[In Part 1 we dealt with clearing the rock of DECEPTIVE IDOLATRY to pave the way for God’s arrival]
“Thunder in the desert! ‘Prepare for GOD’S arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God. Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, Smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks. Then GOD’S bright glory will shine and everyone will see it. Yes. Just as GOD has said!'” [Isaiah 40:3-5/MSG]
 THE ‘ROCK’ OF UNHOLY ALLIANCES… [INCLUDING EVIL SUPERNATURALISM]
Despite many loving warnings from the LORD, Israel persisted in unsavoury alliances with pagan nations and the dark powers of this world: a few examples…
(1) King Saul’s consultation with the medium at Endor (1 Sam. 28:3ff). 
(2) ‘Wise’ King Solomon who, despite his professed love for YAHWEH, made a marriage alliance with Pharoah’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1ff).
(3) Israel’s fickle alliance with the King of Samaria (Hos. 10:1-6).
(4) Israel’s impulsive reliance on Egypt: ‘Oh, rebellious children, says the LORD, who carry out a plan, but not mine; who make an alliance, but against my will, adding sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking my counsel, to take refuges in the protection of Pharoah, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt’ (Isaiah 30:1ff/NRSV).
Now contrast this with the one true Israelite, Jesus…
(1) Mark’s Gospel-story opens with Jesus confronting an ‘unclean spirit’ in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mk. 1:21ff). Do demons attend church services? – O yeh!
(2) In his ministry tour of beautiful Galilee, Jesus (repeatedly) confronted the ugly powers of darkness head-on (Mk. 1:32ff).
(3) In all four Gospel accounts, our Lord challenged the clergy’s unholy alliances with legalism, traditionalism and even the devil himself: ‘Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth… he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!’ (Jn. 8:39ff/43-45/NRSV).
The apostles did like the Master, in their practice and teaching. Paul exhorted the saints to avoid any alliance with the unholy trinity of ‘the world, the flesh and the devil:’ “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God has said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from among them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’ Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1/NRSV):
(1) Thus Paul called the Ephesian congregation to live as children of light rather than of darkness: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold...’ (Eph. 4:25-28/NIV).
(2) Similarly he warned the Corinthian church: ‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 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 pretension against that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:3-5/NIV). Paul was here exposing the false claims of certain ‘smart alec’ and power-hungry ‘super-apostles,’ who were resorting to psychic and occultic powers (anything new under the sun?) in their ministry ambitions. He warned the Church never to underestimate ‘the entrenched power of unbelief and pride in the human mind. Only the right weapons will subdue and capture this proud fortified rebel who places himself over God; those right weapons are the words of the gospel… preaching fails at its most critical point if it does not on every occasion bring the claims of the lordship of Christ and his saving power into clearest focus!’ (Dr. Paul Barnett/‘The Message of 2 Corinthians’)
Indonesian revivalist Mel Tari compared the Church to a very powerful motor-boat, unable to move because it’s tied to a strong tree on the river-bank! Pretty much explains things…
[On the subject of ‘deliverance from occult powers,’ see footnote  below]
 THE ‘ROCK’ OF SINFUL UNBELIEF…
This would of course include general ‘unbelief’ toward GOD and his promises in Christ: Rom. 11:17-24 (The Remnant of Israel); Heb. 3:7-19 (Warning Against Unbelief); etc.
Here I want to zero in on believers’ unbelief regarding the promised gift of THE HOLY SPIRIT. In recent blogs I’ve shared about my late 1980’s personal quest for ‘more of God.’ While holidaying on the beautiful Southern Cape coast, I took time out to read and pray through Dr. Andrew Murray’s ‘The Believer’s Full Blessing of Pentecost.’ On completion, I got down on my knees, and in simple faith surrendered every part of me, and my ministry, to King Jesus. That childlike prayer for the Holy Spirit’s anointing and fruitfulness became a watershed-moment in my subsequent ministry and preaching.
Every leader will tell you it’s all too easy to default to self-reliance and self-effort as the years go by! I consider Gal. 3:10-14 (Faith or Observance of the Law?) a key-scripture in helping us avoid that pitfall (i.e. of the ‘gospel of trying harder’): “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, ‘Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through FAITH.” (NRSV) (cf. NRSV’s sturdier translation of Gal. 2:20, ‘I live by the faith OF the Son of God’ (N.T. Wright et al). You see, it’s not a ‘striving faith’ but rather ‘a resting faith!’ Mel Tari compares this ‘resting faith’ with sitting down in a sturdy chair, allowing ourselves to fully relax and rest. Sweet!
Two encouragements for all those faithful saints who at times despair of today’s Church and world.
(1) One of our house church members shared with me the insight of Baptist preacher and essayist F.W. Boreham in his article ‘The Candle and the Bird.’ He wrote it for those times when the maintenance of the Christian life and evangelistic testimony seem very difficult, if not impossible. He suggested that such times are not the snuffing out of a candle, but the frightening away of a bird…
The distinction is vital…
If you extinguish a candle, the act is final: you plunge the room into darkness. But if you startle a bird, the gentle creature flies away and sings its lovely song upon some other bough. Think of the apostles when the Antiochian Jews refused them a hearing – they took the Good News to the receptive Gentiles (Acts 13:44ff). Consider that on the very day (11th November 1793) the French mob tore the Cross from the Notre Dame in Paris, William Carey landed in India and claimed the continent for his Saviour. A contemporary example: while the above-ground, largely persecution-less Church is declining in the West, the persecuted underground Church is thriving in places like China, Iran and North Africa.
(2) Listen to the prophet again in chap. 40 as he focuses our attention on the Creator of all:“‘So – who is like me? Who holds a candle to me?’ says The Holy. Look at the night skies: who do you think made all this? Who marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name – so magnificent! so powerful! – and never overlooks a single one.Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or whine Israel, saying, ‘GOD has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me?’ Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? GOD doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath (dear me, every time I go for a walk… lol). And he knows everything, inside out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall (look around you). But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind!” (v. 25-31/ MSG).
 In taking the kingdom message to the squatter camps of our metro, I’ve often encountered witchcraft spirits manifesting during teaching and prayer. I didn’t go looking for these things – they came looking for me. Which is common in Africa – and I’ve ministered in Africa quite widely. If you read the books of AE’s Dr. Michael Cassidy, he refers to many such face-to-face encounters with witchcraft and ‘evil supernaturalism’ while conducting evangelistic city-missions in the ‘sophisticated’ cities of Africa. [I recall being confronted by an extremely powerful demon in the middle-class congregation I pastored years ago. A young man approached us for help. He and some cronies had pursued Neo-naziism for some years. When praying over him, he took on the behaviour of a snarling, salivating Nordic wolf-hound, trying to kill us. This demon threw him against walls with such force that his head was covered in blood. After many months of counsel and prayer, he was finally set free].
 In the 1990’s, Dr. Ed F. Murphy visited our city to address a pastors’ seminar on ‘spiritual warfare.’ It had a huge effect on those attending, including myself. His handbook Spiritual Warfare is still recognized as one of the most thorough treatments of this controversial subject, building on solid biblical and theological foundations. Others who have written helpfully on this subject include Dr. Kurt Koch, Dr. Merrill Unger and Mark Bubeck [many today agree that Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs and others took spiritual warfare too far some years ago in calling for the overthrowing of national ‘territorial spirits’ via highly specialized prayer-walking tactics when a simple, biblical Gospel-proclamation would have done the trick]. In all these things we must never succumb to over-introspection. Robert Murray M’Cheyne warned long ago that for every one look at sin we should take ten at Christ. My Scottish College Principal used to say that a healthy person doesn’t walk around with a thermometer in his/her mouth all day long!
I leave you with Robin Mark’s inspiring ‘DAYS OF ELIJAH’