The Full Armor, Not an Exercise, But A Way of Life

db6990f53da4480d112fd1333a3dbe3aAs a believer for forty years, I’ve heard many interpretations and teachings on the full armor of God. It is a subject that many are familiar with. The main passage of Scripture that speaks of it is found in Ephesians 6:10-17. Most have turned it into a mental exercise where one visualizes “putting on” each piece of armor every day. The reason being, this is supposed to keep one safe from enemy attacks, almost like a magic charm or something. Frankly, this is a labor of futility. Not only does it not work, but it also misleads people into believing that going through the motions of this operation can protect them, rather than how they choose to live each day. I do not believe this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote this passage, as inspired by the Spirit of God.

When taken at face value, the meaning seems really simple to me. Each piece of the armor is symbolic of one aspect of Jesus’ nature or ministry. There are two different words translated “put on” used, the first is in Ephesians 6:11, the second, in 6:13. The first one means, to sink into clothing, to clothe one’s self, to envelop in, to hide in, to clothe with a garment. The second one means, to take up, to take in (to one’s self), to raise. The word used in 6:11 is the same word used in Romans 13:12, …“put on the armor of light,” and in Ephesians 4:24, “…put on the new self.” In fact, the whole verse of Ephesians 4:22-24, to me, is a precursor to the passage in chapter 6, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When interpreted in context, as all interpretations should be, the armor of God is, in essence, the nature of Christ. The first piece, the belt of truth, speaks of Jesus who said He was, “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) This means that we should walk in truth in every area of our lives. Since satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), truth will always defeat him. The second piece, the breastplate of righteousness, speaks of Christ’s righteousness which is credited to us at salvation (Phil. 3:9), He, Himself, is our righteousness. The third piece, the shoes of peace, speak of being a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9, James 3:18), and also walking in the peace of God. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), the gospel is to restore peace between God and man (Luke 2:14, Col. 1:20). The fourth piece, the shield of faith, speaks of our faith in Christ which helps us overcome (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:4). The fifth piece, the helmet of salvation, speaks of the protection of our soul (mind, will, emotions) that comes from the hope and meditation of our salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The sixth, and last piece, the sword of the Spirit, speaks of the Word of God, which we use to refute the lies of the enemy (Heb. 4:12, Rev. 2:12, 2:16, 19:15). Jesus used the Word to defeat the enemy in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-10). It is our offensive weapon.

Finally, it is striking that Paul uses the word “stand” four times in verses 11, 13, and 14. This word literally means, be kept intact, to escape in safety; to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything; to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm; to be of a steadfast mind; of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver.” This describes what our position should be when faced with the enemy. We do not fight, but rather stand, clothed with the nature of Jesus, in His authority which is above all authorities. We remain immovable and unshakeable for greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. 

When we clothe ourselves in Christ, taking on and standing in our new self made in His likeness, we have the greatest protection possible against the attacks of the enemy. This requires us to die to our flesh, surrender our ways, deny ourselves, and walk in obedience to the Lord, by His grace. It doesn’t mean we will never be assaulted by the enemy. It means we will continue to stand, and we will overcome him because Jesus did and He now lives in us. “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.” (Eph. 6:13)

Finding Freedom from the Fear of Man

imagesProverbs 29:25 says, Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”  The word “fear” literally means, fear; extreme anxiety; anxious care; quaking or trembling. The fear of man is also known as the fear of what people think. When we fear man, we fear what others think, say or believe about us. We fear their judgment and rejection. We fear upsetting or offending them. The fear of man is basically a spirit of control that we empower by believing its lies.

The above verse confirms this by saying this fear “will prove to be a snare.” The word “snare” means a noose or snare used for trapping animals; a hook for the nose; a trap. When we give place to the fear of man, we become ensnared, trapped and in bondage to this controlling spirit. It manifests itself through insecurity, intimidation, manipulation, cowardice, rejection, and potentially paralyzing fear when dealing with others. We give other people the power to control what we say, do, feel, think and believe. When we fear people, we become people pleasers. But we cannot please people and God at the same time. Paul made this clear in Galations 1:10, Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 

The good news is, that like every other form of bondage, God has made it possible to get free from people pleasing and the fear of man. It isn’t by rebuking these spirits or doing deliverance, though those may be of some benefit. Freedom will come when we receive the revelation of our true identity in Christ. When we become confident and secure in His love and affirmation, we no longer look to people to meet those needs. The truth of God’s love and passion for us as His beloved sons and daughters will set us free from the enemy’s lies. As Solomon so wisely put it, our trust in the Lord will keep us safe from the fear of man.

Our trust, or faith, in His goodness and grace toward us will give us the assurance we need, and cause us to rejoice in what He says is true of us. His word, His love, His desire, and His many promises, instill the confidence in our hearts that we all need and long for. Truthfully, no matter what we do, or don’t do, say, or don’t say, people are going to believe what they want, whether it is true or not. We cannot control that, nor should we let them control us by giving them power over us. God, who is Truth, knows the ultimate, perfect truth about us. He has seen us at our very worst, and still, He chose us anyway! Unlike people who are fickle and may love us one minute and hate us the next, His opinion of us never changes. He is always with us and for us and really, in light of that, nothing else matters!

 

Costly Consequences of the Church’s Identity Crisis

id-crisis-churchI read a deeply disturbing article online yesterday about a small, but growing segment of society that has come to be known as “transabled.” According to the article, these people seem to feel they do not “fit” in a healthy, whole body. Instead, they long to be disabled in some way. So much so, that they will injure themselves in order to accomplish that desire. I don’t know that I’ve heard anything so bizarre in my life, though there has definitely been an increase in bizarre behavior these days. We have heard much about the transgender people who feel they were born the wrong gender, and some who go so far as to say they feel they should have been born as an animal instead of a human. As I was pondering these things yesterday, trying to make some sense of them, trying to understand what the root of these issues is, it became clear it had to do with identity.

It seems to me that the whole world is struggling with identity. This thought led me to consider the Church, for I have heard it said many times, “As the Church goes, so goes the world (or nation).” It is clear in Scripture that God ordained the Church to be the change agent of the world. We are the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We are the ones who are to make Jesus known to the lost, to carry on the mission He began over 2,000 years ago. That was His commandment in the Great Commission. In some ways, we have done well, but in others, not so much. Over the past several years, the Church seems to be having her own identity crisis.

Our nation is more divided now than perhaps ever in her history. The same can be said about the Church. Not only do we have myriads of denominations, but we have added labels to those as well. Progressive, conservative, fundamentalist, traditionalist, liberal, and so on. We are indeed a sadly fragmented body. And the world sees and knows it, at least to some degree, by our words and actions. One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is that we have strayed from the foundation of the Word. We have embraced the interpretations of men rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We have gathered teachers who tell us what we want to hear – Paul called it, the tickling of the ears – rather than the truth, in love. In the name of political correctness, we have become tolerant of that which God hated so much, He took it upon Himself at the cross.

When those who claim to follow Christ embrace the practices of abortion, homosexuality, pornography, adultery, and other such behaviors, we have clearly departed from the commandments of God. Whether we commit such behaviors ourselves, or we endorse leaders, both in the Church and in our govenment that do, we are nonetheless condoning that which God has condemned. He condemns the sin, not those who are trapped in bondage to it. The consequences of our choices, I believe, have greatly contributed to the chaos we are now living in. In many ways, sadly, the world has become a reflection of those who are called to a counter-cultural way of life.

Thankfully, because of the blood of Christ that was shed for our sin, we still have hope. No person, people group, or nation can wander so far that His blood cannot reach, redeem, and restore. Only the Spirit of God can heal and unify His fragmented body so that we can be the salt and light we are destined to become. Only the love of the Bridegroom can woo a spiritually adulterous bride to totally surrender her heart and affection to Him. Only our loving heavenly Father can conform us to our true identity.

He has given us incredible power and authority to see the changes we are longing for come to pass – it is called prayer. We have no excuse if we fail to use it. The consequences of our identity crisis are becoming ever more costly. We can blame and point the finger at everyone else if we want, but He has given the earth to us. (Ps. 115:16) It is our great privilege and responsibility to properly steward all that He has given to us. He is always there to help us, if we are simply willing.

 

 

 

Thoughts On A Life of Fruitfulness

Charlene S Hughes

“I am the real vine and My Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of Me but fails to bear fruit, He cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned.” – John 15:1-3

Jesus is the vine we have been joined to by the Father. Our Father is the gardener who takes care of all the plants in the garden. The vine is planted in the soil, and gets its nutrients from the soil. Life flows into it from the soil, through every part, and into the fruit. There is no life apart from the vine. Though there are nutrients in the soil, the soil cannot produce fruit on its own; only the vine can produce fruit. Jesus said He is the real

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Guarding Your Heart Against the Danger of Offense

heart_0These days, in our politically correct society, everyone is offended at something or someone, it seems. You hear it on TV; read it on social media; see it in the workplace; even in the Church. Offense has become an epidemic. According to the dictionary, offense means, “something that offends or displeases; the feeling of resentful displeasure caused; the act of attacking; attack or assault.” Everyone has an opinion, and the slightest disagreement often leads to offense. This violation can escalate to anger, hate, even violence. At times it appears that some people are looking for something to be offended about.

The biblical definition of offense means, “to cause one to stumble or fall away; to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority; to cause one to judge unfavorably or unjustly of another; to make indignant.” In Matthew 13 as Jesus taught in the synagogue, many became offended with Him. They couldn’t understand His wisdom and authority because they only knew Him as Mary’s and Joseph’s son. In chapter 11, He told HIs disciples to tell John the Baptist, who was in prison at the time, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” This was after He recounted the things He was doing – healing the sick, raising the dead, and preaching to the poor.

In the parable of the seed and the sower, Jesus said there would be some who would hear the Word and receive it with joy, but, “…since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Having no root can cause one to be easily offended. Perhaps one of the most sobering verses on the subject is Matthew 24:10. Jesus is teaching His disciples on the signs of the end times and says, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other… but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” In other words, when believers are not rooted in the Word and trouble or persecution comes, many will become offended with God and those who speak truth, and fall away from the faith. I believe this prophecy is beginning to come to pass.

At it’s core, offense is rooted in pride. This becomes apparent when one takes offense if his views are disagreed with. To think that everything you believe is one hundred percent correct is pride. To attack someone for disagreeing with you is arrogant. The people in the synagogue who took offense at Jesus did so because they believed He was just a common man – the son and brother of ordinary people they knew. His words and anointing defied those beliefs. John the Baptist knew well what Scripture taught about the coming Messiah. It was prophesied He would set captives free. Not only was he in prison, but he was Jesus’ first cousin. Surely Jesus would set him free, he likely thought. Jesus, knowing this, forewarned him about taking offense when He didn’t.

Believers today, especially in our Western, comfort driven culture, are woefully illiterate when it comes to the Bible. Just last year, a study done by LifeWay Research and the United  Kingdom Bible Society found that:

  • Only 45% of regular church attenders read their Bible more than once a week.
  • Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible at all.
  • More than half of Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit is a force and not a personal being.
  • In the United Kingdom, almost 1 in 3 couldn’t identify the Nativity as part of the Bible
  • 27% of British parents think Superman is or might be a biblical story.

Not only is this appalling, but it clearly shows the unprepared state of most believers for the times we are living in, especially in light of Matthew 24:10. And this is in a society that has the greatest access to teachings, conferences, seminars, churches, etc.! There are no doubt many reasons for this, but more importantly, what can we do to guard ourselves from the trap of offense?

It is to our benefit to first of all, take responsibility for our own spiritual growth. While teachings, sermons, conferences and such can be helpful, we must make time for God’s Word, reading, studying, and meditating upon it. Our intimacy with Him depends upon it! We cannot know someone we never spend time with or listen to. Time spent in His Word will transform the way we think, free us from pride, and help us learn humility, if we apply it to our lives. Doing this consistently will help us become rooted and grounded in the truth of His Word and His nature, and guard our hearts against offense.

The Dilemma of Unanswered Prayer

If you’ve been a believer in Jesus for very long, no doubt you’ve experienced thewoman-praying dilemma of unanswered prayer. I believe no one is exempt from it. Yet many turn away from God because of it. In my daily conversations with Him, the topic often comes up. I’m always the one that brings it up, of course. I have been walking through a season of unanswered prayer that has lasted many years. Those of you who know me, know I have had ongoing health issues for over twenty years. I have had more people pray for me than I can possibly remember – even people that are well known for their healing anointing on an international level.

As an intercessor, I strongly believe in the power of prayer. I direct a healing ministry that has seen many, many healings and miracles over the past eight years. I have personally prayed for people and seen them get healed. I even pray over myself every day. I believe it is God’s will for everyone to be healed (1 Peter 2:24), just as it is His will for everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But everyone doesn’t get saved, and likewise, not everyone gets healed. There are many reasons for this, too many to mention in this short article.

So how do we respond in the face of unanswered prayers? Here is how I choose to respond:

1. I believe God’s Word is true and He cannot lie. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. I refuse to give up believing and pressing in for my healing.

2. I believe God promises to work all things together for my good. (Rom. 8:28) Though the enemy is the one who brings sickness and infirmity, God’s plans for me are bigger and greater than any plans the enemy may have. He has already brought much good through this trial – I am growing in my faith; I have greater compassion for the sick and suffering; I have drawn closer to God because of my great need for Him; I am growing in patience; and these are just a few!

3. When other believers say or imply things like, “You don’t have enough faith,” or, “You must have sin in your life,” (which are things we are often taught and can, at times, be true) I have had the opportunity to exercise grace and forgiveness, and to go before the Lord to see if what they are saying is true. Twenty years gives one abundant time to do a lot of soul searching!

4. I am learning the art of waiting on God. For more on what this means, see my article, The Crucible of Waiting Upon God. God’s ways and timing are not like ours. He is more interested in the process than in the final destination. For Him, it is always about relationship, not our personal comfort. He is always good, so when He allows pain to touch our lives, His purposes for doing so are always redemptive. When we don’t understand His ways, we can always trust His nature and character.

5. While I am in this season of waiting, I am learning the importance of taking better care of my body. It’s sad, but so often true, that we take our good health for granted, until we lose it. I am finding natural alternatives to help heal and restore my body that have helped tremendously. I am also learning to eat healthier. There is so much sickness that can be prevented just by changing our diets.

6. I continue to pray for others to be healed. It doesn’t make sense that He wouldn’t want us to have what He has already paid for. As I see many of these prayers answered, it stirs my faith anew to continue to stand firm and believe for my own.

7. I often think about the testimony I will be able to share when my healing is complete. I believe that testimony will encourage and empower many others who have been waiting for years to receive their own healing. What a glorious day that will be!

If you’re walking through a season of unanswered prayer, how are you choosing to respond?

A Simple Key to Renewing Your Mind

In my last post I talked about the effect that toxic core beliefs can have on your actions andClose-up of woman's hands while reading the Bible outside. thus your destiny. If you didn’t see it, you can click here. I mentioned a simple key I discovered a few years ago that has greatly helped me in renewing my thinking. This key is Scripture meditation.

Psalm 1:1-3, describes how powerful this key is, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

There are many other Scriptures that also speak of meditating upon God’s Word: Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 148; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 4:8; Malachi 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:15 and others.

Meditating on Scripture can be done in several different ways. The model I use is a combination of two methods I learned. Find a quiet place and get comfortable. Using a notebook or journal, write one verse at the top. Read it out loud several times slowly, taking in each word and phrase. You can also pray it and sing it if you’d like. Ask questions. Write down all the thoughts that come to mind, and how it speaks to you. If it’s a long verse, break it into short phrases and do this for each phrase. You can do this in as little as fifteen minutes, or longer, whatever works for your schedule.

After you finish writing your thoughts, write a short thank you to God for how it spoke to you or for what He showed you. This can be one or two sentences. Then write, My son/daughter, and stop to listen. Begin writing whatever you hear God saying to you. It may seem like your own thoughts, but write them down. You can analyze and test them later. If you’re not sure whether you’re hearing Him or not, share your thoughts with a trusted, more mature friend or leader to get their input. God longs to speak to you even more than you want Him to; trust His Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

If you battle distracting thoughts, keep bringing your mind back into focus. Reading out loud can help with this. If you think of things you need to do later, write them in the margin or on another sheet of paper, then go back to your meditation. If other topics or verses come up while you’re meditating, write them at the bottom of the page or on another sheet of paper and use them for another day. Having soft, instrumental music playing in the background can also help.

Try different things to find what works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to do it; the important thing is not to give up. Some days you will be amazed at what God will show you. Other days, it may seem dull or dry; that’s okay, just keep at it. If you will do this consistently, your thinking will begin to line up with God’s Word which is His thoughts. You will also develop a greater hunger to know Him and His Word. I encourage you to try it and see, after all, what do you have to lose? Let me know what you think once you’ve given it a try!