“Focus Shift!”

 

“It’s all in how you look at it.”  At least, that’s what I hear some say.  Perspective, if you will, changes one’s outlook on a lot of things in life.

How do you view the position you are in now?  Is everything going okay for you or are you finding yourself fighting through, just trying to make it to the other side of adversity?

Perspective.

It’s rather hard to see the glass as half full when you feel half empty.  To imagine a silver lining when in all honesty all I see is dark clouds.  And, somebody must have put a rock at the end of my tunnel blocking out all light because I just don’t see it.

Perspective.

How we feel matters, but then again, it doesn’t matter.

When we feel positive and optimistic it is easy for us to shower others with attention and be pressed into service for their needs.  But, when we are in the midst of trials and travail, the negative and pessimistic seem to take up residence in our being, hindering us from bothering with anyone else other than ourselves and our own needs.

As I was pondering this I thought about Jesus on the cross.  It dawned on me, in the midst of the worse thing He would ever have to endure, how much He had a focus shift.  How much He paid attention to the needs of others despite what He was going through.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” (Luke 23:34, NKJV).

Focus shift.  Instead of ranting and raving, Jesus, in His agony and pain sought the betterment of the very ones who were killing Him.  He knew He would die.  He knew the pain would not cease until He did.  This plan was going to go forth.  Yet, He focused on the needs of others rather than Himself.

How awesome is that?  Often, we hear these words during a Seven Last Words service on Good Friday, but can we even begin to imagine the strength and willpower it took for Jesus not to focus on Himself during that time?  For Him to look beyond what He was currently going through to care for and about others?  I don’t think we have a clue.  He immediately pleaded with the Father for their forgiveness.

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’  Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’   And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home,” (John 19:26-27, NKJV).

This is a blessed Son indeed.  Women in biblical times had no authority or protection if it were not for certain members of the family establishing care for them.  This is what we see Jesus doing here.  What did His mother have to endure?  Any mother out there knows and can sympathize with the sheer agony of heartbreak that Mary must have been going through.

He had to go.  He had to die.  But that didn’t make it any easier for her to comprehend.  It didn’t soothe the heartbreak at all!  A mother’s love doesn’t work like that.  It’s a special connection of heart that starts at the time of conception and never leaves her.  Jesus knew she needed special care.  This woman who had raised Him and loved Him through it all needed to be looked after in a special way.

In His time of desperation, it is a blessing that He shifted the focus and thought about Momma!

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise,” (Luke 23:43, NKJV).

Sinner.  Thief.  Criminal.  Yet, on the cross, he got the attention of Jesus.  How?  He had a repentant heart.  No matter what Jesus was going through He could never turn a blind eye to the one who wants to get right with God.  To the one who bears true, sincere, godly sorrow for all that he has done.

At that point in time, Jesus had been on the cross for a while.  How hard would it have even been for Him to push the air out of His lungs to form the words, “You . . . will . . . be . . . with . . . Me . . . in . . . Paradise?”  His body was fighting against Him in the battle between death and life, yet it was as if He couldn’t be bothered with the demands of His personal pain.  Somebody was seeking salvation, even in this late hour, Jesus stepped up the plate to care for the other man’s needs.  Focus shift.

Jesus knew what He was going through.  He wasn’t blind to the fact that He was in pain.  It’s what He CHOSE to do in spite of it all.  He CHOSE to focus on others!

You know what you are going through.  And, I’m sure you are not blind to the trouble you may face today.  But, what about others?  I observe people very closely.  Sometimes I wonder why does that man have sad eyes?  What thoughts are going through the one sitting on the steps over there?  That lady wrestling with a stroller, shopping bags, and kids on the bus stop, what does she have to face when she gets home?  I try to think about the “behind the scenes” of a person’s life.

Am I always successful?  No, but I do try very hard to be compassionate toward the people I come across.  We never know what someone is going through.  We never know when someone needs us to pay a little attention to them.  Jesus showed us that we can do that even in the hardest of times.

A tall order to fill?  Yes!  But one that will make a great impact in the lives we come across today.  You can even start right in your own home.  How can we pay more attention to the needs of those around us?

“It’s all in how you look at it.”

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What Would It Have Been Like? – “In the Garden with God”

 

One of my favorite times of the day is waking up.  Not the actual waking up part (sometimes that’s a little hard 😉 ), but when I finally get up, I get to draw back the curtains and see the new day.  It’s untouched.  It’s filled with hope and promise.  Whatever happened yesterday is not here for this is today.  It’s that freshness that draws me in and gets my soul stirred for the possibilities ahead.

When we go on vacation one of the places we stay at is a condo in the mountains.  It’s so peaceful.  With coffee in hand in the morning, I head out onto the balcony and sit to admire the new day.  The only thing I hear is the birds singing their song.  The deer break twigs and rustle leaves when they walk.  Sometimes you see the groundhogs and other animals eating their meals for the day.  You get this sense about you that this is the way it was meant to be.

And it makes me wonder about a time when all days were meant to be like this.  When there was a time when all days started in innocence and nothing was yet corrupted.  When there was a time that man walked freely in the Garden with God.

I love gardens and I declare one day I will have a nice one.  I’m working on it.  We were meant to live the garden lifestyle.  We were designed to reign in innocence and peace.  The world we live in today contradicts the fellowship we were created to have with God.  We were to have an up-close relationship with Him.  After the fall the Bible tells us,  “And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” (Gen. 3:8).

Let your mind go back, not to the sin, but to the experience of being with God in the garden.  Adam and Eve experienced God on a level that no other being will have the privilege to.  Surely this was not the first time God had paid them a visit in this fashion for they knew what it sounded like when they heard Him in the garden.  They had a realistic divine view of the Almighty here on earth.

What would it have been like to have the Sovereign of the universe, day by day to come and see about me?  What would it have been like to verbally hear the mouth that spoke things into existence speaking to me?  What would it have been like to hear Him moving among the garden with my own ears and to know it was the Lord?  What would it have been like?

There, thinking back before the Fall, fellowship with God was uninterrupted by evil.  There the beauty of all God is could be seen by those He created.  There, peace was the predominant feeling because the shaker of peace had not entered the scene.  There, God spoke directly to man unhindered by fleshly desires.  There, it’s hard to imagine, but life was nothing but good because the man knew nothing but God.

Imagine the best backyard barbeque.  We sit around laughing and enjoying the company of others.  Not that we are bringing the Sacred down to our level but in our finite understanding can we imagine in the garden, Adam and God chit-chatting about the day, about the animals, or about life in general?  Can we imagine the way Adam’s heart must have felt assured every time He heard the voice of God speak to him?  Can we imagine that when Eve was presented to her husband there was no fear, only love, because that’s all they ever received was love on the earth?  Can we really imagine?

It may be hard for our minds to fathom such an age of innocence and honesty.  It’s hard for us to see what this must have been like because now our view has been corrupted by sin.  But I imagine it was glorious.  It was nothing like we’ll ever know here on earth.  In that garden, during that time, beauty is all that was seen with our eyes and with our hearts.  God was all that was known.  Oh, imagine.

It’s hard to put into words when everyone was right before God.  It’s hard to describe from one’s soul a place of longing but never viewing.  It’s hard to capture the essence of what being with God was like there, and yet my heart still yearns to know what would it have been like?

What do you think it would have been like to see the world at its best?  What do think it would have been like to fellowship with God at your best?  Where we live in the mid-Atlantic region we are expected to have rain most of the day.  Even in this dreariest of settings, I’m looking at the trees swaying outside my window and imagining the beauty of that time.  I guess that’s what it would have been like, beautiful because everything was in harmony with God.  Beautiful represents their relationship with God and it represents the surroundings that God created for them.

One day we will experience that garden lifestyle again, that age of beautiful unbroken relationship with Him when we meet Him in our heavenly home.  And I can’t wait.

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“You are not forgotten!”

“Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;” Job 29:2

Have you ever experienced these same thoughts that Job expressed?  Have difficult times ever made you look back to the times before when you felt everything in your world was right?  When adversity strikes and when we deal with things we do not understand, I’m sure many of us, like Job, take our mind’s eye to those past days when trouble wasn’t knocking on our door.

The difficulty of the days he was presently in caused Job to look at those previous times as times of favor, saying, that’s when “God preserved me”.  But now, his expressions tell a different story of what his feelings are feeling.  His troubles caused him to think that just because he was going through adversity, God was not as presently with him as before.

Little did Job know, and many times we need to be reminded, that just as God was with us in the good times, so too is He with us in the troubling times.  It may look different than we are used to seeing it, and it may feel different, but just because we don’t understand and may question, it doesn’t negate the fact that God is presently near, and watching, and keeping His people.

Jesus taught, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). 

A bird sold is not forgotten before God, and neither was Job, and neither are you.  Our value before God is so precious and so much more than we could ever imagine.  The clouds that come during those dark days may try to hide that fact, but the truth of God’s Word is a fact, that no matter how we feel or how hard it may seem, God is still there for you.  Even if you are dealing with hurtful situations and even if you feel like you have been wronged, God’s loving eyes see and His precious hands are working behind the scenes, holding you, loving on you, and valuing you when others may not.

Difficult times are difficult because they are not easy.  During these times, see Him with eyes of faith.  See that He is still with you and that you have not been left in this alone (Hebrews 13:5).  Take your cares, your disappointments, your hurts, and your discouragements to God in prayer.  He is there listening.  And trust me, He does cares.

Just because it hurts it does not mean He’s not feeling what you are feeling (Hebrews 4:15).  And just because we can’t figure out all this stuff, God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we must trust Him with it, and with all the times in between.

God is here for you today, God is here.  Regardless of what you feel or are going through, you are not forgotten.

“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” Isaiah 49:15

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“His Promise!”

His promise says I’ll never leave nor forsake you,
Even when the skies are no longer bright blue;
When the clouds and the roaring crash of thunder,
Threaten to overwhelm and drag me under.

 His promise says I’ll be with you until the very end,
When people turn their backs and you can find no friend;
When troubles and trials make you cry at your wit’s end,
When life unravels, leaving a broken heart that needs to mend.

 His promise says that this will work together for my good,
Though the confusion can’t be hardly understood;
When life is filled with “I wish I would,”
Taking me through all the could and should.

 His promise says I lived and died for you,
Giving you everlasting life to help you make it through;
His salvation, sin’s stain erased and undo,
Bring through Him a victorious breakthrough.

 “He who promised is faithful,” Hebrews 10:23

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Sunday School Lesson – “The Whole Armor of God” Ephesians 6:10-20

VERSE DISCOVERY: Ephesians 6:10-20 (KJV, Public Domain)

Being caught unawares, is there anything worse?  Can we effectively stand against opposition when opposition seems to have all the fighting power?  How can we successfully be soldiers in the army of the Lord without any weapons?  Are we going to be ready, when, not if, the occasion arises to fight?  Are we openly prepared to enter this battle?

Know that what you want to accomplish will not easily be handed over to you in this Christian life, and while you are contending for it you will need some backup.  Make no mistake about it, we are in profoundly serious times.  More and more we find ourselves knowingly facing the oppressor of this world.  Are we ready for the challenge?  Are we armed and ready for this fight?

In serving God there will be times of contests and contentions, and to enter any field or times as uncertain as these, one needs weapons.  God has made provisions that we should have everything we need to fight, and to win.

Adversity will raise its head.  It is up to us to be properly equipped to counteract its rising.

This lesson looks at Ephesians 6:10-20, which is a familiar portion of Scripture.  Here, the Apostle Paul tells of what we can expect to be contending with and then he releases valuable information of all the powerful weapons/resources we can adorn ourselves with to have a victorious outcome.

Please Note:  Do not let the familiarity of these verses cause you to pass by on a great learning opportunity to gain more insight into this fight we are in.  In this lesson, there are powerful truths that can be applied to our lives and the spiritual battles we face.

Learning how to stand in and fight for our faith is a part of worship; it is a way of life that is to govern our Christian walk every day.

Your Strength

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

“Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”  Zechariah 4:6 tells us, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of Hosts.” With the many resources afforded to many in our modern-day culture, it is easy to get caught up in the attitude of self-sufficiency.  The Bible tells us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God,” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

Right away, in dealing with this portion of Scripture, Paul wanted the church at Ephesus to know that God is not looking for them to do this Christian life or to be involved in any spiritual battle in their own strength.  They are to be dependent upon Him and the “power of his might.” 

I think this is where many drop the ball.  Our human inclinations are to try to figure stuff out on our own.  Come up with a plan for dealing with what is in front of us, execute that plan, and wait for the positive results we hope to see from that plan.

But life does not generally work that way.  We tend to run into more hiccups in our plans when our total reliance is on ourselves and we treat God as if He is the backup to our plan to pull out of our pocket when we cannot take it a moment more.

No.  From the first onset of anything we face, we recognize that “God, it is You I need in the midst of this adversity.  I may not understand everything I am dealing with or going through but help me to lean on You wholly, and completely depend upon your strength through it all.”

Your Fight

Ephesians 6:11-12 “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

With that, Paul encourages his readers to “put on the whole armour of God.”  We spend so much time speaking of the armor itself (and we will address each of the pieces later in this lesson) that we forget about the word “whole.” 

“Whole” speaks of completeness; not lacking in anything that is needed.  In this Christian life and dealing with the things that come against us due to this spiritual journey we are on, we cannot be half-way Christians for that will leave areas of exposure for the enemy to prod his way into our circumstances.

God has supplied a complete outfit for our defense and the ability to fight for our faith.  No parts were left unprotected.  To be successful in our campaigns we are to be garbed in all the Christian armament that He supplies.

It is only by being fully dressed; fully prepared that we will be able to “to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  God has beautiful and great, good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11).  The devil’s main goal is to interrupt what God is trying to do; to try to stop His people from reaching any positive future here, and for eternity to come that He has in store for us.

1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word “vigilant” screams at us to be on guard!

Be on guard because the enemy is crafty; he has many tricks up his sleeve.  Paul warned the Corinthian church, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,” (2 Corinthians 11:3).  And the Lord Jesus Christ reminds us, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (John 10:10a); and he does so by working his “wiles” through cunning and crafty schemes.

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  One of the most effective tricks the enemy uses against the people of God is to divert their attention from his trickery and cause them to focus on each other; “against flesh and blood.”  This will effectively bring contentions and disunity where there is supposed to be peace and a spirit of brotherhood.

The only way to stop a thief is to proactively protect what is rightfully yours.  Wrong thinking will make some believe that things would be better in life were it not for certain things, people, and circumstances interfering with them. A lot of the time that part is not going to change but how one responds to each situation makes all the difference in the world.  Be on guard to recognize which is which.

These can be looked at as distractive influences.  How diligent then are we to stand against the evil working behind the scenes and not the people who are positioned in front?  Paul adamantly lets us know that our fight is not with each other.

Yes, they may hurt you, hate you, talk about you, criticize you and yes, even despitefully use you.  While those things may hurt us and bother us, sometimes even daily, there is a more important struggle pressing before us; those forces of evil which threaten our very being and our faith.  They are the behind-the-scenes predators like the “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this world… spiritual wickedness in high places.”  These have planned attacks and have meticulously plotted to rip away our very portion of the greater prize and reward in God.

Your Weapons

Ephesians 6:13-17 “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”

Knowing where our true source of contentions lie, Paul once again admonishes the church to “take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  When properly dressed; when properly prepared and protected, God’s people will be able to “to stand” even in the “evil day.”

We are in the midst of very real spiritual warfare.  It is nothing to be taken lightly.  Where are our weapons?  What do we have to fight with?  In the following verses, Paul begins to list and layout all the pieces of the armor of God that we will ever need.

In order to be proficient in this fight against sin and this whole army of enemies, we must “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.”

What weapon that is formed against us can penetrate the defenses of “truth” and “righteousness?”  Can any snare that an enemy has set for you be effective when Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32)?  Deception is one of the most powerful weapons the enemy employs against people.  It has worked from the time of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) causing people to lose out on the paradise that God offers.

Therefore, the first line of protection is “truth.”  “Truth” encompasses so much of our Christian walk.  It tells us who we are in Christ, it guides us on the right path to walk if we will but follow it, and it guards against the lies of the enemy.  This belt of “truth” supports our lives and supports all the other pieces of armament we are afforded.  Perhaps this is why Proverbs encourages us, “Buy the truth, and sell it not…” (23:23).  “Truth” will hold you up if you hold on to it!  Do not let it go and do not try to fight without it!

Then, Paul tells us to have a “breastplate of righteousness.”  The breastplate guards the heart in battle while “righteousness” should govern the heart for life.  “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law…” (Isaiah 51:7).  Righteousness is a heart thing.

This right way of living is an inner commitment to have God and His ways as a priority in all that we do.  Only a heart that is truly devoted to God; a heart that encourages one to be shielded in His holiness will lead you down the path to receive God’s blessings.  Anything not in His holy will, will lead to destruction.  Paul writes in Timothy, teaching his readers, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness…” (1 Timothy 6:11).

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.”  As odd as it may sound, make sure your feet are covered and prepared as well.  People tend to think of the feet as really being insignificant in battle (besides the basic fact of needing them for walking and running).  All other care for them seems to be obsolete.

Not true.  If an enemy attacks, and takes your feet out from under you, then he takes away your established standing, causing you to lose your footing in the battle.  The Roman soldiers had something like spikes on the bottoms of their sandals to keep their footing sure and secure.  As part of our armament, we are to adorn ourselves with the readiness of the “gospel of peace” that will keep us founded in His truth and confidence as we march forward. 

“The gospel of peace” is the Good News.  When you are suited with the gospel of peace, covering your standing is the defense of everything that Jesus Christ has come to live, die, and now reign for.  Keeping your feet grounded in this truth will help the Christian to avoid all those slippery, hidden devices that the enemy throws at you to try to keep you from progressing toward your long-awaited victory.

With that readiness of protection is also the readiness to carry the message forth, even during times of battle.  Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

No matter how you see it, keeping your feet covered with the gospel of peace can be for protection and mission purposes.  For protection, it serves to keep us in our foundation of faith when the fighting starts.  For mission, it gives us purpose, that even during the fight, we carry forth the message of all that Jesus has done and will do for the heart that believes.  The gospel is part of your equipment, but it also serves as your marching orders as well. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15).

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”  “Above all;” most importantly – the most vital thing over top of everything else, Paul says, “I want you to grab hold of your shield of faith.”  Mount it up on your arm and make sure the fit is proper (we do not want it slipping when you need it the most) so that you will be capable of going out into action.  You will be capable of blocking attacks from the enemy.

Everything that the enemy can even imagine attacking you with can be blocked by the “shield of faith.”  Why?  When you are under the protection of faith you are not relying on the strength or wisdom from any man.  You are dependent upon the power of God (see 1 Corinthians 2:5).  With that being said, who can possibly come against the power of God and succeed?

With our shield mounted, we can step boldly on the battlefield, knowing with God on our side, and we will be alright.  This reminds us of the promise He gave to the children of Israel when He said, “There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon…” (Deuteronomy 11:25).  If God did it once for them, He has proven over and over again in His Word that He will do it again. He will come to the defense of His people, fight for them, and win even now!

We are under the shield of faith.  We are believing and hoping in the power of God during this fight.  What dart can penetrate this shield?  With assurance resting on our side, we continue forth in battle, moving forward and not backward.  We can “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).  We have a destination of eternal life to march towards.  “Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14).

You can say, “With the shield of faith I have the power, through Christ, to quench and put out every one of those attacks by adversaries and deflect their advancement.”  Just as Jesus told the Centurion, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee,” (Matthew 8:13).  The same still applies today.  Believe it, have faith, and it shall be “done unto thee.”

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Along with all the other equipment, Paul said I want you to make sure you have something to cover your head: “the helmet of salvation.” 

This is the only helmet whose materials are not fashioned by the hands of man.  This helmet was made by the redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus Christ; the one who came to die for our sins.  For without this helmet, we will lose our spiritual battle.  “For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).

It is only through the redemption that Jesus Christ has secured for us and through His name that sins can be removed.  Make sure you are covered.  Make sure you are under the saving grace of Jesus Christ before you even attempt to step out onto the battlefield.

Let the salvation that Christ secured for you guard your mind for this is where the real battle is fought.  If you are saved, then you belong to God, and that is a truth check that you can take to the spiritual bank and cash!  Here are some verses to help you know that you are now His (emphasis mine):

  • “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” (Romans 5:1-2).
  • “But we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,” (Romans 5:11).
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” (Romans 8:1).
  • “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” (Galatians 2:20).
  • “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:7; also see Colossians 1:14).

And I could really go on and on and on and on.  What a wonderful position we are now in when we are in Christ!

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  All the armor discussed so far was given for our protection.  They will be there to help you walk through your troubled times.  But now that you are well protected, there is one final weapon given that will allow you to effectively fight back: “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  This is the same weapon Jesus used when countering the attack of the enemy (see Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).

The Bible tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12).

God’s Word is here to be put into action for you from the minute you open it up.  Wrapped in such a small package of sixty-six books it stands as the only weapon that will effectively penetrate all the forces of darkness.

Everything you need to help keep you strong in the battle is found in the Word of God.  Take up the Word of God in your heart and use it to fight.  God’s Word is a daily message to our hearts that we do not grow faint during the battle.  His Word is our assurance for the future.  In His Word, we can find all the promises laid up for those who continue to fight on the side of what is right before Him.

It does not matter what anybody else says, WHAT DOES THE WORD OF GOD SAY?

  • Depressed/broken heart? – “He healeth the broken heart, and bindeth up their wounds,” (Psalm 174:3).
  • Bound in troubles? – “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him,” (Nahum 1:7).
  • Heavy laden with financial burdens? – “The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it,” (Proverbs 10:22).
  • Lonely and seeking comfort when it seems none can be found? – Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you,” (John 14:18).

That is just a small portion of how the Word of God can fight for you.  If you will just walk in His Word, and carry it in your heart, and let it encourage you toward a life of righteousness (Psalm 119:11), it will fight for you.  Can you take Him at His Word?

Your Prayers

Ephesians 6:18-20 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel. For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”  I have covered the subject of prayer extensively in previous lessons and posts.  Prayer is something that is very near and dear to my heart.  It is something I wholeheartedly believe in and cannot live without.  No matter which way you look at it, we are to be a people of prayer.  It is written repeatedly in the Bible and it is consistently taught throughout.  We cannot be strong warriors without a strong prayer life.  We are called to pray “always… in the Spirit.”

We are instructed that our prayers are not just for us; rather, “for all saints.”  Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to continually lift one another up in prayer!  If we don’t, who will?  We are all trying to reach the same eternal destination and we all need the power of one another praying us through.  (I encourage you to read my article titled  “Please, Pray Me Through to My Deliverance!” found on WordforLifeSays.com.)

Prayer is powerful!  Prayer is authoritative!  And prayer works!

Therefore Paul, chained in prison, admitted his need for prayer also.  While you are praying for the saints he said, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” 

As an “ambassador” who was not free; rather, he abode in “bonds,” he needed to still be able to speak freely and “boldly” for He whom he represents.  There are many causes for when one is in “bonds” to keep the mouth shut, yet Paul wanted his voice and His message to still be heard.

This was a request for those in Acts who also wanted to remain faithful to the message that needed to be preached.  They prayed, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,” (Acts 4:29).

If anything, during the battle the message of God’s saving grace still must go forth unhindered.  Sometimes, the ground on which we walk will not be favorable; rather, contentious.  Lord, grant us boldness to keep the truth of your message going.

It’s time to put on the whole armor of God!

PDF Full Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes):  Sunday School Lesson – The Whole Armor of God

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“Stop A Thief!”

Life lessons have the funniest way of coming to mind. And when children are involved, it can be downright hilarious. One day I had a lot of trash and recycling to take out because it was cleaning day (ha, as if every day isn’t cleaning day). I couldn’t carry it all so I had to make two trips. First, I took out the trash and placed it in its receptacle. As I came back in the house, standing at the door in some sort of karate position, like she wanted to attack me, was my nine-year-old (at that time). I believe I just smiled and proceeded to get the recycling. After delivering it to where it belonged, once again, coming back into the house, there was my daughter again, in her homemade-karate-ready-to-attack-mode. I said, “What are you doing?” She responded, “I thought you might be an intruder.” Why she thought that I will never know, but her actions and words, though done and said in fun, really stuck with me and brought to mind this verse: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). 

We have a lot of things, people, and circumstances that try to intrude on what Christ has already secured for us. But, how diligent are we to stand against them to protect that abundant life? Do we stand at the door, in position, to fight against any who seek to rob us of this joy?

Complacency seems to be the motto for most. Many discuss and debate for change, yet, it is often a road that goes unpaved. Oh, we complain about it. We become filled with rhetoric of the “If it were me…” statements. But, do we actually do anything about it? No. We accept things as it is.

The case gets even sadder when we realize our abundant life is at stake. Through Christ we have an overflowing promise doled out to us, but it is often picked away by thieves a little at a time until we have nothing left. That same complacent spirit that has invaded the world tries to take over our view of our promise and lulls us into an accepting attitude.

I will tell you this that kind of attitude will get you robbed over and over again. The only way to stop a thief is to proactively protect what is rightfully yours. 1 Peter 5:8 admonishes us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” The word vigilant screams at us to be on guard!

Both of these verses point out the main thief, the main initiator, the ring-leader of the robbery ring is the devil. Those things, people, and circumstances I referred to in the opening are often the tools he uses to steal from us. Sometimes we think of how much better life would be if it weren’t for any of these hinderances that others or circumstances may introduce. A lot of the time that part is not going to change, but how we respond makes all the difference in the world.

1 Peter 5:9-10 discusses this, saying, “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you!” The word “resist” reinforces the idea of constantly being on guard against the thief and not giving him access to your possessions. While being “steadfast in the faith,” gives us that karate chop of defense. It fortifies us in Him and gives us the endurance to keep on fighting. “Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren,” opens our eyes to the reality that we are not in this alone. We are not the only ones struggling. Sometimes, that realization alone gives us the motivation to keep on pushing forth.

Here’s the really beautiful part: “The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” Effectively putting you in the position to “stop a thief.” The abundant life is ours, but there are also some who want to steal it. Our job is to “resist” and to remain “steadfast in the faith.” When we do that, it is God who perfects us, establishes us, strengthens us, and settles us! Now, that’s the karate chop that will keep intruders at bay!

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Purpose in the Struggle

Why, we may wonder, why God does not just remove every obstacle and resistance to our faith?  Why in this journey must we fight?  Why must we strive against adversity in reaching where we are aiming to be?

Can a faith that is not exercised truly be called faith?  For if the road traveled is always smooth and the pathways are always leveled plains, how then will we ever learn to climb?  How will we learn to exert our muscles and pull our weight to mount upon the top? 

More strength only comes by using more strength.  More faith only comes by being forced to use more faith.  We can only learn to climb by experience.  We can only learn to push ahead by continuing to push ahead.  We can only learn to fight by being made to fight.

There are things that God knows His people will only learn by going through them.  That’s why Judges 3:2 says, “Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;”. 

When we are choosing multiple services in life we tend to want to choose those with experience.  Take getting a simple hair cut for example.  We want those who have had plenty of practice perfecting their skill before attempting to put scissors near our head that could alter the way we look for good or for bad.

God has many plans and purposes for His people but what we fail to see or have the patience for is the seasoning of the saint, the molding and perfecting that goes on behind the scenes.

I guarantee no one whom you have read about or see, who is doing great exploits for the Lord, just fell into that role ready to go.  There was some teaching.  There was some humbling.  There was some learning along the way.  It may have been behind closed doors and away from the eyes of the public, but God takes the time to make sure His vessels are properly prepared to go forth and hold all the potential and purposes He has for them.

The children of Israel might have been concerned as to why certain enemies were left in the neighboring surroundings.  By them, God was testing His people.  By them, God was teaching those to war who had never known war before.  God was causing faith muscles to be exercised.  He was training hearts to not focus on what they see in the enemy but on what they know about their God.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:” (1 Peter 4:12).  There is no struggle or contention that does not come without a purpose.  Though it may not be pleasant it is plentifully seasoning your walk with the Lord.  Like the children of Israel, it is teaching your hands to war.

One can never be a good soldier without ever facing contentions.  One can never learn to fight unless they have been made to fight.  One can never learn to pray in earnest if they never had that petition that would draw them to the knee with fervency.  And one could never learn to seek and lean on Him if their heart were never stirred to do so through the challenges faced.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:6-7).  It may not always feel like it, and it may not always feel good, but there is purpose in the hardships we face, especially when it comes to our faith which is found more praiseworthy in the eyes of Christ than gold that will perish.

Sometimes we may not understand everything and we may ask, “Why?”  But as we journey, may our eyes never leave Him who promised and is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  Take heart, dear friend.  Through it all, at the end of our Christian race, we may look back and see the fruit those hard times produced, and we may see the purpose in the struggles.

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

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“Jesus Didn’t Let Discouragement Win!”

“Jesus never fails,” is something I have heard quoted many times over in church.  There is no greater truth for the Christian to hold on to for in it we find consolation for our souls.  Coming across this passage in my Bible, this particular verse wouldn’t let me go.  It held on and refused me the opportunity to pass it by, demanding that more attention be paid to it.  It says, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth,” (Isaiah 42:4).

Knowing the power of our Lord, of course I know He never fails.  As a matter of fact, it is something you and I count on daily.  The part that really jumped out at me was that He does not get “discouraged.”  That is something that this flesh of mine CANNOT boast about.

We are easily swayed this way and that with the moving of our circumstances and our emotions and just plain old life itself.  But, Jesus never let anything sway Him.  He never let anything drag Him off course from where God wanted Him to be.  As a matter of fact, He repeatedly let us know “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” (John 6:38).  Discouragement didn’t stand a chance against the will of God planted so deeply in Him.

Let’s really think about this because if anybody had a reason to be discouraged, Jesus did.  Think of His walking up and down the shores of Galilee, some followed Him just for miracles and some for ridicule, purposed to find fault in Him.  Think about the many times He performed a miracle for others and yet when it came the time that He would need people the most, “they all forsook him, and fled,” (Mt. 14:50).  If it were me I would have felt so used but Jesus’ response was “but the scriptures must be fulfilled,” (Matt. 14:49).  God’s will was still prominent over His emotions.  Yes, He got upset sometimes.  Remember when He overthrew the tables, (Mt. 21:12)?  But, He never let discouragement win!  He never let discouragement take Him off course!  He never let discouragement gain the upper hand.  Wow!

Jesus had every right to be discouraged with the way things were but He did not give it the opportunity. Discouragement is a pit.  The more you swim in it the deeper it takes you under.  The fact is we do what Jesus didn’t do, we give it the opportunity.  Jesus let nothing frustrate Him from doing what He had to do.  What about us?  How often have we or do we swim in that pit of discouragement only to wonder why we can’t get anything done around here?

There are going to be upsetting times in everyone’s life and I will never downplay those.  Even Ecclesiastes tells us, “To everything there is a season,” (Ecc. 3:1).  But, if we find ourselves dipping too often in the pool of despair then we have to wonder why do we keep giving it the opportunity to control our lives?  Why do we keep giving it a place of position instead of responding like Jesus did?

Sometimes it does get hard but I believe we have to make a conscious decision to respond the way Jesus did and to not let it frustrate us from everything that God has for us and wants us to do.

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“Rejoice Anyhow!”

 

Walking through life, sometimes it is hard to find joy in the midst of all we are going through.  When our eyes take in all that is around us, it is so easy for despair to take over and leave us with the feeling of dread for the days ahead.

But, as a child of God, we don’t have to dread what we see or what’s ahead.  Our Lord is always in charge even when our circumstances seem awry.  And, He is always our reason to rejoice when we see nothing better and when we can’t figure how all this will turn out.

The Bible is replete with the stories of real-life characters who faced challenging times and still had a praise on their lips and worship in their hearts.  People who found it in themselves to still rejoice in spite of.  Job, a man who’s suffering we are well acquainted with, after finding out he lost everything, still found it within him to bless the name of the Lord, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord, ” (Job 1:21).  When David’s son died, he rose from that heart-wrenching circumstance, went into the house of the LORD, and worshipped (2 Samuel 12:20).   When Paul and Silas found themselves beaten and put into prison for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Rather than sulk about all they were going through, at midnight, the Bible tells us, they “prayed, and sang praises unto God,” (Acts 16:25).  

We may, at times, feel down, but our circumstances do not determine our praise.  We can still rejoice regardless of what we are experiencing and what we see before us.

Beginning in chapter 3 of Habakkuk, we find him praying, “O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2), regarding deserved judgment and yet, praying for mercy in the midst of it all.  As he continues to pray he also notes God’s greatness and His mighty deeds; stating everything from “His glory covered the heavens,” (Hab” 3:3) to “The mountains saw thee, and they trembled,” (Hab. 3:10).  He also prayed and noted, “Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger.  Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed…” (Hab. 3:12-13a).

As Habakkuk prayed, he noted all the greatness of God, not only in what He does in the earth but also in what He does for His people and their salvation and deliverance.

With that, he settled in his soul, “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation,” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

In other words, “I may not see the fruit of it right now, but I will rejoice anyhow!” The situation may look like a failure according to human standards, “But, I still find a reason to praise!”  When there seems to be no profit coming from the work and the land seems barren before me, they are not my source.  God is my source and I say,  “Yet, I still glory in my God!”  When my house seems empty and without,  as long and I have Him, I have everything my soul and my life needs, therefore, “I will rejoice!”

I still have to lift His name on high!  I still stand in awe of who He is in my life.  I can still “joy in the God of my salvation!”  My situation may not look right, but my God does! He is the same today, yesterday and forevermore, (Heb. 13:8).  His Word declares, “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure… But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee,” (Psalm 102:26-28, emphasis mine).  Man may change.  Circumstances may change.  This world may change, but God never changes.  He is from everlasting to everlasting and He has His children in the palm of His hands!

So yes, we have a reason to rejoice.   Each of us has a reason to joy in the God of our salvation!  God is for His people! He establishes His people.  He is keeping His people.  Even if it doesn’t look like we think it should look, we know that He has us and we can rejoice!

Put a praise on it! Show your confidence in God through your praise!  Though it may look messed up, get with the psalmist and say, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth,” (Ps. 34:1).  Rejoice anyhow!

If they’re talking about you, scorning you, and treating you bad because you live the just lifestyle, because you are determined to go with God until the end, that’s okay!  Jesus said, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven…” (Lk. 6:23).  Rejoice anyhow!

If it seems your world is spinning out of control, rejoice anyhow!

If things aren’t working the way you planned, rejoice anyhow!

If contentions seem to be too common in your day, rejoice anyhow!

God is not blind to what His people are going through.  He is faithful, and He is our confidence in the midst of it all.  As long as God is on the throne (and He always will be), His people will always have a reason to find joy regardless of everything they are going through.  Our circumstances are never the last word of authority when it comes to the child of God.  It’s His greatness and His glory that we praised earlier.  It’s because of Him that mountains tremble and enemies are subdued.  He is our trust, even in the hardest times.  He is our hope, even if all looks hopeless.  He is our source of all the joy we feel on the inside because, by Him, we are saved.  Through Him, we are held forevermore and our salvation is secured.  And He is ALWAYS for His people!

Therefore, Rejoice anyhow!

“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines: the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

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“Wash Me Jesus!”

“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” John 13:8

 As humbling as it was, He was doing it anyway, washing the feet of all the disciples in the room.  In case you didn’t know, this was a very gross job reserved for the lowest of servants in the house.  The roads were not paved but rather dusty and muddy and littered with all types of animal material left behind (if you catch my meaning).  Open sandals were the norm of fashion which really didn’t do anything to keep the elements of all that had been stepped on out.  Feet stank and were blistered, sore, and probably repulsive to us today.  No such thing as a pedicure back then.

Yet, here is the Savior, bending below the lowest servant washing the filth away.  Is this not a precursor to what He would shortly do on the cross, stooping below the lowliest to wash all the filth and stink of sin away forevermore?  The things that are repulsive, gross, and out of order with the beauty of the life God designed, Jesus bows to wash it all away.  No wonder His rebuke to Peter sounded harsh, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”  Jesus knew better than anyone that anything man could do to try to remove the filth of sin away was inadequate.  One needed to be washed by Jesus.

Despite popular belief, there are not many roads to heaven.  Jesus very clearly stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” John 14:6.  I cannot overemphasize those two words NO ONE.  That means no exceptions.  That means no matter how good one thinks they are if they have not gone through Jesus, if He has not cleansed them from their sins, they will not walk those dirty feet on His heavenly streets.

Wash me, Jesus!  If there are any impurities, any sin, anything that keeps me from You, cleanse me and make me whole.  “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” John 13:9.  From the top of me to the bottom, from the inside out, wash me and suit me to live forever in heaven with Thee!

Today, turn to Jesus and seek His cleansing salvation!  Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).  Each person has the responsibility to turn to Jesus with a heart faith and in true repentance.  “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

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