Put on Your Armor

Ephesians 6

6

Paul, the writer of Ephesians, was imprisoned in Rome, where he got an up-close and personal view of the Roman soldier’s armor. He encourages us to put on our own armor to deliver us from evil in our own spiritual battles.

Do you realize how often your faith is under siege? In the United States, you probably won’t be imprisoned, attacked, or killed for your faith, but don’t underestimate the battle you are fighting. Lies are infiltrating your mind and heart all day long. Consider how much information you take in each day that contradicts what the Bible teaches:

Do whatever makes you happy.

Truth is relative.

A fetus is just a clump of cells.

Sex before marriage? Go for it!

Billions of years ago…

You’re unlovable.

It can feel debilitating being surrounded by so many lies, but I have good news for you: God is the source of our strength. He wants to clothe you in His protection—His armor.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.(Ephesians 6:13-17)

God has supplied you with the armor, but it’s still your decision if you’re going to put it on. Sometimes we get too busy (or honestly just lazy) and neglect to take the time to put on our armor, but we should take every precaution possible because the consequences of losing our battles are severe.

What exactly does putting on your armor look like? First of all, you must know what the Bible says in order to recognize the lies. Never underestimate the importance of reading your Bible. Next, pray! Pray that God would open your eyes to His truth and would give you the courage to expose the lies.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.(Ephesians 6:10)

 

-Mackenzie McClain

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On Your Journey

Psalms

Psalm 121 1 2

 

We’re discussing seven different types of psalms and how to make them a regular part of our worship.  Today we consider pilgrimage psalms.  A pilgrimage is a journey to a place that holds special spiritual value to the person making the pilgrimage.  In ancient Israel those who lived outside of Jerusalem would make several pilgrimages each year to come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple and celebrate various feasts which commemorated important elements of Israel’s sacred story.  We know that Jesus was arrested and crucified at the beginning of the Passover celebration.

As people made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem they would sing joyful and festive psalms that would help them recall God’s goodness.  If you’ve ever travelled to a special place and event like Fuel, or General Conference, Christian Worker’s Seminar, or summer youth camp, you know that the excitement builds as you journey and get closer to the event.  Sometimes people sing some of the songs that gave meaning and joy to their previous times at those places.

Imagine as the pilgrims get closer to Jerusalem.  As Jerusalem is on a mountain they can see it from a distance.  As they climb Mt. Zion to get closer to the city and the temple of God their excitement grows and they begin enjoying an attitude of worship by singing and recalling God’s blessings.

Psalm 121 is a great example of a pilgrimage psalm:

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

This serves as a reminder that as you journey on your way, God is with you.  God is your helper who watches over you wherever you go.  How comforting and assuring to know that God is with you on your journey through life.  Even during those times where you might not know what’s waiting for you around the next corner or over the next hill, God is there, and he doesn’t go to sleep on the job.

-Jeff Fletcher

Live Like New Creations!

Galatians 6

Galatians 6 9

In keeping in step with the Spirit, we can’t ignore sin.  But we don’t just condemn the person either.  We are supposed to restore that person.   And beyond that, Paul says:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Now, this seems a little contrary to what he says just three verses later that each person should carry their own load, but I think it is not. We are responsible for ourselves.  But as members of the body of Christ, we can help each other out to make things easier for our brothers and sisters.

The next paragraph is encouraging!  Don’t give up – something better is coming!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul wraps up this book by going back to the topic of circumcision that was causing divide.

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Do it or don’t do it – it doesn’t matter.  We are under a new law of freedom now.  This may not be an issue that causes divide amongst Christians today, but we can get trapped in other debates about things that don’t really matter.  If we are new creations in Christ, we should live like it, in the freedom his sacrifice has given us, giving honor to him and our Father.

Thanks for reading this week – I hope you gained something from these devotions!

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Lift His Name Higher

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10 17

 

“We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”

2 Corinthians 10:15-18 ESV

 

It’s human nature to seek recognition. I see this come to life within my classroom full of preschoolers. Throughout the day, I watch their actions and encourage them to be kind and helpful towards one another. In turn, I like to celebrate a few students each day and write out what we like to call “kindness notes” with a sticker of their choice to take home to their families. All the children in the classroom give a big “woop woop” to the student receiving the note after we read it aloud for all to hear. The students who hear about and see the child with the kindness note also want to be kind and helpful later on as they have seen their friends doing good works and they too want to join in (& take a sticker home). However, it’s not always about having recognition for ourselves.

 

They may be four but I can learn a lot from the childlike hearts that fill up my days. Cooper is a young student within my class who may be entirely silly at times but he really does have such a big heart. I was celebrating Cooper’s accomplishments just this week as he worked very hard to help decorate our classroom to fit the theme of the week: jungle days. In speaking about this student to another teacher, Cooper was sure to stop me in my tracks to make sure that it was clear that he was not deserving of all of the credit himself. At the end of the day, it was his friends that helped him decorate and that was all that truly mattered to him.

In thinking about this simple action and as I read Paul’s words, I too have asked the question, “Am I the person who boasts about myself or do I put my boast in God and Jesus, the ones who are responsible for all the gains that I may have in this life?”

 

Encouraging others to do good works is not a bad thing! In fact, talking about your actions can have a positive effect on those around you. However, there are limitations. As we read here in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how one should boast; “let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Or, as my fiance would say, “Don’t boast, raise a toast,” as we are not supposed to boast about what we do but rather boast about what God and Jesus are doing through us. My friends, as our faith grows, may we continue to let it spread amongst others and with humble hearts, always seek to lift the name of the Lord higher and higher. If you haven’t heard it before, I encourage you to check out Lecrae’s song “Boasting” as it sums up 2 Corinthians 10 well. At the end of the day, it’s really not about us. But boy am I grateful that I can put my boast in the Lord and bring glory to his name.

 

“Boasting” Chorus: Lecrae (Ft. Anthony Evans)

If this life has anything to gain at all

I’ll count it loss if I can’t hear you, feel you, ’cause I need you.

Can’t walk this earth alone.

I recognize I’m not my own, so before I fall

I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone.

 

-Kayla Tullis

A Job to Do

2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5 19

 

I recently watched Finding Hope Now (also more recently titled Streets of Hope) based on the true story of the ministry of Roger Minassian and his book Gangs to Jobs: Faith-Based Gang Intervention for Your City.  At 53 Roger left his comfortable pastorate to create a ministry to gang members (something he knew nothing about at the time – except that they needed help – even though they often didn’t want it).  I won’t share too much about the movie because I hope you see it for yourself.  But at one point a gang member is before a judge who has the power to convict the young man for crimes he did commit and deliver him to a punishment he did deserve.  But, Roger was there at the teen’s side – even though this kid had personally caused Roger much personal pain, heartache and property damage.  Roger was speaking for the troubled teen.  Telling the judge of the change he saw – the old was gone, the new had come.  Roger was deep in the ministry of reconciliation – both to reconcile this young man with the court system and his community – as well as to reconcile him to God.  Now, you have to watch the movie to see what happened next.

 

Reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations”.  And, the world is much in need of it – particularly as it pertains to restoring a relationship with God.  Paul says it best here:

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.                   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 . NIV)

 

 

God seeks restoration and “friendly relationships” with His creation.  So much so that He sent His sinless Son to carry our sins to the cross so we could become new, righteous creations who could draw near to God.  Previously our mountain of baggage and sins we were carrying was keeping us from embracing God.  But God made a way for us to set it all down – at the foot of the cross.  Because Jesus spoke for us God is not holding our sins against us – if we are in Christ – and have asked for forgiveness, accepted Jesus as Lord, been baptized to demonstrate the putting off of the old self, and are living a life of obedience.

 

If you aren’t there yet – in Christ – why not?  “We implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20).  Please talk to your pastor or Sunday School teacher or youth group leader or Godly parents or me.  You don’t have to wait until you are perfect or you know the whole Bible – none of us Christians fall into either of those categories.  You just need to be ready to put the old behind.  Drop the junk you are holding onto, accept the sacrifice the Son made for you as he was speaking to his Dad for you and put on a new friendly relationship with God.  Be reconciled to God.

 

If you are there – in Christ – Congratulations!  Best choice ever!   Daily enjoy that friendly relationship with God that was opened for you by Christ.  And, get to work – you have a job to do!

 

“God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18 and 19).  Saying it once wasn’t enough for Paul.  So, I will repeat it, too.  “God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation. (vs. 18 and 19)”.  Do it!

 

If you’ve got the priceless gift of reconciliation with God through His Son – give it to others.  It won’t subtract what you have, but it will only multiply as you follow God’s command.   Maybe you will bring the message to gang members and in the process save a whole town!  Maybe you will boldly speak to a neighbor, family member, friend, co-worker, or church youth and be instrumental in that priceless person’s decision to be reconciled to God.  And all of heaven will rejoice with you.  Pray for God to show you where to start – and then start!

 

People are listening.  People are looking for hope in a hurting world.  Yesterday my heart hurt to hear of a girl in Malaysia who posted an Instagram poll – should she live or die?  Tears are falling as I type that she received a 69% response to die – and she took her own life.

 

The enemy is alive and well and we have a job to do!   Spread life and hope and reconciliation.  You won’t convince everyone.  Paul didn’t.  Roger didn’t.  But they did change lives because of their ministry of reconciliation.  And, we can, too.  People need reconciliation with God – even if they don’t know it yet.  How will you share it?

 

In Christ and Reconciled With a Job to Do,

Marcia Railton

What’s that Smell?

2 Corinthians 2

2 Corinthians 2 14

 

My brother (cool uncle that he is) gifted my daughter with a unique board game called P.U! -The Guessing Game of Smells.  Players try to guess what smell is radiating off of each scratch and sniff card.  Some are deliciously delightful and you don’t want to put the card down – like freshly baked cookies or peppermint.  And others – such as skunk, burnt rubber and doggy doo-doo – leave quite a lasting impression in the opposite direction.

 

Smells are powerful and memorable – and perhaps that is why Paul uses this powerful analogy in 2 Corinthians 14-16 (NIV).

 

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.

 

Picture the streets in ancient Corinth (a busy seaport in current Greece) lined with the crowds which came out to see the Roman Emperor (God) and his general (Christ) leading their captives (those belonging to God and following Christ).  The Roman Emperor and general are powerful, awe-inspiring and triumphant.  The obedient, orderly, well-kept captives are clear witnesses to the superiority, majesty, might, and care of the emperor and general.  They indeed spread the knowledge of the triumph of Christ.

 

It is interesting to note that many versions remove the “captive” phrasing which might be seen today as a negative connotation for Christ’s followers.  The NASB for example says, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ”.  In that day and age, the military image would have been very well understood.  But perhaps today we could imagine the owner (God) of the triumphant Super Bowl Championship football team at the head of the parade leading the football team (those who belong to God) who are testifying everywhere to the ‘sweetness’ of their football coach (Christ).

 

Either way – God is pleased at the witness and sweet smell of those who belong to Him.  He loves to see them show homage to their Christ/general/coach/His Son.  Others see this as well – and respond – one way or another.  Those who belong to God and are trophies of Christ’s victory are to be the pleasing aroma of Christ EVERYWHERE – both to “those who are being saved and those who are perishing”.   Our victory parade route should not stay within our church parking lot.  We need to let that sweet aroma waft through the entire city and countryside.  Even knowing that when some people smell it – they will smell death.  The losing football team (Satan’s) still has some very vocal, die-hard fans.  Sometimes when those who are perishing smell death they can react in very hostile ways.  We can, and must, still expect this today.  But don’t let it cancel your parade.  Carry on with the sweet smell of Christ – it brings life to those who will let it in.

This is so much more than a scratch and sniff board game.  More than a football play-off.  This is for life – or death.  Carry the sweet fragrance of Christ everywhere you go.

-Marcia Railton

5 Point Checklist

1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16 13 14

 

At first this chapter seems to be a hodge-podge mixture of final instructions and greetings regarding several people we don’t know in a church we’ve never been to.  And yet, could Paul really just as well have been writing to us regarding our church?  Where would he insert your name today?  Let’s see what we find…

 

Paul begins by instructing the Corinthians to each be setting aside a weekly gift offering (in accordance with their income) on the first day of the week (not just giving some left-overs at the end of the week – if there was anything left).  This money would then be collected when Paul arrived and sent with responsible men to the church in Jerusalem which was experiencing great poverty and famine as well as persecution.  Generous, scheduled/weekly, repeated giving to help the Christian brothers and sisters in need.  Are we called to do any less?   How are you and your Christian community giving to support a church in need?  I think immediately of the needs in Malawi and Mozambique which have been hit so hard with recent cyclones and flooding resulting in the loss of crops, homes, churches and lives.  http://www.lhicog.com/images/Africa_Disaster_Relief.pdf.

 

I was struck with the reason Paul said he was going to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost: “For a wide door for effective service has opened for me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9).  How exciting to have a WIDE door for EFFECTIVE service OPENED for ME!  Have you been testing doors to see which ones will open – even a crack?  I am quite sure Paul hadn’t been sitting on his couch watching Netflix when suddenly a door opened wide for him.  It often takes time, sacrifice, trials, perseverance, and ordering priorities to seek and find the open doors.  And when that door did open wide – it was still far from easy – in fact he found he had many adversaries!  But, rather than high-tailing it out of there and looking for an easier way – he was scheduling his priorities to stay where he was for that time because he saw how he could be used by God for effective service.  Would I recognize the open door?  Am I testing doors?  Am I not scared away at the possibility of gaining a few adversaries?  Let’s pray today (and daily) for “wide doors for effective service” to be opened for each of us – even if it comes with some adversaries.  And then – for the courage and wisdom to advance through the door.

 

Paul leaves a concise 5 point checklist for the church – of any century (vs. 13 & 14).

  1. Be on your guard

Watch for spiritual dangers – they are sneaky, real, powerful and deadly.  Apathy, busy-ness, worldliness, sin, a different gospel, and pride (to name just a few) can easily creep in when you aren’t standing guard against them.

  1. Stand firm in the faith

Remain steadfast in what matters most – your faith will be attacked (by others, by the enemy, by trials).  Keep it the priority.  Don’t be swayed.  Believe in God and the truth He gives.

  1. Be courageous

Troubles will come – be courageous – keep following God into the battle.  Gain courage knowing you are dressed for success with the Armor of God.

  1. Be strong

It will be hard– be disciplined in your spiritual training which will grow your spiritual muscle power.  Rely on His strength knowing you can’t do it alone. Stay connected to your church – there is strength in numbers.

  1. Do everything in love

In the midst of the spiritual battle, don’t grow cold-hearted – love, every time.  What does real love look like?  Self-sacrifice, giving, do onto others, sharing truth and the saving message of salvation, and love even when they haven’t earned it. (Refresh your love checklist with 1 Corinthians 13 again.)

 

These two short verses (Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love – 1 Corinthians 16:13,14) would be great to post on your bathroom mirror to see every morning as you prepare for the day.  Examine yourself daily – not just your hair, teeth and physical appearance.  How are you looking spiritually?  What do others see when they look at you?  What grades would you earn for your watchfulness, steadfastness, courage, strength and love of the day before?    What will courage look like today?  What spiritual dangers are lurking around the corner?   Who is God putting in your life to love in a special way?  Pray for these qualities in yourself and others, surround yourself with those developing and demonstrating these attributes so you can mutually encourage (and sometimes even admonish) one another.

 

Be the church Paul longed to see.

 

It’s not easy – but it’s always worth it.  (Refresh your resurrection recall with 1 Corinthians 15).

 

There are so many other great nuggets in this chapter.  Take the time to read it today and see where Paul would have put your name.

 

Praying for God’s Church,

Marcia Railton