Preparation Precedes Boldness

Bible and shoes

Preparation is one of the keys to success.  Taking a test requires study.  Driving a car, driving a bus, or flying a plane requires time behind the wheel and the study of safety rules.  We all want a mechanic who is prepared.  What about a surgeon who is prepared?  Or the beautician that cuts our hair.  The soldier that goes into battle puts on his night vision goggles, helmet, bullet-proof vest, steel toed boots, guns with pockets full of ammunition, and communication devices.  This external preparation would be of no use if there was not months and years of preparation before use of them in the field of battle.

Our God gives us the same directive in Ephesians 6:10-19.  This is the “Armor of God” passage.  Most of us are familiar with it and conceptually understand the value of putting on the armor of God, but do we intimately in the corners of our heart understand the need for this.

Here is a list of the commands from God:

*Be strong in the Lord v. 10

*Put on the whole armor of God v. 11

*Take up the whole armor of God v. 13

*Stand firm v. 13, 14

*Fasten on the belt of truth v. 14

*Put on the breastplate of righteousness v. 14

*Put on the shoes of readiness of the Gospel v. 15

*Take up the shield of faith (in all circumstances) v. 15

*Take the helmet of salvation v. 17

*Take the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God v. 17

*Praying at all times in the Spirit v. 18

*Keep alert v. 18

Would a soldier go out into battle without preparation?  Would a soldier go out into battle without full military gear?  Yet, Christians are going out every day without full preparation or full military gear.  We would think a soldier stupid if he stepped on the battle field without his gun, his helmet, or his bullet-proof vest.  Why do we as Christians think it is acceptable to go into the world unprepared?

Every day is a battle.

In this passage we are reminded twice to “Put on the whole armor of God.”  Repetition by God equals importance.  When we start our day, do we prepare ourselves for battle?

Do we realign ourselves with truth by reading God’s word and “fastening it onto our belt?”  I have been trying to write a verse or two out on a card that I keep with me to meditate on or use as a prayer for others to remind myself often of God’s truth.

The breastplate of righteousness reminds us to put into our heart things that are right.  As we go through our day, what do we allow our hearts to go back to?  What is right or what is wrong?

The gospel is the foundation of our relationship with Christ.  Are we focused on what Christ did for us and ready to share that with others, or are we focused so much on the cares of this world we forget what great things God has done for us?

As this part of the passage closes we are reminded of the value of prayer.  For what are we to pray?

*Making supplication for the saints v. 18

*Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him to be bold in proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel (v. 19).  Wouldn’t this also be applicable to us?

 

What happens when the soldier’s communication lines are scrambled, broken, or dropped due to a loss of signal?  He is unable to communicate with the base.  What happens when we fall into sin?  We have an interrupted communication line with our Savior.  If we do not put on our full armor, we are unable to communicate with God about the needs of the saints.  We are also unable to communicate with God regarding the need for boldness in sharing the Gospel.

When you wake up, put on the whole armor of God.  Then go about your day praying for the needs of others and a boldness not only for yourself but also for other Christians to share the Gospel so we can say with Paul,

“That I may declare boldly, as I ought to speak.”  (Ephesians 6:20).

Advertisements

Repetition = Importance

Grandpa Dad Danna Danielle crop

My Grandpa Lichty had a knack for telling stories.  He remembered an amazing amount of details and something always reminded him of a story.  The details he shared were so vivid that no one would ever dream of telling him maybe one of the facts was not true.  I remember listening to him telling story after story, but I do not remember the stories.  I can still hear his voice, but the stories have long since faded from my memory, which makes me very sad.  Even if all the details were incorrect, it would be so nice to share some of those stories with our daughters. What I can share about my Grandpa is his love for his family and his dedication to the Lord which I saw through his tireless service at the church.

Throughout Scripture, we are reminded “not to hide them (God’s Word) from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” (Psalm 78:4).  I am amazed at how often God encourages us to talk about Him and His glorious deeds.  Repetition equals importance.  God reminds us frequently through different authors the importance of sharing what God has done or is doing in our lives.

“…You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  I often wonder what caused the corruption of complaining as the Israelites wandered in the desert after their miraculous escape from Egypt.  I wonder if the Israelites had been so busy talking to their children about the great things God had done for them while they sat around the campfires, walked on the pathway of sand, got up in the morning, ate their meals, went to bed at night…if they would have had time to complain about the myriad of things they found to be unhappy about.  When we rejoice over the goodness of God, the difficulties pale in comparison.  The joy in our hearts bubbles over with such gusto that complaining and negativity become unwelcome bedfellows.  The sound of our own voice complaining tastes like the bitterness of sour milk to our souls.

Why is it so important to talk at all time in all situations about what God has done?  “…Which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” (Psalm 78:5-7).  As we read the Old Testament this is seen repeatedly.  We see that those that forgot the works of God and did not share those great moments with their children were corrupted by sin.

As we marvel at the good things God has done in our lives, it serves a dual purpose.

First, our children hear us talk about the effect of God in our lives.  What God is teaching us.  How we are growing.  How God is convicting us of sin. How we are growing through the situations we are put in and how to practically apply the truths of scripture in our everyday lives.  It will be so much easier for them to follow the Lord on a daily basis if they see it lived out in front of them on a daily basis.

Second, it serves as a reminder to us about how God is working and has worked in our own lives.  I have a failing memory, and I think if we were all honest with ourselves we would all admit this is true. Yet, as we rehearse the goodness of God, the work of God in our lives, and the transformations that have taken place in our lives because of our walk with God; it would remind us no matter where we are, God is with us.

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (II Timothy 2:2).  It has often been repeated, “We are one generation away from apostasy.”  It is not for lack of churches, lack of Bibles, or lack of Christian literature.

Rather, it is for a lack of authenticity, lack of hypocrisy, and lack of intentionality.

So where do you fall?  It is not just our children we should be sharing with.  Barnabas shared with Paul. Paul shared with Timothy.  Are you sharing all the great things God has done? Or is your walk with God a ritual rather than a living, growing relationship with your Savior?  Maybe we can evaluate ourselves by our words.

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.  We recount your wondrous deeds.” (Psalm 75:1).

So if I could eat some corn-on-the cob with Grandpa right now, I would share with him all the great things God has done in my life and in the lives of our daughters.  Would he feel his legacy of service and love for the Lord was carried on and the seeds he planted lived on to the fourth generation and then would he say as only Grandpa can say, “Well, Danna, let me tell you…”

Seeds and Fruit

080812_194111

I am excited this year to have a garden.  Now that we live on 5 acres there is plenty of room to have a garden.  Growing up as a child in Cedarville, we had a large garden.  I did not like all the work that went into having a garden.  I did not like weeding the garden, picking the produce, or cleaning the produce; but I did like eating it.  I did not realize how good that homegrown produce was until I had eaten store bought produce and realized the flavor was so much richer when it could be picked with my own hands and eaten when it was ripe and ready to be plucked from the plant.  I had a small garden years ago, and the year we moved from there I had the best tasting strawberries I can ever remember.  The flavors were so rich and bold.  To say the least, my winter has been spent dreaming about tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, etc.   I realize it will take time for some of this to all take shape and produce a harvest, but the anticipation of what is to be is exciting.  The quest between my dreams of this great tasting produce and the plot of ground it must come from is going to take some work. I have a few more trees to cut down, a lot of ground to till, a fence to build, and seeds and plants to plant.  Then comes the maintenance of the garden through watering and weeding until one day, the fruit of my labors can be enjoyed.

In the end, I can do everything in order to enjoy the end result: the fruit or vegetables; but I cannot actually make the produce or the plant grow.  I can plant the seeds, I can make sure the soil is amended perfectly, but the end results are in God’s hands.  I have two options.  I can sit by the piece of property I have picked for my garden and wait and pray for the produce to appear.  My second option is to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and make sure I keep the weeds out of the garden.  It seems rather obvious which one has a higher likelihood of producing some produce to enjoy at the end of the season.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (I Corinthians 3:6, 7).  So many things in life can be related to this analogy of a garden.  These verses remind us that we must do the due diligence of evangelism at all times with all people, but the end result is in God’s hands. God is the only One that can prick someone’s heart and bring them to Himself.  God is the only One who can convict someone’s heart to cause them to turn from their sin.  No matter how hard we try or pray, the end result is God’s.

When we fully realize this concept, it removes a weight.  It defines our responsibility.  When we try to produce the fruit ourselves and make the results what we think they ought to be, it produces a burden on our hearts.  This level of responsibility that we take on ourselves also shows our lack of faith in God.  Only God can give the answer to our prayers.  Only God can give the results to our labors.  Only God can cause the fruit to grow. In the garden and in our lives, God produces the end result in His timing.  When we truly trust Him for the end result, our faith increases and the burden of the end result is removed from our shoulders and placed on the shoulders of our Savior.  The enigma of Matthew 11:28-30 takes on a whole new light.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Our responsibility is defined. Our yoke is defined.  But the burden of ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of our Creator and not us, this makes our burden light.   We must plant, or we must water, but we must let God give the increase.  The fruit is sweeter and the taste is much richer.  To God be the glory.

The Prodigal Son

IMG_0274

The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 has always fascinated me and touched a chord of familiarity with me that was always convicting.  IF there had been a third brother, what would his response have been?  Let’s rehearse the story.

The younger brother decides that life on the farm is pretty boring and wants to go out and live recklessly.  He is seeking some adventure.  The older brother stays at home dutifully fulfilling his responsibilities.  At the bottom of the social rung eating with and feeding the pigs, the prodigal son finally comes to himself and realizes his grave sin.  He realizes that it would be better to be in the presence of his father as a servant than to not be in his presence at all.  When he returns home, we see a beautiful picture of the father filled with compassion watching and waiting for the return of the prodigal.  The father does not wait on the porch with a look of scorn on his face, rather he runs to his son with compassion and love.  The truly repentant son confesses his sin to his father and shows in his manner, attitude, and words his humble and heartfelt apology.  This was not a placating “I’m sorry.”  This was a gut wrenching, open and honest apology to his father.  Immediately, the joyful father begins preparations for a party to welcome home his son.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch the older brother gets wind of this party.  “But he was angry and refused to go.  His father entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends.” (Luke 15:28, 29).

Jesus compared the older brother to the Pharisees.  They were trying so hard to be perfect (“whitewashed tombs”) on the outside, but on the inside they were “filled with dead man’s bones.”  (Matthew 23:27, 28).  They along with the older brother were going through the motions of Christianity and missing the entire point.  External righteousness does not equate to internal righteousness or a living walking relationship with God.  External righteousness misses the entire point of the life God created us to have.  I have missed this point for so long.

For so long I have read this story of the prodigal son and identified with the older brother in the story, “Yeah, he’s right.  That prodigal son should not have received a party.  He was wayward and sinful and rejected his father and did what was wrong.  Why should he get a reward for unrighteous living while the older brother got nothing?”

Finally, through hours of prayer and the Lord pouring His love into my heart and patiently teaching me, I finally got the point.  Not just the point of the prodigal son and the older brother, but the point of our life with Christ.  “Son, you are always with me…” (Luke 15:21).  The older brother did not leave the presence of his father, but the prodigal did.  However, as we compare the response of both the prodigal and the older brother, the prodigal realized the extreme blessing in being with his father and the older brother did not.  God created us to have a relationship with Him.  He sent His Son to die for our sins so our relationship with Him could be repaired and we could spend an eternity with Him having relationship.  Obedience is important and will automatically flow out of a right relationship, but the bottom line is a real relationship with God.

The older brother in his external righteousness missed what the prodigal figured out while he was with the pigs:  it is not about right external living it is about relationship.

Jesus “emptied Himself, by taking on the form of a servant…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death…” (Philippians 2:7, 8).  Jesus died because He wanted to have a relationship with me, with you, with each of us.

The prodigal wanted to be in the presence of his father.  The older brother wanted praise because of his righteous living.  The proper attitude does not happen until we “Deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow Jesus.”  (Matthew 16:14).

IF there had been a third brother with the proper attitude, he would have been waiting with his father on the porch binoculars in hand peering down the path with a prayer on his lips.  When they spotted the prodigal, the third brother would have said, “Dad, go greet him.  I’ll get the party preparations started.  Our lost brother is now home.”  There would have been joy in the return and the party preparations not self-righteous jealousy.

“Son, you are always with me…” (Luke 15:21).

Discouragement

100_3417

Have you ever been discouraged?  Not just a little bit of discouragement, but an overwhelming bucket of cold water that seems to have an endless supply discouragement.  This discouragement does not dissipate with a piece of chocolate or a word from a friend, rather it has you in its grasp and won’t seem to let you go.  This is where I was a few days ago.  I was on the verge of tears for a good portion of my day with an overwhelming feeling of discouragement.  It started small the night before and when I awoke the next morning it plagued me.  I was discouraged because I had spent many hours in prayer for people and did not see the results I had hoped for.  I even felt like I was letting God down because I came to Him so often with requests rather than coming to Him with thanksgiving, praise, and worship.  It’s not like I wasn’t doing these things, but rather I felt like the requests and intercession were the overwhelming part of my prayer time.  I prayed that morning and laid my heart before the Lord. “I don’t want to come to You with just requests, I want to walk with You.  I want to worship You.  I want to praise You.  I want to thank-You.  I want it to be about relationship, not about me being so needy.  I did not want to be like the child constantly tugging at her mom’s skirt as she walked through the store, “Mom, I want that.”  I realize that I wasn’t asking for a new car or anything material, but I still felt like all I ever did was ask.

I am not sure why on this particular day the discouragement was overwhelming, but it was.  It was weighty.  God reminded me of “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12).  I meditated often on this verse throughout the day and repeated often in my head, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”  We are not in a battle with people, rather we are in a battle against spiritual wickedness.  To be honest at times the battle is bigger than we are. If we take the time to read and understand Daniel 10, we can see that Daniel prayed for three weeks and all the while a spiritual battle was taking place unbeknownst to Daniel.  Rather than give up or be discouraged, Daniel kept praying.

What is discouragement?  John MacArthur gives this definition. “To discourage us he (Satan or his demons) points to our failures, our sins, our unresolved problems, our poor health, or to whatever else seems negative in our lives in order to make us lose confidence in the love and care of our heavenly Father.”  That’s it!  Satan reminds us of all the bad things, bad things caused by sin, so that we lose sight of what matters: our faith in Christ.

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.  At an acceptable time, O God, in abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” (Psalm 69:13).

In this Psalm, David penned some words that he used that can help us in our discouragement.

Whom do we pray to?  God

When will God answer our prayer?  At an acceptable time

How will He answer it?  In the abundance of His steadfast love

That day wore on, and I told the Lord how much I needed Him.  I was totally dependent on Him, and it seemed in that instant the discouragement was lifted.  Again I was reminded, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood.” (Ephesians 6:12).

Psalm 69 is a plea to God.  David is pouring out his heart before God, asking God to answer his prayer.  In the midst of discouragement, when it is overwhelming us, where do we turn?  Who are we dependent on?  When we fight a spiritual battle, to whom do we go to fight with us?  When it seems like our prayers should be answered the way we want in our timing, rather than get discouraged we must remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways.  “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord, at an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love…” (Psalm 69:13).

(Last Wednesday (2/22/17) was the day I felt this overwhelming discouragement.  I posted my blog that day about walking with God.  I did not feel I had written it well nor did I feel like I had conveyed what I wanted to convey.  This was not at all the source of my discouragement, but it was part of my encouragement.  I also wondered if the the discouragement, the spiritual battle, was because I vocalized in this blog how important it is to walk with our Lord each day.  I went to the Lord throughout the day, praying to Him and seeking His face to lift the discouragement.  I was overwhelmed by the positive comments I received from those that had read the blog.  God reminded me again that it’s not about me, but it is about Him receiving the glory and me walking by faith. We need God, and we must humbly admit how much we need Him.  Great is His faithful and abounding love for us!)