STRONGHOLDS, THE WAY TO OVERCOME THEM

In the Bible, when Israel entered Canaan land, the first city they won a victory over was Jericho. The second one they went against was Ai but were defeated because of sin in the camp. Once Joshua and the people had repented of it and had cleansed themselves, God enabled them to overcome Ai.

God gave them a battle plan to overcome it by setting an ambush. Joshua killed all its inhabitants and its king, taking only the plunder and livestock for themselves, then set fire to the city, leaving it in ruins, just as God instructed them to. You can read an account of this incident in chapter 7 and 8 of the book of Joshua.

Ai was not just another town to overcome, but a place of defeat and shame for Israel because they disobeyed God. It was, therefore, imperative for Joshua and Israel to drastically deal with it, destroying it completely to strike fear in the hearts of all the inhabitants of Canaan who were watching these events. We read in chapter 9 that this did strike so much fear in the hearts of the kings around that they ganged up together to fight against Israel and in the battle that followed, were soundly defeated.

Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus warns them to put on the whole armour of God since our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness in heavenly places. Our enemies today are not physical, but those that war against the soul and hold us captive by influencing our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle in ch 10 tells the church that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (not physical), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.

Strongholds are imaginations and high thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, resulting in unbelief and birthing rebellion against His rulership and authority in our lives.

The way Joshua dealt with the stronghold of Ai gives us clues and pointers as to how to deal with strongholds today.

Strongholds come when we allow wrong patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour to crystallize in our lives. Strongholds begin when we allow Satan, self and sin to gain a toehold in us. From being a toehold it progresses to a foothold, a threshold, an anchor-hold (rooted in you), becomes a household (part of you), then a stranglehold (doesn’t let go) and finally a stronghold (holds you captive).

Strongholds develop over some time and can be acquired by genetic transfer, genealogical download, from our wrong thought processes, from rebellious orientations and stubborn natures. If we have to truly be set free and enjoy the fullness of the abundant life Jesus promised, we must deal with strongholds and destroy them.

How do you destroy strongholds and overcome deep-seated bondages? You destroy them by a truth encounter and a Spirit encounter.

Truth encounter is when you are confronted by the Word of God and you allow it to work in your heart and life. In John 8 we read of Jesus declaring that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and in John 17:17 that His word is truth. Heb 4:12 tells us that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it can judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Since strongholds are found in the inner being of thoughts and intents, only the Word of God can penetrate deep enough to destroy them.

However, truth encounter can set us free from strongholds, if and only if we are humble enough to accept and acknowledge the diagnosis of sin and wrongdoing that the Word brings to us, irrespective of who brings it and no matter how it comes. When our hearts are tender and pliable, we will hear and accept the truth even from a child or a donkey (Balaam) or by hearing a cock crow (Peter)!

Acceptance of the truth about ourselves will lead us to humble ourselves and repent. Once we repent, we are in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, making us whole. Strongholds need the truth of the Word of God to be demolished and destroyed!

Spirit encounter happens when the power of God is present to heal and deliver us from all bondages. That is why we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the infilling of the Spirit, nor just once, but constantly in our lives. The Bible says that where the Spirit of God is there is liberty because the veil over the mind is then removed by His presence and there are openness and sensitivity to His word (II Cor 3). Hence, being filled with and being full of the Spirit and power is a mandatory need for being set free from strongholds.

If the Spirit of God is to deliver and set us free, we need to allow Him to heal our inner wounds and hurts. People may have wronged us, done evil against us or even robbed us of our opportunities and prosperity. We need to forgive each and everyone unconditionally, just as Christ has forgiven us, irrespective of what they may have done. Harbouring bitterness, malice and unforgiveness are key factors in developing strongholds in our lives.


To live a life free of strongholds, we need to:

Walk in the light as He is the light, being sensitive and responsive to His word
Renew our minds and calibrate it to the principles and precepts in the Word of God
Avoid nurturing hard feelings and wrong emotions, but allowing inner healing to happen
Forgive, let go of hurts and all kinds of negativity
Work in the habit of reconciliation, restitution and restoration, always taking care to be led by and yielded to the Holy Spirit
Grow in the knowledge of the Lord and the power of His might to deliver as well as protect us from all else
Be strong and convinced about God’s love, certain that He is always for you, never against you!

It is very important for us to be aware, identify and confront strongholds, taking care to see that they are utterly dismantled. Just as Joshua completely ruined Ai, even so, we must root out every last bit of stronghold and ensure we have removed any vestige or remnant of it. The reason for this is that if there is a root left behind, it will be easy for the stronghold to rise again to rule the roost. A vulnerability and weakness remains embedded and hidden in, giving a handle for the enemy to use it to enslave.

Every disciple and believer of Christ can themselves identify and destroy strongholds when they are yielded to the Spirit of God and sensitive to the Word of God. When you are encountering or being confronted or convicted by both, just bow down and accept humbly. Allow the Word of God to wash you and the Spirit of God to empower you with His healing anointing.

Both encounters can come to you through various circumstances and people. If you reject the message because of the messenger, you are the one who will lose out. Happy is the one who is open and sensitive to take correction and admonition even from a child, for God can use even the least to bring deliverance!

If you find certain strongholds too much for you to handle, request the help of godly strong mentors and leaders who are older and wiser than you. Don’t hesitate to open up to them, but live and walk in accountability to them, always. Do not seek help from peers, but seek out the help of mature and understanding elder men and women who themselves are walking in Spirit and in truth.

Be part of a small group and grow in relationship with the people of God. There is much protection from the forces of darkness and deliverance from inward bondages when you are actively part of a community of faith.

Do not give place nor a foothold to the devil, Eph 4:27

Strongholds are dangerous to cultivate, foster and maintain for they give room for the devil to have a place in our lives. Root them out asap, even though letting go is hard. It will be harder when you allow a stronghold take root in you, for then you are building an arsenal for the enemy to use against you!

Imitate Christ Who boldly but surely declared that the prince of this world had no hold over Him (John 14:30)!

*Pics courtesy Google Images

HAVE YOU EVER CAMPED AT GILGAL?

In the Bible, when Israel crossed over into Canaan, after the parting of the waters of Jordan, the first place they camp is at Gilgal. At Gilgal, God asks Joshua to do something significant – circumcise all the men since they hadn’t done it during the forty years of their desert wandering. God then pronounces over them a declaration viz. that He has rolled away the reproach of Egypt from them that day. The name Gilgal means the place where reproach was removed.

Circumcision was given by the Lord to the patriarch Abraham and his generations as physical evidence and sign of His covenant with them. All male members of Israel had to bear this in their flesh as a mark of their commitment to follow Him and obey His laws as partners of the covenant. Circumcising, the removing of the foreskin, was the outward symbolic act of an inward relationship with God, to be His people and live according to His precepts.

For Israel, Gilgal event was significant as it:
Reconnected them to their heritage and their history carved out by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Renewed their allegiance to God in the moment of setting foot on the land promised so long ago to their forefather Abraham.
Reinstated them as a people and a nation rather than just a rabble who came out of nowhere.
Restored them to their own land from which they had been forced to migrate four hundred plus years before due to widespread famine.
Removed from them the stain of being a pack of escaped or freed slaves and establishing them as an ethnic groups with their own culture.
Reinstalled them with a sense of identity so as to live with the dignity and decorum that befits those who belong the God on High.

Circumcision is not easy experience for grown-up men since it involves a stripping away, an onslaught of pain and a time of weakness induced in the body. In fact, we see in Josh 5 that they had to rest for 3 days till they healed from it. It was after this only did they go up to battle against the first city, Jericho.

Why was it important for the people to go through this important rite before the battle? Wouldn’t it have made sense to do such things after they had conquered the whole land and really settled in peace once for all?

It was important to do this before even the first fight because they had to be strong in who they were and what were their roots. The kings of the land feared them, but unless the men of war had their identity in place, they wouldn’t be able to do what they had to do. Their identity was wrapped up in their relationship with God. They had to have no lingering thought of their past slavery. They needed to hold their heads up high, not just as a free people, but as a people who belonged to the God of all the earth. They had to have it branded in them that they were those whom He had claimed as His own by a strong hand and an outstretched arm !

Jericho was not the only city they had to face, but it was the first one they had to overcome. This was just the beginning of battles, which would continue on for a long time until they possessed the whole land. Jericho was also a walled city, a strong fortress and a defenced city. It was the gateway of Canaan and so conquering it would be key to ensuring victory through all the land.

Therefore, not only did they have to be strengthened in their identity, but they also had to be totally convinced about and in the power of their God. They had to stand tall based on their standing with God and draw their power from a relationship with Him. They had to be strong not in themselves but in the power and might of Him Who carried them on wings of eagles to their promised land!

They had to be reminded that without Him they were nothing, but with Him they would be victorious. Where their fathers ran away in fear, they had to be bold and strong in God and His might. They had to be reminded strongly of their ties with Him and the promise He gave that He would fight their battles. He was their backup, their strength and shield!

If they didn’t have this overview and orientation, they wouldn’t be able to do all that He commanded them to do. The battle strategy in Jericho would have baffled anyone if they didn’t have the vision of God and a connection with Him. They had to be rooted, grounded and established in their realization of Who their God was and who they were in Him!

That’s why Gilgal, where they were stripped of the old stain on them and branded by His mark, was of utmost necessity, an important milestone and the first event in the life of the nation of Israel.

What does Gilgal have to do with us today? What does it signify and mean for us today?

We who have been washed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and set free from the bondage to Satan, have to come to Gilgal, not just once, but often in our lives to be circumcised. Both the Old and New Testaments instruct us that we need to circumcise our hearts.

The book of Deuteronomy gives us the answer as to why we need to circumcise our hearts: Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Deut 30:6.

You need to time and again have Gilgal in your life so as to fulfill the first commandment – to be able to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

You need to come to Gilgal often so that you have a heart of flesh and not of stone, so that God can write His laws on your heart and mind according to the new covenant (Heb 8).

Apostle Paul declares that by baptism a circumcision done not by hands has put off the self ruled by flesh from us. In Col 2:11‭-‬12, he writes When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. NLT

This initial circumcision cuts off the umbilical cord of our connection with the Adamic heritage of sin we have acquired as mankind, cleaving away the source of our sin from us and reattaching us to the original source of our existence, God. However, this initial cutting off is just thr beginning and needs to be followed up by a constant shutting off from sin and continued connection with our Creator, if we have to be His offspring in reality.

Circumcision involves peeling back the foreskin and even so our hearts need to be divested of the hardness that constantly sets in due to unbelief, resistance, rebellion and sin. Only a heart if flesh would enable us to walk constantly in obedience to Him and His commandments.

Gilgal is inevitable and important, both for transformation and conquest of this world for God.

Strongholds cannot be conquered without first stopping at Gilgal. Gilgal has to come before Jericho can be vanquished!

Have you camped at Gilgal? Have you known a stripping away of stiffness and hardness? Have you known the pain of putting away the flesh?

Gilgal is needed if the reproach and guilt of your past is still dogging you. Gilgal must be part of your life if you still haven’t been clothed with your new identity in Christ.

Camping at Gilgal is often needed in order to remind us of who we are in Christ and God!

Have you had Gilgal in your life?

*Pics courtesy: Google images

STATELESSNESS, THE DEFAULT STATE & STATUS OF CHRISTIANS?

A couple of days ago my daughter, who is a professor of law, had shared with us her recent lecture topic: Reduction of Statelessness in South Asia. It set me thinking about the issue of statelessness and its implications.

The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country.

A stateless person is someone who, under national laws, does not enjoy citizenship – the legal bond between a government and an individual – in any country. In simple terms, a stateless person doesn’t have a belonginess or a sense of being part of a people. They do not belong anywhere and nobody has a care over or for them, by legal right or otherwise.

Being part of a community bestows identity as well as a sense of well-being because of the awareness of being part of a bigger whole. When some event happens, let’s say a disaster, then there is solace in knowing that we are not alone. There is comfort in knowing that we are all sailing in the same boat and others are working to help us.

This is why refugees so desperately seek to have citizenship status, so that they can become part and parcel of a country. They look for the care and concern that comes from being part of a nation. They seek the covering that comes from being part of a people. They yearn for the fellowship and friendship that comes from belonging to a community. They want a life that is solid and established instead of living on the margin of it.

Citizenship confers identity and recognition as people who have rights and legal standing. They are no longer nameless or lumped together as refugees, but exist in a sovereign state where they can carve out a life for themselves. Citizenship gives them security and settlement so that they are no longer aliens or wanderers.

In the Bible, Israel was birthed as a nation when they were delivered from bondage out of Eygpt and received God’s laws at Sinai. They became an acknowledged and accepted sovereign state only when they settled down and were established in a land. They were constituted as a nation and acquired an identity as a people only when they were rooted in a place and belonged to it.

Ancient India was made up of a number of disjointed states and kingdoms, becoming a united nation only after independence. A common flag, a code of conduct and a declaration provided statehood. Being a nation or state brings unity and imparts a sense of belonging and identity as a community.

Being part of a community and to savor the privileges of belonging is an essential need of the human psyche. Human beings need companionship, to belong and be together with others. One of the tenets and traits of the postmodern era is the need to be part of a group. That’s why, more than ever before, people are willing to adopt all sorts of behaviour or habits just to be ‘part of the crowd.’

In Eph 2:19-20 we read that: Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In I Cor we read that we have all been baptized to become one body, one people and one community.

The scriptures is clear that all who believe and call on the name of Jesus have been amalgamated into one new humanity, beyond the trappings and confining of caste, creed, color etc. As believers, we have an identity as the people of God living on this earth as the representatives and witnesses of heaven, bonding to live life together as His family and His household. The Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened so as to grasp the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people.

However, many who are born again and baptized in Christ live as aliens, full of an orphan spirit. They move around without no sense of identity since they lack community comprehension. They have no consciousness of the fellowship that comes with being a disciple of Christ. They wander around as refugees, feeling alienated and left out in this world.

The reason for this is two-fold: Either they are ignorant of the fact because they have not been taught of what they inherited in Christ; or they have rejected the fellowship of the saints since it involves responsibility and accountability . The former can be realigned and restored by proper teaching, but the latter are to be pitied since they have no understanding of the riches that identification with a community of faith brings.

Every one who is born of God must live as the beloved Sons and Daughters of the Most High. They need to have an understanding of the family they are part of and the entitlement that comes with bearing His Name.

Unfortunately, many are yet to grasp that they are citizens of the Kingdom of God, the apple of His eye and the people of His love. They are yet to recognise and realize their rights in Christ, the freedom that is their birthright and the authority that is theirs in Christ. They live as orphans, outcasts and ostracized, not as those who are the hope of the whole world.

Statelessness is real in His Church and among His people. Many a person in His Body walks around with the wounds of being aliens and castaways. Being aware of the need for a community of faith is core to living a purposeful life on earth. Being identified with a local family of God will purge the sense of lostness and abandonment in these times. Being committed and dedicated to the Body of Christ, the church of the Living God is of utmost importance in all seasons and turns of life.

Many people of God die, as Sir Walter Scott says (in his poem Breathes there a Man with soul so dead), Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung, because they are stateless ie, not part of a local community of faith or the church of the Lord, sometimes by ignorance but often by choice!

*Pics courtesy google images