September 29, 2014

Armor Mondays: The End + Giveaway Winners

Good morning!  Today is the official conclusion of the Armor Mondays series.  I have really enjoyed thinking more deeply about Paul's words in Ephesians six and pray for myself and for you that it will bear fruit in our lives.  It is such a profound reality that God provides for us and equips us to stand firm in the face of all the devil's attacks.  Blessed be His name!

To wrap up the time focused on the Armor of God, let's look at the passage as a whole:

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.

I'd also like to leave you with some review questions to consider today as we move on from here to our next Monday topic.

  • Who is our enemy and what is his style of warfare?
  • What does this passage tell us about God?
  • When do we need to be prepared for battle?
  • Where might we find ourselves engaged in battle on any given day?
  • How can you be strong in the Lord and His mighty power today?
  • Why can we have such confidence in God and the armor He has provided?

You are loved by Almighty God, dear Christian.  You belong to Him.  Be strong in His mighty power today.

Walk in His way!

*     *     *

Now, without further ado, the winners of the lovely devotionals!

Congratulations, Jenny and Linda!
Your gifts will be on their way to you soon.

September 22, 2014

Armor Mondays: Prayer & a Giveaway

This is it!  We've reached the final week of reflection on the Armor of God.  Last week we finished up the pieces in Paul's analogy, but we can't ignore the verse that concludes the section, verse eighteen:

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 saints.

Ah, prayer.

Is it difficult for anyone out there to pray for five minutes, let alone on all occasions or always?*  You are not alone.  But friends, just because it is difficult doesn't mean we should give up.  Commands and reminders to pray permeate Scripture and Jesus prayed regularly.  We need to consider prayer and be pray-ers if we confess Christ as our Lord.  We need to take up our armor AND PRAY.

You'll notice that prayer is not listed as one of the pieces of armor, but certainly it is a weapon that goes hand in hand with our sword of the Spirit, God's Word.  And given that it is mentioned in this section, Paul is saying, Hey, if you want to stand firm in the face of devil's evil schemes, you gotta pray: all the time on all occasions with all kids of prayers and requests!

The servant of God is covered in armor and equipped for the offensive with the Word and Prayer.  If we are not praying, we are not doing battle as God intends for us and we will not be standing in the end.  Our struggle, our real issues, are spiritual.  The goal is to stand and stay standing when the day of evil comes.

The standing Christian will be the praying Christian!
If you want to stand firm, get on your knees.

At this point, guilt might be creeping in about what a "bad pray-er" you are.  You may be feeling the temptation to give up or to pull yourself up by your boot straps and do better this week.  Let's toss aside both of those options for now and simply consider how prayer assists us in battle and helps us to stand firm.

  • Prayer is a life-line to our Commander.  Talking with Him reminds us who He is, who we are, what He has done for us, and that our enemy is weaker than he appears.  We are humbled and strengthened by these communications.
  • Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God, but also defended by Him, the blood of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Prayer is often a place we receive our marching orders!  In prayer our hearts are often pricked to God-honoring action.
  • Prayer keeps us alert. The more we pray, the more we remember how awake we need to be and aware of the spiritual war waging around us.  With our eyes stayed on the Lord, we are aware, but not overcome.

I think we fall into the satan-trap of thinking that we need to achieve some level of eloquence or meet some time goal to be a "good" pray-er.  But Paul simply says here, and pray.  Pray!  Whatever you're up to, whomever comes to mind, whatever situation presents itself, whenever the time, PRAY!

We can communicate with our Commander at any point in our day.
His omnipresence permits and His Spirit assists!

Trouble remembering to pray or getting in the habit of prayer is not new.  Paul was always reminding His readers to pray!  He often included prayer in his final instructions in His letters.  Jesus pleaded with His disciples to stay awake and pray!  We're in good company in our human nature.  But because the Spirit lives in us, we can grow in this area and see God work in new and exciting ways in our hearts and our lives and the world around us.

I'll close with a challenging section from the New Bible Commentary (then announce the giveaway!):

Theological grasp of the gospel that does not result in prayer, like Paul's for the readers in [Ephesians] 1:15-23 and 3:14-21 is a dead carcass.  Prayer warriors with no real grasp of what the gospel is about, (the gospel of peace and cosmic restoration in Christ), may be spirited, but not more useful on the field than a soldier without weapons.  Spiritual understanding of the gospel combined with an alert prayerfulness is the combination Paul seeks.  p. 1244

Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*     *     *     *     *     *

I have a couple of Armor of God devotional guides to give away!  I went through it years ago and loved the daily readings.  My mom gave me a new copy last week and I was going to give it away.  Then I discovered that I, too, had a extra copy.  So I have two to give away to two lucky winners!  Woo-hoo!!

The cover
What a day's devotion looks like

These are small books with two months worth of daily readings with associated Bible passages all related to the Armor of God.  I have worked my way through three of Selwyn Hughes' books and benefited from and enjoyed each of them.  I hope you will experience the same if you're one of the winners!  This would be a great way to continue thinking about things discussed throughout this series.

How can I enter? you ask.  Here's the scoop; you will receive one entry for each thing you do below.

1. Leave a comment here that you'd like to win.  (I'll ship it to you, so don't be concerned about proximity.)
2. 'Like' my Facebook page for the first time.  (I post all my blog links there and sometimes some extra things throughout the week.  Sometimes.) 
3. Share this post on your FB wall, Twitter, and/or with a friend.  (Just let me know you've done that in your comment!)

I think that gives you plenty of opportunities to get your name in.  One advantage of the small-time blog is that you have a much higher percentage chance of winning in a giveaway.  :)  Just get your name in before next Sunday night (Sept. 28) at midnight.  We'll choose the winners on Monday morning; my kids love getting to pull names from the bowl!

* If you want a book to jump-start your prayer life, please get your hands and eyes on a copy of The Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, by Paul E. Miller.

September 21, 2014

Altar Call, It's for You

This morning in worship, we had the privilege of hear our associate pastor, Bill Milligan, preach his final sermon.  He retires from his position today and we will be joined at Graystone Presbyterian Church next Sunday by our new associate pastor and his family.  Bill and his lovely wife Edie will continue to minister at Graystone - it's in their blood, because they love Jesus - but no longer in an official capacity.

If you had one last chance to stand before a congregation of people to share a final message, what would it be?  I'll tell you what Bill shared.

Bill, in his calm, gentle way, delivered what is of first importance to him.  It is the same message that was of first importance to the apostle Paul and he preached using some of Paul's words, Galatians 1:1-5.
Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
After some introduction to the passage, Bill shared with us the glorious message that Jesus came to rescue sinners like you and me.  He rescues us from sin.  He rescues us from the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And He rescues us from bondage, whatever variety we find keeping us in chains: legalism, substance abuse, pornography, money, etc.

Bill reminded us that all we need to do is cry to Jesus and surrender to Him.
And we will be rescued.

Bill quoted James Montgomery Boice who said, we find deliverance from the power of evil and the values of the present world system through the power of the risen Christ.

Jesus is alive, y'all!

Bill issued the call, an altar call, to come to Jesus, to trust Him with all your heart, to turn to Him and be rescued.  Bill also reminded us that the power of God's grace is greater than the power of sin!  Perhaps you can understand it better as an equation:

power of God's grace > power of sin

That's Good News math, my friends!

Before inviting people to come forward and give their lives to Christ, Bill concluded with these words:

We all need the Lord.

What stirred in me as I listened to Bill's message was the fact that though I know the Lord, I still let myself get caught in bondage.  Lately it has been paralyzing fear and guilt that I am not getting anything right - I'm blowing it as a wife, mother, teacher, friend, neighbor, Christian, etc.  Satan would keep me there in bondage.  But today's sermon reminded me that God's grace > the power of sin and the power of the risen Lord is mine!  There is freedom from this bondage and today I'm claiming it.  Period.  Hold me to it?


Now, the main reason I share this message is because, like Bill concluded and the Bible says, we all need the Lord: those of us hearing this message of freedom in Christ for the first time, and those of us who have been wandering church halls for our lifetimes.  I want to offer you the opportunity today, like I had this morning, to surrender what binds you to the Lord and let Him set you free.

Are you bound by sin?  Turn to the Lord and be saved!
Do you know the Lord but find yourself stuck in some specific bondage?  Turn to the Lord and be set free!

We all need the Lord.  He's ready for us to come to Him.  Be free today!

September 15, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Sword of the Spirit

We've made our way through the armor and have reached the final piece.   A couple of weeks ago we talked about taking up the shield of faith.  Today, we'll discuss what we need to take up in our other hand:

"... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

A sword is an offensive piece of armor, not meant to protect but to allow the soldier to attack.  Sometimes Often, in the face of satan's attacks, I easily let him have the upper hand, not taking up the weapon God has provided me to use to attack him.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, did no such thing. You may remember the account of His temptation in the desert from Luke's gospel,  (If you aren't familiar with it, you can read it here.)  Jesus came back at satan each time with the word, bringing a quick end temptation!  After three attempts, satan slinked away and Jesus began His ministry in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14).

God's word is powerful.  By His word, He spoke creation into being.  By His Word, He redeemed mankind.  In the armor passage, His word is called the sword of the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit, who lives in us from the moment we put our trust in Jesus, helps us to use this sword and reminds us to take it up when dealing with the devil and his evil schemes.

But you know something?  The Spirit cannot call to mind things that we have not been planted in our heads and hearts.  I appreciated something Jerry Bridges said this this effect in a book I read years ago.  The sentiment was that if we wanted to grow in the faith, we had to give the Spirit something to work with, i.e. we need to be reading our Bibles and getting God's word in our hearts!

I am often surprised by how the Spirit calls a random verse, or part of a verse, to mind.  Usually I have to open to type in the phrase to find where the verse is in the Bible, but it is years of reading and being connected to His Church that make those moments possible.  Almost every time, it is exactly what I need to hear and need to meditate on!  For example, this fall I am facilitating a Bible study group with some ladies.  I like to have a verse to pray for them as we go through the eight weeks together.  God brought to mind the phrase, Your word is truth.  After a quick search, I found that the verse comes straight from Jesus' prayer for believers that He prayed before His trial and crucifixion.  Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.  John 17:17  Throughout the study, this is what I am praying in offense for myself and the ladies.  God's word, His truth, is powerful and cuts satan deep.

What I love about God, the Son, and Spirit and the word is that they are full of mercy and grace, tenderness and compassion.  It is never too late!  I grew up in the church and *should* know more, but I didn't spend my younger years taking as much advantage as I could of the wonderful things offered to me.  The last decade of my life has been spent getting to know God and His word better because He loves me, not because I feel guilty.  And I am amazed at how regular time in the sword, so to speak, builds and grows and the Spirit makes connections in unlikely places and times.

It is never to late to get into the word and grow your offensive against the devils schemes!

The devil will keep coming at you, but God's word will always prove to be a powerful weapon of destruction to him.  Take up your sword today!

Sanctify us by the truth, Lord; Your word is truth.  Amen.

September 8, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Helmet of Salvation

"Maybe this piece is the most important.  No, maybe this one is."  With every armor post that I prepare, I think that we've got to be on the most important one!  Each serves a critical purpose in our defense against the devil and his evil schemes, so I think my desire to have one be "most important" is silly.  What stands out, is that the devil's desire to destroy us is so strong it merits all of the defenses God provides - truth, righteousness, Gospel readiness, faith, and today's focus, salvation - all at once.

Only five words are offered, Take the helmet of salvation, before Paul moves on to the final piece.  Few words do not mean little importance, however.  When I think of salvation, I think of Old Testament proclamations that salvation belongs to/comes from the Lord, then of Jesus and John 3:16.  My heartbeat quickens with meditation of the depth of love and sacrifice involved in taking man (me! you!) from darkness into the light.


The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary says the word take should be translated receive.  By God we are handed the helmet of salvation.  We receive it as a gift and we best hasten to get it on our head!  Did you know that salvation in Christ is sure?  Daily putting on the helmet reminds us of our sure, protected, rescued, blessed, and new relationship with the Lord.

All of the commentaries were used the words assurance in reference to salvation.

If you are saved, you are saved.  Don't doubt it; put the helmet on!

Putting on your helmet every day does not mean that you have to ask the Lord to save you repeatedly.  Once you have confessed that Jesus is Lord and believed it in your heart, you belong to Him.  You need not doubt.  Putting on the helmet means daily embracing your salvation and living under every moment, letting it protect your vulnerable head from satan's attacks.  Stott says, God's saving power is our only defense against the enemy of our souls.  (p 282)  Doesn't that make you want to get that helmet on quick?!

As I thought about this, two things came to mind.  First, a conviction: What other helmets of "salvation" am I trying to put on?  Do I attempt to show the evil on my good works, my lineage, my talents?  Or in the face of temptation, doubt, and attack do I point to my head and say, Saved by the blood of the Lamb!  You can see yourself out, satan.

The second thing that came to mind is how the helmet of salvation not only protects us here, but is our ultimate defense on the day of judgement.  One day each of us will stand, alone, in the presence of our Maker.  If Jesus is our Savior, Lord, and Brother, we can confidently approach the throne and say, Lord, let me show you my helmet and let me praise you forever.  Thank you for saving a wretch like me!

Salvation is from the Lord in Christ, by grace alone through faith alone.  All other ground is sinking sand, the hymn says.  Take the gift of salvation freely offered in Christ!  Put on that impenetrable helmet!  And stand firm, today and for eternity!

Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Walk in His way.

September 1, 2014

Armor Mondays: the Shield of Faith

In addition to all this [the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and gospel of peace sandals], take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  ~ Ephesians 6:16

Perhaps you remember from previous posts and the verses that precede this one, that the purpose of putting on the armor is that when the day of evil comes we, as Christians, can stand our ground against the devil.  He would like to knock us down.  The Lord has provided for us to stand firm in the battle that is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and forces.  Paul describes how God provides for us using the analogy of a soldier's armor.

What God provides is amazing.  He cares for us!

So, how about this shield of faith?  The verses indicate that faith can put out the flaming arrows of the evil one, which begs two questions.  One, what are these arrows satan sends our way?  And two, how does faith extinguish them?

I love how commentators were all on the same page with regard to explaining what the arrows are.  In fact, I'm sure if you thought about it for a moment, you would come up with a similar list.  Satan assails us almost constantly, and especially if we are working to move in God's direction, with temptation.  We are fiery-dart tempted to fear, bitterness, anger, doubt, lust, revenge, despair, hatred, false guilt, etc.*

Are you familiar with the burn of these fiery arrows?

I am.

If we're not holding up the shield, the arrows get to us and try to burn their way through the righteousness we have in Christ, covering our inmost parts, and through the truth that we have buckled tight around our waist to hold our armor together.  We begin to stumble, wobble, sway, and are disoriented by the temptations as we let them sink in.  We are in danger of collapse.  How can our shield of faith protect us?

Here's how!  When Paul talks about a shield, he's not thinking of a dinky circle, but rather a large rectangular shield made of wood and leather, soaked in water.  Fiery darts can't get through it and are, further, put out on contact.  Likewise, the darts of temptation sent our way by satan meet their abrupt end when we counter them with faith.

The fire of the arrows sizzle and pop messages at us: You are worthless; You are stupid; You are weak; You are unlovable; You cannot stand; You are a failure; You might as well give up, because you're beyond help - sin wins with you.

When we let go of faith that is a gift from God and our shield falls to the ground, we are in big trouble.  But God has given the gift to faith in Him, which is a most powerful protection against the devil's fiery arrows.  They come with their messages of despair, doubt, and defiance.  Faith responds with, You are loved; See what Christ has done for you; Remember how the Lord has worked in the past; Be strengthened by the truth that the Spirit lives in you; Rejoice in the hope you have in the Lord; Give thanks that you are not defined by the world or your failures, but by your membership in God's family and kingdom.

The soaked, impenetrable shield of faith stops the blazing, tempting lies of the devil, mid air! 

God hands us hope in the shape of faith.  Hold on tight!

I love how the New Bible Commentary concludes its discussion of the shield:

Faith in this letter is the radical openness to God that allows Christ's full indwelling, and brings a deeper grasp of his unfathomable love (3:17).  Take up the shield of faith thus suggests a deliberate and positive holding on to the God revealed in the gospel; firm and resolute dependence on the Lord which quenches the fiery attempts of the enemy to harm and to spread panic.

Till next week, walk in His way!

*Examples from lists in all three commentaries: The Message of Ephesians, John Stott; The New Bible Commentary, InterVarsity Press; and The Jamieson Fausset Brown Bible Commentary.  They got their lists from the Bible.