Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Virgin Mary

If you type into Google "The Virgin Mary" you get 10,100,000 results. If you type in "Was Mary a Virgin" you get 27,100,000. Nearly three times the results.

Interesting, huh?

Everyone's got an opinion. It seems that a lot of time is spent discussing whether Mary was an actual virgin, or if virgin meant pre-pubescent, or if a Roman soldier was the actual father, or if the whole thing was a hoax, or Mary was a lying whore (sorry to be rough, but it's a common argument on google), or if she had perpetual virginity, or if she was ascended into heaven because she was a virgin, or if she just died like the rest of us. this really necessary?

Oh, yes, it's necessary if you are trying to keep the focus off Jesus Christ.

This week I sent my gals out into the big, dark world to see if people in general believed that the virgin birth was what it claims to be. In some studies I have found, they claim that 70% of believers and non-believers think she was really a virgin. It will be interesting to see if most in this area believe in the virgin birth. I should have instructed the women to ask a second question then - if she was a virgin, how does that affect you today?

The big question is: why is the virgin birth of Jesus so important?

It comes down to truth. If Isaiah 7:14 says that a "virgin will conceive and bear a son" and this child is "God with Us," then for Jesus to be "God with Us" or Immanuel, then He must fulfill this prophecy. Matthew 1:18 tells us that "...when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit." Luke 1:35 tells how this happened - "...The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God."

At face value, you have an Old Testament prophecy that states the birth will be a virgin birth and you have two gospel accounts that state Mary was a virgin and became pregnant through the work of the Holy Spirit - that's why Jesus would be called the Son of God. If Jesus was simply a baby born of Joseph and Mary, then He would have the same nature that you and I have, and He would need a savior just as much as we do.

But He was not born of man, but He was born of God, fulfilling the OT prophecy and establishing His divine nature.

So, if it's really that simple, then why are there 27 million results on google? Because without the gift of faith, the fact of the virgin birth is something to distract the world from the truth of the person of Jesus Christ. Remember, Satan is the master at twisting truth and he loves to draw even believers' attention away from truth by getting them tangled in senseless debates.

So, here's my advice for you today: stick with Truth. If the Bible says it, believe it. Oh, go ahead and study it, compare scripture with scripture, understand the context and you can even review the culture. But if the scripture says something, have confidence that you have been given the Truth.

Don't worry about the 27 million opinions. You have the One that counts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


What thoughts come to mind when you look at this picture? Do you see the innocence of the child and the tender touch of the father? Do you see the commitment of a lifetime of gentle care that has been placed in this man's hands? Do you see the utter dependence of the infant?

Unfortunately some fathers never come close to fulfilling their responsibilities to their children. Some abandon early on. Others abuse and even more simply find being a father just too hard. It's much easier to be a friend than be a father. Friends laugh and play. Fathers mentor, discipline, teach and stay.

This week the gals in my study are going to read through John 15:1-11 and list out descriptions of the Heavenly Father from those verses. We have asked them to spend all week simply looking for the Father's actions, descriptions of His character and His roles.

This is a valuable exercise, especially for those who never had the earthly father they needed. You see, God chose the name Father, and in choosing this name, He committed to modeling out exactly who and what a father should be. For fathers, there is no better role model than God Himself.

But here's the kicker - as He models it out, He is living it out. He's not simply an instructor, defining the role for humans to live out, but He literally defines fatherhood by demonstrating it. "Father" is not simply a title or name for God. Rather, He is Father. He embodies exactly who and what a father should be.

So, without doing your work for you, see if you can take a few minutes and check out some of the things God is doing for you as a Father in John 15. If you've had a poor example of an earthly Father, then embrace the truth of the Heavenly Father. He will never let you down. He will never walk away and He'll never abuse. He loves you and He loves you enough to discipline you.

So have some fun with this and, after looking at the Father for a while, when you look at this picture, perhaps you will see yourself more clearly...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

So, do you remember...

...when Dave spoke at the community forum about the value of the cross and the purpose of the church?

Do you remember the other "community leader" who shared the stage with him?

Do you remember what his particular message was?

It was that his "community" was open and inclusive of all - they would not offend anyone and they would not reject anyone. It was that everyone was welcome to join them and believe whatever they wanted to without being judged. Christians and Atheists alike. Muslims and Buddhists. Everyone was welcome and no one would be judged.

Do you remember that?

Well, today, I drove by their building (can't call it a church) and they had a sign out front that said:

"Non-judgment Day is coming - Sunday 10 AM"

Well, not to be difficult or anything, but if I were a Christian who attended that church, wouldn't this sign be offensive, seeing as judgement day would be something that my "religion" taught?

Would this "community" put up a sign that made a joke about the 12th Imam? I doubt it.

Sorry to rant, but this particular sign ticked me off...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Modern Day Magnificat

I cannot keep silent any longer. From deep within, my soul is bursting with praise and awe for my Lord and Savior. For He has taken notice of His humble servant and because of Him, I shall be remembered as a blessed woman!

Why? you ask. Because He has done incredible things for me. Yes, for simple, lowly, humble me. And all I can do is lift high His holy name.

It’s not just for me either. For generations He has provided mercy for those who fear Him. Oh, yes, He has done mighty deeds through the ages – do you remember Babel? He scattered those people who were so very proud of their accomplishments. And do you remember the time He caused Nebuchadnezzar to crawl on all fours and eat grass? Yes, He takes rulers off their thrones and replaces them with the humble.

He fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away with nothing – just like His provision for young David and His discipline of King Saul.

And today, He has answered the prayers of the fathers through the ages. He has remembered His people and He has granted us mercy. And just as He promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Him, today He has kept that promise.

And for some reason, He decided to include me in the plan…All glory be to God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


There is a scene in the movie "Luther" where the title character requests a visit with Frederick the Wise. Frederick was personally responsible for saving Luther's life, when the Pope had finally had enough of his writings against the church, by hiding him away at the Wartburg Castle. Frederick was a collector of relics which he thought were highly valuable - pieces of the cross, chalices that Jesus had drank from, skulls of dead popes - things like that. Through Luther's teaching, writings and rants, he came to realize that his relics were worthless and the sight of them represented a lifetime of trying to buy God's favor, as well as others trying to buy his allegiance.

While in Wartburg, Luther began translating the New Testament into German. In the scene I am referring to, Luther meets Frederick face to face and gives him the scriptures in his own language. This elderly man understood that in his hands he held a history changer - the Word of God in the hands of the common man would forever change the church and the world. He trembled with fear at what fury Luther would bring upon himself, but accepted the gift. Then with the joy of a child in a candy store, he opened the cover.

Whether or not this is a true account, it got me thinking. How could I possibly live without the Word of God? How different would my life be if I couldn't read it, study it, pray with it for myself?

Wow. Hard for me to imagine. Scary even.

So, I thanked the Lord for the men who translated the Word into the vernacular, who gave up their life so that I could sit and study and teach women's Bible study from my home.

I thanked the Lord for the men who printed the Word in secret, off crude presses, in secluded places at the risk of death so that I could sit and study and teach women's Bible study from my home.

I thanked the Lord for men and women who died hiding the Word in their homes, when owning a common language Bible was illegal, so that I could sit and study and teach women's Bible study from my home.

And then I wondered what risk I would be willing to take to spread the Word...

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Special

One of our favorite words in life is "special."

Not sure you agree? Well then, take this little quiz:

Would you rather buy something at the general price, or at the special price?

When you go to a restaurant, do you want to hear the day's specials?

Have you ever watched a news special or a Christmas special?

Have you ever been drawn to check out a blue light special? (For those of you who grew up with a K-Mart in town...)

Have you ever used a special coupon, went to a store specifically for a special offer, attended a special showing, donated for the special olympics, ordered a breakfast special, received a You Are Special card or thanked a soldier for his service in the special forces?


The thesaurus says that special can be exchanged with exceptional, unusual, singular, uncommon, notable, noteworthy, remarkable, outstanding, unique, significant, momentous, specific, and more words of that timbre.

So here's my real question for you this morning: If a "special" gets us excited, why aren't we more excited about special revelation?

We've looked over the past two weeks at the full armor of God. We have concluded that basically everything we need to battle the enemy is found in the Word of God. And yet, we still find it difficult to use. We live as though general revelation is enough for us to know God, while special revelation sits untouched in our homes. And, in addition to ignoring or avoiding it ourselves, we don't share the good news with those around us.

When's the last time you found a great special and didn't tell anyone about it?

Bottom line, we have the exceptional, outstanding, inerrant, inspired, significant and highly special revelation of God Himself. We need to use it and we need to share it. Within the Word is found everything we need pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 3:1). So let's dig in and put on the full armor of God.

This isn't just any old armor.

This is special armor - in this world, you will find nothing that compares.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Full Armor of God - The Sword of the Spirit

"...And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17

The final piece of armor you are to have is the only piece that is offense, rather than defensive. Up until now, you have put on protective gear - shoes, breastplate, helmet, shield. But now you are to grab a weapon. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

This sword is the Word of God - it is " and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) (I figured I may as well just use a description straight from the Word itself.)

So picture this - you are in the midst of a battle. Your shoes are firm and gripping, your body is well protected from head to toe and the fiery arrows of the enemy are bouncing off your shield. And then it happens. You lung forward and plunge your sword into...

Into what?

Into the enemy.

Jesus used the Word to battle against Satan when He was in the wilderness. He was weak, tired and hungry and Satan chose that time to attack. The Word was completely sufficient to defeat Satan's temptation and make him leave. This story was given to us to teach us the obvious implications of knowing God's word and using it during times of temptation. I have worked with many women during times of great trial, and have encouraged them to hide the Word of God in their hearts so that in the midst of the storm, the Word could bring comfort, focus and even ward off Satan's arrows.

So knowing the Word is definitely a way you can be proactive in the battle with Satan. But what if your enemy comes in a different form. What if your attacker is human? According to Hebrews, the Word of God is able to cut deep into the heart of man and judge his thoughts and intentions. This is not something that we are able to do - we can't hear the thoughts of men and determine their intentions.

But God's Word can.

And when it does, usually one of two things happen. The enemy retreats and plans its next attack. Or the enemy falls in surrender to his knees. Imagine that - you are under attack, you use the Word of God against the enemy and they submit to His lordship. What a victory that would be!

So once again, Paul emphasizes in his letter to the Ephesians that they should not go into battle unprepared or empty-handed. They need to have the Word, holding up their garments, protecting their hearts and minds, covering their feet and finally on the tip of their tongue, ready to share in the heat of the battle. The Word will help you assess your enemy and may even change your enemies' life.

The full armor of God basically sits on your counter in your house. God has completely equipped you with everything you need to know in order to have victory, not only in eternity but here on earth. Have you realized that you've had everything you need at your finger tips? Do you know the Word well enough for it to be considered useful in battle? Are you in a church that aids in the equipping process? Are you surrounded by friends whose armor is well worn?

So, the final question is this: what are you going to do about it?


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Helmet of Salvation

"...and take the helmet of salvation..." Ephesians 6:16

Why do motorcyclists wear helmets? How about football players? Why do moms make their children wear helmets when they ride their bikes? Why do soldiers wear helmets in battle? For that matter, why did David aim for Goliath's head?

Because the head is important enough to protect. A blow to the head can change your life forever, and in some cases it can end your life.

So, from a spiritual stand point, why is the head valuable and why is the helmet made up of...salvation?

Well, the head contains the mind, and the mind is Satan's favorite battlefield. Oh, he can go after the body, but it's in the mind where he can do the most damage in the shortest amount of time. He can pound on a body and take years off someone's life, but a well placed blow to the head can knock someone out of the game in no time flat.

Let me try to explain it this way: Have you ever doubted your salvation? Could God really love you after the things you've done? And now, you're really the same person - does salvation really change a person? Is there really a heaven and a hell? Couldn't God use many ways to get to Himself?

Have you ever wondered if the Bible was really inspired? I mean, come on, 6 days for creation? Everything around you points to an old earth, so could the Bible be wrong about creation? Did the sun really stand still for Joshua? Was Jesus really 100% God and 100% man? And the virgin birth...really?

Does the Holy Spirit really live in me, or is it possible that I'm not that bad of a person and I make better decisions than the average Joe? Does God really care about whether or not I go to church or if I give money to the church? Why would God allow sin in the first place? Didn't He realize that Jesus would have to die? Doesn't it sound rather dramatic if He really is God?


These questions all stem from doubt. Doubt that God's Word is the divine, inspired revelation of Almighty God given for sinful man.

And where does doubt reside? In the mind.

And who puts it there? Well, we definitely know that Satan loves to play mind games.

So, the mind is valuable to protect from the doubt that Satan wants to plant. That's why the helmet is made up of salvation. The foundation of our faith lies in the good news of Jesus Christ. The truth of salvation is a protection for our mind. If the basics of salvation are encompassing our mind, then doubt has no cracks to seep into.

God is holy.

Man needs a savior.

Jesus loves us and gave His life for us.

If we give our lives to Him, we can have an eternal relationship with the Father.

And the only way to solidify these facts in your mind is to immerse yourself in truth - in the Word of God. So, protect your mind by filling it with the basics of salvation. This truth will keep you humble, keep you focused on your Savior and keep you protected from the doubts of the enemy.

Remember, this is not Kristen's suggestion. It's what God's Word instructs you to put on for your own protection.

(Don't you love that picture?)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Shield of Faith

(Say it with me:)

Faith is believing the Word of God and acting on it, no matter how I feel, because God promises a good result.

(If this definition is new to you, stop here and read it again. Slowly. Go ahead. We'll wait.)

The next item we are to have is the shield of faith. As you can see from our definition of faith, the shield is made of two materials - belief in the Word of God and action. We can then make the assumption that the fiery arrows being launched by our enemy are aimed at our mind (belief) and our choices (action), that's why we need this shield of protection.

Let's make this a bit more practical.

Spanking is not socially acceptable. No one does it anymore. We have evolved past that archaic practice and there is a much more humanitarian way to handle things, that keeps dignity in its proper place. Spanking is abusive and parents who spank face the possibility of legal action.

Same with submission. It's not socially acceptable either. Who has submissive roles in the home anymore? We have evolved way past keeping women barefoot and pregnant. Men and women have equal voice, equal roles and equal responsibilities in the home. Submission is abusive to the woman and men who insist on it should join the 21st century and take a good look at themselves.

Sound familiar? How do these two attacks affect your belief system? Given enough time, both of these arguments could change the way you handle things at home...if you are not firmly grounded in God's word.

Satan's attacks are directly at the Word of God. He loves to take a godly concept, twist it and appeal to the fallen minds of men. Why, he even tried to use scripture against Jesus Christ during a moment of weakness, but Jesus knew the Word better than Satan and it failed.

And in that statement you will find why our shield of defense against Satan is knowing the Word of God. Because God's Word is truth, we have to know it to protect our minds. Because sin has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, our minds are unable to separate truth from lies. We actually are drawn to lies because of sin, rather than being drawn to God.

At salvation, we are given the gift of faith, which is like giving a legally blind person a good set of reading glasses. For the first time in our lives we are able to know truth and to act on it. But we cannot rely on our own feelings and our own ability to discern right from wrong - we have to use the measure of God's Word, no matter how we feel, trusting that God's way is best.

So when Satan fires away at a biblical concept, the shield of faith stops his attacks by holding the Word up as our protection. If God's Word says it, then I believe it. Period. I don't have to understand it, I just have to act on it and leave the outcome in God's hands.

Now, imagine not knowing the Word...what defense do you have? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you have to know the Word to have a shield of defense. The more you know, the bigger that shield will be.

By the way, are you seeing a recurring theme among all of these armor items?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Gospel Shoes

"...and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace..." Ephesians 6:15

My first pair of crocs were bright orange (go Illini!) and they may have saved my life. Actually, I needed them earlier than I actually got them, but in getting them, my life was probably safer.

Picture this: Kristen in her bakery apron, sweat dripping from her brow as she bends over the swept up pile of floor droppings during morning production at the bakery. Sweeping the yuck into her dustpan, she stands up to walk over to the garbage to throw the contents away, when her foot hits a wet spot on the floor. One foot goes up, the other one follows - at one point both feet were over her head, arms go flying, and said contents of the dustpan also take flight. Then she hits the ground, bottom first, then the legs land, then hands hit - count to three - and then the debris from the dust pan sprinkle down on her head.

Moral of this story: tennis shoes were not meant for the bakery.

Enter crocs. The perfect answer to a slippery bakery floor and an uncoordinated employee.

The right shoes make all the difference. As we put on the full armor of God, we already have our belt of truth holding everything together and our breastplate of righteousness in place. So what about our feet? Barefoot warriors don't last long in the heat of the battle.

So what should we put on our feet? Well, as our verse explains, our feet are covered with preparation. Yep - preparation of the gospel of peace. Let me make this a bit clearer:

The gospel is the good news - Jesus saves, God forgives, the Spirit indwells and we can have a restored relationship with the Creator of the universe.

The gospel of peace is the same good news - we now have peace with God.

So, the preparation of the gospel of peace is the knowledge by which the believer understands the peace that he now has with God through the blood of Jesus Christ - he gains this knowledge by immersing himself in the Word and purposeful righteous living. He understands that if he chooses to sin, he is choosing to suffer. He also understands that with obedience comes blessing. This preparation time is what protects his feet as he goes into battle.

How is the preparation of the gospel of peace a protection to one's feet, you ask? The shoes you wear are what gives you traction in the battle. It is what holds you firm. If you are slipping all over the place, then you will be more likely to fall in the heat of the battle.

So the knowledge of the gospel message is what will give you traction in the battle. Knowing that God's word is truth, knowing that your sins are forgiven, knowing that you are not battling alone but with the Holy Spirit indwelling you - these are the things you need in order to stand firm.

And don't miss the fact that "preparation" means effort. Spending time in the Word, in prayer, with the Lord...this is part of your preparation.

Your responsibility.

So be prepared to stand firm - be prepared to resist.

Don't forget your crocs, because from personal experience, the floor is wet more often than not.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Breastplate of Righteousness

"Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness..." Ephesians 6:14

Let's state the obvious. A breastplate is meant to protect your vital organs, most specifically, your heart. A wound to the heart can cause immediate death or a slow, painful bleed out. Neither make for a happy ending.

So, what exactly is the breastplate of righteousness?

Well, righteousness comes into our life two ways - it's imputed and it's imparted. Let me explain.

When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you exchange identities with Him. He takes your sin and gives you His perfect record - His righteousness is imputed to you. That debt of sin is paid-in-full through the salvation work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and when you stand before the Father, He doesn't see you drenched in sin, but He sees you clothed in Jesus' righteousness.

So, at salvation you become instantaneously righteous in your standing before God. Pretty incredible, wouldn't you say?

But it doesn't stop there, because we all know that while on earth, we are still battling with sin in our lives. In other words, nobody's perfect. That's when righteousness is imparted to us. It's called the sanctification process and as you walk with Jesus, you learn more about Him and you start to imitate Him. He is our example of righteousness, and with our new nature, we have the ability to put off the old and put on the new daily. God has given us His Spirit to work within us - with our cooperation, we are able to make righteous choices and live righteous lives. Notice I said "with our cooperation." It takes effort - you don't just wake up one day and make good decisions. No, it's a process but we are not alone. We have Jesus as our example, the Spirit as our guide and the Father as our rewarder.

It really doesn't get much better than that, does it?

So, putting on the breastplate of righteousness is really a two-fold action. Perhaps a double-sided breastplate. On one side, you have Jesus' imputed righteousness. There's nothing you can to do lose that. It's a fact and you need to remember that. No matter what you've done, in light of eternity, Jesus has already paid for it.

Second is the righteousness that comes through growing in Christ. You must remember who you are in Christ, who He enables you to be and put into practice what He is teaching you through His Word.

These two things are a protection for your heart. Think about it - righteous living is a protection for you. If you are not a gossip, then no one can complain about your words. If you choose purity in your marriage, then Satan has no accusations to whisper in the ears of your neighbors. If you are falsely accused, you can sleep at night because you know that before the Lord, you have been righteous.

But, when you choose to live unrighteously, there are always consequences. I won't go into them here, but you all know what I am talking about. And those consequences wear out your heart.

So, put on the breastplate of righteousness - remember what Jesus has done for you and choose to follow Him daily, to protect your heart from the consequences of sin and the accusations of the devil.

I love that picture above - instead of a soldier, I decided to make it more personal...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Full Armor of God - Belt of Truth

"Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth..." Eph. 6:14

I have failed as a mother.

No matter how hard I try, I can't get my teen-aged daughters to wear a belt.

It really has little to do with the fact that empty loops around one's waist is rather annoying, and a lot to do with the functionality of holding one's pants up. But for some reason, they would rather complain that their pants don't fit right, than put on a belt.

Belts can be fashionable and an "accessory," but they also are functional.

When Paul writes to the church at Ephesus to gird their loins with truth, this growing church knew exactly what Paul was talking about. To gird your loins, you would gather the access fabric from your clothing, pull it between your legs and up through your belt, and then yank it back down again. You could go from a flowing robe to pants that would allow you to move more efficiently. Your belt was key.

Now, some think that girding was for running, as if Paul was saying, "Be prepared to run away from Satan and his fiery darts." But this is not what Paul is suggesting. To gird was to prepare yourself to engage in the battle, to increase your mobility and agility, to provide protection for your "loin" and put yourself in a ready stance. It was the first thing a soldier would do - gather his skirt and tuck it in place, so that he was able to move more freely and aggressively.

Note the item that is holding our spiritual armor in place is truth. It is a belt of truth. We know that Jesus is truth (John 14:6), that God's Word is truth (John 17:17), that Jesus testified to the truth (John 18:37), and that truth sets us apart from the world (John 17:17).

So when we gird our loins in truth, truth is what is holding everything together. It is what is making us agile and mobile. Because we have truth, we are prepared for the battle. Without truth, without our belt, we are unable to protect ourselves and stand firm.

So what exactly is truth? Well, here's a taste:

*God exists
*He is the Creator of all
*Man separated himself from God by choosing to disobey
*God's holiness requires perfection
*Hell is a real and eternal destination
*God chose the nation of Israel to bring salvation to mankind
*Jesus is God and man
*Jesus fulfilled the Law and became the perfect sacrifice
*Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross by taking man's sin upon His perfect Self
*There is no other way to eternal life but through Jesus Christ
*In giving Him your life, you exchange one master for Another

You get my point. The Bible is God's revealed truth for mankind and is what holds our faith together. Paul is telling us, "Don't go into battle without knowing Jesus. Don't go into battle without the Word of God, because that is what allows us to stand firm."

When you get up and dressed in the morning, do you gird yourself with the belt of truth? Do you have a sincere and genuine relationship with God? One that believes that what He says is divinely inspired and given to you to enable you to stand firm against the enemy?

Knowing God's Word is where we start and I think you will find that it is the foundation of the other items given to you for your battle gear.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Full Armor of God - intro

Ephesians is a great book. So much practical teaching in six little chapters. Probably the most familiar is the full armor of God passage in chapter 6.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the individual pieces that we are instructed to wear. I think I may have blogged on this before, so if this is old news to you, sorry about that. But I have found that I could sure use a reminder, so as usual, I'm taking you along with me.

Before we get into the meat of the passage, I want to look at the verses that lead up to it. Ephesians 6:10-13 says:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm."

So much in these verses - here's a few observations to get us started:

*Our strength comes from God, so we need to be IN HIM - what does that mean? What does that look like for you?

*We have to PUT ON the armor of God - this takes effort. We don't just wake up with it on.

*Our struggle is so much greater than what we can physically see - do we forget that we have a very powerful and wily enemy? Yes, I know, God is stronger and will always get the victory, but let's not forget that in our flesh, we are not only targets, but we are pretty weak in comparison. That's why we have to PUT ON the armor.

*We put on the armor so that we can RESIST - there is a suggestion of temptation here. Do you see it? We can battle against a foe but we are also called to resist - Satan's attack usually strikes at our weaknesses, often where we stumble the easiest. So the armor not only defends from outside blows, but also from inside urges. Does that make sense?

*And finally, STANDING FIRM is really the reason we put on the armor. Do you want to be tossed to and fro, be wishy-washy in your thinking and stumble often? Of course not, we are called to stand firm because we have a firm foundation. The armor is going to help us do this.

So, here's our next series...please feel free to comment, answer questions, etc.

Friday, September 3, 2010

God of Reversals...again

Interesting story. Here are the basics:

Paul and Silas share the gospel in Philippi, a Roman colony where Roman citizens have the same rights as if they were in Italy. A demon possessed slave girl, who is used by her master to tell the future and make him money, follows them around, telling everyone that they were from God and had the way of salvation. After a few days of this, Paul got annoyed and cast out the demon. When that happened, the slave girl's owner got mad because when the demon left, so did her ability to tell the future. He complained to the town magistrate who, thinking they were Jews, threw Paul and Silas in prison, only after having them beaten.

Now here's where it gets interesting. The jailer is told to "guard them securely" so he takes them into an inner part of the prison and puts their feet in the stocks. There was no way they would escape.

Around midnight, while singing hymns and praying, Paul and Silas find themselves freed from their chains due to a supernatural earthquake. Not only were their chains off, but the doors were all opened as well.

You would think at this point, Paul and Silas would have left the prison, thus changing their circumstance from prisoners to free men and that is the point of my God of Reversals story today. But no...they are not the subject of my post.

When the jailer realized that the earthquake had freed his prisoners, he knew his life was over - literally. That was the penalty for allowing an escape. He drew his sword and was ready to kill himself, when from within the cell Paul cried out to him. The jailer could not believe they hadn't left and he immediately asked what he must do to be saved.

Interesting, huh?

Why that question?

He must have known the charges. He must have heard the prayers and songs. And he must have concluded that the driving force behind two men who would choose not to run, must be worth asking about.

Immediately his eternal destination was changed. He was literally seconds away from eternal damnation, but God stopped him and saved him. Not only him, but God saved his whole household that day.

And right now, they are all with Jesus.

Think about it.

Hmmm...He is the God of reversals. His timing is perfect and His love is never ending.

Speaking of ending...the end of the story goes like this. The next morning the magistrate decided to release Paul and Silas. But Paul had an ace up his sleeve. You see, Paul and Silas were beaten because they were Jews, but in truth, they both had Roman blood. Their Roman citizenship had been violated because there had not been a public hearing, plus Roman citizens were not allowed to be scourged and beaten.

So Paul sent a message to the magistrate that instead of having the police give them the message of their release, he'd prefer to have the magistrate come himself, considering he was a Roman citizen and all.

It's just kind of funny that Paul felt it was necessary to make his point, but then again, just because he was a follower of Christ didn't mean that he had to be a patsy and let the magistrate break the law. He had rights and he was smart enough to demand them.

So the jailer had his life turned around.

I thought it was a good story - just one more person I want to look up when I get to heaven...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Driven by Love

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word and with tongue, but in deed and truth." I John 3:16-18

At first glance, the call to lay down our lives for others seems a bit absurd. Isn't that what Jesus did? Why do we have to do that as well?

I John is really the love book. I am looking forward someday to meeting John, because his gentle spirit and kind heart flows from every word he penned. I am sure he is a unique man. His book is not that long - it can easily be read in one sitting, but the overriding theme of love is unmistakable.

In the middle of chapter four he says this, "We love, because He first loved us."

With that one phrase, we get the answer to our questions above. When you truly understand the love that was shown to you through Jesus Christ, it is so all encompassing that can't help but be a loving person as well. The sanctification process (growing, maturing) produces love in the believer and this love is not based on warm fuzzies, but on the reality of the love we've already experienced.

At the moment, one of my responsibilities with our church plant is organizing the assimilation process - the path of taking a visitor into the church and leading them into a deeper relationship with Christ and the church. This process has many steps, with many volunteers and thankfully I have lots of help, but I am learning that assimilation is so much more than just moving people from one place to another. It's really about loving people enough to come alongside them and help them.

Why should the parking lot attendants and greeters be warm and friendly? Is it because they are trying to sucker people into feeling accepted and then maybe they'll come to the church?

Why should the nursery workers consider their responsibilities discipleship rather than baby-sitting?

Why bother with coffee and sweets? Are we trying to woo people through their tummies?

Why ask people to fill out friendship registers? Are we playing Big Brother?

The reason we do what we do in church needs to be love.

Harvest has a saying: You Are Loved. They use it a lot and it can be an empty saying if it is not backed up with actions. That's why you have greeters and treats and assimilation processes. The motivation is to be loving, to let people know that you care about them and want to encourage them in their walk with Christ. It is by this love that men will know that we have been loved by Jesus.

So, yes. We need to be willing to lay our lives down for others because of love. It's not something that should be hard to do, because as we grow in Christ, that love should be growing as well.

If you have time, give I John a read through today. It's worth it.