Putting On His Armor

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) 

           Temptation in this life never ends.  Satan, the father of lies is pleased when we give into temptation.  He knows that as a child of God he can’t change our relationship with our Heavenly Father, so he instead tries to break our fellowship with Him, while at the same time destroy our testimony before others.  We have all faced temptation, but it’s hard to imagine any time in which temptation to sin and secular conformity has been greater than it is today.  As adults, we face many temptations; in our careers, in our marriages, as we lead our families and in many other situations.  Our children encounter temptation in the decisions they face; to conform to peer pressure in order to be accepted, whether or not to remain sexually pure until marriage, appropriate friendships plus many more.  Though it may seem as if temptation has never been greater, human temptation began in the Garden and has been with us ever since.  But temptation is not sin, so the question for us to ask is how we keep it from becoming so and suffering the painful consequences as a result of it.

            “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” Paul knew spiritual warfare was real and he knew those in the church at Ephesus faced their own temptations.  Using the image of a Roman soldier, he set forth the means in which Christians can stand against these evil schemes.  Notice in the passage that Paul says, “the whole armor of God”, both the defensive weapons to shield from attacks and the one offensive weapon, the “sword of the Spirit” or the Word of God.  Paul used this image so the people in the church at Ephesus would know that the LORD had provided them all the spiritual resources necessary to stand firm.   

            As Christians, we must be fully armed to battle against this world today.  That is because it’s not really the world we are battling, but “spiritual forces of evil” in which our world is just a pawn.  Way too often, we battle temptation in our own strength.  Instead of His armor, we put the armor of self help, a determined will or our best effort.  The devil loves it when we clothe ourselves with that kind of armor because it spells our certain defeat.  This battle can never be fought in the flesh.  Our flesh is weak.  But when you put on the whole armor of God; now that’s real power, power that comes from a Divine source; the Spirit of God working through His Word.  Why do we keep relying on our best efforts when they fail us over and over?  Will we humble ourselves and realize we are no match for the enemy?  Will we be weak enough to gain real strength, strength that comes from above?  Paul knew God’s strength was magnified when he was weak, and his only surrender in battle was to his Savior, Jesus Christ.  Isn’t it time you surrendered to Him as well? 

Prayer

Father, we need to trust your armor and not our own.  I am of the flesh and sold under sin, but my heart’s desire is to please you.  I renounce my own efforts in doing this because I realize that I am no match for the devils schemes.  By the power of your Spirit through the power of the Word, let me be strong in the Lord and rely on the strength of His might.

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Institutions of Higher Learning: An Enemy of the Christian Faith?

 

            Many universities across the nation have long been filled with liberal professors with socialist views and atheistic beliefs.  Over time, the advocates of these views have become more aggressive in implementing within the institutions themselves political correctness and a postmodernistic view that denies Christian truth and liberty.  A recent example of this progressive war on Biblical Christianity came as Stony Brook University in New York decided to no longer cancel classes for major Christian and Jewish holidays.  In response to this decision, Charles Robbins, vice provost for undergraduate education claimed it was to, “increase the level of respect for everybody”.  He went on to say that it was an effort to try and be “inclusive, not exclusive”.  This is a typical response when a decision is made that discriminates against Christianity.  All of these efforts to be inclusive or increase the level of respect, intentionally or not, end up disrespecting Christianity.  Here we see that effort progressing within our nation’s university system.  This sort of anti-Christian march has gone on for some time, but the step taken by Stony Brook University is a new phase of the assault. 

            In August, my daughter will begin her freshman year of college.  Between now and then I know there will be a great deal of advice I feel I will need to disseminate; things to do and not to do, things to be aware of that may help her or things that might harm her.  I guess in all this advice, now more than ever, I need to make her aware of the discrimination she may face from her own educational institution due to her Christian faith.   This is a sad state we now live in.  What years ago used to be great institutions regarding faith have in many cases, now become strong defenders of God hating liberalism.  We live in a world where people hate God.  And this hate exists at all levels within in our higher educational institutions.  Hate may seem a strong word, but there is no neutral position here. 

            As parents, we have way too long relied on our educational system to teach our children reading, writing and arithmetic and we’ve way too long relied on our churches to educate them on matters of faith.  They are to support what is being led in our homes.  We cannot continue to be hands off concerning either of these areas, but particularly concerning matters of faith.  This problem will only get worse and Stony Brook’s decision to no longer cancel classes for Christian holidays will only embolden other universities to do the same.  So I would have to answer yes as to our institutions of higher learning being enemies of the Christian faith.  Therefore, it is more critical than ever that while legal challenges regarding this case or others of this nature run their course, as parents, we help to prepare our children for the ensuing battle.  Our best resource of course is prayer and the power of God.  We need to encourage our children to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), armed with a strong set of Christian beliefs that will enable them to stand firm as the enemy continues the attack. 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/03/25/state-university-will-no-longer-cancel-classes-for-christian-jewish-holidays/

Discipleship Lived Out

“…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2)         

             Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  Known as the Great Commission, this command is for all of us.  The apostle Paul lived that command.  For twenty years, he ministered alongside Timothy, a young man who joined him during the second missionary journey.  When Paul wrote his last letter, he knew his death would come soon.  Knowing that, he chose to write Timothy.  Naturally, he had a number of things on his mind, but the primary purpose for writing Timothy was to encourage him as he carried on the faithful ministry of the gospel.  Paul knew truth was under attack. 

            “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2)  I imagine after twenty years there was probably very little that Timothy did not know and had not seen Paul live out in his own life.  Paul’s message to Timothy was to take those lessons he had learned and pass them on to other faithful men who would fight preserve the truth of the gospel.  What you see in this passage is Paul living out discipleship.  Paul battled for the truth in many ways.  He was a committed evangelist, missionary, pastor and church planter, but Paul was also committed to discipleship as evidenced by his relationship with Timothy.  The word disciple means learner and is characterized by one faithful person teaching another.

            The truth that was attacked in Paul’s day is also under attack today.  Discipleship is a means God uses to protect truth, but unfortunately it is greatly lacking in the church today as evidenced by its weakness in standing up to cultural changes that conflict with what God has made clear in His Word.  James Montgomery Boice comments that a fatal defect in the church is a lack of true commitment to discipleship.  He says one of the reasons for problems in the church is a defective theology that “separates faith from discipleship, and grace from obedience.  A theology that teaches Jesus can be received as one’s Savior without being received as one’s Lord.  Discipleship is not some supposed second step in Christianity, as if one first became a believer in Jesus and then, if he chooses a disciple.”  Obviously, in order for discipleship to be what it should be, our theology must be correct.  Paul’s of course was, therefore his writings, as well as the writings of others, and his life serve as an appropriate model for you and me.  More importantly, Jesus calls us to discipleship.  Are you a disciple?  Are you learning from a man or woman that is more mature in the Christian faith to help you grow in your walk with the Lord?  Are you leading men or women in discipleship?  If not, will you commit to?  This is what all Christians are called to do, so, “Go therefore…”

Prayer

Lord, help me this day to make time and commit to what your Word calls me to do.  You have called all Christians to discipleship, yet I often act as if you haven’t.  Convict me when I am disobedient and help me to live out this command.  Give me the desire to seek out others more mature than I to learn from and to seek out those less mature to teach.  God, this is your will.  Help me to do it.

 

The Necessity Of The Cross

            When you see the title of this article (link below) and its reference to the British Government, you may be tempted to say, “Why should I worry about that.  That’s not happening in America?”  My answer, not yet!  In Britain, two women are set to argue their right to wear crosses in their workplace in spite of the government arguing against that right.  They claim that they were victims of discrimination when they were barred by their employers from wearing these symbols.  Personally, I’m not overly interested in the legal basis the government has for its case, but more interested in some of the other details of the article.  One such detail is that a group of Christian ministers are set to testify on behalf of the government.  They will argue for the employers’ right to disallow an employee from wearing a cross because it is not a requirement of the Christian faith.  I find the actions of these ministers unconscionable.  Now, I don’t believe that any Christian symbol or Christian picture can adequately describe all that God is and has done, and I personally don’t wear a cross.  But for a government to attempt to dictate and for ministers to support them is both inappropriate and sad, no matter the legal argument they make.  We can no longer remain naïve and think this sort of thing happening in the United States is impossible.  All we have to do is consider what has already happened, and how many of our Christian liberties have already been trampled on.  So what is the cause for this bias toward Christianity or any expression of it?    

            I believe this is one step in a process that has been taking place for some time.  Make no mistake; liberal theologians have a problem with the cross.  They have a problem with the fact that God would give His own Son to pay the penalty for sin.  Theologically, their problem is with the doctrines of atonement and propitiation.  The atonement is the work that Jesus Christ did in His life and death to restore our broken relationship with God resulting from our sin.  It is where Jesus propitiated, or took upon Himself the wrath that we deserved, wiping away our sin and turning that wrath to favor.  Many people do not want to accept this Biblical truth.  They deny that God is wrathful toward sin and that salvation comes only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  The exclusivity of Jesus Christ taught in Scripture offends many and any reminder of Him is thereby offensive as well.  This is what we get in a postmodern world characterized by tolerance and a lack of belief in absolute truth.  The irony is that postmodern thinkers fail to tolerate Christianity precisely because of the absolute claim it makes regarding salvation.  God’s Word says we are not to fear these people, and we don’t fear them, but we do need to be more aware and prepared as we encounter the subtly in which secularism progresses.  At times, that progression is not so subtle and unfortunately, as in this case, there are instances in which some in the church side with the secular argument.  It is important for us to know what God’s Word says about Christ in order to stand against those who would deny Him. 

            The cross is necessary.  No, wearing one is not a requirement of the Christian faith.  But it is a reminder of our Savior.  It’s a reminder of what He went through for you and me.  The best part when we think about the cross is to remember that Jesus is no longer on it.  He conquered the cross and now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for you and me, sovereign over all.  So we do not fear as the battle proceeds, but instead continue to pray and love an unbelieving world with the Truth of God’s Word as revealed in Scripture.  The real truth is that the battle has already been won and all that is left now is for God to rescue the prisoner’s.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/do-christians-have-right-wear-cross-crucifix-british-government-trial-case_n_1339460.html?ref=religion&icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl9%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D143089

“I Hold You In My Heart”

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart…” (Philippians 1:7)

             When I think about the apostle Paul, this is not the first verse that comes to my mind.  I mostly think of his dramatic conversion and his strong defense of the gospel.  Recently, I was reminded of another side of Paul, one I knew existed, but perhaps not always fully appreciated.  At the beginning of the year, our pastor began a series entitled “Authentic Joy”, preaching from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Philippians is known as Paul’s most joyful letter.  When considering that he wrote it from prison tells us that the Bible defines joy, not based on human circumstance, but that which is rooted in a deep satisfaction in God in spite of circumstance.  Paul knew this type of joy.  Another prominent theme of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi was the importance of humility in pursuing spiritual maturity.  To grow spiritually requires humility on our part as well.  Paul’s humility was expressed in his life in several ways, and he is an example from which you and I can learn.  

            “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart” Paul was thankful for those in the church at Philippi, expressing joy for their partnership in ministry.  As partakers of God’s grace, Paul knew God had done, and would continue to do great works in their lives.  He shared in that very same grace and knew his fellowship with those in the church was special.  Paul loved them greatly.  That is what grace does.  It creates a Holy Spirit inspired humility that is impossible to produce in our own strength.  This kind of humility not only finds joy in God in all circumstances and strongly defends the truth of the gospel, but is also a tenderhearted lover of others.  Because of God’s irresistible grace, that once hard heart is now yielded to the work of the Lord.

            Is that your testimony?  Is the basis of your joy God Himself?  Has His grace made you humble like Paul?  Has it caused you to defend God’s truth?  Do you show more grace and love to others?  Our love for others is always rooted in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Never forget that He is the one who loves us the most, displaying that love most fully at the cross. Will you respond to that love by loving others?  Will you “hold them in your heart?” 

 Prayer

Father, grace has a great impact on those who truly receive it.  Paul received it and it brought about humility in his life.  That humility manifested in both his defense of the gospel, as well as his love for others.  Let my life testify to the same.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, let me be both, a strong defender of truth, and let me love others as you have loved me.  Let my joy always be found in you.  Amen.    

The Kirk Cameron Interview: Exalting God Is Not An Anti-Gay Rant

             Last week, actor Kirk Cameron appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight show.  Cameron, an evangelical Christian was asked several questions related to his beliefs.  I have included two links below, one of Cameron’s comments, the other, a later conversation between Morgan and comedian, Lewis Black.  Both are short but quite instructive.  When asked about homosexuality and gay-marriage, Cameron didn’t flinch, “I think it’s unnatural.  I think it’s detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”  He went on to say that he believed marriage was defined by God, as one man and one woman for life and that he did not support the idea of gay marriage.  Immediately, the arrows began to fly with gay advocacy groups criticizing Cameron for his views.  Then of course Hollywood weighed in with their criticism of his comments.  One thing is certain, when Hollywood weighs in against you on whatever the issue; chances are, you’re on solid moral ground.   

            Scripture speaks directly about sexual sins, including homosexuality (see previous article Same-Sex Marriage: Letting God’s Word Speak).  Cameron’s larger point was that each of us submits to a standard of morality for our lives and his choice is to abide by the one set by God.  Others choose, and have that right to choose a standard that is not of God.  An example of this type of standard was expressed by Herndon Graddick, a spokesman for GLADD, a gay rights group who cited how an increasing number of states had begun recognizing gay marriage, as if that makes it right.  The criticism that Cameron received was described as an “anti-gay” rant, but when you see the interview, it was anything but that.  He spoke directly about the issue and he also spoke about his own sinfulness, saying that he was “at the top of the list” of those in need of a Savior.  His comments were an accurate reflection and recognition of the holiness of God in understanding that, were it not for God’s grace, even the slightest transgression deserves condemnation (first link).  Contrast that with the complete ignorance in which Piers Morgan and Black spoke about Christianity in a later conversation discussing Cameron’s comments (second link).

            This is the world in which we live and standing upon God honoring convictions will only get more difficult.  But be encouraged that we have a sovereign God who will undoubtedly uphold His own character.  A proper Christian perspective sees the sin of homosexuality as it does any other sin such as adultery, murder, gossip, slander, etc.  They are all offenses against God and homosexuality receives no special privilege of being less so.  But a proper Christian perspective also recognizes the power of the gospel to overwhelm sin, including homosexuality.  This sin is not beyond God’s grace, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  So what can change hearts and minds?  God can!  And that should be the hope and prayer of every Christian.  Though it is often accused of being so, the belief in such moral absolutes is not arrogance.  How much more arrogant could one be than to say God is wrong?  There is but one standard that matters; God’s standard.  So for those who would support gay-marriage or homosexuality, or any other issue contrary to what God has said, I’ve got news for you.  Your battle is not really a battle with Kirk Cameron or any other Christian who would desire to honor God in their lives.  Your battle is ultimately with the Almighty God Himself and you, “need not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).  Christian, continue to pray and to love, just as God has loved you in spite of your sins. That love is expressed, however, not by caving to the pressure of unbiblical views of some in our society, but by lovingly telling the Truth and then leaving the rest to God.      

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS4OqDvhprA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXRNogFkM8k

Happy Anniversary Karen

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…” (Ephesians 5:25) 

            Today, my wife Karen and I celebrate twenty years of marriage.  I first met Karen in high school when I was a senior and she, a junior.  We dated for a few months that year and then went our separate ways.  I never imagined that ten years later we would be married.  I can say with certainty that at the point in which we married both personally and in marriage, I had a completely different set of priorities than I do now.  It’s not that those priorities were necessarily bad, but they just were not the best because they were not centered on Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, for way too long after we married, my priorities remained elsewhere.  How does a man lead his family in the way God designed when his life is not centered on Christ?  Certainly not the way God would have us lead.  But in God’s timing, and only by His grace, our marriage now has a different center.  I believe that in both of our lives, Christ is the priority and by God’s grace, it will remain that way. 

            “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church…” Marriage is the most important human covenant.  It is also a covenant in much need of God’s grace.  In fact, outside of grace in salvation, I don’t know of where it is needed more than in marriage.  Is there anyone more uniquely qualified to tell you about your faults than your spouse?  Probably not!  No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, marriage is tough.  It is tough because it involves two imperfect people with an inherent disposition to sin.  It is made even tougher because Satan attacks it like no other institution because of what it pictures.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church.  As humans, our inclination is to take God’s Word and remind others what they should be doing; all the while ignoring what God is telling us.  I imagine this tendency is even greater when it comes to our spouses.  Husbands, God’s command is clear in that our wives needs, as He defines them, are to be our goal.  His command to us is not conditional on her response.  We are to love her, as Christ loves the church. 

            I’m well aware that it will be an impossible task to love Karen as Christ loves the church, but that doesn’t lessen His expectation that I do just that.  This means that I’m left to rely on His strength, because in my own, I will fail.  I have failed.  For all marriages to be what God would have them be requires that our relationship with Him be the one we treasure most.  That is the only relationship that has the power to change all others.  I thank God for His grace for my past failures in loving Karen as Christ loves the church, and I know I’ll need more grace for future failures.  I thank God for you Karen.  These years have really gone fast, like all marriages, have been far from perfect, but I am so grateful that I have you as my wife.  After twenty years, you are more beautiful than ever.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for our future.  Happy Anniversary Karen!  I love you!  

Prayer

Dear Lord, thank you for Karen, my wife, and for all wives.  As husbands, you have called us to look to you as our example for how to love them.  Forgive us when we don’t.  Let us look to you for much more.  You are Savior and Lord and the most important relationship we can ever have is with you.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to love you as I should and to love my wife as Christ loved the church.