The scripture tells us we have spiritual weapons at our disposal that are “mighty for the destruction of strongholds.” (2 Co. 10:4) Yesterday The Barn live-steamed our Sunday morning service to many in the church who gathered in home groups or watched by themselves. The quality of our live-streaming has been much improved since we upgraded our equipment. The Lord blessed, and those of us on the worship team and staff who participated live had fun doing this “new thing.” We plan to do the same this coming Sunday and every other Sunday morning from 10 AM to noon until the large group gathering limitation is no longer in effect. Check out www.thebarnvineyard.com and follow the prompts to the live-stream section if you want to see yesterday’s service or dial in on subsequent Sundays.
I taught on The Key to Operationalizing Psalm 91. I’ve include my notes in a file if you want to check them out and use the scriptures quoted as declaration material.
I want to make a couple of points to further prepare us to confront and overcome this modern “pestilence” called the new coronavirus.
First, I want to introduce us all to a form of spiritual weapon against this demonically inspired enemy COVID-19. And second, I want to encourage us all to honor one another’s “measure of faith” as to how each of us chooses to adjust our behavior in light of the possible spread of the disease.
Our Spiritual Attack Against COVID-19
It is true that “life and death are in the power of the tongue.” When we use this scripture in teaching, we focus on using our words to release life and to not release death. And of course this is a proper focus most of the time. But have we ever considered that releasing death might not always be a bad thing? While doing so should certainly be avoided when speech is directed toward fellow human beings, I think we need to see that our “speaking death” in the right context might very well be another of our spiritual weapons. We all know the scriptural narrative where Jesus curses the non-fruit-bearing fig tree on His way to Jerusalem (housing the non-fruit-bearing temple Jesus will also soon curse). And of course the fig tree dies from the roots up. What happened here is that Jesus “spoke death” to the fig tree (a living organism) and the spiritual power of His words destroyed it. While we are forbidden to curse humans (“bless and curse not”), we can follow the example of Jesus and curse evil “things” in Jesus name (subject to our appropriate realm of authority of course—the earthly, not the heavenlies). I believe therefore that we can “curse” COVID-19 (a living organism) as it attempts to touch us here at The Barn. We can declare that this “perilous pestilence” must die. In Jesus name I believe that we can curse its existence and work among Barn members. To me this is a powerful form of the “binding” (forbidding) authority in Matthew 18 that followers of Jesus are given in His name. So if you are comfortable doing so, let’s focus our prayers together to curse COVID-19 even as Jesus cursed the fig tree.
And let’s continue to proclaim daily the protective truths of Psalm 91 as well as maintaining the many ways we can “dwell” in the shelter of the Most High God (see teaching note).
Honoring the Measure of Faith Each of Us Has
Second, my journey walking through adjusting our Sunday morning meeting because of the conoravirus has been instructive. (This was a decision made by Lynn and me in email consultation with our church elders.) It has shown me that in this, as in so many areas of Christian life, good-hearted believers have often very different faith-level responses as to how they should behave (and how others should behave). For example, most members of The Barn expressed support for leadership’s decision to cancel yesterday’s service, even before we said we would go with live-streaming a no-audience-present service from 10 AM-Noon. The CDC-recommended precautions such as either not meeting together at all or meeting but not shaking hands or hanging out closer than 6 ft. from someone were seen by these Christians as wise steps to take so as to not get the disease and to help to stop its spread. But at least one Barn member disagreed with this view very, very strongly, arguing that to adjust church life in any way was a major concession to the devil. That in fact, what The Barn should do was to open our doors wide and be a source of light and spiritual help to all in our community who needed it. (Now under crisis circumstances not involving a highly contagious disease, I think this action would be perfectly appropriate if the Lord led it.)
These two views indicate that two decidedly different “measures of faith” were in operation. Using an analogy we are familiar with, the first view is very similar to the sick person who believes that God can heal but also utilizes other kinds of therapies in the process of receiving healing (including those involving wise lifestyle practices like eating well, taking vitamins/supplements, exercising, managing anger, stopping smoking, eliminating anxiety, etc.) That person’s faith is such that he has been fully persuaded to trust God for healing through His virtue released; yet he is also fully persuaded that he can prayerfully accept other forms of healing therapy that common wisdom dictate are sound ways to be healed. On the other hand, the one who felt that no “wisdom of man” means should be adopted to slow or stop the spread of the virus when it comes to “having church” is revealing a high level of faith that God alone will fully protect all who attended Sunday morning meetings at The Barn. Period. Nothing else required. Using our analogy, this person would refuse all humanly generated medical treatment when sick because he believes God is fully sufficient to provide healing through divine healing only.
Let me add the thought that the second person in our analogy is not without merit in his position. I admire persons of great faith. John G. Lake, during a massive plague (infectious disease) that swept through South Africa in the early 20-th century, took teams of men into infected cities to carry out the still living and to bury the dead. He and his teams entered the disease “zone” when others would not because they had strong faith that God alone was their protection, and that His protection was enough. None of them were touched by the plague. Similarly, some time ago a prophet who related to The Barn in our past, Harold Eberle, took a number of us into Kenya and Uganda to minister with him there. Part of our preparation involved getting a regimen of shots to protect us against diseases rampant in Africa. When I asked Harold if he had gotten his shots (as we all had done), he sheepishly replied, “No.” I asked why he hadn’t since we were leaving soon, and he said that he never gets the shots because he trusts God to protect him fully while he ministered in Africa. And he never got sick. That is great faith in action.
Such men like John Lake and Harold Eberle are to be commended for their strong faith in the presence of contagious disease. But not all in the historic church have been at that place of strong faith. For example, Paul tells the church clearly in Romans 14: 1-6 that those among them who were strong in faith must never judge or distain those whose faith is not as strong as theirs is. (The context here involves food laws and observing holy days, but the spiritual principle is the same as we are discussing.) Instead, there must be mutual honor given to and by those who held different views. There is no sin involved, explains Paul, in having and walking in different measures of faith. Sin occurs when one “side” rails against and condemns the other “side” for not thinking or behaving exactly as they do. We at The Barn take these scriptures very seriously. We are committed to walking in this kind of mutual honoring.
Modern controversies are among us now like ancient controversies were among the Roman church Paul addressed. While we don’t fight each other over when to celebrate a specified holy day, as was happening among the Roman Christians, we could easily fight other over other matters. We could quickly contend with other over political allegiances, the pros or cons of vaccines, appropriate kinds of sexuality for Christians, or the place of Christian women in church leadership—to list only a few among many. But we have chosen not to be hostile, argumentative, or divisive over these issues. (The church has definite positions on some of these areas of controversy, but no position on others (like vaccines); yet in all of them, we ask our members to honor those whose positions do not match theirs. And above all, we ask all to be in unity around the greatest confession of the Christian church: Jesus Christ is Lord!) As Paul says, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls…” (v.4). And “Why do you judge your brother? Or why to you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (v.10) Paul concludes: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather decide this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” The upshot of Paul’s counsel was not that one side is correct and the other incorrect, but that each Roman Christian must “be fully persuaded in his own mind” and should respect each other’s right to this full persuasion (even though to them it is error). The real problem were the two wrong attitudes that were being expressed against those who disagree with each other. One side “judged,” and the other side “condemned” because both did not hold precisely the same beliefs. (This is not essential doctrine Paul is talking about, remember. In doctrines essential to being truly saved—and these revolve mainly around the identity and work of Jesus Christ–there must be unity.)
I need to honor (not judge or condemn) the strong and brave faith of the one who told The Barn leaders they were completely wrong because we cancelled Sunday’s meeting. And that person needs to honor (not judge or condemn) those who are accountable to God for how they make decisions for the good of The Barn flock. To Jesus both must answer. Opinions can differ at The Barn, certainly (and pretty much always will) but hearts must be kept in love and honor toward the brethren, asll of whom serve the same Lord. That is the way we can “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3) which, I believe, is the atmosphere God requires to manifest His presence consistently among us in His warm love and majestic power.
Blessings – Bruce
Practicing Psalm 91: Ways to Remain in God’s Protective Presence
Meaning of Ps. 91—vs. 1-16—Promises of God’s protection against all kinds of evil
Theme—.1- abiding in Him produces protection by Him
.2-.12 – divine protection from many kinds of evil—declared!
.9- abiding in Him is not automatic; our position is “made” by us – “made”—Hebrew word meaning—“to put, place, or set” – “to put or set into place” – We set Him into place as divine protection in our lives.
.13 – using our authority to take dominion over evil
.14 – messianic verse plus our position in Christ
.15-.16 – promise of divine rescue and favor, including long life (lit. length of days – 70 or 80 if strong—Ps. 90.10)
“plague” .10 – Hebrew word used to mean “something inflicted” on a body, specifically used to refer to spots of leprosy. But can generally refer to any externally imposed disease.
All kinds of evil—“snare of the fowler” “the perilous pestilence” (.3 and .6) –“an overwhelming disease that affects an entire community” – Black Plague killed 1/3 of all Europe in the Middle Ages
Other: terror by night, arrow by day (physical attack); pestilence, destruction, evil – all this “shall not come near you”
Practical Ways to “make” (set into place) the Lord our Dwelling Place—(Our Spiritual Weapons – 2 Co. 10:4—“The weapons we use to wage war are not physical, but mighty in God to destroy evil strongholds.” )
- Feed on Scripture (meditation) and Declare Its Truth –
Jesus: “My words are Spirit and life” – John 6:63
Eph. 6:17—“The Spirit’s sword—God’s word.” (spoken out) –
Examples of Biblical Proclamations:
“No weapon formed against me shall prosper” Isa. 54:17
“The evil one does not touch me.” 1 John 5:18
“No plague shall come near my dwelling.” Ps. 91:10
- Soak Contemplatively in His Presence – “Be still and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10 – Be at rest with listening eyes toward God—acknowledge Him, press into Him, “be” in Him!
- Practice “Receiving Prayer” Eph. 6:18—“Pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers”– based on His promises, it’s a “taking” His kingdom virtue, power, and protection into ourselves as ours—“Lord, I receive Your protection now!”
- Enter into Worship Regularly – Ps. 22:3—“God is enthroned on the praises of His people.” Breathe in the Atmosphere of His Presence– use CDs or streaming or whatever—be expressive—spiritual power emerges from our mouths
- Declare Often that Jesus Christ is Lord – Phil. 2: 9-11 – every knee, every tongue shall confess—Jesus Christ is Lord – SHOUT to the Lord with the voice of triump! For the Lord Most High is awesome, a great King over all the earth!” (Ps. 47:1)
- Take the Lord’s Supper Often – a means of grace and healing
- Practice a Lifestyle of Forgiveness – unforgiveness blocks the flow of God’s full grace to us – Matt. 6:15–“If you do not forgive others their sins against you, Your Father will not forgive your sins.”
- Receive Healing/Strengthening Prayer from Others – “Confess your weaknesses to one another and pray for each other to be healed.” James 5:16