Thus Saith the Lord

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This morning I was reading in Proverbs (a great source of practical and spiritual wisdom) and came to this: “Every word of God is flawless, He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). Immediately my mind went to the armor of God in Ephesians 6 and the Shield of Faith, and a light went off in my mind. I’ve always understood that the shield of faith is my confidence, my trust, my determination to stand strong behind my faith in God. Do you see the weak link in that chain – my. It’s all dependant on me. And I am not that strong. My faith is feeble on my best days, and I’ve had some pretty rough days of late.

But if my shield is God’s own words – what a strong and study defense I hold in my hand. If my confidence is in God’s promise to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Jos 1:5) and to “be with you where you go” (v. 9), the enemy cannot penetrate God’s faithfulness.  If I am clinging to His declaration that “You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you . . . I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is 41:9-10), I know satan cannot defeat me. And if He said “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4), it’s His hand in my hand that is holding strong to that shield and nothing and no one can break His grip. When Jesus was in the wilderness, what was His response when the devil tried to tempt Him? “It is written . . .” (Matt 4:4, 7, 10).

Just a side note: did you notice the second part of Proverbs 30:5? Go back and read it again – I’ll wait for you. When your faith is crafted from the very Word of God, God Himself takes up the position of defense. He is YHWH Magan – The LORD the Shield. If that Shield of Faith is going to protect you it must be made of something stronger than steel – the mighty Word of the living God. Beloved, if you will put your faith in “Thus saith the Lord” you will see your Shield standing between you and the enemy (see 2 Kings 6:15-17). That’s a position of security and victory.

Hebrews: I Need You

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One major blow the pandemic has dealt the church is disconnection. When churches closed their doors trying to keep their members safe, it also isolated them physically from one another. Now that churches are opened again, many have decided not to return. Without the opportunity to come together, many people have grown cold. They just don’t think they need the church anymore.

The writer of Hebrews pointed to one important aspect of the Christian community: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (3:12-13). This is not a message to individual Christians; it’s a word for the full Body of Christ. “You are responsible for one another.” No, that doesn’t mean you will be held accountable for my sins (aren’t you glad!), but that you and I are called to encourage each other away from sin and into a deeper faith in God. That means being together enough that I notice when your faith is faltering.  That’s one thing I really miss being 100 miles away from my best friend. When we lived in the same town, we spent a lot of time together. She knew when I was struggling just by the inflection of my voice and my posture. She would come beside me and redirect me back to truth and faith. We are called to encourage one another in our daily walk so that sin and unbelief do not harden our hearts and turn us away from God.

In his message on the armor of God, Paul wrote about “the shield of faith” (Ephesians 6:16). The Roman soldier’s shield had a particularly important feature for the protection of the whole troop – a loop-and-locking system on the sides that allowed a group of soldiers to form what is known as “The Testudo (Tortoise) Formation.” By locking their shields together they formed a “safe house” around and above the whole company that covered them from all sides. This is the picture Paul painted of the Body of Christ working together against the “flaming arrows” of sin and unbelief launched by the evil one.

We dare not face off against the enemy in isolation. Beloved, your brothers and sisters need you. I need you. And you need me. Lock your shield with mine and theirs and let’s help one another stand firm in our shared faith.

Dressed for (Spiritual) Success

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It’s Saturday morning. I’m sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt. If it was a workday or Sunday, I would be wearing clothes appropriate for what my day holds. Today it doesn’t hold much more than house chores. But one thing I wear every day is the armor of God. Each piece has a distinctive purpose, but I’m thinking about one specific piece this morning.

In Genesis 4, when Abel and Cain brought offerings to the Lord, Abel’s offering – “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” – was pleasing and accepted by the Lord. But Cain’s offering – a stingy gathering of some of his crops – was not. Cain became angry – murderously angry. The Lord confronted Cain and told him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (v. 7). In essence, God was telling him doing what is right is a means of protection for you, but if you do not do what is right you are wide open and sin will take you. You know the rest of the story: Cain lured his brother out into a field and murdered him out of jealousy.

You and I have the same protection as believers in Christ. We are made right because of Jesus’ righteousness – He bestows it to us as a guard against sin. We take possession of it when we “put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:13,14). Sin is still “crouching at the door,” ready to pounce.  But the righteousness of Christ protects us. Those who do not have this covering of righteousness – or have access to it and do not utilize it – are unprotected and vulnerable. They are sure to fall, just as Cain did.  

Sin cannot go where Christ’s righteousness abides. The breastplate of righteousness protects us from sin. But only if we take it as our personal protective armor. Every piece is important – but the righteousness of Christ protects our most vulnerable place, our heart – the seat of our confidence in our standing before God. When we fail to put on Christ’s righteousness, our hearts are wide open for the onrush of sin.

Are you dressed, Beloved?

How to do Battle with the Devil

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“Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” (Ephesians 6:17).

Why do you suppose Paul called the Word of God the “sword of the Spirit”? There’s a very good reason for that – it is the only offensive weapon in our Christian arsenal. And it is enough because Satan runs from the holy power of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 calls the Word of God “a double-edged sword.” Revelation 1:16 describes the God-Man, Jesus Christ: “out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” Even in the heavens, Jesus still uses the Sword of the Spirit to deliver justice. The Word of God is powerful enough to speak the universe into existence and to enact divine judgment on the wicked and evil in the world.

So where do we get this sword, and how do we learn how to use it? Psalm 119:11 gives us the answer – “I have hidden your Word in my heart,” Simply put, we memorize Scripture. Every verse, every passage, every promise, and every truth adds to the power of your Sword. And the more you study the Word and meditate on it, the more adept you will be at using it. Is there a particular area of weakness or stronghold where Satan usually attacks? Look for Scripture that addresses that area. Read the verses aloud, write them on notecards and place them in areas like the kitchen, your desk, your bathroom mirror, or bedside table. Get a journal and write the verses out, look up the words, consider how this verse applies to your life – these are all excellent “drills” to help you grow in knowledge and strength in the Word of the Lord. The final step though is to submit to and obey the Word hidden in your heart.

Consider this, when Satan launches an attack against you, and all you know is John 3:16, (which is an awesome verse to know), you are trying to defeat the enemy with a pocketknife. But if you have been reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing Scripture, when you reach into your heart where that Word has been stored and grab hold of those verses, you are going to pull out a SWORD that will send your enemy reeling and scrambling. Beloved, That’s how you do battle with the enemy of your soul!

Wanted. Chosen. Loved.

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Recently, I had the most practical example of the helmet of Salvation. I had been reading in Luke 15 – Jesus’ parables about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. Satan, who will twist even the Word of God into a fiery dart, began to taunt me: “You are a lost cause.” “You are always in trouble and God is getting tired of pulling your butt out of the mud.”
Almost simultaneously, my sister-in-law called me with a word. She had no idea what was going on in my head. She felt compelled to shared Isaiah 41:9-10 with me: “You are my servant; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. so do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, For I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Then she reminded me of John 15:13-17 and Jesus calling us His friends. One verse jumped out at me: “You did not choose me, but I chose you . . . ” (v. 16). One word in both passages caught my attention: “Chose.” God chose me.
For a kid who grew up being the last one chosen in P.E., that was huge and it became my helmet of Salvation. I am chosen. He didn’t choose me because of anything good or worthy in me. It was because of His love. Nothing more and nothing less. God chose me, despite my tendency to fall into the mud. I am not a lost cause. I am chosen. He chose me and saved me – I belong to Him and He loves me.
The helmet of Salvation is given to protect our mind – the enemy’s favorite target. Every lie and accusation he speaks to us can either sink deep into our psyche or it can bounce off of the protection of Christ’s salvation. Beloved, if you are saved by the blood of Jesus, nothing the devil says has any authority over you. Nothing. Not one thing. Keep the assurance of your salvation as a covering for your mind and let the enemy’s taunts bounce back at his feet.

Battle-Ready

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Armor of God. You are probably familiar with Ephesians 6:10-18 and the list and description of each piece:
The Belt of Truth – this foundational garment provides support to stand erect.
The Breastplate of Righteousness –covers the heart – the seat of our emotions, thoughts, and affections, and the lungs – the breath of the Holy Spirit.
The Shoes of the Readiness of the Gospel of Peace – to take the Gospel with us everywhere we go – spreading it like holy seeds.
The Shield of Faith – protection from the fiery darts of the enemy – darts of doubt, temptation, fear, self-defeat, anger, bitterness, hatred, and animosity.
The Helmet of Salvation – to cover our minds, where the enemy battles us most fiercely.
The Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – the only defensive piece of the Armor.
Prayer – our source of power, strength, and discernment.
My sister-in-law is always reminding me to put on my armor every day, “Pull those straps tight every morning!” And she’s right. But here’s something I had not noticed before now: “Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground . . .” (v. 13, emphasis added). Every day is a spiritual battle. Every day we face off against the devil. Every day he lobs his darts and tries to take us out. But there is a “day of evil” coming when the battle will be like nothing you or I have ever experienced. We have no way of knowing when that day will be, so we must be prepared for it every day.
Do you remember the story of “David and Goliath?” When David told King Saul that he would take on Goliath, Saul dressed David in his own tunic, armor, and helmet. “David . . . tried walking around” and said, “I cannot go in these because I am not used to them” (1 Sam 17:38-39). Friend, you and I have to get used to wearing the armor now, so that when that day comes, it is as natural to us as our favorite pair of jeans. We have to strengthen our arms to hold up that Shield and know how to use that Sword to it’s fullest advantage. We can’t be clunking into war in uncomfortable battle gear.
Beloved, the day is near. You need to get ready.

Your Shield of Faith

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“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

I’m studying the Armor of God, and in particular the Shield of Faith this week.  I think every person who claims to be a Christian should do a deep study of this important passage in Ephesians 6:10-19.  Each piece is vital for different reasons because the enemy has so many different ways to attack us.  The Belt of Truth strengthens us from the inside out, giving us the ability to deflect lies and half-truths that look right, but miss the mark.  The Breastplate of Righteousness protects our heart from the enemy’s onslaught of lies about who we are. The Shoes of Peace enable us to stand firm in the harsh terrain of this world.  The Helmet of Salvation protects our mind, the devil’s favorite target.  The Sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon – but the Word of God is all we need to send Satan scurrying.  And then there is the Shield of Faith – a vital protective piece.

“Faith” gets used a lot in churches and Christian circles – so much so that I fear it has lost it’s meaning.  In the modern Christian culture, we say we have faith because we think about God and talk about Bible verses.  But biblical faith is not just sitting around with our ethereal thoughts.  By definition, faith is a belief that leads to a corresponding action – even when the reasons for that action are unclear and the results are uncertain.  Mind you, faith isn’t “blind” either.  It sees the improbability of what God is asking.  Faith does it anyway. “Because You said so” (Luke 5:5).  Faith allows us to step out into the empty space, confident that the solid ground God promised will be in place when our foot sets down.

What has God asked of you that requires great faith?  Obedience to His call is your shield.  Do the thing whether you understand the reasons or not.  Do it when it doesn’t make a bit of sense. Do it even though you can’t see the outcome.  If your knees are knocking – do it afraid, but do it.  Then when God slides His hand in place just as your foot reaches the open space, you will stand on the most solid ground you’ve ever known.  Have faith Beloved.  Just do it.

The Battle is On!

“I have hidden your Word in my heart,” Psalm 119:11

When Satan comes to pick a fight, you’d better have something bigger than a pocketknife in your hand.

Spiritual warfare. Not a phrase that makes us all warm and fuzzy, but we need to realize that spiritual warfare is very real, and as the end draws nearer, the battles will become more fierce. We have a cartoon image of the devil – red long-johns, a tail, horns and a pitchfork. We joke around that “the devil made me do it,” and we expect to flick him off our shoulder like a pesky fly. Dear friend, you and I need to wise up. We need to know that the devil is real, that he is powerful, and he hates us because God loves us. And we need to know how to fight him. Because whether you signed up or not; if you are a child of God, Satan has declared war on you.

If that thought makes you want to run and hide, let me assure you – the Lord God has not left you defenseless. First He has promised His presence to protect us, Isaiah 52:12 says “The Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” The Lord is both before you and behind you. The enemy will encounter Jehovah Gibbor Milchamah – the Lord Mighty in Battle, before he can reach you. And he cannot launch a surprise attack from behind, for he cannot get past Elohim Tsebaoth – God of the Angel Armies.

He has also provided us with His own mighty armor, found in Ephesians 6:13-17. “The belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace…the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” We are going to study closely each piece of the Armor of God over the coming weeks, but today we are going to look at “the sword of the Spirit.” In the Sword of the Spirit, He has given you and me the weapon that causes Satan to tremble-the Holy and Mighty Word of the Living God. It was Jesus’ own weapon of choice when Satan came to tempt Him in the wilderness-every offer the devil threw at Him, Jesus countered with Scripture.

Did you notice that Paul called the Word of God the “sword of the Spirit”? Let’s see another passage that uses the same image. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword.” Want an even stronger picture? Revelation 1:12-16 describes the God-Man, Jesus Christ as He appears in John’s vision; verse 16 tells us “out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.” Even in the heavens, Jesus still uses the Sword of the Spirit to deliver justice.

So where do we get this sword, and how do we learn how to use it? Our key verse gives us the answer – we hide God’s Word in our heart. Simply put, we memorize Scripture. Every verse, every passage, every promise and every truth adds to the weight and length and strength of your Sword. And the more you study the Word and meditate on it, the more adept you will be at using it. Is there a particular area of weakness or stronghold where Satan usually attacks? Look for Scripture that addresses that area. Read the verses aloud, write them on notecards and place them in areas like the kitchen, your desk, your bathroom mirror or bedside table. Get a journal and write the verses out, look up the words, consider how this verse applies to your life – these are all excellent “drills” to help you grow in knowledge and strength in the Word of the Lord.

Consider this, when Satan launches an attack against you, and all you know is John 3:16, (which is an awesome verse to know), you are trying to defeat the enemy with a pocketknife. But if you have been reading, studying, meditating and memorizing Scripture, when you reach into your heart where that Word has been stored and grab hold of those verses, you are going to pull out a SWORD that will send your enemy reeling and scrambling to get away. That’s how the child of God does battle with the enemy of our soul.

Dear friend, we cannot pretend that the battle does not exist, lest we do so at our own peril. Our enemy is very real, he is powerful and he is on the prowl. But you and I have the presence of God, the power of the blood of Christ, and the perfect Word of the Lord God Almighty. It is time to take up the armor of God, grab your Sword, and stand on the Name of Jesus and the Word of God. How about making this verse your starting point: “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

 

Mighty God, the enemy is real, the battle is real. But You have given me Your Armor and Your promise to stand with me against my foe. Make me strong in Your Word and in Your mighty Spirit. Amen.