Word of the Day

Shod

Ephesians 6: 15

Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.

What a funny word, “shod”. Of course it means having put on shoes. Shoes are part of the armor of God, part of what protects us as we stand firm against the enemy. This piece of armor, though, seems to be the most misunderstood of all. Let’s see if we can unravel the meaning in this verse and gain a functional revelation.

The key question, I have found, is, “How do I put on the armor?” Today’s verse actually reveals the answer. We shoe our feet by preparing ourselves in the gospel. Do you see that? The shoes are not shoes of peace. They are armored shoes but the way you obtain and wear them is by preparing yourself through time and attention given to the Word of God.

Shoes may seem rather mundane but think of it this way. Our feet are the one place where we come in contact with the world. We need insulation from the world and its ways. We need a barrier between us and worldly influences. Our shoes provide that protective barrier. Also, if one is to “stand” firm then not only are our feet the point of contact but they are also our foundation. Feet are required for standing so the feet are a focal point.

So far we have considered our belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. We discovered that Jesus is the truth, and that he is our righteousness. So, what do you think about the gospel? John 1: 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Are you seeing a recurring theme here? Jesus is our victory. He has prepared our armor so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Our part is to put on Jesus. In the case of our shoes, it is done by spending time in the Word. This isn’t a magic pill. The truth is that the Word just arms you for battle. It prepares you to stand. Your confidence is found in the Word.

Why, though, do you think Paul called it the gospel of peace? Several reasons really but the main one for this application is that peace is what we are desirous of. We do not put on the armor of God because we like to fight or want to fight. We are not aggressors. We don the armor of God because we want peace. Jesus has provided the means by which we can live in peace. It begins with truth wrapped around us like a belt, followed by a layer of protection over our hearts called righteousness or being right with God. Then we put on shoes or protection from the ills the world would invade our lives with by spending time with Jesus in his capacity as the Word. Your preparation in the gospel of peace will ground you. It will give you good, solid footing. You will not stumble when you have prepared yourself in the gospel. Invest your heart and some time in the Word. It will stand you in good stead.

Breastplate

Breastplate

Ephesians 6: 14b

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.

What do you picture when you hear “breastplate?” Do you see Roman armor or perhaps medieval knight armor? A good visual image helps understand the importance of this piece of armor.

The breastplate protects all the vital organs except the brain. Obviously, it is a crucial piece of armor. We are encouraged by Paul’s writings to stand firm against the enemy. You won’t fear the stones thrown by the enemy because your breastplate protects your heart and the rest of your sensitive organs. So, what is our breastplate fashioned from and how do we don it?

The breastplate is righteousness, so what is righteousness? The simple answer is that it is right standing with God. Vine’s adds “right relationship” with God. The harder question becomes, how do we attain this right standing or righteousness with God.? It may be easier to begin by discussing the wrong way to pursue righteousness. Romans 9: 30 – 32 reads, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” Many of us have confused righteousness with holiness. We are to be holy for God is holy (1 Peter 1: 16) but holiness is not synonymous with righteousness. The Jews, Paul tells us, tried to acquire righteousness through good works. That is not the way. Jesus is the way (John 14: 6). We can never be righteous in or by our own works. The Gentiles attained to righteousness because of their faith, because, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5: 21). They put their faith in Jesus and he became their righteousness.

The key to putting on this breastplate of righteousness is contained in that verse. It is in the last two words. Jesus is righteousness but if you want to put on his righteousness then you must be “in him.” This is so critical. As I said, it is the key. One can be a Christian but never make their abode with and in Christ. We must put him on and live in him. It is difficult to explain but you may perceive the difference. Abiding in him means that your life is inextricably interwoven with Christ. He is all wrapped up in your life and you in his. When you are in Christ, when you make that decision to live in him, then his righteousness becomes yours automatically. This is not a work of the flesh either. By faith we receive the righteousness of God. We receive, rather than labor. My holiness is putrid but Jesus’ righteousness is glorious, shining armor.

So, this means that your right standing with God, which is something Jesus bought for you, protects and guards your heart. Your part is to receive it with grace and thanksgiving. Acknowledge your righteousness in Christ Jesus in your own mind. Speak it with your mouth. When you are challenged, stop and see yourself putting on the righteousness of God like a Roman breastplate. Wear righteousness proudly because not only is it the breastplate of your armor but in fact you have actually become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Wear Jesus, therefore, proudly and when you feel like a sinner, or when the devil accuses you, renew your mind with this truth. Stand firmly, therefore, unable to be persuaded that you are lowly and sin-stained. Stand proudly with your chest up displaying the righteousness of Jesus. Where we have failed, he has all the more overcome and his victory outshines our ineptitude and failures.

Shine up your breastplate. Put it on by acknowledging Jesus’ purchase of righteousness for you. Get you and your failure off your mind and delightedly present Jesus. Don’t try to earn righteousness, just put it on.

Belted

Ephesians 6: 14

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.

The first piece of armor God has given us is truth. It is worn like a belt, around your middle. It circumnavigates your whole body and connects the lower and the upper half. Truth is the beginning point. Without tying yourself to the truth, all else will be meaningless. In order to stand firm, the first thing we need is THE truth, and dedication to the truth.

Jesus told us that he is the truth (John 14: 6) and the beginning and the end (Revelation 21: 6). He is continuity. Like a belt or sash wrapped around you, the beginning and the end, come together. They complete one another. There is no loose end because the end is connected to the beginning. The truth is the ongoing support of all else. Jesus was in the beginning with God. Truth, therefore, is the beginning point but it is the ending point as well and everything that is or ever will be must, necessarily, be contained within this circle of beginning and ending and back to the beginning again. Wherever Jesus is, there is truth and we are wrapped with it.

In the case of armor, the belt or sash secures clothing and armament. It is the piece from which many other items of clothing and weaponry depend. Knives and swords are suspended from the belt. In life, it is truth which sets us free. Really, it is knowing the truth, the real truth, not our imagined or perceived truths which is freeing. So, freedom is secured by truth. In an interesting contrast, the more wrapped up we are in the truth, the more free we are. Other garments may be worn loosely but the belt is meant to be snugged securely about us.

When we begin with truth, not only have we begun with Jesus but we actually form the basis by which the rest of our armor, and hence our lives, will depend. The belt of truth is prime importance. There is no possibility in making truth too high a priority. When you hear the word truth, there should be at least two resonant ideas. First is that Jesus is the truth. That should be loud in your mind and spirit. Second, there is the ordinary use of the word truth, as in not false nor even misleading. We should endeavor to live in and speak truth as absolutely as we may. Lying on taxes is not acceptable because it is untruth. Misleading business associates is not living in truth. Do you know that if we are to live in the fullness of victory Jesus has prepared for us, and our battle array to shine and be effective, we cannot even lie to our kids, even when it is uncomfortable? We are going to have to learn new ways to respond to people such that we do not compromise our firm stance. You cannot usher in truth, which is overcoming power and freedom, and at the same time utter untruths. There is a decision to be made here and this is the point of beginning. Will you gird yourself, first and foremost, with truth?

The reality, as we begin this study, is that untruth leaves you exposed. None of us desires to begin with our pants down. So pull up your pants. Cinch your belt of truth and prepare yourself for victory.

Armored

Ephesians 6: 10 – 13

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

This passage of scripture is one of the foundational scriptures regarding spiritual warfare. Peter warned us to not be unaware of our enemy, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour “(1 Peter 5: 8 CSB). Peter identifies our enemy as the devil as he informs us that the devil is searching for someone he can devour. The New Living Translation says that he prowls around like “a hungry lion with his mouth open” seeking someone to eat.

There are some revelations you can take from 1 Peter 5: 8. Clearly, not everyone is one whom the devil can devour. That is why he must roam around in search of someone who is vulnerable. That need not be you. You have armor to protect you.

So, where do you think the armor came from? Who forged it? Who provided it? Is this not the raiment purchased by Jesus at the cross? This answers the troubling question confronting spiritual warfare. If Jesus was victorious over the devil, why must we still engage in spiritual warfare? Jesus won the armor and forged it in the bowels of hell when he went to Hades and defeated the devil. You can be and are victorious in Christ but we are not victors in our own might and we are unwise if we try to fight the devil in our strength. This passage does not teach us to fight the devil ourselves. Look again at verse 10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” We are strong in the strength of the Lord and in him only. The battle is won when we stand firm in the strength of the Lord.

This is so important to understand. Yes, there is still an enemy. Peter warns us in this regard. “Don’t be foolish,” he might say, “be alert and aware that your enemy is the devil and that he is on the prowl, he seeks his prey.” We must be vigilant, as the King James Bible says. There is an enemy and we must still stand up to him today. He will eat your lunch if you let him but the key is that Jesus has fashioned armor of his victory which will allow you to stand firm against all of the schemes of the devil (v. 11). Understanding this nuance is the key to success in spiritual warfare. Fear not. Have no fear of the devil. Jesus has provided.

This week, I will show you just what Jesus created for you and how you may don the armor of his victory. I will explain just how you are well able to stand against the enemy without trepidation. You will not quaver but will be strong in the might of the Lord. You will understand, at a deeper level, just how strong you are in the power of Jesus’ might and you will never again fear the devil nor his bite. You are the victorious heir of Jesus’ defeat over Satan and all his little minions. The truth will set you free, so prepare yourself to shout in exultation as we discover your victory in Jesus.

Truth Prevails

John 10: 19 – 21

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

If you guessed that the Jews were speaking about Jesus, you are right. Isn’t it interesting that people can be so divided over the message and the message bringer? All of these people heard the same thing yet some attributed his teachings and miracles to his being under the influence of the devil. Still others heard wisdom in these words.

It is no different today and if people accused Jesus of being demon possessed, what will they say about us. We can only hope to stir them up as intensely as did Jesus. I have recently met a woman who is living in the middle of this reality. She longs for the miraculous and has a deep sense in her spirit that there is more of Jesus to experience than we, the church, are currently experiencing. Further, she is actively seeking all Jesus has for her. However, she has run into opposition. The church she attends is not only satisfied with living a watered down Christianity where there is not power, they even go a step further to preach against it. I have a hard time comprehending such a position. You may have read my devotional titled, All my Birthday Presents (read it here: http://iveyministries.org/2015/10/all-my-birthday-presents/). The whole point of it is that I want everything Jesus died to give me. Not one of his good gifts should go unclaimed. Do you agree? And yet, some people, even Christians (or especially Christians) complain and criticize when someone operates in a realm where they have no experience. They elevate their experiences over the Word of God and the ministry of Jesus. That’s nuts!

This lady even has to endure negativity from her pastor and hears it from the pulpit. It bothers me considerably that this pastor is speaking negatively about that which he does not understand. He is hamstringing his congregation and stealing from this woman and others. However, there is grace for him as well. He needs a visit from Christ. Once you have encountered Christ, you really don’t care what some ignorant speaker has to say because you have actual and divine knowledge. I have seen the Holy Spirit with mine own eyes. You cannot convince me he does not exist nor that he is not present in the lives of saints on this earth today. I have been there and seen it.

So why do people like this pastor struggle so? They are spiritually dead or at least unapprised. Jesus said these people have a hardened heart. The thing that makes that such a sad statement is that usually it is we who harden our own hearts. We choose to close our minds and hearts to that which is different or which challenges our current beliefs and knowledge. The hungry Christian need not defend their belief system. We have a Lord so our part is simply to run to him with our confusion and even our doubt. “Teach me, Lord Jesus, what the truth is in this situation!” We also have other Biblical teachers who can bring light if our current associations are ill-informed.

Just like the Jews called Jesus a demoniac, people today criticize and condemn others as blasphemous and demon influenced. First, check the Bible. If what is being criticized is there, then it is of God, not Satan. Second, get further information if you don’t understand. Certainly do not listen to naysayers. Don’t let them steal from you and condemn you to less than Jesus died to give you. If they disparage others, that is a good first clue they are not walking in the fullness of the Spirit. God is love. We do not all have to believe the same but the church is dying from the lack of Jesus’ power in our congregations. Jesus came to give us fullness of life and we are not only settling for much less than he intended, but sometimes we even cut off the flow of his Spirit by criticizing those who are experiencing miracles. Until we are all living in the abundance of life that Jesus intended, we need to keep pressing in to all he would reveal to us. Will some of it be startling? Sure, and even, at times, disturbing but he is the answer to every problem and question. Let’s live big. Let’s start walking on the water.

The Cure for Holiday Angst

1 Peter 4: 8        NIV

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Does anyone struggle with this directive? On the one hand, it sounds like the simplest of all commands but in practice, it can be challenging. Life is sometimes annoying and there are plenty of people available to jump all over your very last nerve. With the holidays looming just beyond the horizon, the trials of your patience and love are lining up. How do we get in front of the oncoming tidal wave of challenges to our love walk? This is the time we must prepare.

I marvel at how Peter almost nonchalantly instructs us in the love walk. He makes it sound so easy. I find, however, that though I love greatly, love is not always what is expressed in times of stress. Am I exacting, demanding, intolerant or judgmental? The scars within us make it more difficult for us to stay in the expression of love when others press on our nerves. Sometimes we cannot find the means by which to navigate the personal relationship paths even though we search for the love road. Try our best, we often fail.

There is help though. Start being thankful today, thankful for a God who meets all our needs. Then talk to Him about this deep love Peter wrote about. If you journal, ask Father to describe this kind of love; what it looks like, what it feels like. Ask Him to reveal to you what Peter understood when he wrote today’s verse. What does Peter know that we may have failed to perceive? Remember, this is the same guy who whipped out his sword and sliced off the ear of the Roman soldier in response to perceived threat. In that instance, Jesus had to be the love that Peter’s writing reveals to us today. This is not a message from John, the love apostle. This comes from someone who likely had to discover the hard way what it means to walk in love.

Our Father can help us learn and develop just as Peter did. It is probably not enough, though, just to say, “Father, the holidays are coming and with them social events and the accompanying stress, so help me Father.” That is a good prayer but what is needful may be a daily communion with Him such that He can teach and instruct you.

“Help me, Father, to be who you designed me to be. Transform my heart and mind so that your love is the outward expression of my soul. Be with me, Father, daily, guiding and teaching me so that I can learn to love despite any challenges to a gentle, kind nature. Give me insight and compassion Lord. Show me your heart for others. Let me see the affection you have for each person I come in contact with. Heal the brokenness in me so that my injuries do not become the shadows that darken other’s lives. Lead me in the path of Divine Love.”

My best advice is to begin today in order to be ready for the holidays. As you allow Yahweh to touch your heart, His fingerprints will be the loving residue that you will be able to share with others. We can only give what we have first received so step one is allowing the Father to love you in new, unprecedented ways. Be blessed!

Take Care

Luke 10: 41              KJV

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things.

The word “careful” has become iconic in the American lexicon. We have adopted expressions like “Take Care” and “Be Careful” as routine sayings, by which we mean to bestow good tidings to the recipient. However, this is one of those uses of language which we all too easily fall into, not really appreciating the actual conveyance of meaning. In other words, it has become a normative expression without regard to its literal meaning. These expressions which creep into the vernacular without due notice given to their true meaning may well be what Jesus referred to in Matthew 12: 36 when he said, “I can guarantee that on judgment day people will have to give an account of every careless word they say.”

I have written on this before but I find it so prevalent in our society that I feel I must remind myself and others of this pitfall. There are many truths wrapped around this topic the greatest of which is that it is a violation of scripture. We say these words, well-intentioned, intending to bless others, but no expression which violates scripture can ever be the source of blessing. In today’s verse, Jesus conveyed the exact opposite message to Martha. He told her, “Martha you are full of care.” That is what careful means, full of care. He went on to tell her that there was only one thing that was needful, only one thing with which she need concern herself. That, of course, was himself. Keeping our minds and hearts on Jesus is the prescription, rather than worrying or being full of care about the many incidents of life. Matthew 6: 34 is illustrative in this matter, “Be not careful therefore for the morrow,” Jesus said, “for the morrow shall be careful about itself. Sufficient to the day [is] its own evil” (Darby Translation). Even though each day has its share of issues, Jesus said not to be full of the care of them. Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow. What about today then? Today is the only day we need concern ourselves with. Is that the same as saying that today is the only day we need worry about? No, that is being full of care again. Jesus addressed this in Matthew 11: 28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

We are supposed to take all of our worries and cares and give them to Jesus. He will, in exchange, give us rest. He will release us from our burdens and carry them himself or if you wish to know the fullness of truth, he already carried those cares to the cross. Peter expressed it this way, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5: 7 KJV). We are supposed to cast all our care on him, not carry it. Therefore, taking care, being careful, or not fully casting our care upon the Lord is completely contrary to the teachings of the Lord Jesus. As such, it is a violation of Scripture and, if you have ears to hear, sin.

Whatsmore, this idea of taking care and being careful is born of and perpetuates fear. Today at the YMCA I heard a lady bestowing what I believe was meant to be good wishes to a couple who is leaving today for Maui. She said, “Be careful. Don’t go scuba diving.” Despite what may have been well-intentioned, what was conveyed was fear and fear polluted the environment. One need not be very sensitive or tuned in to have felt the immediate change in the atmosphere. All fear is of the devil. Our God is a God of faith. Fear comes right out of hell for there is no fear in heaven. There is only trust, faith and well-being in the Kingdom of God.

So, with fervent prayer and pastoral concern, I implore you to eliminate this language from your vocabulary. Tell people to have a great day, be blessed of the Lord, be faithful. Give them words of faith and encouragement rather than a caution rooted in fear. Further, don’t allow people to speak these unscriptural words into your life. Help them to find better expressions, expressions which will bless rather than hinder, words which comport with the message of Jesus instead of flying in the face of his teachings. All the world will be a better place as we do. Be blessed!

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