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Free from Your Critics!

Great article from Love Worth Finding Ministries.

Free from Your Critics!.

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Abiding in the Battle

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. – Eph 6:10-11 

The goal (v. 11):  To take your stand against the Devil’s schemes.

 The battle (v.12):  Not against flesh and blood.  Against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world.  And against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  (See Ephesians 2:2)

The solution (v. 13):  Put on the armor!!!!  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!  (v. 14) Remember, we are not called to storm the gates of Hell.  Jesus has already won the victory.  We are not allowed to run, either.  There is no armor on the back!  We are simply called to stand firm in Christ, and who we are in Christ.

The armor: (v. 14)   It seems as though the first three pieces are to stay on at all times.  There is no command to put them on or to pick them up.  “Stand firm then,” with…

The belt of truth buckled around your waist.  Purpose:  to keep our armor firmly in place.  Jesus is the truth, and without Him as the center of our lives, the rest of our armor does us no good.  (v. 14)   Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”  Jn. 14:6              “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” Jn. 17:17

The breastplate of righteousness in place.  Purpose – to make us righteous in God’s sight – not with our own righteousness (because we have none of our own), but with the righteousness of Christ.  See 1 Thessalonians 5:24-26     “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Cor. 5:21   For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  – 1 Peter 3:18

Feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  Purpose – to help us stand firmly in Christ, Who is our Peace, and to keep us “always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”   1 Peter 3:15     “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’”  Isaiah 52:7

 The next three pieces are things we need to “take up:”   (v. 16 & 17)

The shield of faith.  Purpose – to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.  “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”  Romans 10:17           “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  – Hebrews 12:1

The helmet of salvation.  Purpose: to protect our minds.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praise-worthy – think about such things.”  Phil. 4:8         “Do not conform any longer 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.”  Rom. 12:2           “Set your mind on the things above, not on earthly things.” – Col 3:2

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Purpose: to discern and reveal truth from error.  The Word of God exposes and thwarts the lies that come at us constantly.       “For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  Hebrews 4:12              “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”  Col. 3:16           “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Tim. 3:16-17

The action:  Yes, we are to stand, but we are to DO SOMETHING as we stand – PRAY.  “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 saints.”  Ephesians 6:18

 Yes, the battle can be fierce.  Yes the enemy prowls around, seeking those he may devour.  But the victory has been won by Jesus.  Stand firm in Him, and keep abiding on.

 

 

 

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Struggling

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – Jhn 16:33

These words were spoken by Jesus shortly before He was sentenced to death on the cross.  As He was facing incredible pain and anguish, he sought to comfort us.  This promise from Him is sandwiched between His admonition to abide in Him, and His prayer for us found in chapter 17, where He says this: “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – Jhn 16:33 NASB .  When we feel troubled and tribulations, stresses and trials of life overwhelm us,  Jesus says to take courage.  He has overcome the world.  So, as we abide in Him, we will still have a firm foundation in whatever we face.

Many of us today are struggling with debilitating diseases.  Many of us face seemingly insurmountable depression and anxiety.  Some of us are feeling persecuted.  Some feel misunderstood, or abandoned, or struggle with shame or guilt or anger or bitterness.  Unfortunately, these things happen in a fallen world.  But Jesus says to take courage.  He says that we can have His peace – in the midst of tribulation.

I am struggling with myself right now.  Checking and re-checking everything I think, say, and do.  Alternately feeling guilty, and not really knowing what I’ve done wrong, to feeling completely misunderstood and judged.  Not the most peaceful feeling, let me assure you.  I wrestle between simply giving up and hiding under the couch until He comes for me so I don’t do any more damage, and standing firm in what I believe to be true regardless of how it appears.  The sad part is, the more I focus on myself and perceptions of myself, the worse I get. But still,  I need to take Jesus at His Word.  Literally.  It’s time for me to take some of my own advice.  I need to get on my knees, get my nose in the Word, and stay there.  It is the only hope for true, lasting peace.  As I abide in the Word of God, and seek His face, He will transform me – yes, even me – into someone He can use.

I guess I’m writing this more for myself right now, rather than for the original intent of this blog.  Thank you for reading my ramblings.  If you would, I could use your prayers that I would keep abiding on, and that my heart would stay soft towards Jesus.  Thank you.

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Abiding church?

We live in a very materialistic society.  Everything we experience in life is measured by measurable quality or quantity.  Oftentimes, this is a very good thing.  It is necessary to ensure that when it comes to medical care or food quality, that we are getting something that at the very least will not harm us, and prove beneficial to us.  Other times it may or may not matter as much.  I was in a store the other day and, for the very first time in my life, had the privilege of touching a cashmere scarf.  It was dreamy soft.  I smiled, and then moved on.  I’m glad to have had the experience, but I don’t find it necessary to have that kind of luxury in my life.  I am more laid back than that scarf warrants.  I’m pretty happy with a cotton blouse and a pair of jeans.

Materialism extends beyond, well, materials, as well.  We love to critique restaurant service, hotel stays, vacation packages, concerts, plays, movies, and other experiences.  We, who may or may not have any musical experience at all, may go on and on about how “unprofessional” that particular band sounded, or how much the orchestra simply didn’t understand how Beethoven was supposed to be played.  Speakers are judged by how articulate or relational or on point or succinct or comprehensive they were on the topic presented.  We keep striving for some undefined perfectionism, that often varies from one person’s preference to the next.

Unfortunately, I see this same thing happening in our churches all too often.  We have fallen into the trap of having measurable outcomes to determine whether we are acceptable as a church.  We use the terms “thriving”, “growing”, “impacting”, “relevant”.  We start movements so we can keep up the motivation.  We are “Purpose-Driven church planters who are seeker-sensitive” and can give people what they want and need, with a professionalism that rivals that of any Hollywood or iTunes performer, all while being “real” and imperfect “broken” people.  One could get dizzy trying to figure out which image we really should be projecting.  Am I professional (or perfectionistic) enough to appeal to folks that might happen to walk in off the street, expecting a Chris Tomlin song to sound the way it does on the radio?  But, am I aware of my flaws enough so that folks can feel accepted how they are, without going too far down that road and making them feel like we’re a bunch of hypocrites?  All of the things we chase after in this manner have one goal:  to grow the church.  to bring (or draw, to use a more appropriate term) people in.  To keep people in the pews.  In effect, we are chasing people, instead of Christ Jesus.

It’s funny, but I don’t see any of these requirements in Scripture.  In fact, Jesus had harsh words for the best-looking of the seven churches in the book of Revelation:   To the church in Laodicia, Jesus said the following:  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev. 3:17)  I feel like we try so hard to reach people sometimes, that we forget what we are supposed to be reaching for – JESUS.  “Seek first the kingdom of God….”  “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”  Over and over again, we are told to seek Christ first. Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that we need to give up on doing well or serving to the best of our abilities…quite the contrary.  What I am saying is that no amount of polishing, practicing, planning, programing, or analyzing will ever meet the requirements of a fickle world, who want their ears tickled one way on Monday, and the other way by Friday.  We’ll never keep up.  But, when we seek Jesus in all we do, He will work through us by His Spirit.  He is the most effective outreach “tool” that we have.  I believe the answer to these dilemmas is to become an abiding church.  As Jesus’ people learn to abide in Him, we will see the results of Him working in and through us.  And then we will see this come about in our churches:  “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Act 2:46-27 NASB

Seek Christ.  And, keep abiding on, Church.

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