Nov 142013
 

helmet of salvationThis week in my series on the armour of God we will focus on the ‘helmet of salvation’, a very important piece of the soldiers’ attire.

Moving away from the soldier analogy for just a moment, I have not worn any of the equipment we have mentioned so far, but I am very familiar with helmets. I wear one every day when I ride my scooter. Apart from the fact that it is illegal not to, I wouldn’t dream of riding my bike without a helmet. I have come off my bike a number of times and although I haven’t landed on my head, if I ever were to land without having a helmet on, it would be extremely messy.

When I travel to Spain in the summer holidays I am constantly amazed by the amount of people who ride their scooters and mopeds without helmets. Many of them carry them on their arm, I presume in case they see a police officer and can quickly pop them on. Of course it is hot in Spain and wearing a helmet can make the head very sweaty, but the consequences of not wearing one could be fatal.

Our heads are amazingly designed. The skull is pretty hard and for every day bumps it offers great protection, but when hit harder, serious damage can be caused to the brain which is of course a vital organ. We all know what can happen when our brains don’t function correctly. The goalkeeper of my favourite football team was knocked unconscious last week and although he appeared to make a fairly quick recovery, the damage inflicted if he had got concussion could have been serious. The subsequent news stories of people dying from double-concussion (second-impact syndrome) have been quite frightening, albeit very rare.

I am not entirely sure why the helmet in Ephesians 6 is ‘of salvation’. I can only assume it is because our thoughts and intellect are under constant bombardment. Salvation is such a precious gift and we need to live our lives in the good of it. As soon as we start to doubt our salvation (and this can often come from wrong thinking) we become susceptible to depression, doubt and fear. If we become complacent and wear our salvation helmet on our arm, whenever we fall we are very vulnerable.

There are two great ways of remembering this precious salvation that God has given us; the first is to tell it to others. When we share with others what God has done, in an amazing way it becomes even clearer in our own heads. The second way is to meditate on scripture. When was the last time you dwelt on your own salvation? Unusually I haven’t included any bible passages so far, so let me just share these few at the end for you to meditate on and get your helmet securely in place:

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

“….that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

 November 14, 2013  Posted by at 10:18 pm Armour of God, Salvation No Responses »
Nov 072013
 

Stelios (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) crouches behind his shield as shrapnel tears through the air in Warner Bros. Pictures’, Legendary Pictures’ and Virtual Studios’ action drama “300,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.
PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTIONSo far in our series on ‘The Armour of God’ we have looked at armour that is worn; ‘the breastplate of righteousness’, ‘the belt of truth’ and ‘the shoes of peace’. This week we will look at ‘the shield of faith’. This shield is not so much something we wear, but rather something we take up. It is no use simply strapping it to our arm; we need to raise it in order to deflect the fiery darts of the enemy.

Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as follows: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It is a trust in God, not only that He does exist, but also that He reveals His character and nature in the bible. Christian faith believes in a God who has made very certain promises to His children, promises that can be trusted.

The enemy’s fiery darts are designed to cause us to doubt God’s promises and not trust in His goodness. The very first dart that he threw was to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, when he said “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1). He has been throwing similar darts of doubt to all mankind ever since.

Every day we find ourselves constantly bombarded by doubts about God. There is so much cynicism in this world, so we need to keep our faith shields up. It is our first line of defence. We would never go into battle without shields, simply relying on our breastplate, belt and helmet to take all the blows. Our faith is what keeps us moving forward in the battle.

It is important to see as well that we are not fighting alone. Our faith can rub off on our brothers and sisters around us. If you spend any length of time with somebody who has great faith, you will find that your faith grows as well. Faith is infectious. The protection of faith together is like the Roman soldiers who locked their shields together into a ‘tortoise’ so that their defence almost became impenetrable. It is said that in this formation a chariot could drive along the top of the shields!

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If you have only a little faith, seek out those in your church who have a lot of faith and allow them to encourage you. If your faith is relatively strong, see who you can encourage and strengthen. We are in this fight together and we can make huge inroads into the enemy’s territory when we fight as one.

 November 7, 2013  Posted by at 9:47 pm Armour of God, Faith No Responses »
Oct 282013
 

Peaceful shoesI hope you are enjoying my series on ‘The Armour of God’. I am enjoying writing it and feel that God is speaking to me through it (hopefully to you too!).

If you have missed the previous posts you can find them on the left hand side of this web page.

This week we shall look at the part of the passage “….and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15).

I used to think this was solely about being ready to walk into situations and preach the gospel, but having thought about it a bit more I have come to the conclusion that there is more to it than that.

As I have said before, as Paul wrote this he would have probably been looking at the shoes of the soldiers he was chained to. Roman soldier’s shoes were not necessarily built for speed, but rather to be able to stand firm in the heat of battle. You will notice in the passage immediately before this, Paul mentions to ‘stand firm’ 4 times. In battle, Roman soldiers would stand side by side with their shields locked together. They would dig in and withstand every enemy onslaught and then push forward together as one unit. They would not give way.

The gospel of peace is a ‘firm foundation’ in our lives. We are called to a life of peace:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace”. (Colossians 3:15).

It’s wonderful to think that we carry the peace of God with us wherever we go. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The world is an anxious place and is lacking much peace. There is worry, concern, anguish and anxiety everywhere we turn. As those who have received God’s peace, we should carry it everywhere we go, ministering it to others.

As we know, this whole battle we are in is not physical but spiritual. We fight with weapons of peace, weapons that bring calmness in times of turmoil. This is the total opposite of physical fighting. We vanquish the enemy by bringing the peace of God into every situation we find ourselves in.

Are you standing firm in the peace that God has given you?

Did you know that.. “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Romans 5:1)? Let the peace of God reign in your life, as you read God’s word and spend time enjoying His presence. As you do, people will start to ask you “what is this peace that you have?” You can then share the wonderful news about the ‘Prince of peace’.

 October 28, 2013  Posted by at 8:37 pm Armour of God No Responses »
Oct 242013
 

Breastplate of righteousnessLast week we started our look at the armour of God with ‘the belt of truth’.

If you missed it you can catch up here.

This week we move on to ‘the breastplate of righteousness’.

In Roman times the breastplate was a vital piece of the soldiers’ protection.

During hand to hand combat, any thrust of a sword that got past the shield could be fatal.

We saw last week that the belt protected the vital organs around the waist. Well, the breastplate protected the vital organs within the rib-cage, including the heart.

The physical heart of course is vital but so is our spiritual heart, our deepest thoughts, emotions and feelings. It says in Proverbs 4:23:

Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The devil targets our hearts for special attention. He goes after our emotions, especially through condemnation. He wants to spoil our relationship with God by accusing us constantly. Knowing we stand righteous before God extinguishes every fiery dart the devil throws at us.

It is important to note that it is not our own righteousness that protects us. The bible describes our own righteousness as ‘filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). It is the righteousness of Jesus that becomes ours the moment we commit our lives fully to Him through our salvation by His sacrifice on the cross. This is the righteousness which protects us.

The wonderful thing about this armour that we wear is the fact that it is God’s armour. We are protected by Gods righteousness. Even though we might not ‘feel’ righteous (especially after sinning) the bible makes it clear that we are covered by the righteousness of Christ.

Whatever has gone on in our lives, God looks at us as being ‘In Christ’. We are made pure by His righteousness, whatever we may have done.

One of my favourite verses in the whole bible sums up this exchange wonderfully:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Corinthians 5:21).

Are you wearing a breastplate of your own righteousness which allows condemnation to get through constantly? Or are you putting on Jesus’ breastplate of perfect righteousness which will extinguish every dart of condemnation that is thrown at you?

 October 24, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm Armour of God, Righteousness No Responses »
Oct 162013
 

Belt of truthHave you ever heard so many conflicting reports on a particular topic that you have ended up wondering what the truth is? For the majority of us it is extremely important that we know the truth. None of us like being lied to. A constant theme in the movies and on television is the search for truth, usually due to an elaborate government cover up, where one person beats the system and gets to ‘the truth’.

The truth is very important.

In His discussions with Pontius Pilate, Jesus said the following in John 18:37-38:

“…Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.”

Pilate wanted to know, although I suspect he was worried that the truth would mean some very difficult decisions would then have to be made.

In Ephesians 6:13-14 it says: “… Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…..”

This is the first piece of armour mentioned. The Roman belt called the cingulum or balteus not only held the soldier’s clothes together so he had free movement, it also protected the vital organs near his waist, helped support the breastplate and allowed the scabbard to be fixed so the sword could be drawn out easily. The implications are obvious!

Just as the sword fitted into the scabbard, so the truth is in the word of God; they are intertwined together.

Jesus was described as ‘The Word of God’. Have you noticed one of Jesus’ most common phrases was “I tell you the truth”? In fact, He used that phrase 78 times in the gospels. Telling the truth was important to Jesus, even though it made Him unpopular and ended up causing His death. Jesus was not afraid to tell the truth to anyone, even the most powerful authorities of the day.

Do you love the truth? Will you wear it like a belt so that it protects your inner parts? The more you read God’s word the more His truth will become a part of you. Let me encourage you to continue to read and meditate on his word so that you will know the truth. John 8:31-32 says “…if you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

 October 16, 2013  Posted by at 9:40 pm Armour of God No Responses »
Oct 112013
 

Armour of GodLast week, as I concluded talking about personal holiness I mentioned the need to be determined to keep pushing through. This determination is vital in order for us to continue on our journey of personal holiness. I finished my last blog with the very famous passage on the armour of God, from Ephesians 6:10-18.

I now want to look at the armour of God in more detail, focussing on a different aspect each week and looking in more depth at what each part does.

The bible is filled with warfare and battles, especially in the Old Testament. As God moved His people into the promised land, the Israelites were very rarely at rest. As we move into the New Testament, even though there were fewer wars, the evidences of Roman occupation surrounded New Testament believers everywhere. The apostle Paul may well have been chained to a Roman soldier as he wrote his letter to the Ephesians and I wonder if while he sat there, God inspired Paul through each part of the soldier’s armour.

Who are we fighting?

It is important to start with the fact that we are not fighting other people, no matter how evil they may appear. There is a spiritual battle going on all around us and it is all too real. It says in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Even though we cannot see our enemy, we certainly see the effects that his attacks can have. Even in recent times I have seen first hand the devastation that has happened in people’s lives as they have let their guard down and allowed the enemy to get a foothold. My old pastor used to say on a number of occasions “it’s not like a war, it is a war”. The description of the various pieces of armour may be a metaphor but the battle certainly is not. It would be obvious if we were experiencing physical attack by another person. However, the enemy is very adept at disguising his attacks, so we either blame other people or just think we are going through some tough times. We need to be aware of his schemes and putting on this armour will help us.

I don’t wish to scare you, but rather urge you to be aware. We are on the winning side and we follow the Lord of hosts who has given us this wonderful armour to protect us. We need to be confident that when we have our armour on we are a powerful adversary to our enemy. The weapons we have are strong:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds”. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

It goes without saying that we need to put the full armour on. We are commanded twice in the Ephesians 6 passage to do so. Our mentality should be that of soldiers, not of civilians:

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer”. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)

Join me again next week as we start to unpack each piece of armour one by one, discovering the power and protection that our Champion has provided for us.

 October 11, 2013  Posted by at 12:00 pm Armour of God No Responses »
Oct 032013
 

Battle for personal holinessLast week we started to look at the subject of Personal Holiness. If you have ever sought to be more holy you will have realised just how much of a battle it is. We very soon see that it is not a task we can complete on our own and as I mentioned last week, we are fully reliant on the Holy Spirit’s power and help to get us through.

There are so many things that prevent us from being effective, sins such as; greed, idolatry, lust, drunkenness, gambling, anger, gossip and laziness to name just a few.

We all have our struggles with any one or more of the above weaknesses which can cause us to regularly trip up. It may start off with our thought life, for example daydreaming about a certain person you may find attractive, and before you know it you have got totally carried away with your dreaming. Or you may become angry with another driver who cuts you up in traffic, inducing “roadrage”. Or it may be that you hear a morsel of juicy gossip and find yourself dying to share it with someone. These thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to sin.

As we saw in the Romans 12 passage last week the battle nearly always starts in our minds. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it says: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

And in 1 Peter 1:13-16:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy”.”

God would not have given us the command to be holy if He hadn’t equipped us for the task. Holiness is within our grasp if we are prepared to stand and fight for it.

Lastly, let’s take a look at the armour we are given to fight this battle we find ourselves in:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Some people make it a daily discipline to imagine putting on each piece of armour in turn and saying things like; “Lord I thank You that You are my righteousness, that I am not righteous on my own. I put on the breastplate of righteousness right now in Jesus name”.

That is really not a bad way to start each day – have a regular ‘armour’ check!

 October 3, 2013  Posted by at 9:50 pm Holiness 3 Responses »
Sep 262013
 

Personal holinessI hope you have been finding my series on having a relationship with God useful. We have looked at prayer and bible study and more recently, worship. These are all excellent ways to develop our relationship with God.

This week I am going to look at how our personal holiness helps us to connect with God in a wonderfully personal way, as we pray, read our bibles and worship.

We have been created in God’s image and likeness. As His ambassadors to the world He wants us to reflect His image to all those we come into contact with.

As we get to know God and understand the impact of His grace on our lives, our desires change and we want to become more like Him. We want to ‘take off’ the things that He doesn’t like and ‘put on’ the things that please Him.

Personal holiness can be described as being set apart and devoted to God. It is the determination and commitment to allow these disciplines of prayer, bible study and worship to change us to become more like Him.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God’s desire is that we grow in holiness. He commands in Leviticus 11:45:

I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.

He doesn’t ask us to do anything we are unable to do. He has given us His Holy Spirit. The consecration process happens as we willingly follow His ways and rely on Him to make us holy.

Devotion requires effort, not in order to win His favour or any other such thing, but out of a desire to please Him and give Him glory.

There are 3 things to consider when we look at the subject of “Personal Holiness”:

  • Personal holiness is a choice.
  • Personal holiness requires commitment.
  • Personal holiness is a lifestyle.

It’s a Battle

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The world is vying for our attention. Having become Christians we still find ourselves struggling against sin and temptation. In fact when you gave your life to Christ you entered into a war zone. (Take heart- you are on the winning side!)

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

We also see the warning that Jesus gives to Peter: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Reading these verses it is obvious that God holds us responsible to make the effort to be holy, but it is comforting to know that Jesus is praying for us and will help us, and of course as I have mentioned before, He has given us His precious Holy Spirit. Let’s invite Him this week to fill us and help us as we draw ever closer into this wonderful relationship with Him.

 September 26, 2013  Posted by at 10:33 pm Holiness, Holy Spirit No Responses »
Sep 192013
 

Worship-In-Spirit-And-In-TruthOver quite a number of weeks now we have been looking at how we can have an intimate relationship with God. We have looked at prayer and bible reading and this week I am going to continue with the whole subject of worship. I could talk for a long time on this topic, however I am going to simply highlight a few points to help us as we draw near to God.

Worship is a direct expression of our ultimate purpose for living. The Westminster shorter catechism says that ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’

Because God is perfect, it is the most loving thing for Him to do to allow us to worship Him. The more we worship the more we are blessed. We become more complete as we worship and become to an ever increasing degree more like the one we are worshipping. We can’t of course ever reach His heights but we can take on more and more of His character as we spend more time with Him.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Worship has two key components, as we see in John 4:

■ Spirit

■ Truth

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24 NIV)

Worship is not just a good idea or a nice thing to do, it is actually commanded in scripture. When Satan was tempting Jesus in the wilderness to worship him, Jesus replied swiftly:

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Not only does He command us to worship Him but He forbids us from worshipping anything or anyone else. Not obeying God’s command to worship Him is idolatry because the rejection of God as ruler stands at the base of every sin: we are by default rejecting God and lifting up something lesser in His place.

There are a great many worship CD’s that you can listen to and sing along to. You can download songs onto an MP3 player and worship in your lunch break, or play in the car when travelling to and from work.

(If you are not sure what music is good to help you worship, please contact me in the box below and I will send you some suggestions.)

You don’t have to be able to play an instrument or even to sing particularly well to be a worshipper; simply sing out to God what is in your heart. You will connect with Him like never before because that is what you were created for.

There is more healing joy in five minutes of worship than there is in five nights of revelry” (AW Tozer)

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose” (William Temple)

 September 19, 2013  Posted by at 11:34 pm Worship No Responses »
Sep 122013
 

Intimacy with God through worshipThis week in my series on developing a relationship with God, I will be looking at the whole subject of worship. This is a huge topic so I won’t be able to cover everything, but I hope to reveal how important worship is if we want to go deeper with God and know Him more intimately.

When you think about it, everybody can be considered to be a worshipper, whether they are religious or not. Everyone has something or someone they worship.

The object of peoples’ worship can be fairly obvious when we observe the tell-tale signs:

· What do they talk about most often?

· What do they spend most of their time doing?

· What do they spend all their money on?

The answers to those questions tell us what is being worshipped. It could literally be anything; a family pet, a car, a sports team, sex, even a political philosophy or something equally abstract.

Worship is in our DNA, we were made for it.

We were made to worship God. Worshipping God brings the greatest fulfilment, but conversely, worshipping other things will ultimately not satisfy. We can never get enough of what we are worshipping. We can spend ever more time, resources and energy pursuing personal satisfaction but if God is not the object of our affections there will always be something missing.

Growing in intimacy

For the Christian, worshipping God should be the natural inclination for a soul who has experienced overwhelming grace and mercy. Our response is to worship this great God who loves us, has pursued us and saved us, even though He knows what we are like.

In past weeks we have looked at the importance of prayer and bible study and worship can come out of these things. We can sometimes read something in the bible that in the moment takes our breath away and the logical and natural thing is to start to worship.

The place in the bible to start reading if we want to be drawn into worship is the book of Psalms. They follow the full gamut of human emotions, from despair to ecstatic joy, and they all teach us about God and His ways and how we can come to Him whatever situation we may find ourselves in.

Much more than just singing

We can quite easily have the idea that worship is mainly singing songs, however the bible is clear that it is so much more than that. We worship with our voices, yes, but also with our bodies, our hearts, our attitudes and our thoughts. We are worshipping God just as much when we are making honourable decisions that please God, when we resist temptation, act in a kindly way etc. as when we sing in church on Sunday.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24)

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:16, 17 NIV)

 September 12, 2013  Posted by at 9:35 pm Worship No Responses »