Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shoes of Peace

What I wouldn't give some days to get up and simply put on a pair of shoes that had the power to bring peace to me.  The shoes would have a magical kind of power and when I slipped into them I would be able to feel the peace rise up from the soles of my feet and continue until it reached the top of my head.  Sadly, I do not own these shoes.  Most days my peace is disturbed in my own thoughts and in my own head first and then it is incorporated into everything I touch for the remainder of the day.  Am I the only one who experiences this phenomenon?  Usually I can feel it as my alarm goes off and before I ever get out of bed.  It starts with thinking about all I have to do for the day and then leads to how I think I need to respond to each encounter throughout the day and from there I take it to the shower and if I allow it - God intervenes and my thoughts are settled through praying in the spirit under the outpouring spout of my shower head.  When the shower doesn't touch it, I begin another day in turmoil rather than wearing those illusive shoes of peace that are apparently a necessary part of the armor of God intended to protect me in battle.

As I write this, the old song "It is Well with my Soul" runs through my mind.  The song was written by Horatio Spafford.  In 1871 Horatio's only son died at age 4 and then only 2 years later all 4 of his daughters died as well.  His daughter were lost after a ship they were on sank at sea.  The only survivor was his wife who sent him a telegram that simply said "Saved alone." Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.  

I am fully certain it would not be well with my soul to experience that kind of loss.  As I look at my own circumstances I realize - it is not well with my soul.  I do not live or walk in peace.   Alright, enough.  Let's move into this "shoes of peace" and see what's to be learned.

Shoes of Peace:  So first let us take a look at Roman foot ware. The NIV Bible Background Commentary states:  “ Soldiers needed to wear sandals or boots (technically the Roman caliga, a half boot) so they could advance toward the enemy un-distracted about what they might step on; this gear was essential to their “preparation” for battle.” 
Wood notes:
“ Once the breastplate has been fitted into position, the soldier puts on his strong army boots or caligae . Josephus described them as “shoes thickly studded with sharp nails” (War VI.1.8) so as to ensure a good grip. The military successes both of Alexander the Great and of Julius Caesar were due in large measure to their armies’ being well shod and thus able to undertake long marches at incredible speed over rough terrain.”

When we find peace with God, we have the opportunity to find peace with other believers.  This means the local body of believers is to be a place of safety and care. It is to be a place where we can forgive one another.  “ Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).  But, just as we are at peace with God and one another, we can have peace in the midst of the craziness of life. This doesn’t mean circumstantial peace, but inner peace.  “ 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 extent Satan can keep a believer chaotic, (maintaining the absence of peace), we are defeated and unavailable to be used by God.

Peace Defined:  PEACE (Heb. shalom, peace, Gr. eirene, concord). “Completeness,” “soundness,” neighborliness (see Ps 28:3 KJV), well-being and security (Eccl 3:8), or the reward of a mind stayed on God (Isa 26:3). It is linked with honest dealing and true justice (see Zech. 8:16 KJV), and is a prominent feature of the coming Messiah (see Isa 9:6).  
1.  Peace results from God’s forgiveness (Phil 4:7) and is the ideal relation with one’s brother (see 2 Cor 13:11; cf. Matt 5:23-24). 
2.  Peace, a mark of serenity (see John 14:27) to be sought after (see Heb 12:14)
3.  Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal 5:22), will benefit those who practice it both now (see James 3:18) and at the Second Coming (see Rom 2:10), and is the opposite of disorder or confusion (1 Cor 14:33).
**On a side note, I am one of those unpopular girls who firmly believes in the second coming (Rapture of the church), a 7 year tribulation period that further consists of a time where the Holy Spirit is not present on this earth for the purpose of conviction.  I believe in a literal anti-christ who will come and deceive many, etc...  back to the topic at hand....
4.  Peace is the presence of God, not the absence of conflict.  Christ brought, preached, and is our peace (see Eph 2:14). “ … a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8).  “ You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).  “ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).   “ For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Wearing the shoes of peace brings/allows 4 things:
1.  Stability - If Satan can keep us in chaos, we are useless, which is right where he wants us. Paul has already pointed out stability comes from walking with the Lord. And God provides the resources we need to walk with Him.  “ It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
2.  Balance - A balanced person has a healthy view of scripture and is not off to one extreme or the other. Where individuals loose balance they are chaotic. In this context Wiersbie talks about balance this way.  “ The shoes of the Gospel of peace not only give you stability but also give you balance. A soldier doesn’t wear just one shoe into battle. To do so would throw off his balance and cause him to limp when he
walked. He knows that he must have both shoes so that he can have good footing and balance in battle.  Satan loves unbalanced Christians—those who concentrate so completely on one doctrine or practice of Scripture that they ignore its other teachings and what else God would have them do.”
3.  Mobility - Peace gives us a freedom to move and be mobile and about the business God has for us to accomplish.  Change isn’t always bad, though it is stressful. On one hand we are called to stand, but on another, we are called to go out. And going out always necessitates flexibility and being able to accept change. When I’m talking about change, I’m not talking about changing the truth of scripture, or the gospel. But, as Satan’s tactics change with the times, we need to be flexible in how we present truth so it is accessible to those who need it.  “ Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
4.  Opportunity: Remember we are talking about the  gospel which brings peace and out of that peace flows stability and balance. Action is another product. This action
works out in movement that is flexibility in the ways we serve the Lord. It also means action in taking whatever opportunity is presented in giving out the gospel.  “ 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).  By putting on the shoes of the peace of the gospel, we are at peace with God. We are at peace within ourselves. And we are at peace with one another.

When it is all said and done we are awakened with a new clarity and sense of purpose.  I need more peace in my life - less chaos - more balance, less extremist thinking - in a nutshell more of God and less of me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Breastplate of Righteousness

Well, here we go again.  I can not shake these verses and so I will press through for more understanding.  Next piece of armor, the breastplate of righteousness.   

So the Roman soldier wore this breastplate that went the full length of their mid body, from shoulder through the entire torso.  The purpose to guard the chest and stomach area.  To take a hit in battle through this area meant almost certain death to the soldier.  As I think about it, it occurs to me that this breastplate covers the very core of our being - our hearts.  No Roman soldier would go into battle without his breastplate.  It was often made of leather or heavy linen, sewn onto this breastplate were overlapping slices of animal hooves or horns or pieces of metal. Some were made of large pieces of metal molded or hammered to conform to the body. The purpose of that piece of armor is obvious—to protect the heart, lungs, intestines, and other vital organs.

For us the breastplate is simply made of righteousness.  Given the context of the Roman soldiers armor it's clear that righteousness is a powerful piece of this armor we are to wear. What about righteousness... seems a very religious word, really who is righteous?  I am not.  Still for my protection I am told to put it on.  We are not told to put of self-righteousness, self-righteousness is prideful, self indulgent and harmful to the cause of the Kingdom.  In fact, scripture tell us our righteousness is as filthy rags.  If we are to wear this righteousness it can come from only one source - God Himself inputs righteousness into us through our salvation and through the in-filling of His spirit.  God - He is righteous - He is the only one who can gift this to us.

So what is this righteousness? The breastplate of righteousness that we put on as spiritual armor against our adversary is the practical righteousness of a life lived in obedience to God’s Word. It is righteous
behavior, which having been done, will “not give the devil opportunity” (Colossians 3:9-14.).   This righteousness is living moment by moment in obedience to God. To put it another way, this part of the armor is simply holy living as defined in the Bible.

Holy living protects our mind and emotions.  Is there a place in your life the devil attacks more than our mind and emotions?  Satan fills our minds and hearts with lies, self-doubt and debilitating fear.   These darts have the power to literally "take us out" of the game.

Today's bottom line:  We are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and wickedness in high places.  Our fight is with a source we can not even see.  His attacks often comes against our mind and spirit and our breastplate of righteousness is intended to protect us from those attacks.
Thoughts anyone?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Belt of Truth

The belt of truth is the first piece of armor Paul talks about in Ephesians 6.  What is the relevance of the belt of truth?  If you go back to it's context it comes back to the belt of the Roman soldier as he prepared for battle. 
The belt played a crucial role in the effectiveness of a soldier's armor. It was the belt that held the scabbard, without which there would be no place to put a sword. Imagine an overzealous soldier, fired up and charging out into battle—but without his belt, and consequently without a weapon!
In addition, the Nelson Study Bible says from the belt "hung strips of leather to protect the lower body." The Matthew Henry Commentary says the belt "girds on [secures] all the other pieces of our armor." Truth should cleave to us as a belt cleaves to our body.
So the belt is important.  When my boys were growing up one pet peeve that annoyed me to no end was the sagging of pants.  I was adamant they wear a belt to hold their pants up - apparently, there is more to it than simply the use of covering ones butt...or is there?
One of the pieces that challenges me is truth.  To be clear,  I value truth above most anything else.  For me truth is not relative.  Perception may impact one's interpretation of truth but even then if the perception of truth is seen through any glass or window other than the truth of God's Word it is scewed.  It is not reliable and often leaves it's viewers lost and confused.  For me this is an important piece of the armor.  Casting Crowns has a song that I listen to often - it helps me get centered in who is the voice of truth in my life.
Some of the lyrics are:

But the Voice of truth tells me a different story the Voice of truth says "do not be afraid!" and the Voice of truth says "this is for My glory" Out of all the voices calling out to me I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

Am I the only one who struggles to define truth?  So many things are spoken into our livcs - so much junk wrapped in pretty words or just enough truth to draw us in but not completely the heart of God - His truth - the truth that sustains, restores and builds us up for His kingdom.

The truth strengthens us - the lies disable us and render us completely helpless in the battle.  We are exposed and vulnerable to complete brokenness.  Who has not witnessed the lives of potential soldiers in the army for the kingdom laid out on the road of life - broken and wounded by the lies of Satan?  Is this really God's intent - of course not - still we see it often.  The lies begin in the womb, the lies continue in childhood, and continue their disabling work every day of our existence without the super natural intervention of God Himself with His truth - the only truth that matters, the only truth that makes us ready to fill God's purposes in our lives.  The only salvation to freedom from the lies is found in knowing Gods truth.  Be filled - drink of His truth daily - do not walk exposed and posed for attack.  How do we know it's God when His words comes to us through our spirit?  Here is a tester:  Is what you are hearing breathing life to your soul?  Is it edifying - healing  and empowering?  If it doesn't meet that testers it is likely not God speaking to you.

 John 17:17 tells us we are sanctified (set apart for sacred use; to make holy; purify) by truth - the truth of God's Word. Jesus, praying to the Father, gives a clear and straightforward definition of truth: God's Word (Scripture—the word of truth) was given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The Greek expression translated "inspiration of God" literally means "God-breathed"! He actively and fully inspired the Bible to reveal His truth to us.  His promises, His commands, His word—they are all truth, plain and simple.

A belt encompasses the waist. Does our conviction to the truth encompass us?  Th belt is important - it is allows us to carry the sword of the Spirit and use it effectively.  Any additional thoughts or comments?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

And When You've Done All ... Stand

Ever have a moment when you realized no matter the effort, passion or desire; you will not make things around you right?  I read this today: 
"Therefore put on the full armor 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."  Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)
"Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet."   (Mess.)
The armor of God seems pivotal in the verse so I did some study of the armor of God because frankly I'm pretty sure I'm getting the crud knocked out of me in this fight.  So I read the verses in front of that line we so often hear (after you have done everything to stand (NIV) -   "and after you have done everything, to stand" (Mess).
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor 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 armor 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 saints.Ephesians 6:10 - 18

First I think some of my frustration is misdirected.  I become angry with the circumstances and the people who I believe force/cause the struggle.  In fact the circumstance and people are the least of my concerns.  It seems I need to be more acquainted with an understanding of my true enemy, (rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms).

So what is the armor all about - I memorized the verses and can quote them without hesitation in a heartbeat but feel inadequate to give real explanation of their meaning.  So here is what I see:
  • Belt of truth 
  • Breastplate of righteousness
  • Shoes of peace
  • Shield of faith
  •  Helmet of salvation
  • Sword of the Spirit
 So now begins a study on each piece of this armor.  First:  The belt of truth ... will continue writing as I learn more ... any thoughts or experience to add?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baptism and Resurrection Sunday

I attended services at VC yesterday.  At the end of the service I did as I always do on Baptism Sundays, I moved to the front row.  I wanted to be as close as possible to the water, to the people being baptized, to the the ones doing the baptizing.  I felt a bit like people may have felt as Jesus walked through the streets - I pressed in to get as close as I could to the place where God Himself was moving in our midst.  I sat and watched as the stream of people walked into the water and out and I did as I always do, I sat in my seat and wept.  I stretched my hand toward the waters and I prayed.  On this particular day I needed answers too.  Why God does this event touch me so deeply?  I thought first, well of course, I am filled with joy for the people (this is nice but cliche and well... kind of lame really).  I thought more and realized it was more than joy I felt.  It was a deep sense of knowing what those in the water maybe did not know.  This life they had chosen would be filled with many joys and celebrations but it would also be a difficult life with daily choices.  The need to pray for those taking this first pivotal step in their walk with God overwhelmed me.  I thought of the days ahead and of the very real hardships that lay ahead...  This first step was not the completion of God's movement but really the beginning.  As those in the water would soon learn, they had made a choice that would come with a price.  It's true, serving and loving God is not all hot fudge cake and parties, it's hard work with daily choices.   I wonder some days if I had known then about the cost, would I still have chosen this.   The answer is a resounding YES...