The least of these

There is a verse that we quote… typically we hear it in church right before an offering is taken for the ‘benevolent fund’, perhaps on the months that have five Sundays in them. This verse appears in a section of Matthew after a few parables and the section is intended to communicate the end of time, the final judgment. Here is the section of holy Scripture;

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “ – Matthew 25:31-40

There are several things to notice in this section of Scripture, and one of these is that the righteous served the ‘least of these’ without knowing that they were feeding the Lord. This means that the righteous followed His instruction to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and so on; they brought their faith into action.

I fear that sometimes we – as Christians in the Western world – read this section of Scripture and feel like each time we help ‘the least of these’ that we bank a ‘helping Jesus point’. At the end of time then, we will cash those ‘helping Jesus points’ in for stars in our crown (or whatever our rewards might be). Regardless eternal rewards, I think this mentality misses a critical point. Each of those downtrodden people – from our perspective – each of the ‘least of these’ is Christ! When we see a homeless person under a bridge, a frazzled single mother of three paying for groceries with a welfare card, a child in a developing country with malnutrition, a veteran with mental issues… each time we see them, we should see Christ!

Brothers and sisters, this fact should change our lives and our approach to living them. If the person in front of us at Sprouts who had trouble with their welfare card clearing, who was wrestling with three rowdy children, and who was fumbling with it all… overwhelmed by the situation was Christ; what would we do? What would we think? What grace would we give and how would we judge? Are these answers the same when it is a mere human? Why? What would our lives look like if we saw Christ each time we saw another person?

Think about what your life would look like… how would you live, if you only saw Christ where you see the ‘least of these’?

In Him,

Ron

 

Forgiveness

Forgiveness… as Christians we are told to extend it, again and again but we don’t want to, we don’t do it completely, and we often keep score on how and who we have forgiven. Why do we have trouble with this and what is forgiveness?

I’d like to suggest that forgiveness is an individual choosing to take the pain caused by another person onto themselves. Someone else has done something, and we absorb that pain and remove that from our hearts as ‘caused by’ the other. I believe that this process is aided by the forgiver understanding that they are a sinner in need of grace themselves and that the forgiver has a relationship with Christ so that they can ‘hand that pain over’ to Christ after they bear it for another.

I further believe that forgiveness is not

..required to be reciprocal: the person being forgiven does not have to say ‘thank you’ or even recognize what you have done

..absolution: there are earthly consequences for sins that people commit one against the other and forgiving them does not require removal of the consequence

..condoning the action: forgiving does not mean that the forgiver is stating that it was ‘ok’ to act the way they did

Forgiveness is

..an extension of grace: we know that we are in need of grace and therefore extend it to another. It is undeserved and uni-directional

..absorption of the pain: we choose to take the pain caused on ourselves, voluntarily and without recompense

..a reconciliation of brokenness: forgiveness is the first step toward possible reconciliation, but even if there is no movement from the forgiven, the forgivers heart is healed

One final note in this short look at forgiveness. I believe that Christ died on the cross after taking the sins of the world onto His shoulders. He did this having never sinned, He did it freely, and He did it even though much of it was ‘one way’ (many would never respond to His saving act). Doesn’t that sound like forgiveness? Is this why we are required – as Jesus-followers – to forgive? Because in a very small way we model Christ’s death in our daily lives by doing so?

Think about it… and forgive,

Ron

Are you all in?

In a poker game, sometimes you get to the end of your pile of chips and you have to put it all in to have a chance at winning. You slide your entire pile of what you’ve got left into the middle of the table. Everything hangs on the cards… everything is in the balance.

A century and a half ago, missionaries went overseas on ships to carry the gospel to the farthest reaches of the earth. They purchased one way tickets and – because few of these countries had a practice of burying their dead, and bringing a body home was too expensive – they packed their belongings into a coffin and sailed away on one way tickets.

A.W. Milne was one of these missionaries. He died to himself, packed his belongings into a coffin, and sailed… to the New Hebrides. Milne knew that every missionary sent there had been killed by headhunters, and he still sailed. He lived among the natives and ministered to them for thirty-five years. When Milne died, the tribe buried him in the middle of the village and inscribed on his headstone “When he arrived there was no light. When he left there was no darkness”. Team, could we ask for a better epitaph?

When I was at Highland Community Church in Wausau, WI I helped bring a men’s conference to that location that was started by Elmbrook church near Milwaukee, WI. The tag line for that conference was “No Regrets”.

In 1904, William Borden graduated from high school and as heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire. For his graduation present, his parents gave him a trip around the world.  The average eighteen year old would be living it up, having the time of their life, but Borden was different. As he traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, Borden felt a growing concern for the lost of the Middle East and Asia. Finally, he wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.” After making this decision, William Borden wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “NO RESERVES” Borden arrived at Yale University in 1905 and promptly began discussing scripture and praying over breakfast with friends. More began to join them and a student ministry was born. By the end of his freshmen year, he had 150 students meeting for weekly Bible study and prayer. By the end of his senior year, 1000 out of Yale’s 1300 students were involved in this ministry. In a personal journal entry, Borden defined the source of this strength: “Say no to self. Say yes to Jesus. Every time.” Borden’s outreach ministry was not confined to the Yale campus. He rescued drunks from the streets of New Haven. To rehabilitate them, he founded the Yale Hope Mission. A friend commented that ‘he might often be found in the lower parts of the city at night, on the street, in a cheap lodging house or some restaurant to which he had taken a poor hungry fellow to feed him, seeking to lead men to Christ.’ Borden’s missionary call narrowed to Muslims in China. Once that goal was in sight, Borden never wavered. He also inspired his classmates to consider missionary service. One of them said: ‘There was real iron in him, and I always felt he was of the stuff martyrs were made of’. Upon graduation from Yale in 1909, Borden turned down multiple high paying job offers. He also wrote two more words in his Bible: “NO RETREATS” William Borden went on to graduate work at Princeton Seminary in New Jersey. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he sailed for China. Because he was hoping to work with Muslims, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis. Within a month 25-year-old William Borden was dead. Was Borden’s untimely death a waste? Not in God’s plan. Prior to his death, Borden had written two more words in his Bible. Underneath the words “No Reserves” and “No Retreats,” he had written… “NO REGRETS”.

Team, we are so tempted to think that we are a body and that we have a soul… but we are a created, eternal soul that has a body. Each of us already inhabits the coffin for our soul and we await our raising from that grave into glory with Him. All God wants is for us to accept the gift of His Son every day and slide ourselves across the table and go all in.

All He wants is everything, and that feels like a lot but since He is all we need, I think the trade is a reasonable one. Won’t you go all in with me today?

Together with you,

Ron

I found out that fear is ok!

You have heard it said that there is no place for fear in the life of a Jesus-follower. In fact, you have heard me say it from the lectern in the auditorium; but the statement is not wholly true. There is a place in the life of those walking with Christ that fear is acceptable… in fact, there is one place where it is necessary.

Now, before my access to my own blog is rescinded, give me a moment to start a conversation on this.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”. – Prov 1:7

 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever”! – Ps. 111:10

Bit of a twist I guess, but the fear of the Lord is an important understanding. I am not speaking about the second form of fear in the face of an Almighty God… this is the fear of the unbeliever. The fear that David and his son outline is a deep respect for the Lord and an understanding of our position relative to Him. Not only is this fear healthy, but it is the start of a walk with wisdom with our Lord.

 “..the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether”. – Ps. 19:9

In context, this likely indicates a fear of the Lord that generates a changed life; that is, a walk that reflects the response to the love of God that He asks us for… to walk in His precepts.

 “He said, Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”- Gen 22:12

A bolstering of the idea that a fear of God generates a following of His teaching. Loving the Lord means that we do what He asked us to do.

 “Moses said to the people, Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin”. – Ex 20:20

This verse seems to explain that the fear of the Lord keeps us from sinning. We further infer – based on language and setting – that the testing of God to us drives us into a place where we cease sinning because we fear the Lord. Is this because He can take things away from us or kill us?

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord”. – Jos 24:14

 “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil”. – Job 1:1

These verses complete the idea above and indicate that – when we walk with God, when we fear Him – we turn away from those things that are outside His direction (sin).

“The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth” – 2 Sam 23: 3-4

So, here is a result of fearing the Lord… we lead well, in a way that causes people to flourish! It turns out that our lives also sprout new shoots and bear new fruit, and shouldn’t we want all of that result?

FEAR OF THE LORD

  • It’s the start: of a relationship and a walk in wisdom with the Lord
  • Changes us: into people who want to do what He asks us to do
  • Tests us: so that we know our need for Him
  • Makes us repent: and we turn away from sin in our lives

And the result of this is an ability to have a life of leadership that creates life and light in others! We want to lead this ministry well, toward the goal of ending extreme poverty in children’s lives. To that end, should we not desire to leave no space for a poverty of the Spirit in our own hearts?

May we fear the Lord and walk in His steps.

Amen

Ron

Creepers, Skeletons, and Torches

Little Ben and I were having a discussion on thermodynamics on the way to church Sunday morning. We spoke about the idea that cold doesn’t exist… that there is only heat at varying levels. Even space has a temperature of around 3 Kelvin above absolute zero. Cold is the absence of heat, just as darkness is merely the absence of light. We then extended that concept to the idea that perhaps evil (darkness) is what happens in the absence of God (perfect light).

So Ben, seven years old and apparently struck with preternatural wisdom says, “You know… I like to think that Minecraft tells us a lot about God… just like that”. I queried further and he said, “Well, you know how in the game, the monsters only come out in the darkness and if there is enough light, they don’t spawn” That’s a lot like Jesus’ light and our lives. If there’s enough light, evil doesn’t show up”!

Wow… just, wow. From the mouth of a child indeed… and a quick connection! Not only a quick one, a very tightly linked example to a present and contemporary artifact… to wit, a video game. I like it… I feel a devotion coming on.

creeper  This is a Creeper. It comes out at night and chases you if you get close enough. They sidle up close to you, hiss for a moment, then explode… doing enough damage to quite effectively kill you unless you have strong armor on. Regardless, they will injure you and throw you several blocks away… very annoying if you’re on the edge of a cliff, canyon, or other dangerous spot.

This is a skeleton. He also comes out at night and if you walk close enough to him, he will shoot arrows at you.skeleton The arrows wound you and throw you back a space or two. It is fairly difficult to approach them to hit them face to face as their arrows keep pushing you back. I don’t want to draw parallels to our fight with evil, but let’s just say, some exist!

torchThis is a torch. This generates enough light in the game to keep monsters from spawning within 11 spaces of the torch itself. We can see a little farther than that in the game, but no monster can be created when the light is strong enough (11 spaces). It is key to get torches in a pattern that gives good light everywhere.

So, why a discussion of Minecraft? Other than the fact that it is a really good open world game with great opportunities for creativity and learning, it is also a good analog for our lives in terms of good and evil. If we are not aware, we can be surprised by evil in our world just like we can be in Minecraft if we aren’t always watching (Satan prowls about like a lion). Also, in life, if we aren’t actively taking steps to create light in our world, evil takes over naturally. This is the same in the game. There are far more parallels, but I’ve stretched this comparison too far already.

Remember to stay aware and to fill yourselves with Light. Squeeze whatever is in your heart that isn’t Him out of it and give evil no chance to take over.

Ben, great job with the allegory… Minecraft Steve as Little Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress… I love it! Good job son!

In Him,

Ron

Jars of clay

I speak a lot about the need to be filled with the Spirit, the need to crawl up on the altar every morning, and the fact that I can’t do any of this job without His strength… but why? Why do we need consistent infilling? Why must we break ourselves in front of an Almighty God every day… or every minute of every day? Why does the spring of Living Water need to continuously feed us rather than sticking around for a while after each supplication or devotion?

Picture – for a moment – that you have an old clay planter… a large clay pot out in your backyard. This pot is cracked and old, but it goes with the décor and you keep it around. It rains one evening, hard, and the pot fills up. You see it in the morning, full of fresh water as the rain begins to slow. By the time you leave for work, the pot is already down a bit, and by the time you come home, the pot is empty. While it was raining however, the pot was full of fresh water, overflowing with each inflowing drop. The pot empties because it is cracked and flawed and only stays full if constantly being filled. We are each like that clay planter.

“…for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water”. – Jer 2:13 ESV

 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us”. – 2 Cor 4:7 ESV

Because we are flawed and sinful, the goodness of the Spirit doesn’t ‘just stay’ in us. We must be constantly renewed. While our souls do retain that deposit guaranteeing our eternal future, this does not mean that we are living in the power of the Spirit without being infilled. We cannot overflow with something unless we are full of whatever that is. Passing something on requires that we first have it, and it order for it to naturally just spill over onto others, we must be full to the brim of it. This is not a situation where a glass (or heart) can be half-full. When our cups are not full, flowing over with Him, the parts that are not Him are not empty, they are us. We are flawed and sinful. When we neglect to fill ourselves with Him, His goodness begins to subside and we replace that with our own sinful hearts and desires… and over a little time, with a little stress, that sinful heart begins to spill out onto others.

Haven’t you had those times in your life when there is little between you and our God? Those moments when you are near tears of joy at every moment because of His grace to us, His creation of beauty even in this broken world, or His love shown through others to us? Team, those don’t have to be moments. This is the abundant life that Christ spoke about and wants us each to have!

We need to be full – to the brim and overflowing – with Jesus and His love for us so that we pour Living Water onto others. This requires a regular infilling, a constant connection, a mindset that we are strangers in a strange land… it requires our ultimate act of worship; to sacrifice ourselves and become a vessel only for Him… and to do that every minute of every day. All He wants is all of us; and all we need is all of Him.

Jesus… all I am and all I will become is Yours. For my betterment and to Your eternal glory, may I continue to crawl onto the altar every day… and stay there.

Amen,

Ron

The Little Children

I was reading in Matthew 19 today, just prior to the rich young ruler passage. Christ had been teaching and traveling and the Pharisees had put upon Him mightily (testing Him with questions about divorce) and Christ was tired… I would imagine that He was bone-tired, weary, and drained.

At that time, parents brought children to Him to have hands laid on them (a traditional way to pass on blessings, especially to the next generation at that time). Jesus’ disciples did what we would, if we were aware and caring… they rebuked the crowd and asked them to leave Jesus alone so that He could rest. Even the normally dense disciples knew the pattern; Christ taught, traveled, healed, and then He rested (good for us to remember). When He rested, He did so in and with His Father in heaven… and the disciples wanted to give Him time for that.

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. – Matthew 19:13-15, ESV

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”. This passage has been used to mean a great many things, indeed, we use it here at Compassion to say that Christ had a heart for children… specifically. I’m not denying the possibility that Christ has a heart for children, in fact, I believe that He desires that we – as those called out – protect all those who cannot protect themselves. I don’t think that Christ was saying that only children would inherit the kingdom either… I think He was speaking to the mindset and approach of a child as they learn.

Remember when your kids were young? Perhaps they are now. Children learn and often don’t know that they are doing it. When approaching something new that has been framed in a positive way, they approach it with bright eyes, eager anticipation, and deep curiosity. They are engaged, happy, almost bubbling over with enthusiasm… they want to learn. This means that they are not arrogant in their currently possessed knowledge, they are not sullen and resentful of something new, and they don’t think they know everything (remember Jesus is talking about little children… I’m well aware that teenagers know it all).

When we approach Jesus and His teaching, what heart do we have? Do we approach Him and His words with an attitude of, “Here we go again, I’ve heard all this before”, or do we re-set our minds, quiet our thoughts, and let the simple message of the gospel and His parables wash over us as if we were hearing them for the first time? When we hear the words, are we happy, eager, and do we listen with great expectation? If we do not, I pray that we learn how to do that, for Jesus speaks directly to that mindset in these verses.

Let’s humble ourselves, become like eager children, and listen to Him today.

Ron

Can Our Hearts be Broken and Soar at the Same Time?

My heart was moved as I watched Francis Chan speak – again – at Passion 2015. He had been to Africa and met a little girl and – like Scott Todd – his heart was changed by her story.

chan1This is the little girl that Francis Chan met on his trip to Africa in January of 2015. Francis was told that this little girl likely wouldn’t survive and Francis met her, heard her story, and prayed with her. He prayed that she would survive long enough to hear and accept the gospel, and that he would see her again.chan2

Francis moved along in his journey thereafter and saw a great many other things that affected his life, but the story of the little girl stuck with him. Two weeks before the Passion 2015 conference (six weeks after the trip) he was sent a second picture of this little girl, and that picture broke his heart completely…

– – – – – – –

Six weeks later, this is the same little girl… except that she is totally different. Same mind, same heart, same soul, but her body has been totally transformed.

My heart breaks because there are children on this earth like the one in the first picture. I feel physical pain in my gut when I see pictures of children suffering… but the joy I feel is equally palpable when I see them rescued, delivered, released!

It would be easy to stop the story here and say that these pictures and this transformation is why we I do what I do, and partly; it is. I’d be remiss however, because there is a much deeper story here to reveal.

– – – – – – –

Reader, the dramatic transformation in this little girls life is nothing compared to what Christ wants to do in our hearts. God sent His only Son to this sinful ball of dirt, to breathe life into His children for a second time… this time permanently. He desires that our dead souls … in far worse shape than this little child’s body… are transformed into healthy, living things that can hold His Spirit and pour that out on others. Folks, do you understand what that transformation is like? I trust that you do, but I want you to relive it again… for the first time.

Now, do you use that transformed soul to pour His Living Water on others? Do you polish yourself so that you can reflect His glory to others in increasing measure until The Day? Team, I exhort you to remember that God cares about our hearts first. Who we choose to be, what heart we act out of… that core is what He cares to transform… and our actions will pour out of that. There’s no trickle, no fits and starts… when we are in Him and are transformed, our actions pour out of us from a never-ending spring of His gifts and salvation.

Raise your hands to an Almighty God today and ask Him for that glory, for that transformation, so that you can pour life into others. Our world needs it, our ministry needs it, our family needs it, and God gives it to us to pass on.

Amen

Ron

P.S. Please don’t send me notes about a naked child’s behind being included. We are adults and the pictures are a raw representation of the extreme conditions and poverty being dealt with. You’ve seen more nudity on TV or National Geographic. If we look at those pictures and are impacted most by the lack of covering, we’ve got a completely different heart issue to deal with.

The Armor of God – 2

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

So, this isn’t going to be a deep exegesis of this passage, though that might be useful. It also won’t be a look at the military uniform of that contemporary time, though I love military history. This won’t be a disassembly of the original Greek or a deconstruction of didactic letters. This will be a practical look at each item of armor and why it might be outlined the way that it is and why the Lord would caution us to take it up and wear it. I will call out verse 20 where Paul tells us that he is in prison. Paul was watching soldiers walking by every day with their uniforms on… and thus, this is the metaphor he uses to communicate to the church.

Why?

Verses 10 through 13 explain why we need to put on the armor. We cannot do the things Paul is exhorting us to do (live the Christian life) on our own. The battle isn’t against other people… it is against powers well beyond what we can defeat as humans. Since we cannot do it in our own power, we need something supernatural, even heavenly. This armor – in combination with the same Spirit that enabled Christ to do His work – is what we must have in order to successfully fight the Christian fight!

Attitude

Word one in verse 14… stand. This is an exhortation to be ready and aware. Your armor does little good if you’re mentally sitting on the couch. Maintain situational awareness, understand that battles that seem impossible are… and that’s why we have God with us. Remember that there is much more going on underneath than what we can see… this is a battle against Satan and his designs, not other people. I’ll also – more gently – state that standing is a state of readiness, not only an offensive posture.

Belt of Truth

Why do we need truth? To defeat lies of course. The belt was a thick leather strap that had leather and metal that also protected a fairly delicate area just lower than the waist in front. I’ll bet that your average soldier would have chosen this first… is it a coincidence that it is listed first? This belt of truth defeats the lies of Satan that are so accepted in the world today, but the function of protecting our vitality also means that God’s truth also protects our essence against Satan’s lies. The voices that tell you that you are not enough, that you can’t do certain things, that you are failing every day… these lies are replaced with the truth that we are accepted and made worthy by the blood of Christ.

Breastplate of Righteousness

Clearly the largest and heaviest portion of the armor, this protects the heart and other vital organs. What protects our core, our identity as Jesus-followers is our righteousness given by Christ. We have been set apart and declared saints, and this identity is key… it protects the core of our being.

Shoes of Readiness (from peace)

These really aren’t for protecting the feet as much as they are to provide traction, for marching or for planting our feet as we lean in and fight. So, why are the shoes ‘readiness’? Think about trying to fight without shoes on. We would not be able to fight on any ground other than the smoothest sand, and even then we would have little traction. We are made ready with shoes, and that readiness is a calm and tranquil center of which we are sure, the gospel of peace. We have peace because of our place in Christ, not because nothing assails us. Our peace – from Him – prepares our feet to give us a strong foundation as we stand.

Shield of Faith

A large shield, perhaps a meter and a third tall and almost a meter wide, this could protect a large portion of the soldier’s body from danger… if raised and positioned toward the danger. Remember that faith doesn’t help in a trial if it comes from a direction in which you aren’t able or willing to raise your shield! Faith must be active in order to ward off enemy attacks. The devil will attack from every direction, including above and below… we must be ready to exercise our faith.

Helmet of Salvation

Head wounds – contemporary to Paul – would commonly render a solider inert in battle. The helmet was designed to keep the soldier in the battle, even if battered and wounded. Satan attacks with our failures, our hypocrisy, and our weaknesses… and we must fight back with the admission that we are wholly unworthy alone, but that we are covered by the blood of Christ and that we are therefore worthy. Even though battered and bruised by life, we are redeemed by a loving God and are therefore still in the fight!

Sword of the Spirit

Because we aren’t fighting earthy powers, we cannot attack with earthy weapons. We have an infinitely powerful weapon, fashioned by God Himself in His Word. Used both to block attacks and to attack, the sword is His Word to us, wielded in the power of His Spirit. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to us as we pick up The Word. When we have the whole armor on, and we pick up The Word, the gates of hell themselves rattle… not because of us, but because we are moving in the power of an Almighty God who has already won this war.

How?

We are tempted to wax eloquent with battle metaphors and be energized by the idea of fighting the enemy. The truth is that we must approach the battle with respect for the trial and depth of danger that we are in and rely on Him. Paul tells us to approach the battle with prayer… why? Because Paul knows that without the Spirit, none of the armor works!

Readers, I encourage you to pray through the armor in the morning… it doesn’t have to be a long prayer, but this makes us ready for the day and opens our minds to the battle that rages just outside our consciousness… and that battle is for souls.

Ron

The Armor of God – 1

In the middle of what we call the ‘6th chapter’ of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we find Paul’s exhortation to the church to put on the whole armor of God. I’ve included the passage below, but the question that I’d like to focus on today is, why would Paul exhort the church to put on armor? Why is armor needed?

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

I’d like to posit that James – and others – communicate the reason we need armor quite effectively. We need armor because we will be under attack! In his direct style, James opens with,

“Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith provides steadfastness” – James, 1:2,3

Team, we are the men and women that the Lord searched for as his prophet recorded in Eze 22:30. We are standing in the gap, not only between a declining world and poverty – for children – but we stand in the gap before an Almighty God whose wrath is held back until the end time. We have painted a target on our own backs, and we have done this with full knowledge that we will be persecuted for Him and for His children.

Satan doesn’t like what we are doing folks, and that is the easiest way for me to identify the right thing to do. If I am in the general will of the Lord, and I am being persecuted, I am almost certainly doing what is right. We are doing what is right. Understand that this means we will be under attack, know that, close ranks, put on the armor of God and fight side by side with me on behalf of children across this globe.

Our next devotion will unpack the passage above and we will discuss what the pieces are and why Paul is so clear on putting on the whole armor of God.

In Him,

Ron