August 25, 2014

Armor Mondays: Feet fitted with the Readiness of the Gospel

The last couple of weeks we have concerned ourselves with the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness.  Today we will be looking down at our feet:

... and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  Ephesians 6:15

Soldiers wear foot gear.  A foolish soldier would enter the march and the battle with bare feet!  The Christian, likewise, is foolish to engage the enemy without proper footwear.  What does Paul suggest we need to put on our feet?  He says to fit our feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

The Gospel of peace makes a Christian ready to stand firm in the battle against the spiritual forces of evil.

But what does that mean, the gospel of peace?  Well, the Gospel is the good news that despite the fact that we have turned our backs on God and can never return to Him in our own power, He loves us so much He made a way for us to return to Him, at His own cost.  Our sins needed to be atoned for so we could have a relationship with God and Jesus was that atonement!  He made him who knew know sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:21

Because of the Christ-bridge, which is crossed by faith and trust that He is the only way of forgiveness and life with God, we can know peace with God. Paul says it this way at the beginning of Romans 5,
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Reconciliation is complete!  The warring against God is over!  In Christ, you are no longer dead in your transgressions, an object of wrath, or an enemy of God.  Hallelujah!

That is the good news, the gospel, of peace.  However, by becoming a friend of God, we pick up His enemy.  Thus we find ourselves needing to be ready for battle, and God equips us well for it: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and now the blessed gospel of peace to secure our footing and to help us march far.  We do not despair or cower before our new enemy, because our present and future and even our past are safe and secure in the hands of Almighty God!

The strength for battle comes from the Lord -be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Eph 6:10  All the pieces of armor point us to Christ and point us to grace!  Strapping the Gospel of peace on our feet each day makes us ready stand firm, and it is purely a gift of God for those who believe!  (Does your jaw drop like mine does sometimes when you think of the wonder of it all?!)

Amazing Grace!

One final note before closing today.  I believe from the context of the passage, that we are to think mostly about how the Gospel enables us to stand strong in spiritual battle.  But strapping on the Gospel-boots, also readies us to open our lips to declare salvation not only to shut satan up and make him stand down, but also to invite others to know reconciliation with God.  Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, which is a great way to wrap up today's reflection.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The old has gone, the new has come; this is for all who will believe.
Have you got your shoes on so you won't forget it?*

Walk in His way.



*Alistair Begg asks a similar question in his sermon on the Armor, which you can find here.


August 19, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Breastplate of Righteousness

Welcome to this week's armor Monday - on Tuesday!  Sorry for the delay; I spent half of yesterday trying to conquer a migraine.  This week's post is about the second piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6, the breastplate of righteousness. If you missed the start of the series you can read the intro by clicking here or last week's post about the belt of truth by clicking here.


The Breastplate of Righteousness

Remember that the reason Paul draws the analogy of a Christian putting on armor like a soldier is because a battle is raging, not in the physical realm, but in the spiritual realm.  "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood," he says, "... but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  The Christian must be prepared for that kind of encounter and needs more than mere brawn to stand firm.  We need God-given armor.

Today's piece on display might be my favorite!  Without this, we really are doomed.   The breastplate is like an exoskeleton that protects all of a soldier's vital organs, front and back.  Going into battle without this piece would be beyond foolish!  So what does it mean for a Christian to put on the breastplate of righteousness?



Commentaries suggest it means two things, either being covered by Christ's righteousness or acting morally righteous.  I believe the first is of most importance for our defense, though the second cannot be ignored, because it is a byproduct of the first.

Christ's Righteousness, Our Breastplate 
The Breastplate of Righteousness is God-given righteousness through faith in Christ, i.e. THIS IS THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL!  Not only are our sins forgiven when we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, but Christ's righteousness is also given to us.  We are disrobed of our sinful identity and re-robed in Christ, or as the Bible says, the old has gone, the new has come!  We put on the breastplate by placing our faith in Christ or, one might say, by taking God at His word.  There is that amazing verse in the story of Abraham that says, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.
We put on the breastplate of righteousness by waking up in the morning and putting our faith in Jesus and His works: our sins are completely forgiven and that the Lord sees Christ's beautiful perfection when He looks at us.  No matter how we feel our righteousness in Christ does not ever change once we have placed our faith in Christ.  Theologians call this justification.  So I guess the true truth is that once we are in Christ, the breastplate is stuck on us!  See, I told you it was good news! 

The Protection of Righteous Living
The best of the best news we will ever hear is that we are made righteous in, by, and through Christ.  Trying to stand on our righteous acts alone and saying that what Paul means by putting on the breastplate of righteousness would be a hopeless proposition.  Nevertheless, John Stott points out, in his commentary on Ephesians in the series The Bible Speaks Today, So the Chrsitian's breastplate may be of righteousness of character and conduct.  For just as to cultivate 'truth' is the way to overthrow the devil's deceits, so to cultivate 'righteousness' is the way to resist temptations.  (p. 279)  Being protected by the breastplate of righteousness does not eliminate our need to also pursue righteous behavior.  I love what The New Bible Commentary says on this, even if they did completely ignore the aspect of God-given righteousness!  Paul is saying that the church's basic equipment in the spiritual battle is integrity and righteous living, and they are effective because these qualities bear the stamp of Jesus and the new creation He brings.  (p. 1243)  Being made righteous will motivate us to live righteously and even help us to do so, because we have been made new!

The battle is not easy.  The Lord knows that standing firm is impossible for us alone.  Not only do soldiers go into batter properly protected and armed, but also together.  Paul doesn't talk about that specifically in Ephesians 6, but he does talk a lot about the church other parts of the book and in other letters.  We, as individuals, need to clothe ourselves in the armor God has given and we need to spur one another on in the battle.  Remind a friend today about truth and righteousness, our call to live in them and especially how God has given them to us.


You have been made new, dear friend.  You are clothed in righteousness!

Walk in His way.

August 11, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Belt of Truth

Welcome back!  Today we will take a peek at the first piece of armor that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6, the belt of truth.

Before getting to that, a quick review of why we need this armor:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, ...
Or enemy is not human; he is the evil one, bent on destroying us.  He is, to borrow from John Stott, "powerful, wicked, and cunning."  We are up against an enemy we cannot survive or defeat without the strength of the Lord.  And the Lord provides: Himself and His power!  The armor will enable us to STAND against our enemy when evil comes.  The Jamieson Fausset Brown commentary calls standing "the grand aim."  The Lord gives us His armor and His strength to achieve "the grand aim."


The enemy is powerful, but evil.  Our God is more powerful, and good.


With that backdrop, let's take a look at the first piece of armor, the belt of truth.*

What do you think of when you hear the word belt?  I think of something that keeps my outfit together: shirt tucked in, pants up.  A belt frees me to move around with out fear of my clothes separating or falling off.  With my belt properly fastened, I can turn a cartwheel without concern!

Now, how about truth?  The first verses that came to my mind were Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life ..." and You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  Truth and Jesus are closely linked, in fact, they are One and the same.  To know Truth, we need to get to know Jesus, and the Father and the Spirit.  Having the truth of who God is tightly buckled around our "loins," as some translations state, keeps us together, standing firm and strong in Him.

A couple of commentators highlight that the belt Paul referenced was not an outer belt, but part of the under armor.  The belt would need to be put on first, before all of the hard outer armor.  I think this is important for us to note.  We need to strap the belt of truth around us first thing: the truth of who God is, the truth that we are engaged in battle this side of heaven, the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ, the truth that we are loved beyond measure by Almighty God, the truth that the Spirit lives in us, the truth that we will never be abandoned or forsaken!  I'm sure you can think of even more truth to add to this list.

Imagine standing up each morning, groggy and foggy, and thinking to yourself, Hey, I'm alive in Christ.  God loves me as His child.  He has equipped me and strengthened me for all I will encounter today.  He forgives my sin and makes me clean.  I have life, hope, joy, and peace.  Satan cannot defeat me because I belong to the Lord!

Truth, a belt to keep our thoughts tucked in and pulled up around what is true, enables us to stand firm and be strong in the Lord - the Lord who is the way, the truth, and the life.

One final word before sending you off to the week ahead of you:  The belt of truth frees us, but it won't put itself on us.  The Spirit will remind us and God will help us, but we have to put on the belt.  John Stott expresses it better than I by saying Paul's two commands, Be strong in the Lord and Put on the armor, express the balanced teaching of scripture which speaks of "divine enabling" and "human cooperation."  The Lord provides and equips, we must take and use.

Tighten up that truth belt today, friends!
Be strong in the Lord and stand firm against the devils schemes!





August 4, 2014

Armor Mondays: Series Introduction

I mentioned in a previous post that I would consider writing a series on the armor of God.  So here I am, having prepared little, ready to take on the project for a couple of reasons: I want to learn more and I want to write more.  Here, I can do both!

Since Mondays can be like, well, Mondays, let's make Mondays "Armor Mondays."  Over the next many weeks, I will share some thoughts about a piece of the armor each Monday.  My hope is that we will be strengthened and feel empowered by knowing better how God has equipped us, for our battle is not against flesh and blood.

You know, I have been feeling the intensity lately, aware that I'm up against a foe greater than I first imagined.  The enemies of ingrained (bad) habits, habitual sins, and crippling guilt are shooting fiery darts at my heart and mind, while they cackle with delight.  If I don't put on the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, and hold high the shield of the faith, I'm doomed.



Praise the Lord!  Because of Christ we are not doomed!

 May this series serve to remind us that we are not doomed: God is good; we are held together by truth and covered by salvation, righteousness, and faith; we carry the Word-of-God sword and have the gospel of peace to share!


Here are our verses for Armor Mondays, my friends - Ephesians 6:10-18.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Two things to highlight before closing:
  1. Paul goes into very little detail about these things.  He must assume that the Ephesians would know what he meant by truth,, righteousness, faith, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and word of God.  Do you?  We'll unpack them in this series!
  2. Twice as many of the pieces of armor are defensive as offensive.  God provides us with so much protection from the evil one, things we cannot muster up on our own - truth, righteousness, salvation, faith - but must put on (claim, take advantage of) if we are to emerge victorious from the battle!  He also seems to think that all we need to fight back are His Word and the Gospel, which is part of the Word, so maybe it is better to say we only need one thing to fight back the enemy, God's Word.

A soldier is always ready.  A soldier puts on the armor his commander provides.  A soldier knows the risks of battle and prepares.  A soldier trusts his commander and follows his commands.

Christian, are you always ready?  Are you daily putting on the armor God has provided?  Do you know the enemy and are you prepared for battle?  Do you trust God and follow His commands?

Our gracious God has provided for us so we can be strong in Him and His mighty power and stand firm against the devil and his schemes.  I don't know about you, but I am in awe of God's thorough provision and care.  I am also hungry to learn more and be strengthened, because my answer to all those questions above is, "No."

Let's do it!  Will you join me for Armor Mondays?  Grab a cuppa, pull up a chair, and open this site.  So simple!

See you next Monday,
Heather


August 1, 2014

Be Exalted, O God, Above the Heavens

This week has been one of those roller coasters of heart highs and lows.  I have had interrupted sleep for no reason that I can identify, so I've been tired.  I have had many angrier than angry moments, also due  to unidentifiable causes.  This morning, as I struggled to keep my eyes open during my quiet time, I read Psalm 57.

1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
    for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
    until the disaster has passed.
 
2 I cry out to God Most High,
    to God, who vindicates me.
3 He sends from heaven and saves me,
    rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
    God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
 
4 I am in the midst of lions;
    I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
    whose tongues are sharp swords.
 
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.
 
6 They spread a net for my feet—
    I was bowed down in distress.
They dug a pit in my path—
    but they have fallen into it themselves.
 
7 My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.
8 Awake, my soul!
    Awake, harp and lyre!
    I will awaken the dawn.
 
9 I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
    I will sing of you among the peoples.
10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
 
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
    let your glory be over all the earth.

Do you see what the Psalmist, David, does here?  He's under attack and feeling helpless, but he knows he is not helpless.  He cries out to God for mercy and takes refuge in Him.  Then, he worships.

He worships.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

He takes his gaze from his enemies and places it on Almighty God.  In the midst of difficulty, he makes the choice to glorify the Lord by praising God and praying that He would be exalted.

What can we learn from this?  Stop.  Stop right now and praise the Lord.  Take your gaze off of the trouble and turn your eyes to the Overcomer, the One who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise, the Father who calls you His beloved child.

Now, doesn't that feel better.  I gave it a shot while I was out running this morning; what a treat for my heart, soul, and mind!

Take that, evil one.  There's the door; you can see yourself out.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth!!

July 28, 2014

Running with God - Breathe Deep!

Starting Block
*This post is dedicated to my dear friend Emily, who has taught me so much about running, and living.*

I am a runner of the 5K variety.  I like to get out a few times a week for a few miles. This summer, however, I have been terribly inconsistent.  If you’ve ever taken a break from exercise, you know how long it can take to get back into it, both making time in your schedule and getting the old body back into condition.
While out doing the latter a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about breathing.   When I’m on a flat stretch, I need to keep my legs moving and breathe evenly.  Breathe in, two, three.  And out, two, three.   But if I want to be able to make it up a hill ahead of me, I need to breathe evenly and deep.  I’ve got to inhale and exhale hard, so I can still be standing when I reach the top!
On all types of terrain, a runner must keep breathing.  Lose control of breathing and languish.  Quit breathing and collapse.  Those realities remind me of our need as Christians to breathe deep of the Lord.  Life is a course with wide-open, flat stretches of routine, unremarkable days, steep hills that push us to our limits, downhills that bring peace and relief, and lengthy, low-grade uphills that require long-suffering endurance.
While running the terrain of life, we cannot stop breathing deep of the Lord. ...
You'll find the rest of this article at itakejoy today!  Follow this link:
http://www.itakejoy.com/running-with-god-breathe-deep/

July 4, 2014

The Voices: How We Can Resist

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about the voices we all hear on a daily basis.  A week later, I followed that up with a post about why those voices are so loud.  Then, over the last week or so, I have been itching to write a post about how we can resist the voices that want to dominate and destroy us.  The impetus for this post comes from the theme verses for our Bible school that is happening this and next week, Ephesians 6:10-18.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The Lord has equipped us to resist the devil and his schemes!

Teaching through the pieces of armor with the Kindergartners this week, plus a conversation with friends at Bible study about how amazing it is that kids just "get" God's love so much better than adults, has reminded me not to make being a Christian so complicated.  Sure, we can study theology and learn and grow.  In fact, we should.  But those endeavors should never, ever, never draw us away from the central truths of what it means to be a "kid of the kingdom."

What do we find in Paul's words that can keep us close to the basics?

  • We can be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.  God's people are the people God empowers to resist the enemy.  The Christian has access to the Lord and His power.  Boy, I sure act like a wimp when I'm tempted by habitual sins or wavering about doing what is right!  What a reminder: be strong in the Lord and His mighty power; put on the full armor of God.
  • Our battle is more spiritual and physical.  We are not putting on armor to go into physical battle; we are dressing to fight against darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  It is easy to forget that there is "more than meets the eye" going on in the world, which causes us to look for temporal solutions rather than summoning the power of the Alpha and Omega.  We can't fight this kind of battle alone, nor have we been asked to.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.

  • God has equipped us with what we need to stand firm, and it is armor of remarkable strength.  Mere metal and leather will not protect us from the evil schemes satan has prepared for those who love God.  Oh no, we need armor of a different sort.  That is precisely what the Lord provides, should we choose to don ourselves daily with truth, righteousness, the Gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word.  That list is somethin' else, right?  How could we forget who we are and how God has provided protection for us if each morning we thought to ourselves, I am wrapped in God's truth, clothed in His righteousness, a bearer of Good News for the world, a receiver of faith, saved, and have access to the Word of God!
  • Pray.  I am often humbled when I'm sharing a concern or doubt and someone says, "Hey, why don't we pray about that?"  Duh!  That should be our first option, not our last opportunity.  (I heard someone say that on the radio once.)  WE NEED TO BE PEOPLE WHO PRAY.  Paul goes so far as to say we should pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  God wants us to pray to Him about everything!


I'd love to explore each of the pieces of armor more thoroughly, but now duty calls and I must to the family to celebrate this holiday!  Keep your eyes peeled for more words on the subject in coming weeks.  For the time being, don't make your faith complicated and confusing.  Trust in the Lord and His mighty power, remember the spiritual realm is as much part of life as the physical, put on your armor each day, and pray.  This is a good way to resist the devil and flee from Him.  Thank the Lord He knows what we need and so generously provides.

Have a great weekend!
Heather