Thanksgiving Thoughts - A Comparison of Two Lives

The act of giving thanks is not restricted to those who "have it all". We sometimes feel that it is easier to give thanks when our lives are going smoothly and without the typical chaos. All of us can be thankful, no matter what our current situation in life. We may be flourishing or we may be floundering, but God, in His infinite wisdom and love knew that thanksgiving was an essential part of life and one that makes us happier and healthier. 

Pixabay - thanks

Last year I wrote a post entitled It is Good to Give ThanksIn that post I linked to an article from  the Forbes website: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of GratitudeYou can see my original post and the article written by Amy Morin, by clicking on the links. I believe that giving thanks was God's way of getting us to reboot. When life is overwhelming and things are not going as we had hoped or planned, giving thanks takes us back to center. What is that center? God and His great love and goodness. 

I want to take the rest of this post to look at two lives. These two men were living extremely different lives. One became a king, the other was a leper. What did they have in common? They both took the time to give thanks.

David - King of Israel

The life of David the simple shepherd boy who became the King of one of the greatest nations in the world, can be found throughout the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Samuel, as well as the first chapter of i Kings and a few scattered chapters in 1st Chronicles. David is also the author of at least 73 of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Many of these contain the act of giving thanks. Here are a few examples.

I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
— Psalm 7:17 (NASB)
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders
— Psalm 9:1 (NASB)
Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O Lord, And I will sing praises to Your name.
— Psalm 18:49 (NASB)
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
— Psalm 30:12 (NASB)

The Psalms are a great place to go if you are looking for scriptures to bring you back to the center of gratitude. 

While David lived a life of wealth, fame and leisure, he did not always have a simple or smooth journey. Fighting giants, battling wars and being chased by King Saul who was mad with jealousy were the basis for some of the songs that David penned. He also penned from the darkness of his heart because he was well aware of his sin. Taking another man's wife, getting her pregnant and then having the man killed were all sins David committed while being a man after God's own heart. Yet, he seemed to know that giving thanks was part of the process of finding his way back to a right relationship with the heavenly Father. 

The Leper

In the New Testament, Luke, in his gospel, writes about the healing of ten lepers. It is not surprising that Luke often focused in on healing. He was a doctor. What I love about Luke's retelling of this particular incident is what follows after Jesus heals the ten men. 

Leprosy was a terrible disease in Biblical times that was thought to be highly contagious. Today, leprosy is treatable and typically only affects people in very poor areas without good treatment. When Jesus walked the earth lepers lived in leper colonies which were most often well outside the cities. These people were kept apart, partly because of the Levitical law of things that were clean and unclean. 

Poverty - pixabay

When these ten leprous men stood at a distance and raised their voices to Jesus, they were making a plea for their restoration. Imagine if you were one of these men. You know doubt heard the news about this man of God who was healing all kinds of diseases. When you knew he was coming to your village you would have raised your voice too. Of course you would want to be healed. You wanted to have normal life and be able to hug your families again!

"Master! Have mercy on us."

"Go and show yourselves to the priests."

They probably turned as a group and nearly stumbled over each other as they scooted towards the local synagogue. But a strange thing happened as they were on their way. They were healed. 

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
— Luke 17:15-16 (NASB)

One man turned back and what did he do? He gave thanks. What set this man apart from the rest? Luke informs us that the man was a Samaritan. If you know anything about history you might be aware that Samaritans were a cross breed mix of Jewish and many other people groups that had originated as far back as the Babylonian exile. They were not looked upon with favor by the Jews because they were not pure Jews (my own terminology). So here you have a man, who is not only a leper, but a Samaritan. How do you think he got along in the local leper community? He probably was an outcast in a group of outcasts. Yet, it is our Samaritan friend who turns back and gives glory and thanks to God. 

Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

If Jesus made a statement about a particular incident you can bet we had better stand up and take notice. Have you even noticed how critical, bitter and hateful people who call themselves Christian can be? And what about those who are walking without God? Sometimes they are the nicest most thankful people we know. The point is, if we know Christ and are claiming His name, then we had better walk the walk. Being thankful is part of that walk.

Two men, with vastly different lives, realized the importance of giving thanks. Paul said,

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

As we look forward to Thanksgiving next week and the weeks following leading up to Christmas, let's get back to our God center and be thankful!

Mulling It Over - Part 10: Ephesians 6:18

Last month we learned about the sword of the spirit, which is the first of our offensive weapons in this passage on the armor of God. In this final post in my series on the armor of God I want to focus in on verse 18 and our second offensive weapon in our fight against the enemy.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
— Ephesians 6:18 (NASB)
Pixabay

Pixabay

Besides our sword, which we now know is God's word, we have the offensive weapon of prayer. Let me take a few sentences to clarify the difference between defensive versus offensive. Defensive pieces are those which protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. Our armor, including the helmet and the shield are all pieces that we use to protect ourselves. Offensive pieces are those with which we can actually do damage to the enemy, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 

I think it is important to note that most of this passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 is spent describing the defensive pieces or the armor, which we are to put on. This suggests that our part as followers of Christ is to make sure we are battle ready and able to stand firm when the arrows fly. There are times when life is too overwhelming to actually fight back. Those are the times we have to let God, the almighty One, have His way and let Him fight for us. I firmly believe there are myriads of skirmishes going on all around us in the heavenly realms that we do not participate in. However, I also believe there are times that God calls us to pick up that sword and go to war. This leads us back to verse 18 and the offensive weapon of prayer. 

Let's look at what prayer does as an offensive weapon.

1. Puts us in contact with the commander. In what army are the soldiers not aware of who their commander is? From the generals at the top, to the sergeants in the enlisted ranks, soldiers are aware that there is a chain of command. They know who they report to and who reports to them. As Christians prayer puts us in direct contact with the highest head of all the armies at His command. Isn't that awesome? How much more time should we be spending in prayer, knowing that this is the way to get right to the top?

2. Places us under the headship of the Holy Spirit. When we really are seeking God and are trying to pray as He would want us to pray, we are placing ourselves under the movement and persuasion of the Holy Spirit. 

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
— John 14:26 (NASB)

Jesus tells us that the Helper will teach you all things. I think that includes teaching us how to pray. You might think that's a bit silly, but I'm not talking about saying a prayer before dinner or even reciting the Lord's prayer. I am referring to intense, battle worthy praying that gets us prostrate on the floor or pacing around the house with tears streaming down our faces and our hands raised in the air. This is Holy Spirit lead warring prayer. 

Please do not jump to the conclusion that I think this is the only time the Holy Spirit directs our prayer, because it is not. He leads us in prayers of worship, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of confession and prayers of humble petition as well. But there is something about warring prayer that makes praying in the Spirit seem even more real. 

3. Perseveres for the saints. Battle prayers are most often connected to others who need our added strength to help them get through a particularly difficult situation. Verse 18 encourages us to: "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view (the idea that we are to be praying all prayers at all times in the Spirit) be on the alert (for the enemy, as well as for peeps who need our prayers) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.

Did you notice how many alls are in that verse. I bolded them so you could see them more clearly. Whoa! This idea of prayer is pretty important. I Thessalonians 5:17 says, "pray without ceasing." There isn't a command that is much more straight forward than that. Don't stop praying. 

Praying does not mean that life will suddenly be filled with sunshine and flowers. In fact, often times when we begin the intense prayer of warring praying, we may find the enemy's assaults also intensify. Don't give up. It is even more important when the battle is continuous and overwhelming. Someone needs you to pray, maybe even your own self. Remember you are fighting because the Commander has called you to. He knows who needs those prayers. 

Many of you, like me are older. Your children are grown and you may no longer be as involved as you once were in their lives. Don't stop praying for them. Now, more than ever, they need your prayers, because one thing is sure, our enemy is a roaring lion seeking to devour. He wants our sons and daughters, our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, our churches and our nation. If you can't sleep at night, God wants you to pray. If you have a few moments alone, God wants you to pray. If you are sick, you can still pray. Driving in the car, pray. Taking a shower, pray.

When you have gotten to the end of yourself and think you can no longer pray, then let go and He will pray for you. Now how cool is that? He will pray for you, until you are able to stand, put on the armor and go to battle again. 

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
— Romans 8:26 (NASB)
and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
— Romans 8:27 (NASB)
who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
— Romans 8:34 (NASB)

You can see the rest of this series by clicking on the links below. 

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

It's Already November! What??

Can you believe it is already November 1st? Or are you like me, still gasping, trying to catch your breath and function through the sugar induced headache of post-Halloween fun? I knew it was coming. Winter always comes, as does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let's get real here, the holidays do start today, the day after Halloween. Is it any wonder that most stores have Christmas trees, decorated to the hilt, already stunningly displayed before the Snickers bars are even marked half off?

Pixabay - Halloween candy

Since we are only a few weeks out from Thanksgiving, I want to revisit the command Paul gives to us in I Thessalonians 5:18.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

My plan is to spend a few weeks looking at this idea of gratitude. Next week I will finish up my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God, but this week and the two Wednesdays before Thanksgiving I will be concentrating on thankfulness. 

Pixabay - thanksgiving

Last year I talked about this subject in two different blog posts. Three Little Commands - Give Thanksand It is Good to Give Thanks both touch on the importance of giving thanks. You can read those posts by clicking on the titles. It might seem a bit repetitive to spend more time on this topic, but as with so many things in my Christian walk, it is good be reminded. I know many things about the Christian life, but I don't consistently live all of those. In addition, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of teaching me new things, as I pointed out a few weeks ago in the post, Even He Called Him Lord.

Today, I would like to lay a foundation for the act of thanksgiving. The first mention of what looked like thanksgiving in the Bible is found in Genesis 4.

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
— Genesis 4:3-5 (NASB)
Pixabay - Autumn

I do not know if this was a thanksgiving offering, but it is clear that God had already established a system of offerings to honor and worship Him. This was some years after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden for their choice to sin against God. The fact that both their sons brought an offering to the Lord, shows that they had been taught that this was something important that needed to be done. The word thanksgiving does not show up until years later in Leviticus 7:11-12 where Moses is directed to write about the law of sacrifice of peace offerings. 

The whole system of sacrifice was instituted by God after Adam and Eve sinned. It says,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
— Genesis 3:21 (NASB)

While we are not told that God sacrificed animals to make those clothes, it can be safely assumed that He didn't get them at the local Walmart. It would seem to make sense that the first blood letting was done by God Himself in a gesture, both of compassion and instruction, for those children He had created. He already had the plan in place for Jesus, His Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption.

By the time Moses becomes the chosen leader of the nation called Israel, God's plan included teaching His people all about sacrifice. The entirety of the book of Leviticus spells out the different offerings, laws and acceptable sacrifices for a variety of life situations. 

Pixabay - bread and oil
‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.’
— Leviticus 7:11-12 (NASB)

As you can see, the laws of offering and sacrifice were very specific.

You might be wondering why I am spending so much time on this idea of sacrifice, but the act of thanksgiving is an act of sacrifice. While we no longer require all the offerings of sheep and cows, or bread and oil, thanksgiving requires a giving up of our worries and cares, bringing them to the altar and letting God burn them away, so that all that is left is purest worship and adoration of the Creator.

As we head into the holiday season I hope you will journey with me along this thanksgiving road. It will be the perfect lead in, to the season of Advent. 

Stay tuned for more! 

Our Great and Mighty Purpose

Do you ever struggle with your purpose? Do you ever feel as though the things you do are meaningless? Do you ever feel invisible? I do! I have struggled most of my life with feeling less than whole. I have too often been swayed by other's opinions of how I look, how I act or react and what my value is. Being a Christian does not eliminate the struggles, but it does put them in their proper perspective. 

You see, we are all sinners. We all fall short. 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)

However, the blood of Christ made it possible that I can now have a relationship with God and with His Son. What does that mean for my purpose? It makes all the difference. 

A Christian worker has to learn how to be God’s man or woman of great worth and excellence in the midst of a multitude of meager and worthless things.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th
Pixabay

Pixabay

Life is full of worthless and meager tasks. Cleaning toilets, doing laundry and mopping the kitchen floor all too often seem worthless. You know the cycle. Just when you get those dishes washed, another stack of bowls and spoons appear. Both our daughters are out of the house, so I am not quite sure how we use so many spoons. Ha, ha. Don't forget laundry. When the girls were growing up I made up a creature called the laundry monster and had a song that I sang when I saw him rearing his ugly head, Now that they are out of the house he is not as prominent, but those loads add up. And the cycle continues over and over and over. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

If you have a job outside the home, it too can become seemingly worthless and meager. If you work retail like I do, the hours can be long, when the days are slow and the customers can be less than thankful when the days are busy. And the cycle continues over and over and over.

So how do we become those men and women of great worth and excellence as Oswald says? I think there are a few things we need to consider to realize our great and mighty purpose.

1. We are all human. There are very few of us who don't have to do dishes, laundry, take care of kids or aging family, meet the needs of a significant other or do some sort of work that wouldn't necessarily be considered fun. Obviously, there are wealthy people who can hire others to do many of those meager tasks, but they still have to bathe and groom themselves or at least wipe their own behinds when they go to the bathroom; a task that is not worth a lot, but we all do it or the world would be a pretty stinky place. 

2. We all start out ordinary. No one starts out as a movie start or the president of a company or a football player who gets paid millions whether he stands, sits or kneels. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

All God’s people are ordinary people who have been made extraordinary by the purpose He has given them.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 25th

I love this thought, because not only does it put us all on the same playing field, but it also reminds me that God is in control. If you are a mom, God put you there. If you are a corporate VP, God put you there. If you are a missionary to a foreign country, God put you there. We must come to grips with this idea that God allows the good, the bad and the mundane. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
— Roman's 8:28 (NASB)

3. God is always at work. God's purpose in our lives is to make us into the image of Christ. He desires that we draw closer and closer to Him. What better way to do that than to put us in circumstances that move us closer to being what He wants us to be. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you. God is at work bending, breaking, molding, and doing exactly as He chooses. And why is He doing it? He is doing it for only one purpose - that He may be able to say, ‘This is My man, and this is My woman.’”
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - 0ctober 25th

4. Our great and mighty purpose is to glorify Him. Paul knew this was the case when he was transformed from a hater and persecutor of Christians to being one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived. 

...I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
— I Corinthians 9:22-23 (NASB)

 

It doesn't matter where you are or what you do, your purpose is to glorify Him. How do we glorify God? We glorify Him when our actions, words and attitudes reflect the humility and love of Christ. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)

Wash that load of a laundry with a song in your heart. Change that baby's diaper with thanksgiving. Deal with that cantankerous customer with kindness. Write, walk, work, love, play to the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

This is our great and mighty purpose. 

Even He Called Him Lord

This morning as I was reading my devotions I was directed to a passage in Matthew. It was a familiar read, but as I started looking at it I was floored by a few words that I hadn't really noticed before. Let me show you the verses.

At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

’Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.’
— Matthew 11:25-30 (NASB)
Bible

I'm sure most of you who read your Bible regularly are familiar with this passage. I don't know about you, but I am often reciting the last three sentences back to Jesus reminding Him that He is responsible to give me rest and help me bear the load of this life. I try to do that with humility, mind you, because He does say that I should learn from Him and we can't be teachable if our hearts are made of the granite of pride and self. 

The words that struck me this morning were these: 

...Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth...
— Matthew 11:25 (NASB)

Let me set the back drop for you. This is Jesus, the One who is part of the triune God-head. He, as far as we are concerned, is on the same level with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He was there at creation. He was the only person capable of taking on the sin of the world, walking into hell and coming out unscathed. Why then is He addressing His Father in this way? Couldn't He have simply said, "Father?" 

Father and baby

As with so many things that Jesus did, He was once again giving us an example to follow. 

1. Praise. There is something elevating about praising God. When we lift Him up we are placing Him exactly where He is supposed to be. Not only that, but praise ushers us into His presence. If we do a simple word search in the New American Standard version of the Bible we find the word praise used 256 times. Out of those 127 are used in connection with the Lord and 86 are used in connection with God. It would seem that praising God is a priority.

When Jesus was riding into Jerusalem on a donkey the crowds were shouting,

Donkey
Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
— Luke 19:38 (NASB)

The Pharisees scolded Jesus, telling him to rebuke his followers.

But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’
— Luke 19:40 (NASB)
mountains

Why then, would Jesus need to praise the Father, when in reality they are one person? Jesus is showing us that praise is an important component in a relationship with our Father. 

2. Relationship. There is no doubt that Jesus has a relationship with the Father and the Spirit. Relationships are facts of life. We have relationships with our significant others, our children, our coworkers and the people in our lives we call friends. Out of the many interactions we have with people on a daily basis the ones that are closest to us will be the ones that we invest the most time and effort in...or at least they should be. When I get together with my girlfriends we talk about what? Our families. These are the relationships that are important to us. 

Girlfriends

Jesus made a point throughout his years on this earth to talk about His Father. Look at a few of these verses.

And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”
— Luke 2:49 (NASB)
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
— Matthew 7:21 (NASB)
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
— Matthew 10:32-33 (NASB)
For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
— Matthew 12:50 (NASB)
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’
— Matthew 26:39 (NASB)
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.
— Luke 23:46 (NASB)

These are just a few of the many verses throughout the Gospels where Jesus makes reference to the Father. Jesus knew how important this relationship was to Him and His purpose was to make the way clear so that we could enjoy this same relationship with God. 

3. Humility. By calling God the Father, Lord, Jesus is acknowledging a hierarchy of authority that we all need to be aware of. Jesus understood humility.

who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
— Philippians 2:6 (NASB)

If God's own Son chose to place Himself, humbly under the authority of His Father, then aren't we, even more so, obligated to fall at His feet? Jesus made a choice to honor His Father's perfect plan to bring salvation to His creation. Was it easy? Refer back to Jesus' time in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed earnestly that the cup could pass from Him, but in the end said, "Your will be done." How often are we at odds with God because we do not want to do what He has laid out plainly in scripture? Yet our Savior honored His Father completely, even to the point of death on a tree. 

If you are feeling, not quite right in your walk with the Father, why not revisit these three things that Jesus did? Praise God, renew your relationship with Him and humble yourself. I know for me, when I place God first in my life and in my day, He takes care of the rest.

Mulling It Over - Part 9: Ephesians 6:17

Last time in this Mulling It Over series, I looked at the beginning of Ephesians 6:17. This week, I'd like to mull over the last part of that verse. 

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)

The helmet of salvation was the last of our defensive pieces of armor. All of the defensive pieces are articles that are worn on the body, or as in the shield of faith, are used to protect the body from assaults from the enemy. The sword of the Spirit, is the first weapon listed. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

We might wonder why God gives us so many pieces of armor to protect ourselves and only two weapons with which to actually attack the enemy. Obviously God knows what is best and I hope to illuminate why this is the case.

First, I think we need to look at 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NASB)

These verses clearly state the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. In other words, our weapons are divinely empowered. In essence God does the fighting for us. Our job is to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13) and resist in that evil day. Our job also involves destroying wrong thinking and taking all of our own thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. 

Next we need to look at what exactly this sword of the spirit is. We all know what a sword is. A long sharp weapon that was meant for slicing, chopping and stabbing. It was meant to inflict harm and even kill. There are numerous types of swords from the Roman Gladius, to the English Broadsword, to the modern foil used in competitive fencing. For the most part a sword was meant for close combat. While we occasionally see in a movie a sword being flung long distances and making its mark, the sword is meant to be used when the enemy is at arm's length.

Pixabay

Pixabay

I find it interesting that God directed Paul to write the sword of the Spirit, not the axe or the spear, both of which were often thrown from a distance. The axe, especially one used during the Viking era, was often used in close combat to chop, hack and bash, but a sword enabled the user to finalize his victim with a well placed point to the heart or a slicing slash along the throat. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

This sword we are given to use is meant to be taken up when we are in close combat with the enemy. This sword is of the Spirit and is the word of God. God's word is a powerful, offensive weapon for us to use when we are face to face with our enemy, the devil. 

What does this look like in real life. I know for me, when I am really struggling with some specific difficulty, using God's word is the best way to kill the wrong thinking that is so often associated with sin. For instance, more recently I have had anxiety. Nothing new right? We all deal with anxiety. However, anxiety left unresolved and allowed to run rampant will becoming a raging bull, one that we will not be able to control.

When faced with anxiety I have learned to use God's word to remind me of His truth. His word says this in regards to anxiety and fear:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I love the 2 Timothy verse in the King James Version because it uses the word fear and it also uses the phrase sound mind. What is more chaotic and confused than the anxious mind? 

Here are a few more scriptures that have to do with fear.

So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
— Matthew 10:31 (NASB)
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
— Romans 8:15 (NASB)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4 (NASB)

These are just a few of the verses in scripture that deal with fear. Perhaps your issue is not fear, but anger, or lust or pride. God's sword is capable of delivering fatal blows to all of our enemy's minions. Let me say, it may not happen immediately. When I was in college I was struggling against several different sins that kept coming back to haunt me, but as I matured in my walk with Christ and began to take His word seriously I just kept using it when the temptations returned. Over and over, I stabbed and jabbed, sometimes on my knees, sometimes laying flat on the floor and sometimes pacing with my fist in the air, but eventually that sword did its job. 

Often when we struggle against the same recurring lies of the enemy it might be our "thorn in the flesh" so to speak, but God's word is still faithful, no matter how many times the enemy returns to attack us. If you have His Spirit in you and you are able to yield the sword of His word, victory will come.

Don't forget when you put on your armor in the morning to grab that sword before you walk out the door. 

 

Ever Insult a Rhino?

A number of years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo. Mark had a conference that he was involved in and I went along. I had never been to California before and I was looking forward to some beautiful sunny weather. Unfortunately, when we went it was during an occurrence of La Nina and the weather, while sunny, was extremely chilly. I made the best of it. While my hubby was schmoozing with big wigs, I was fully dressed, laying on a lounge chair shivering. Ha, ha. However, it was a beautiful resort and we did get to do a little sightseeing while we were there, including their famous zoo. 

The San Diego Zoo is famous for its size as well as the variety of interesting animals who call it home. After buying a sweatshirt for me, to keep me from shivering to death, we had fun exploring. Coming upon the rhino exhibit my husband and I were fascinated with how visible these magnificent beasts were. The low wall allowed for a full view of one particularly sturdy black rhino munching on long grasses. 

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Pixabay

I do not speak rhino, so I did not expect the craggy monster to understand what I said, but apparently he did. When the rhino had picked up a large mass of grasses he lifted his head and looked at me. With all that vegetable matter hanging out on either side of his pointy proboscis he looked rather silly. I told him so.

"Hey! You are goofy looking!"

No sooner had the words left my mouth than that rock of an animal began rotating his body so that his large derriere was facing me. My husband found this most amusing, while I was worried I was going to experience something worse than just rhino flatulence. I decided to move further down the path, but my spouse began to empathize with the poor, misunderstood rhino.

"That's okay! She treats me that way too!"

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Pixabay

The rhino was not to be consoled. He continued to move his butt end so that it was facing me as I moved down the path. Finally, he lifted his tail and passed gas! I guess he told me. I'll never insult a rhino again.

My reason for sharing this story has to do with our ability to hurt people with our words, both written and spoken. While, I am fairly sure the rhino did not understand what I said, people are much more in tune with the words spoken to them. The same is true of the opinions we share on social media. 

We often feel because we live in a free country we have the right to say whatever we want, wherever we want, with what ever enthusiasm we want. While it is true that we have many freedoms and rights because of the nation we live in, does that give us a carte blanche to spew without regard to who I might be hurting or offending?

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.
— Proverbs 19:1 (NASB)
But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
— Colossians 3:8 (NASB)
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

I think this last verse really sums it up well. We are to let our speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. Most of you know that adding salt to a dish, helps to make it tasty, but adding too much salt can make that same dish taste terrible.

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Pixabay

I am all for speaking truth. As a Christ follower, I am obligated to share the truth of the gospel and the words of God from the Bible, but I can choose to do it in a way that is offensive and overly salty, or I can share as His Spirit moves and gives opportunity. It is in this intimate walk with Christ that my words will be just the perfect seasoning. Having a close relationship with Jesus will enable us to know when to speak and when to be quiet; when to share the truth and when to just give words of comfort. 

As you go forward today draw close to Him, think before you speak and remember to never insult a rhino!

Words from the Past

Every now and then, I like to share something I have learned from someone who is no longer with us. Men such as A.W. Tozer, Andrew Murray, D.L. Moody and others, left behind a treasure chest filled with nuggets of wisdom that God gave to them. Whether it be through their preaching, writing or through others who watched them walk with God, we have access to these nuggets. 

I became a Christian at the age of twelve. Within a few years of that I began writing. I dabbled with stories and poems, but what I wrote most consistently were journals. I have been keeping my thoughts and my prayers in those little lined books for many years. Every now and then, I look back through the pages and it surprises me, how much God has used my writing to teach me about Him and about my place in His world. 

I came across this piece I wrote on September 21, 2012. Since it references fall, I thought it appropriate to publish here for you to read. I was going through a very difficult time in my life at that point and was getting counsel from a godly counselor. We talked about my vision of what I thought life would look like at this point and how in reality things didn't line up. He gently told me that in order to move on, I needed to put that vision to death. 

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Pixabay

At the same time, I was also reading Ann VosKamp's work, One Thousand Gifts, in which she refers to those situations in life that we never wanted or expected as ugly-beautiful. It is amazing how God can bring all these scattered pieces together and give us an acutely clear perspective.

*     *     *     *     *

fall leaves

At times loss can be beautiful - ugly-beautiful.

This season, fall, trees begin a transformation of loss. Their leaves, once green and supple, change in color and become dry, even crispy. 

Gradually, they let go, both the tree and the leaf.

The tree, in its God given wisdom knows that it will bloom again; its stark branches will feel the excitement of new growth.

Does the leaf know its life is over?

Does it accept the loss of the tree and the giddiness of the wind to send it wherever it desires?

Does it breath a sigh of relief when its final resting place slowly swallows it down and it is remembered no more?

There are aspects of my life, I need to let go of. I need to quit clinging and let those leaves fall silently to the ground. 

That is the only way for new life to begin.

(Written by Amy D. Christensen - 9/21, 2012)

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Even though I am at a different point in my life than I was when I wrote that, I believe it still holds true. Don't we all have leaves in our life that we are clinging to, challenging the wind to tear them from us? Yet, each season has a purpose and we need to know when that season has passed and we must let God create newness in our lives. I know it is hard, but God knows what is best and how very much He cares for you.

The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
— Jeremiah 31:3 (NASB)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus
— Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

 

 

What Trees Say to Me

I often find wonderful lessons in the things that God has created. Take trees for instance. Have you ever noticed that trees stand with their arms constantly uplifted? I know they are not arms, but branches. Isn't it cool that when a tree grows it reaches for the sky. Obviously there are scientific reasons for this, such as the tree's need for light. The tree grows toward the source of light. Of course, if you believe in a Creator, then you probably would agree that God not only made the tree so that it would grow toward the light, but made it so that it could teach us lessons. What sort of lessons can we learn from a tree?

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1. Make your roots deep. Trees that have deep roots are better able to stand in the devastating storms that come along. In the past few years we have had a few strong storms come through our town. In the aftermath it is not uncommon to see pine trees laying across yards and roadways. Pine trees have shallower roots. It is harder for them to stand when the winds are fiercely blowing. So too, in our lives, the deeper we grow our roots into Christ and His word, the better we will fair when the strong winds of difficulty sweep through our lives. 

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2. Grow towards the light. As I said before, trees and all green plants will grow toward the source of light. Put a plant in the window and watch which way the leaves and flowers turn after a few days time. Or try moving the plant away from the window and see what happens. Plants need light. We need light as well. Not just the sunshine, but the light of truth and the light of a relationship with Jesus. Without light we will stop growing and spiritually we would eventually die. The light of Christ and His truth gives us the necessary nutrients and energy we need for growth. 

Pixabay - autumn trees

3. Lift your branches up. The trees remember to praise God so why do we so easily forget? What happens when the storms come? The trees bend and sway, but their arms stay lifted up. If something as simple as a tree can keep its branches lifted up, as if in praise to God, even when the storms blow, then we can lift our hearts, hands and voices to Him also, when life gets difficult. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy task. There are times I would much rather curl into a ball to wait out the storm, rather than standing firm with my arms uplifted in praise to Him. However, God gives the strength, just as He enables the tree to stand in the mighty gale.

Pixabay - tree

4. Produce fruit. Whether it be the beautiful leaves that help produce the oxygen we breath, the nuts that fall to the ground in the fall or the many fruits from apples to oranges, cherries to peaches, all trees produce some sort of fruit. This begs me to ask the question, what sort of fruit am I producing? Am I a growing, living tree, producing beautiful leaves that bring life, hope and shade to a world that is weary and worn? Am I bearing fruit that is accessible for all to pick and enjoy? Are my words, my actions, my thoughts and my life bearing the image of the One who created all living things?  

Pixabay - fruit on the tree

5. Be the tree God made you to be. Not all trees are the same. There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes. No two, even in the same family are exactly the same. Look at one maple tree compared to another. Every branch is different. Every leaf is different. Not every tree serves the same purpose. There are hundreds of species of shade trees. There numerous fruit trees....just think of all the different kinds of apples we have. You are just exactly who God made you to be. Are you perfect? No! None of us are. God created you for His purposes. And just as a tree doesn't question how God made it, we can choose to thank God for how He made us and follow His lead to lift our arms in praise to Him in fair weather and foul.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
— Psalm 1:3 (NASB)
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
— Psalm 92:12
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise wins souls.
— Proverbs 11:30 (NASB)
“For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
— Isaiah 55:12 (NASB)
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.
— Luke 6:44 (NASB)

Mulling it Over: Part 8 - Ephesians 6:17

Today I will be looking at the 5th piece of armor that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:10-18. Last time we mulled over the shield of faith. Verse 17 actually covers two pieces of armor, but we will look at them one at a time.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
— Ephesians 6:17 (NASB)
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Pixabay

Piece #5 - The Helmet of Salvation

The galea is another name for the Roman helmet. Helmets were worn as protection for the head from as far back as mankind began fighting wars. Today, helmets are worn, not only by soldiers but by motorcycle riders, bike riders, football players and other sports enthusiasts. The head is very important and contains the control center for our whole body. 

When a person is determined to be brain dead, whether by illness or injury, the brain is no longer showing any life activity. The body will follow the direction of the brain and without artificial support will die. Obviously, keeping the brain safe and the head uninjured was and still is of prime importance when fighting a battle. 

Why is it that salvation is so important to our heads as protection? Since the brain controls and processes all incoming and outgoing information, I would like to look at three areas the helmet of salvation protects.

1. Spiritual

We are spiritual beings. God created us, not only to be physical, but to be spiritual. The spiritual part of us becomes fully formed and understood when we accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

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Pixabay

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
— 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Salvation enables us to see with our spiritual eyes.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
— Ephesians 1:18 (NASB)

It is through the spirit that we are connected to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. If we toss out the helmet of salvation our thinking will become skewed and we will no longer have spiritual understanding. 

Is it any wonder that there is so much confusion and misunderstanding in our world today? Without salvation through Jesus Christ we do not have His wisdom and clarity, because we do not have His spirit.

2. Mental

I am sure you have heard of Joyce Meyers, Battlefield of the Mind. In her typical straight forward way, Joyce explains that it is in our minds the battle rages. The battle of truth versus falsehood, good versus evil, right versus wrong. As I said earlier, the mind controls our bodies, not only in a physical cellular way, but in a thought processing sort of way. 

Our relationship with Jesus affects how our minds work and what we think. If we adhere to truth, acknowledging that Christ is Lord and reading His word, our minds will try to combat the lies that the world constantly throws at us. If we saturate ourselves in the gospel message our minds will find rest, peace and freedom from mental chaos. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Speaking from personal experience, I have had to return over and over to certain scriptures because my mind does not naturally want to accept truth. The word says that God loves me, sometimes I still question that. Belief in the person and work of Jesus has given me worth, but even in my 50's I still struggle with my value. The mind can be easily led astray, thus the importance of the helmet of salvation.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life
— John 3:16 (NASB)

3. Emotional

Once again, we know that the brain is the command  center for controlling emotions as well as physical and mental capacities. Wearing the helmet of salvation enables our mind to keep our emotions in check. Don't get me wrong, I am not expecting us to be emotionless creatures. God created us with the capacity to feel. However, only feeling and not thinking can be detrimental to our health and even dangerous. 

Think about the range of emotions you can experience in one week, or for that matter in one day. You might wake up feeling peaceful, but within five minutes when the kids are running late or the baby is crying and you can't find your car keys, your emotions tend to go from peaceful to stressed out. Throw in traffic, a bad day at work and a fight with your spouse and your emotions can literally run the gambit from peaceful to stressed, to sad to angry. 

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Pixabay

Knowing Jesus as Lord and immersing ourselves in His word can give us the ability to temper our emotions, even the ability to bring every situation to Him and rely on Him for the grace to get through each difficulty. Just think about the scriptures that address emotion.

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
— Ephesians 4:26 (NASB)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
— Philippians 4:6 (NASB)
Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
— Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.
— Psalm 42:5 (NASB)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
— Philippians 4:4 (NASB)
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The helmet of salvation is a key piece of armor that we should never forget to put on. You might say that once I am saved I don't need to worry about the helmet it is always on my head. However, I do think that we can become so preoccupied by all the other hats we wear, that we forget the helmet is there, always able to protect us.

The helmet of salvation is key to protecting our thinking. Out relationship with Christ protects us spiritually, mentally and emotionally. I hope you own this important piece of armor.

Have a great week! 

 

Waiting.

She walked with purpose through the camp. Her waiting had turned to worry and her worry had turned to anger. Why weren't they moving? Why were they just sitting here? The enemy's walls were within sight, which meant her daughter, who had been in his filthy grasp for more than two months, was within the reach of her arms. Her arms longed to hold her once again, to look into her sweet face and see those blue eyes smile back at her. 

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Pixabay

She saw the King's tent ahead. Two guards stood outside the entry and just as she made to move past them, they blocked her way with their long spears. She backed up angrily.

"What is the meaning of this? I am here to see the King."

The two guards didn't even flinch. Staring straight ahead the one said, "The King is not to be disturbed, by anyone."

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Pixabay

She stepped up to the one who spoke and looked up at his face. He was at least a foot taller than her, but she was not going to be intimidated. 

"I am the King's daughter. He will most certainly see me."

The guard did not move, his expression stony. "He will not be disturbed by anyone, not even you, your Highness!"

She fumed, but she also remembered her place. She was the King's daughter, but He was the King. Ranting and raging would only make her look a fool and would not serve to get answers to her questions any sooner. 

She took a deep breath. "Would you please tell my father, as soon as is convenient, that I need to see him?"

The guard did not speak, merely gave a curt nod.

She moved away, ranting and raging on the inside. 

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The small brook she sat beside had a calming effect on her tumultuous nerves. As the sun began to slide behind the horizon she heard a voice behind her.

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"So I have found you."

Her father joined her on the fallen log that she was using as a bench. 

She stared at the stream, willing herself to be calm.

"I was told you wanted to see me."

She made no response.

"Here I am!" His voice was almost jovial.

She sprang to her feet, whirling on him as if he was the enemy himself.

"How can you be so calm? The enemy is within sight and yet here we sit! My daughter is within reach and yet we have been camped here for days. You have been distant from me, even telling your guards to not let me, your own daughter, in to see you. I am mad with the waiting!"

He patted the log beside him. "Come. Sit beside me."

She started to pace. It was her default, to keep moving. Moving meant she was doing something and doing something was far better than doing nothing at all. She said as much.

"I do not want to sit. I want to go get my daughter. I want to go in and kill the man who has no doubt violated her by now. We don't even know if she is still alive."

Once again, he patted the log next to him, his voice a bit more forceful.

"Sit!"

She took a deep, steadying breath, then sat back down. 

"You have been trained to be a warrior. You know as much about tactics and battle as I do, maybe even more. You also are aware, that this enemy is not one to be trifled with. He has his own tactics, many of which have taken husbands from their wives and fathers from their children. I will not go into this battle on anyone's timeline, but my own."

Now it was his turn to stand up and pace. 

"You don't think I've lost sleep over the fact that my grand daughter is in the hands of that beast? Do you think I am unaware of the ramifications of delay? That little girl is never going to be the same, but to rescue her alive is my only goal. Our enemy will have no qualms about taking her life. My goal is to keep that from happening...but it must be done with great care."

He went and knelt before her. This time he took her hands in his own.

"You must trust me. You must believe in my ability as you father and as your King."

She felt her anger recede to a dark corner of her mind. As tears filled her eyes, she said, "Help my unbelief!" 

She leaned into his strength and sobbed.

for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’
— Deuteronomy 20:4 (NASB)

This was a fiction piece by Amy D. Christensen. You can see the first two parts to this series by clicking on the titles below.

Part 1: Return to Battle

Part 2: A Father's Perspective

 

 

 

What I am Thankful for Today

I am not trying to sound trite or simplistic, but there really is something to the idea of being grateful. I have brought this up before in many of my other faith posts, but as I sit here this evening, I started doing some thinking on what to write about for this week's Faith page. With so much tragedy and difficulty happening all around us, I felt the need for setting my eyes on someone and something much higher than I.

We all know the tragedy that is going on in Texas right now. The devastation is real and visceral. I cannot begin to feel the loss that so many are experiencing. Unfortunately, the difficulties of others often do make us more thankful for what we have and the comforts that we so easily forget and take advantage of. So for today's post, I just want to give you a list of things I am thankful for.

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Pixabay

1. The sun. I am sure many of our comrades down south can't wait for the rain to stop and the sun to shine. We never really appreciate this giant flaming orb that God placed in the center of our solar system, until we haven't see it for a while. Being a sufferer of seasonal affective disorder, I thank God everyday that the sun is shining. Sometimes I will stick my face in a sunny spot and just soak it in for a few seconds, channeling my inner kitty.

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Pixabay

2. A hot shower. There is something about clean, hot water that just seems to wake up the senses and get us going in the morning. 

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Pixabay

3. Trees. This is one thing that I love about living in a city filled with trees. Just recently my husband and I took a walk at one of our many area Metroparks and I was entranced by the beauty of so many variations on trees; tall and lanky, short and stubby, pines, oaks, maples, and our own Ohio Buckeye. Trees provide shade, wood, food and shelter for animals and humans and most importantly oxygen. Our world wouldn't be much of a world without trees.

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Pixabay

4. A bed to sleep in. I don't always wake up well rested, but then I think of how much more difficult life would be without a place to sleep. Even now, I think of so many Texan's that are displaced due to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They will be fortunate if they get a cot or a mat on the floor at an area community center or school, let alone will they have their own pillow, blankets or space. What a blessing, even when it is old and lumpy, to have a bed to sleep in.

Drinking fountain

5. Clean drinking water. I don't have to even think about what comes out of my faucet when i turn it on. I know it is treated water and won't be filled with little critters that will make me sick. If our city water takes a turn for the worse, I know I can go to the store and get clean bottled water for just a few dollars. There are many areas of the world where clean water is an unknown. 

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Pixabay

6. Basic human rights. We get off in a lot of directions in the country, but the fact of the matter is we have many rights that other countries do not have. We can come and go as we please. We can wear what we want, eat what we like and hang out with whomever we choose. We can speak our mind and not worry about being thrown in jail or worse. We can shop, go the movies and church, for the most part, without fear. When we are sick we can go to the doctor and we will be taken care of. 

7. Food. I don't know about you, but I love food and I love variety. We have so much food and so much variety that we should never get bored with our eating choices. We also have the blessing of most of our food being clean and properly prepared. Granted things happen...out breaks of salmonella, and other bacteria do happen, but for the most part our food is managed carefully.

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8. Books. Maybe you don't like books or like to read, in which case you are probably not reading this, but I love books and I am so thankful for the knowledge they bring us and the worlds they transport us to. Books have had such an important impact on my life, so I will always be thankful for them.

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9. Health. Often when we are young we don't think about our health and just live life to the fullest. As we get older, we start to realize some of our choices have or will affect our health. I am thankful for what I have today, because tomorrow things might be different. My husband and I have started walking every day, (as often as we can). It has helped to relieve stress, gives us time together and gets our hearts pumping. 

10. Faith. For me, my faith in Jesus Christ is the most important element of my life. It affects everything I do. Unfortunately, I am not always the best example. I make poor choices, get emotional, worry and forget that I am His, more often than I would like to admit, but faith is what gives my life focus and purpose. 

These are just a few of the things I am thankful for today! What are you thankful for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Have a great weekend!

 

The Winds of Change

We all know change is inevitable. With the coming of fall, my mind often turns towards the changes that are beginning to take place. We see the changes all around us in the yellow school buses that are back in traffic, the grass dressed in morning housecoats of dew, plants beginning to wilt and fade and leaves starting their colorful descent towards life's end. Most of us enjoy these changes. Moms with school age children are usually ready to resume the routines associated with their children being back at school. Homeowners look forward to putting away the lawnmowers and trimmers for the long winter season and those of us who love nature look forward to the colorful display of potted mums and changing leaves. 

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Pixabay

Pixabay

Pixabay

fall

Change can also be very scary.

There, I said it. You know it is true. Many changes are not looked forward to like those I listed above. Change can involve pain, volatile emotions and overwhelming shadows of the unknown. Anyone facing the difficult changes of a divorce, a long term disability or illness or the loss of a loved one, know that change can take on a very different appearance. Instead of looking exciting and enjoyable, change looks lonely and terrifying. So how can we embrace change, even when it is difficult?

Know that God did not intend for things to stay the same.

In our relationship with Christ, God the Father has an ultimate plan, our growth and development as His children. You knew when you had children, the ultimate goal was to nourish and take care of them so they could, ultimately, take care of themselves. Most parents look forward to the day they can see their child go off to college or get married, or move to start a new job. They never intended their children stay with them forever. An attitude like that, would not only be difficult on the marriage, but it would be extremely limiting for the child. They need to grow and become the individuals they were meant to be. 

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
— Philippians 2:1-3 (NASB)

God did not intend we stay the same. Life is all about change. Many changes we have absolutely no control over. However, we do have control over ourselves and our attitudes towards those changes. Every time we choose to have the mind of Christ, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves or becoming anxious, we grow and become more like Him.

Know that God is with you through the change.

Going through change can be extremely lonely. I am sure there are times when you are encountering change that you don't feel at liberty to share your burdens with other people. These are the times to remember His is with you. He will never leave you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9 (NASB)

Did you ever really look at that verse? God commanded...you heard me right. God commanded that Joshua not be afraid, that he be strong and courageous. Isn't He commanding us to do the same thing when our lives are chaotic with change? Because he is with us, we can do it. 

I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You...
— Isaiah 42:6(a) (NASB)

Know that God will give you the strength to get through it.

Going through difficult changes can be exhausting, especially if the change has to do with physical distress or limitations. Emotional changes can also leave us feeling drained. Many times when we are encountering change we have a harder time sleeping, eating and just doing the normal every day routine. However, routine is important, especially when your life is in upheaval. Try to wake up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, eat when you need to eat, brush your teeth, get dressed and so on.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)

God is capable. When I get to the point where life just won't let up, I find myself returning to this verse in Philippians over and over. I claim it. I bring my fatigue and distress to the Lord and simply say, "Lord, your word says, 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.' I claim that promise now and trust You to give me the strength I need to keep going." You know what? He has never failed me. He always gives me the strength to get through the changes that are going on in my ever rocking world. 

That strength may not always be physical. You might be flat on your back in the hospital, but He will give you the strength mentally and emotionally to deal with those changes. Remember, it is all about Him. He will give you strength because He is the one who will be glorified as you get through the winds of change.  

Mulling it Over: Part 7 - Ephesians 6:16

Today in my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God I am looking at Ephesians 6:16. This piece of armor is essential as protection. While the other pieces, so far, have been actual body armor - the belt, the breastplate and the shoes, this piece is defensive, but not attached to the body. 

in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
— Ephesians 6:16 (NASB)

Piece # 4 - Shield of Faith

There were three types of Roman shields. The legionaire scutum was a long oval or rectangular shield used by foot soldiers. It was particularly effective in battle when a group of soldiers would stand side by side. The scutum created a wall which was almost impenetrable. The shields could also be turned skyward to keep arrows from hitting their targets.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The other two types of Roman shields were the parma and the clipeus. Both of these shields were round. The parma was used by soldiers on horseback and was easier to maneuver. They were, however, made with an iron frame and were heavy. These eventually were replaced with the clipeus which was designed similarly to the Greek aspis. (This info was gleaned from this article by Graham Land.)

Pixabay

Pixabay

There are several points I would like to make regarding this piece of armor. Once again, I would like to dissect the verse to squeeze the most out of it we can.

1. In addition to all...

This phrase at the beginning of the verse causes me to think there is something important to derive from it. This would seem to refer back to the pieces of armor that were listed before hand. In other words once you have put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of the gospel of piece, now it is time...

2. ...taking up....

It is time to take up...don't just leave that shield sitting on the floor, or the bedside table or on a shelf in the closet. Get it out and pick it up. Carry it. Use it. Protect yourself with it. That is exactly what it is intended to be used for.

Pixabay - helm, sword, shield

3. ...the shield of faith....

So what is the shield of faith? Let's have a little discussion on faith. Faith is essentially belief. A belief in something or someone. For us as Christ followers we place our faith or our belief in Jesus Christ. When we take that step or make that choice to believe we now have faith. 

Everyone has some sort of faith. When you go to sit in a chair you have faith the chair will hold you. When you get up in the morning you have faith the sun will rise. We have faith in the medicine we take, the food we eat and the police that keep us safe. 

Our faith in Jesus is much deeper and more life changing that the faith that allows me to sit in a chair. My faith is in Christ, a person. Yes He is also God, which is a real plus!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
— Hebrews 11:1-3 (NASB)

Why does Paul refer to our faith as a shield? Ask yourself this question, what would my life be like without my faith? My answer would be, empty. A living and active faith, one that believes in a living and active God, fills our life with the breath of the Almighty and the firm foundation of a risen Savior. My faith affects everything I do, or at least it should. It should affect our choices, what we do, where we go, how we act and react. There are 378 verses in the Bible that contain the word faith (or a derivation such as faithful or faithfully, etc.). There are 259 verses in the Bible that use the word believe

Now, think about the things that affect your faith. What sorts of things shake you? What events challenge your faith? What difficulties crimp your faith and which ones cause your faith to grow? Can you think of a time that you started to doubt? Doubt that God exists, cares or loves you? Imagine if you allowed that doubt to grow? What would happen to your faith and what would happen to your life?

Faith is our shield. To fully understand how this works, let's look at the last part of Ephesians 6:16.

Pixabay - arrow/archer

4. ...with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Whoa! That's some pretty hefty battle damage, extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one! It doesn't say one or two arrows, or even a few dozen, it says all. This shield of faith is capable of combatting any arrow Satan throws at us. Did you get that? All the flaming arrows.

If you want to know what these arrows look like, think about any negative thought that pops into your mind: worry, fear, despair, hopelessness, envy, lust, anger, malice, gossip....I'm sure you can add more. These are Satan's arrows. It is our faith that protects us from these fire tipped barbs. 

"I'm worried about my job....God says do not be anxious."

"I'm afraid...God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind."

"I feel hopeless...my hope is in the Lord."

"I wish I had that...as Paul said, 'Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.'"

"I am so angry...God's word says to cease from anger and forsake wrath, fretting only leads to evil doing."

Satan knows the greatest battle is in our mind. Look at the world we live in. Opposing ideologies, racism, terrorism, acceptance of so many things that were once seen as taboo. It would seem that our enemy is walking out in the open, reveling in every moment. Even Christians are being taken in by the lies of our enemy. That is exactly why we need to raise our shield of faith. 

It is my faith in God and His word, that enables me to take up the shield and use it against my enemy. We need to recognize the fiery arrows of our enemy and raise our shield against him. Battle on warriors! Battle on! 

Steadfast Hope

Last week I wrote about Elusive Hope. The purpose for calling it elusive, is that there are times hope is very hard to find. When life constantly beats us down, it is hard to keep feeling like there is much hope. Here is where we must make a differentiation. Hope is not a feeling. 

Webster's online dictionary defines hope in these ways: to cherish a desire with anticipation, trust (though it says that this is an archaic definition), to desire with expectation of obtainment or fulfillment, to expect with confidence. 

I find it interesting that this online version of Webster's dictionary calls the definition trust, archaic. I would not dismiss this definition so easily, especially when looking at what the scripture has to say about hope.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
— Hebrews 6:13-20 (NASB)

There is much to learn from the book of Hebrews, about faith and about hope. I actually asked my husband for help on this one. Being a philosophy instructor, he has spent most of his adult life musing over writings that are not easily understood. He has a unique ability to look at something logically, especially when it comes to language. I can write. But I cannot write on the level of a Kierkegaard, or an Aquinas. 

The writer of Hebrews, while fairly easy to understand, still delves into writing that must be mulled over, not glossed over. Just like the book of Romans, there is so much in this book and I am only looking at one small passage. 

The part that intrigued me was this: "...In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us..."

There are several points that need to be made. 

1. When it came to making promises in that day, men swore by one greater than themselves. So, in other words, men would swear by heaven or by God that they would do what they said they were going to do. 

2. They basically sealed the contract by performing an oath. The oath made the promise so. 

When it comes to salvation God did both of these things. He made a promise to us and swore according to Himself, since there is no one higher than Him. He also, then sealed that promise with an oath, or a guarantee. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

God made the promise and then sealed it with a blood oath, that of His son Jesus Christ. 

What I find fascinating is the fact that this phrase was included, "...in which it is impossible for God to lie..." The things that the author is referring to, would be the swearing and the oath. God made a promise to us, through His son Jesus Christ and He cannot lie.

Therefore, we have "...strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us." What is that strong encouragement? The fact that God swore by Himself and that He sealed the promise with an oath. He cannot lie, so the fact that He told us if we believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life, along with all the other promises in the Bible means He will do it. He is as good as His word.

So elusive hope, becomes steadfast, because of what God did. Bringing back the idea of hope to the definition of trust makes perfect sense. We are placing our hope or our trust in an almighty God. There is no one higher than Him. He cannot lie. He is good. 

It is this hope in God that becomes our anchor. It is sure and it is steadfast and best of all it enters into the veil as Jesus did! This hope is more real than the earth we stand on or the stars we see in the sky. 

Next time you feel hopeless or that hope is hiding like a rainbow on a sunny day, take a closer look. Hope is blooming all around us, because it is found in Him. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull 

Elusive Hope

Elusive hope.

A rainbow, seen, real, but untouchable.

The bow in the sky, bordered by storms and darkness, gives us pause.

A reminder that He was with us, from the beginning.

A reminder that no matter how bad it gets, this one thing remains...

     When the conditions are just right, the rain, the sun, the clouds...

The rainbow.

Sometimes we can see hope, like the bow of colors,

Real, seen, but untouchable.

Yet we are reminded, there is always hope, 

     Just like there is always a rainbow.

But hope is not based on just the right conditions.

It solely rests in Him.

Pixabay

Pixabay

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
— Psalm 62:5 (NASB)

Lord God, we are your people; the sheep of your pasture. It is in You that we live and breath and have our being. You are the God of all creation and we acknowledge that we are but dust.

But we are Yours and we are struggling. We need hope. Not an elusive hope, like a bow set in the clouds that we cannot hold onto, but a real living, breathing hope.

Give us a hope that we can see, like the night sky filled with stars that have existed ever since creation.

Give us a hope that we can feel, like the ground on which we walk.

Give us a hope that we can hear, like the bird song that is revived every morning.

Give us a hope that we can taste, like biting into a fresh peach, so sweet and juicy it makes our tongue tingle.

That Lord, is the hope I pray for...for the mother who wonders when their child will no longer suffer; for the father who paces the floor wondering where his daughter is; for the couple who believe the embers of their marriage have finally burned out; for the child who thinks the abuse is their fault....Lord give us hope!

(I know I have posted this video before, but once again it seems appropriate. I pray it will give you hope.)

Deep Waters

Summer weather always makes me long for the beach, or at least somewhere near the water. What is it about water that fascinates us so? I know for me, some of it may be the lovely pictures I come across in magazines of quaint sea side cottages decorated with lovely reminders of the vast ocean just outside the door. Water has a therapeutic effect. I love to sit near it, watching the waves rolling in or listening to the rush of foam hitting the shore. 

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Water can also be frightening. It can cause catastrophic flooding and overwhelm the largest ocean going vessels. We all desire safe harbor, but sometimes God has something very different in mind. Once in a while He will cut the lines that tether us to the shore and set us on a sea that would scare the bravest and most seasoned sailor. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Oswald Chambers states it perfectly:

If you yourself do not cut the lines that tie you to the dock, God will have to use a storm to sever them and send you out to sea...If you believe in Jesus, you are not to spend all your time in the calm waters, just inside the harbor, full of joy, but always tied to the dock. You have to get out past the harbor and into the great depths of God, and begin to know things for yourself—-begin to have spiritual discernment.”
— My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

I love word pictures. This picture struck me right between the eyes. I love being in safe harbor. I love to feel at peace and know that life is running smoothly. I like organization, and like many women, I want to feel like I am in control, at least of some aspect of life. For me that is safe. What isn't safe is not knowing where your kids are at three or four in the morning, having pain or illness that can't be diagnosed, losing your job or getting old. These things are all reminders that we have very little in our control. 

I believe that we can become dependent and even prideful of our place in that peaceful harbor. We become fixated on the ropes that are tethering us to the dock believing that it is the ropes that keep our boat safe and secure. That is when the storms come and sever our ties, ripping the very ropes we took pride in and depended upon, from the dock and setting us adrift on an angry,  sea.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why would God do that? Why would He take us from that safe place and send us out on a stormy ocean? Doesn't He care about us? Doesn't He know that we are afraid?

Of course He does, but He also knows that you will never grow if you are forever in the safe harbor. He knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body and He knows just exactly what you need. Our journey in this life is about our relationship with Him. It is about letting go of everything we hold dear and clinging to Christ alone. 

I know this is hard. I have experienced the storm and I have felt my strongest ropes (the things I thought were right) torn away from that peaceful dock. I have cowered, terrified, in the bottom of the boat wondering when that monster wave would finally take me under. But always at that darkest and most chaotic moment, I would lift my eyes just a bit over the edge of the boat and I would see Him coming to me on the waves. He would come, climb into my boat and we would ride those stormy seas like a surfer hanging ten! 

Oh yes, my stomach has roiled, just like the sea. My mind has crashed just like those tumultuous waves, but gradually the storm would move away, the waves would soften and the wind would calm. He would take my hand and say,

"Peace, dear lamb. Be still."

He alone can overcome our pride. He alone can ride the storm out with us. He alone can speak peace into our troubled hearts.

Dear ones, don't cling to tightly to those plans you have made, nor those ropes that tether you to the dock. He may be calling you out into deep waters.

Mulling It Over - Part 6 - Ephesians 6:15

This month as I continue to look at the armor of God we are going to talk about shoes! As a fashion blogger, I love shoes of all sorts, whether it be sandals, boots, heels or flats, I love to have a variety of shoes to go with the variety of outfits that I post and talk about. 

I find it interesting that God mentions our feet when talking about His armor. 

Piece # 3 - The Gospel of Peace

15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
— Ephesians 6:15 (NASB)

There are several important points that we can pull from this simple verse.

1) We are supposed to have our feet covered. Seeing as it is summer I am sure most of you have made the run to your mail box without any shoes on. When I was a child we spent most of our time outside in bare feet. Our feet became tough and we could walk just about anywhere. I don't go without shoes, or at least flip flops, anymore. Time has made my feet soft and age has made me less tolerant of pain. Ha, ha. God made a provision for our journey in life, in the armor He gave to us. Our feet need to be covered, because we need to keep walking and keep fighting. We wouldn't get far at all if our feet were not in working order.

2) We are to be prepared. The word preparation implies that we are to do some training or making ready in advance. When speaking in terms of military readiness, our soldiers go through weeks of intensive training. They also learn additional skills about tactics, weapons and psychological readiness. I am sure many vets will tell you, even with the training they had, they still weren't prepared for the horrors of real warfare. 

We are directed in the Bible to be prepared, not only for Spiritual warfare as is being discussed in this passage in Ephesians, but to give an account for why we have hope.

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
— I Peter 3:15 (NASB)

 What exactly is this hope that we have? What exactly are we, as Christ followers, supposed to be prepared with? 

3) The gospel of peace. I'd actually like to break this phrase into two separate pieces. 

a. The gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news. Christ followers believe that we are all sinners and all fall short of measuring up to God's perfect standard. Because of this there had to be a sacrifice made to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. Jesus Christ bridged that gap. By committing our lives to Him we are able to enter into God's presence and have fellowship with Him. When we share the gospel, we are sharing the fact that Jesus paid the price that we ourselves should have paid and by believing in His work on the cross and His resurrection we can and will be with God. John 3:16 is the gospel in a nut shell.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

b. ...of peace. I love that the word peace is included with this piece of armor. Jesus came so that we might have peace with God.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
— Romans 5:1 (NASB)

However, it doesn't end there. The idea that this piece of armor is for the feet implies that we are taking it with us wherever we go. We don't put on our shoes to get into bed. We put them on so that we can go out of the house to work, shop, play and the many other things we do throughout a day or a week. For us, the gospel is to be an integral part of everywhere we go and everything we do. Not just the good news, but the peace that the good news brings.

In a world of unrest we all need a little peace, not only for ourselves, but for those we work with, hang with, and encounter on a regular basis. You would be amazed how responding with a peaceful and loving attitude can diffuse a volatile situation.

As we go forward this week, let's be prepared by having having our feet ready with the gospel of peace, so that we might have opportunity to share the good news and bring His peace to all we encounter. 

You can see the first 5 parts of this Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18 by clicking on each of the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5