LORD had warned him.”
27 The prophet said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me,” and they did so.
28 Then he went out and found the body thrown down on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey.
29 So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him.
30 Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, “Oh, my brother!”
31 After burying him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones.
32 For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.”

This final part of the story gives us some insights on how to deal with those who have ‘fallen’ in ministry.  I’ve been aware over the years of people burning the books and resources of those who have made mistakes in their ministry with God – as if because of one mistake they’d made, suddenly all the good things they’d done were tainted.

But the old prophet HONOURS the young prophet.  He says that his words will certainly come to pass.  He asks for his body to be buried with him.  In the same way, there will be times that there are messengers from God who bring a prophesy or a revelation back to the body of Christ – and then make a major mistake that costs them their ministry.  While we don’t condone the sin that has taken place – it’s also important that we remember and honour what God did through them when they DID obey what He was calling them to.

Leaving Our Position

Joshua 3:3 (NIV)
3 giving orders to the people: "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it.

When the Lord starts to move, the people were to leave their positions and follow Him. 

It can be easy to start to find our identity in our position rather than as a follower of Christ.  But when God starts to move, we have to leave behind the familiarity of the position we have known and grown accustomed to so that we can keep pace with him.  It’s not ultimately about our position, it’s about being a follower. 

Unity In Worship

2 Chronicles 5:13 – “it happened, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord […] that then the house was filled with a cloud”

Note that the trumpeters and singers were as one, making one sound to be heard in praise and worship.  Unity in worship that builds on unity in the leadership prepares a house for a move of God. 

There are some natural differences between singers and musicians on a worship team.  But when they come together as one – God responds in awesome ways!