Category Archives: Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines

Making a Believing Preparation for the Divine Blessing

 

A Word For Today

From Morning and Evening

by C.H. Spurgeon

Entry May 16th Evening Verse

 

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing. Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

 

 

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

 

 

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him.

 

 

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply –there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

 

 

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which Thou art so willing to bestow.

 

I felt the Holy Spirit as I read this entry from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional today, so I decided to post it. If after reading it you feel it is fitting for the situation you are in or your church is in or if you have an insight or opinion please take the time to comment.  

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.

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Pray That They Might Follow Jesus Despite the Fray.

According to Dictionary.com the definition of fray is:

 

1. a fight, battle, or skirmish

2. a noisy quarrel or brawl.

 

Today for better or for worse those who are choosing to come to Jesus in America must do so in the midst of a spiritual fray.

 

With heightening societal opposition it is no longer as easy as it once was to stand up and choose to become a follower of Jesus. Currently people, especially young people must run a gauntlet of cultural antagonism toward Christianity in order to come to Christ.

 

 

The celebration of Resurrection Day 2009 is right around the corner and in my life this provokes an opportunity to pray. I am prompted to call out to God for the people who will hear the claims of Christ as they are brought forth in churches throughout our nation this weekend.

 

I see a need for a great harvest for the Kingdom of God and I am praying that people will be able to tune out the din and the fray that the world supplies and come to Jesus in spite of it all.

 

 

Jesus had similar sentiments early in the week before his crucifixion. He was growing mournful over those who were rejecting Him. In John 12:37, we are told… But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.

 

Jesus had been faithful; He had done the Father’s bidding and fulfilled the Messianic duties God had put before Him. He had performed great miracles and yet the majority of the people were choosing not to believe and a growing resistance was resulting.

 

Later in the same chapter we are given one of the reasons why, Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).

 

 

Many in Israel were choosing not to become followers because they feared losing their reputations among those who were in power. They feared man more than God and they did not want to face the ultimate rejection that belief in Jesus would cost them.

 

 

In verse 44 of chapter twelve we are told, Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.

And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life.” John 12:37-49 (NKJV)

 

 

These words in John 12:44-49 are the last comments of Jesus Christ in a public setting before his arrest. From that point on we know from the gospel accounts that He went into hiding. He withdrew to prepare Himself for His impending death.

 

 

The distressing truth was that, in spite of all the clear evidence that was presented to them, the majority of the nation Israel simply would not believe. They had heard the message and seen the miracles, and they still would not confess that Jesus was their Messiah.

 

 

It is a sad reality that when people start to resist the light of Christ, something begins to change within them. And it is even sadder that concerning such people it is eventually true that it becomes almost impossible for them to believe.

 

The Scripture teaches that it is a serious thing to treat God’s truth lightly, because people can miss their opportunity to be saved. Isaiah 55:6 says, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” Quite simply, it is important that people respond when they hear the truth because there is no guarantee that they might ever get a second chance.

 

Amongst the nation Israel at the time of Christ there were those who would not believe, and there were those who would not openly confess Christ even though they had believed. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea belonged to this group of secret followers. They were two examples of individuals who were unable to pay the price of open acknowledgement, but who eventually came out and confessed Jesus.

 

This insight is encouraging as we consider the many around us in this day and age who have heard the message of the gospel and appear to approve but seem reticent to follow Jesus.

 

Could it be that they also want to believe but are being hindered because of their own fear of what man will say or do? Are they being hindered because of the societal voices that are ringing so loudly in their ears?

 

As you pray for the salvation of those who do not know Jesus—among your friends and relatives this season; pray for them wisely.

 

Realize that many people neglect responding to the truth simply because of the fear of man and the possible rejection it will cost them. As you pray for those you love pray specifically that those fears would be shown for what they are and be broken around the lives of your family and friends.

 

It is much better to fear God and go to heaven than to fear men and the rejection of men and go to hell! Jesus did not come to judge; as He points out in this passage–He came to save. But if the sinners will not trust in the Savior, their own choices will spell judgment.

 

 

Through failing to come to Jesus and trusting in the salvation that he offers the sinner who does not believe is actually passing judgment on himself. Jesus never refuses to bring anyone to salvation and eternal life but people often refuse Him and by doing so they choose their own consequences.

 

 Countless people in the U.S. today are like the unbelievers of Israel in the time of Jesus. Because of the freedom of religion we have in the U.S. many have received a clear presentation of Christ and in fact the majority have heard it again and again. Many American citizens are like the inhabitants of Jerusalem so long ago in that they have had the opportunity to see it all and hear it all. And like the unbelievers of Jesus time they are also hearing the threatening and mocking accusations of the current culture sounding off in the background.

 

 

Seekers are being forced to deal with the noise and the spiritual competitive brawl that the societal status quo who oppose Christ provide. In post Christian America people now know that they will have to pay a price in terms of reputation in order to become associated with Christ. Christianity is no longer as popular as it once was and the church has a spotted and soiled status at best.

 

For the first time in decades there are clear and present mounting societal barriers in our country to all those who would seek to call Jesus their own.

 

But Christians can not just sit back and whine and moan. What we must keep in mind is that these barriers are not insurmountable, we must remember that they can be overcome. We are not the first generation seeking to share Christ in a hostile environment but with that said what may be required of us is a commitment to pray. It may take prayer, prayer and more prayer to see our loved one’s successfully birthed into the Kingdom of God.

 

 

I would exhort you to pray with commitment and wisdom for the unbelievers you know. Pray that the unsaved would hear the clarion call of Jesus’ invitation to eternal life rising above all the background societal flack and noise. And pray that those you know who are in the process of being drawn will be like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who persevered and finally found the courage to cross over to being true disciples–despite the fray.

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Ready for Battle and Dressed to Kill: Ephesians 6:13-20

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The average woman in the U.S today can easily recite some fundamental fashion knowledge. She can probably tell you what colors she looks good in, what styles work for her figure and the foundational must-haves of a wardrobe. Some women might even be able to tell you what it takes to dress for success or how to accessorize effectively. But in today’s world the majority of women are ignorant regarding the most essential fashion basic of all – the spiritual wardrobe – offered to us by God himself. In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul lays out piece by piece what every successful Christian should be wearing: a set of spiritual armor. Paul draws upon the image of the finest of ancient warriors – the Roman soldier – and dials in a picture of a Christian who would be spiritually “dressed to kill.”

 

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. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – Eph 6:13-18 (NKJV)

 

Paul wrote this passage while he was a prisoner of Rome, chained to a Roman soldier. And although the soldier assigned to him probably was not dressed in full armor Paul knew exactly what that Roman soldier’s war gear entailed. His many imprisonments and multiple excursions in the company of Roman infantrymen had inscribed a mental picture on Paul’s mind. It was not an easily forgotten image and employing the illustration came naturally. Paul refers to our spiritual protection and weaponry as “the whole armor of God.” This simple phrase reinforces two important facts. First, our supernatural set of military hardware comes directly from God. And second, God has provided a complete set of spiritual covering for us, not a partial one. He has given us the “whole” armor of God. The phrase “whole” armor is taken from the word panoplia in the Greek and it pictures a Roman soldier who is fully dressed in his armor from head to toe. Everything the soldier needed to successfully combat his adversary was provided for “Rome’s best.” And God has similarly given us everything we need to successfully combat our opposing spiritual forces. Nothing is lacking. Paul specifically mentions five pieces of spiritual armor and two offensive spiritual weapons that God graciously provides to each Christian soldier so that we can effectively stand against our evil foe.

 

The loin belt or girdle of truth. The Roman soldier wore a loin belt which was also referred to as a girdle. Although it was the least impressive item amongst the soldier’s gear, it was the central piece because it held all the other parts together. The loin belt held the breastplate in place and the shield rested on a clip on one side of the loin belt while on the other side was another clip from which the Roman soldier hung his sword. In the ancient war garment, the girdle about the loins held in place every other part of the uniform. It was an essential. If the girdle was lost, you lost everything. The garments would fly open and the other pieces of weaponry would fall off the soldier and onto the field of battle. This integral piece of armor corresponds in Paul’s spiritual regalia with the belt of truth. Satan is “the father of lies” but the believer whose life is controlled by truth will ultimately defeat him. The loin belt holds the other parts of the armor together, and truth is that integrating force in the life of a Christian. A person who knows the truth and possesses integrity, with a clear conscience, can face the enemy without fear. The belt also held the sword and unless a believer walks in the truth he cannot effectively use the Word of truth. If a believer begins to live a life of hypocrisy – if lies and falsehood begin to permeate the life of a believer – everything begins to fall apart.

 

The breastplace of righteousness. The second piece of armor that every Roman combatant added to his collection was a magnificent breastplate. The breastplate was constructed of two large sheets of metal. One piece covered the front of the soldier and the other piece covered his back, and the two sheets were attached at the top of the shoulders by large brass rings. Frequently these metal plates were comprised of smaller scale-like pieces of metal that, when joined together, comprised a coating that protected the wearer’s torso from his neck to below his waist. This vital piece of armor covered the most vulnerable parts of the body and in Paul’s analogy the breastplate symbolizes the believer’s righteous life in Christ. Only the righteousness of Christ can enable a Christian to stand before God, but a heart that is well-protected is a heart that is not condemning the believer. It is very difficult to have sin in your life while at the same time trying to fight a spiritual battle. According to Ephesians 4:27, we are not to “give place to the devil.” What this refers to is that sin in the life of a Christian gives Satan a place of occupation; a stronghold to use against his foe. Paul instructed the Ephesians, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception and…Put on your new nature, created to be like Godtruly righteous and holy. Eph 4:22-24 (NLT). Satan’s job description is that of the “accuser of the brethren” but he finds it much more difficult to accuse a believer who is living a godly life; one whose breastplate of righteousness is intact.

 

The shoes of the Gospel. The Roman soldier also wore a third piece of gear – a pair of treacherous looking shoes. These shoes were unlike the sandals worn by civilians which were merely flimsy soles held on by pieces of twine wrapped around the heel and the toe. The shoes that the Roman soldier wore were primarily made of metal. The first piece was called a greave. It was a tube-like piece of brass that wrapped around the soldier’s lower leg, beginning at the top of his knee and extending down past the calf, coming to rest on the top of the foot. The greave almost gave the appearance of boots that were made of brass. In addition, the top side of the foot was also encased in a piece of metal and on the bottom, the Roman soldier’s shoes were affixed with a set of spikes. The Roman soldier wore these shoes with soles that were thickly studded to give him better footing for fighting. Paul makes it clear that if we are going to “stand firm” in battle, our feet will need to be shod with the shoes of the Gospel. Shoes are necessary for standing. They speak of the foundation. In hand-to-hand combat soldiers are taught to make sure their feet are anchored. Romans 5:1 tells us, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” Because we have the peace with God that comes from the knowledge of the Gospel, we know that God is always on our side and we need not fear Satan’s attack. This assurance is the foundation we stand on.

 

The shield of faith. A fourth important piece of protection, a large, oblong shield which measured about four feet by two feet, was carried by every Roman warrior. The shield was shaped like a door and was made of multiple layers of animal hide tightly woven together. The outside rim of the shield was framed in meta and the shield’s size alone provided good coverage. As the soldier held it in front of him, it protected him from spears, arrows, and “fiery darts.” Faith is a defensive weapon which we can take up as a shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy. The actual “fiery darts” were arrows dipped in pitch and set ablaze. In the spiritual realm Satan gives no mercy as he shoots all types of “fiery darts” at the hearts and minds of Christians. These flaming missiles come in many varieties: blazing lies, profane fixations, hateful combustible thoughts, smoldering doubts, burning passions; the list goes on and on. Satan utilizes all their forms and enjoys pelting us with on-going assaults. Failing to quench these “fiery darts” with the shield of our Christian faith can spell disaster. A blazing arrow – a strategic attack on the mind or heart – can cause a fire which can quickly spread and the internal inferno that results has the power to change a vibrant disciple into a charred and ineffective believer. We never know quite when Satan will shoot a well placed dart at us, so we must walk by faith, holding steadfastly to our beliefs, effectively wielding the shield of faith.

 

The helmet of salvation. Every Roman soldier also wore a helmet. This all important piece of armor protected the soldier from receiving a fatal blow to the head. The helmets of the Roman troops were made of brass and ornately adorned with feathers or animal hair. Satan always wants to target the mind. It was the initial way he defeated humanity as he came to deceive Eve and he has used it ever since. The helmet of salvation refers to the mind protected and controlled by God. It is sad that many Christians believe that having a strong mind and intellect for Christ is unimportant. A keen God-controlled intellect plays a vital role in Christian growth, service, and living. The Christian who studies the Bible and learns the meaning of Bible doctrines is not going to be easily led astray. We are to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). The Apostle Paul, when he ministered, always made it a priority to teach new converts the truths of the Word of God regarding their salvation in Jesus Christ. He did this because he knew that this “spiritual” helmet would protect them from Satan’s lies. Likewise we all need the helmet supplied by adequate study of the truths of the Gospel; we should not approach life and the spiritual warfare it brings without protection for our minds.

 

Two offensive weapons: the sword of the Spirit and Spirit-led prayer. In addition to their basic armament all ancient warriors were also equipped with at least one offensive weapon – and the weapon of choice in the first century was a sword. Although there were many kinds of swords, the blade that the Roman soldier most often carried was a very heavy broad sword specifically designed for jabbing and killing. Hebrews 4:12 compares the Word of God to a sword that is sharp and able to pierce the inner man just as a material sword pierces the body, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Heb 4:12 (NKJV) A material sword pierces the body, but the Word of God pierces the heart. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Christ used the sword of the Spirit and defeated the enemy. Three times Jesus said, “It is written” (Luke 4:1-13) in thwarting the enemy’s attacks. Satan also quoted the Word as he tempted Jesus but he did not quote it completely or use it accurately. Satan tries to use the Word of God to confuse us, so it is important that we familiarize ourselves with the Word of God and that we study it regularly and thoroughly. The better you know the Word of God, the easier it will be for you to detect Satan’s lies and reject his offers—it is your sword of the Spirit.

 

Last but not least, the final piece of spiritual armor and our second weapon of offense that is listed in Ephesians 6 is prayer. Paul tells us “pray at all times in the Spirit.” While no part of the armor is given to correspond as a symbol of prayer, prayer is nonetheless an important part of every Christian soldier’s weaponry. And “praying in the Spirit” – as Paul refers to it – is not just turning in your grocery list to God. Praying in the Spirit underlines the fact that you and I recognize our enemy and that we are seeking to lay hold of God to provide the spiritual resources that He knows we need. Paul was reminding them not to forget to ask God to back them up in their attempts at spiritual combat. As soldiers in God’s army we can never afford to be without the cover of the big artillery that God alone can provide.

 

Finally, as we come to the end of Paul’s listing of our spiritual weaponry, it is important to realize that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is not his only NT reference to the need for spiritual readiness and protection. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he also warns those disciples about their need for spiritual armor. He writes, “It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:11-12 (NKJV). Paul told them, wake up, cast off your sin, and “put on the armor of light.” As believers today we can choose to heed Paul’s cry to arms and put on the armor, or like ostriches we can choose to bury our heads in the sand and deny that there is even a war on. Can you hear the trumpet sounding, calling you to spiritual battle? If you can, be obedient, don’t delay, get up, get off your bed and get dressed. Find that belt and breastplate. Pick up your shield. Put on your helmet and don’t forget your shoes. Grab your sword on your way out and, above all else, don’t forget to pray. You must not remain asleep another minute because the battle is real and you are on the frontlines!

 

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Jesus is all about relationship–Are you willing to go there?

Making contact with God and maintaining a meaningful relationship with Him is at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. The primary purpose for Jesus’ mission to this planet was to pay the way for reconciliation of relationship between God and humankind.  The capability of people to make unhindered and lasting contact with God was a high ticket item for Jesus—He gave his life for it.

 

When Jesus walked this earth He vehemently condemned the religion without relationship he found amongst the Jews. At every opportunity He openly opposed the empty faith of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees who were the professional religionists of the time were not in the least bit concerned with “How can I seek to know God?” They had long before degenerated to an obsession with “How can I look good for God?” They were preoccupied with image, reputation and prideful practice and Jesus had little patience for their self-focused religion. It is not surprising that God Incarnate could not tolerate their brand of “man-centered worship.” With righteous indignation Jesus took on the Pharisees again and again.  And at every encounter with “all authority” He turned the tables on them. His teachings redefined God the Father and true religion and it upset their status quo.

 

The early church was also infiltrated by “man centered religion.” In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus rebukes the church of the Laodiceans for their self-focused ways, “…you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  He chastised them in the strongest terms to repent and refocus their lives.  In the end, His prescription for this ailing church was short and sweet—make contact with your God again.  Get your focus off yourself and connect with Me.  He unashamedly held out the invitation to relationship… Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

 

As believers we all have the option of distancing ourselves from the God who loves us. It is within our power to rudely keep Jesus on the other side of the door of our heart knocking while we are otherwise occupied.  Many Christians today have become “Neo-Pharisees,” a breed who flock to church to put on a good show.  They dutifully practice the external intellectual elements of bible study, go through the motions of worship and make eloquent prayers.  But just like the Pharisees it is all to be seen by men.  On the inside they are making little real relational contact with the transforming power of the “Living God” and as a result they are actually starving, miserable, and perishing souls. 

 

Why do people who once said “yes” to Jesus, do such things?  Because down deep they want a God of their own making, a God who obeys them, making them look and feel good at all times.  They want a God who gives precedence to their priorities.  The problem is Jesus doesn’t work that way. When Jesus comes into a heart to intimately dine with its owner He requires a few things.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of many wanna-be disciples the requirements he deems necessary are so inconvenient.  Dying to self, dealing with sin, changing attitudes and behaviors and receiving God’s directions for your life can at times be “not fun.”  Uninformed Christians do not always like the initial aftermath that making contact with God brings.  So they pull back, shut the door, and let Jesus keep on knocking.  They are unwilling disciples.  They are followers who have not counted the cost that a vital relationship with the Creator of the Universe rings up.           

 

The problem is many are also guilty of not measuring the benefits that making contact with Jesus can bring.  Jesus promises to come into your soul and dine with you.  He wants to share a feast and He’s bringing the provisions. Come and dine, come and drink, come and rest—are all very familiar invitations that our Savior issues.  He wants to satisfy the true deep needs of our souls.  He is not concerned with the “bling” or the status of this world.  As our maker he wants to meet our real needs and come to us in ways that truly satiate the hunger and thirst of our inner being.  All the great saints of the Bible were accomplished at making contact with God.  Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, Mary of Bethany and John to name a few majored in friendship with God.  They recognized the benefits relating on a regular basis with the God of the Universe could bring.

 

If you’re going to be a Christian making contact with God is not optional. It is mandatory.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are willing to open the door of your heart to Jesus on a regular basis.  Don’t call yourself a Christian unless you are ready to deal with the internal issues, the issues of the heart that Jesus deems important.  Realize that He wants to make contact with you and that if you let Him in He will bring His life transforming power to meet the deep needs of your soul.  Realize that by His power He is willing to change you from the inside out.  God has the power to affect your life beyond all your expectations and in ways you could not even dream of. 

 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man

 The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  1Cor. 2:9

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Please feel free to share any effective tools that you have utilized to help you stay in contact and build relationship with the Lord? How do you remain true to your commitment to make Him number one in your life?

Do you know Christians who are all about religion and yet seem unaware of relationship and intimacy with God?  How does the “pharisee” routine look in 21st century churches.  Share your experiences and please feel free to vent!  

 

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Filed under Character of God, Christian Spiritual Growth and Disciplines, Jesus Christ

Pray for Our New President

 

Many Christians were inspired by Rick Warren’s inaugural invocation prayer. 

 

Pastor Warren was straight forward in his prayer and was in no way subtle or apologetic about his faith in Jesus Christ. 

 

In the New Testament we are advised by the Apostle Paul to pray for our leaders.

 

Let’s use Rick Warren’s prayer as inspiration for our own prayers offered for our new president and his family.  Here is the text of the prayer as it appears on the Associated Press website. 

 

Let us pray, Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone.  It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory.  History is your story. 

 

The Scripture tells us, Hear, oh Israel, The Lord is Our God: The Lord is one.  And you are the compassionate and merciful one.  And you are loving to everyone you have made. 

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time.  We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our fist African-American president of the United States.  We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. 

And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven.  Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity.  Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and everyone of our freely elected leaders. 

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.  When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us.  When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us.  When we fail to treat our fellow human beings an all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us. 

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches and civility in out attitudes even when we differ.  Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all. 

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.  And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you. 

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughter, Malia and Sasha into your loving care.  I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS), who taught us to pray,

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.

For more excerpts of the inauguration and comments from a Christian perspective click on the following link and view the post entitled “A New Era Begins.”
What are your opinions about Rick Warren’s dynamic prayer at the inaugural, please take the time to comment!

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Filed under Prayer