Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spiritual Boot Camp

This is another repeat from Come Fill Your Cup. Someday when I have time again, I will write new things. I promise. :)
How many of us have ever been in a war zone? If we were all in a room together, maybe a couple of hands would go up, or maybe none. I think it’s safe to say that as a modern day American, if you haven’t served in the military, you’ve never been in the thick of a battle, or at least you’ve never seen bullets flying through the air or bombs going off. But guess what? We all walk into a war zone every time we leave our Christian homes, or part from our Christian family in the church. It’s not a physical war zone… it’s a spiritual one.

I want to look at a passage that’s probably pretty familiar to you: Ephesians 6:10-17, which talks about the armor of God. Let’s look at verse 10—
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
What’s that? Be strong in yourself and the strength of your own might? Of course not. Our power comes from the Lord. If we’re going to be successful soldiers, we have to give the credit to our Commander.

Verses 11-13: “ Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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.”
We’d already established that this battle we’re fighting is a spiritual one, but look at the language the apostle Paul uses to describe our enemy. “The world forces of this darkness” and “spiritual forces of wickedness” sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? Not only this, but verse 11 mentions the “schemes of the devil.” Satan doesn’t usually make a straightforward attack… he deceives us with his tricks. We can’t take on this enemy on our own; THEREFORE we must put on the armor of God to be strong against it. Another point: does it say “some of the armor of God” or “most of the armor of God”? No, it says “the FULL armor of God.” Keep that in mind as we go on.

The next verse begins, “Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth.” Wait… what on earth does that mean? In the culture of the time “gird up your loins” basically meant “get ready.” (see 2 Kings 4:29, Job 38:3, Jeremiah 1:17) Men in Biblical times wore long tunics that limited their movement. Girding up their loins meant pulling the tunic between their legs and tucking it into their belt to prepare for a journey or, particularly in this context, a battle. So what does it mean to gird up our spiritual loins with truth? Well, in order to be ready to fight in this spiritual battle, we must know the truth and be able to utilize it. If we’re misunderstanding the Bible or just not applying it in our lives, we’re not ready to fight.

The next part says, “Having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” Just like a Roman soldier’s breastplate protected his heart, righteousness protects ours from the schemes of the devil. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life.” Whatever we let into our hearts is what’s going to come through in our lives, but if we guard ourselves with righteousness, our hearts will stay pure and ready for a spiritual fight.

The next verse says, “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Let’s think—what good is a shoe that doesn’t go anyplace? None at all, of course. So we have to take the gospel places! We have to spread it! Otherwise it will do us no good in this battle.
Next: “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” What are some of these arrows? A few I thought of were doubt, worry, and uncertainty. However, if we have faith, all of these arrows Satan uses are powerless. God will take care of us, so we needn’t worry about life or doubt His power and care.

“And take the helmet of salvation.” The brain, like the heart, is one of the most vital organs in the human body; excessive damage to it is almost always fatal. We can understand the truth, have righteousness and faith, and understand the gospel, but if we’re not wearing the helmet of salvation, we’re going to die in this battle. No question. Just being a good person isn’t enough—we must hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized in order to wear the helmet of salvation. However, if we’re ONLY wearing a helmet, without any other armor, we’re definitely going to die there too. Go back to verse 11: the FULL armor of God. We need it all if we’re going to succeed.

“And the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The Bible is our only offensive weapon, but it’s the best weapon we could possibly have. With it we can deflect the blows of Satan (as Jesus did in Matthew 4) and bring others into our camp. (See Hebrews 4:12).

Well, that’s it: God’s instructions for a Christian soldier’s attire. Paul gives us one more tip in 2 Timothy 2:4—“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” Our lives need to revolve around God, such that our Christian walk IS our life, and everything else is just extra. If we do all these things, together we can be an effective army for the Lord.

~green eyes :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Secret Keeping

This is another repeat from Come Fill Your Cup... Sorry, I'm REALLY busy lately. It's also mostly applicable to women, just so you know. Enjoy! :)
As girls, we can appreciate the pleasure found in knowing a secret that nobody else knows. We like knowing that our friend trusts us enough to allow us to be the one person she tells her secret to. Not only does it make us feel special, but it also strengthens our friendship. Whether we’re married or waiting for our future husbands, as Christian women, we have a secret that is only for our husbands, a secret that is only to be revealed after marriage, and only to the men we marry. We want our husbands someday to appreciate that we thought enough of them to keep ourselves a secret for them, and that this secret-keeping will strengthen our bonds with them. So how do we keep this secret a secret? With modesty.

Why is modesty important? The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is said to “do her husband good and not evil ALL the days of her life.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who’s been married all the days she’s been alive. This can only mean one thing: I’m supposed to do my husband good before I’m married to him, and before I even know his name. This means not sharing my secret and keeping it safe by being modest. Needless to say, if you’re married, this includes you too; you just have the blessing of knowing the man you’re secret-keeping for. Not only this, but modesty keeps us from causing our brothers in Christ to stumble. Guys need to stay pure for their wives just as much as we need to stay pure for our husbands. Matthew 5:28 says that any man who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Too often we write off lust as “the guy’s problem.” We think that if guys are lusting after us, they’re being pigs and need to control themselves. However, if we’re dressing in a lust-provoking way, we’re not helping them out! Look at Romans 14:13. We need to quit judging the guys as pigs and start removing the stumbling blocks! Let’s keep in mind, too, that our physical appearance isn’t modesty’s only factor. A woman can be completely covered from head to toe and still betray her secret by talking suggestively and provocatively. Our speech and actions play into our purity just as much as our dress does.

How do we stay modest? In this day and age, it’s hard to find modest clothes, especially if you’re a teenager. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell if something is modest or not. If you’re having trouble, here are a few tips:

1. Ask your sisters in Christ for help in deciding if something is modest. Multiple opinions from good, God-fearing women who care about your purity usually do a lot of good.

2. As women, it’s not always easy for us to tell what’s going to cause guys to stumble, because we’re not guys! If you’re not sure, always ask your dad. If you’re married, ask your husband. He’s a guy, and he knows what’s a problem for them and what’s not. This way you can get a man’s perspective without causing any stumbling.

3. I’ve found the Modesty Survey to be helpful. It contains the collected opinions of over 1,600 religious guys about whether certain types of clothing or actions cause them to stumble or not. It can come in very handy.

4. Lots of otherwise immodest clothes can be “fixed” with layering. A low-cut top can be fixed with a camisole (provided the cami comes up high enough to help). A jacket easily fixes a strapless dress. I’m sure you get the picture.

Modesty doesn’t mean we have to hide the fact that we’re women. The objective is not to dress like men and/ or to dress in a way that isn’t flattering. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being physically beautiful and feeling beautiful as long as we are doing so in a God-glorifying way. However, no matter how we look on the outside, it is important to realize that our true beauty comes from within. Read through Psalm 45:9-13. These gorgeous descriptions are how God sees those who follow Him. If we’re emulating Christ and setting His example, we’re TRULY beautiful.

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

~green eyes :)