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.

Not Your Warm and Fuzzy Devotional

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There is a lot of hero-worship in the church. There are “rock-star” pastors with thousands of followers and Bible teachers who sell out auditoriums around the country. Jesus had quite a crowd that followed Him and hung on His every word. Take the fellow in Luke 9: “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you where you go.’” (v. 57). He wanted to be part of Jesus’ entourage. But Jesus didn’t encourage this would-be fan. His response: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (v. 58). I believe Jesus was saying, “This is not going to be the high-life you’re expecting. I don’t have a multi-million dollar mansion to put you up in. I walk hot, dusty roads and sleep where I can.”

What did you expect from Jesus when you chose to follow Him? A solution to all your problems? A good reputation in the community? A full life with heaven thrown in after it’s all over?

Just a few verses before this scene, He told His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (v. 23) Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and the cross. He might have also told the man, “Don’t hook your wagon to me unless you’re prepared to die.” There is a war going on between good and evil, between light and darkness. Evil and darkness have the upper hand at the moment. God’s people are the enemy of the present ruling authorities who are bent on destruction. If you choose Jesus, you need to know that you are also choosing self-denial, persecution, rejection, and suffering. That is what Jesus endured. Why should we expect any less?

But then, I look at the modern church, so comfortable in our air-conditioned sanctuaries. Where is the suffering? Where is the persecution? Where are self-denial and the cross? Maybe the enemy’s strategy against the church today is not a full-on battle, but just to make us relaxed and contented. Just before he hits us with an all-out assault.

Here’s a thought: If Christianity is comfortable, maybe we’re in more danger than we know.

Peace that Never Ends

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”  2 Thessalonians 3:16

On this, our last day in the Advent week of peace, let’s recall for a moment the many ways the Lord of peace has given us His peace.  We have considered how Jesus Christ became the way to peace with God.  We have seen how the peace of God can calm our fearful and anxious hearts, and how it can bring peace to our relationships.  God offers peace in our “dark night of the soul,” bringing His light to the night that surrounds us.  We have also seen that a life focused on peace brings fruit such as unity, rest, life, strength and hope.  These are all available to us today, when we choose Jesus Christ, the true Prince of Peace.

But there is a peace we have not yet considered, a peace that we will not know in this life for it is an eternal peace.  In the beloved Christmas hymn, “Silent Night” we sing, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” This is “heavenly peace.”

We live in a world that is fraught with the threat of war, terrorism, and never knowing when another unhinged person will open fire in a killing spree.  Every day the news is filled with reports of abuse, hatred, oppression, and violence.  National, world and local leaders are corrupt.  Children live and die in fear, hunger, disease and war.  Will it ever come to an end?

Yes, and it will be a spectacular end indeed.  One day, and I think not so very far away, Jesus Christ will return, and bring with Him the fulfillment of God’s promise of peace. He will come, not as the baby in the manger, but as the victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He will come with power and authority.  He will bring an end to evil and wickedness.  He will bring punishment to those who love evil and hatred and corruption – to all who rejected Him in this life.

But to those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ He will bring peace.  No more war. No more disease. No more violence. No more hatred.  No one will harm another person.  No one will ever again be hungry or fearful or lonely or sad. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).  We will never be separated from God.  We will live forever in perfect peace.

Do you long for this peace? Do you, like me, ache to see an end to evil and hatred and corruption and violence?  Do you know the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, as your Savior and Lord?  This helpless baby in the manger can bring you everlasting peace if you will believe and trust in Him.  Let today be the day that you make your peace secure.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, I want this peace that will never end. Today I turn from sin and turn to You.  By faith I receive you as my Savior and surrender my life to You as Lord.  I receive Your promise of everlasting peace.  Amen.