Advent Day 19, The Gift of Weaponry, the Belt of Truth

December 19, 2011

The Gift of weaponry, the Belt of Truth 

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

There are many great kernels of wisdom parents can pass along to their children.  One of my favorites: “A half truth is a whole lie.”  It’s important that children learn to tell the truth, right?   Truth is at the core of the judicial system.  Think about the vow that someone takes when testifying in a court of law.  They agree to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

So, how significant is it then that the first piece of weaponry, of armor, that Paul writes about in Ephesians Chapter 6 is the encouragement to put on “the belt of truth.”?  The truth is the leading weapon used to defeat the enemy!

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. (Ephesians 6:14, NIV).

Circle yourself with truth. Don’t mess with the half-truths of the world. Don’t buy the lies of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. 

I’m reminded of another piece of advice from Paul.  Philippians 4:6 says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  

A good start to defeating the enemy is to not fool around with the father of lies!  

The belt… it wraps around your center of gravity… it is the physical center of who you are.  Let your life be balanced with the truth.  Let it be your spiritual center, too. Surround yourself with the truth and people who are people of truth and who will be ones who speak truth into your life.  Let every part of you be enveloped with truth.

The truth is weapon Number One to defeat the attacks of the enemy.  When you may be confused or unsure, get the facts.  Get to the truth.  Who is the truth? Jesus is the truth.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

Open your eyes, open your hands and receive the Gift of Truth this Advent.

Father God, thank you for the Gift of Truth.  May I circle every area of my life with it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Advent, Day 18, the Gift of Victory over the Enemy

December 18, 2011

The Gift of Victory over the Enemy

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

 

Desert Storm.  The Iraqi Desert, just north of Kuwait.  1991.  You may remember this first of the most recent wars being fought with American troops in the oil-field rich Middle East.  Saddam Hussein had pushed into neighboring Kuwait.  And the United States and its Ally nations were not going to let Iraq set a precedent of bullying smaller nations.  As the US Forces surged north across the desert sands, one defensive strategy used by the dictator was to set on fire all of the oil pumping units.  A large, oil rich, toxic smoke began to form.  Our troops were puzzled and worried.  Gas masks were issued to all soldiers, none of them really sure they would work.  The weather forecasters studied the skies as the black cloud moved its way toward the ground troops.  

Heavy casualties were predicted.  However, 15 minutes before the beginning of the largest ground assault of the attack, just before 4 a.m. on February 24, 1991, the winds changed and began to push that toxic, black, oil rich smoke north, instead of south.  Many troops say that God had performed a miracle on their behalf. [1]  One of countless miracles He performed during that war.  And as anyone who has been on the front lines of any battle can tell you, God regularly shows up in battle situations. 

He shows up in our daily battles too… when we ask for His divine intervention… and when we take the initiative to gear up and fight!

Today’s Advent gift from God is the gift of Victory over the Enemy. 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (Ephesians 6:10)

Paul is starting the conclusion of his letter to the church at Ephesus.  He has encouraged them, instructed them, taught them, prayed for them.  Now his last words are to charge them.  “Be strong!”   Reach into that inner core… rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen you.  Because, really, this is not pretty.

He describes a battle here.  A vicious, ugly, full of blood, sweat and tears battle.

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.   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.  (6:12-13 The Message)

Paul says that our life is not merely a short-term event.  Not a 15 round boxing bout or a 60 minute football game.  Our lifelong struggle is “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness.”  This is real.  This is for keeps.  Satan hates you and everything you are doing for God’s glory.  And he wants to take you down.  He wants to take your marriage down.  He wants to take your family down.  And he’ll use whatever is going on in your current situation to beat you up. 

Perhaps, you’ve had a misunderstanding with your spouse, so you start daydreaming about what it’d be like to not be married.  You bounced a checked, so you start fearing any and every decision that has to do with money.  Your mom yelled at you and you start thinking how great it’d be if you never talked with her again.  You have two choices… take the lazy way out and acquiesce and give in and say “so what?” and just ride the tide… or you can fight. I’d like to encourage you to fight. Fight for what is right. It’s worth it. You are worth it. The people in your life are worth it.

The rest of this week we’re going to look further at the tools and gifts God gives us to fight the enemy, so stay tuned.

Father God, thank you for the Gift of being able to defeat the enemy.  Give me what I need to stand fast and firm and strong. Holy Spirit, help me make right decisions that honor God so that the enemy will not be able to defeat me.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald


[1] Personal meetings and email messages from Ken Mahnke, USAF retired, a member of the Desert Storm ground troops.

Advent Day 17, the Gift of Family

December 17, 2011

The Gift of Family

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Did you know that researchers have found that people who are married have a better life?  Yes, it’s true!  Many may find holes in the data to support their own experience, however, if you are married there is a strong likelihood that you will live a longer life, have a better financial picture, and enjoy better mental health and greater safety than those who are not married.[1]

From my perspective, this data supports God’s perfect plan all along.  Today’s Gift from Ephesians is the Gift of Family. 

Here’s how The Message describes the key relationship of wives and husbands, beginning in Ephesians 5:22:

Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

Paul’s definition of marriage is the way God would like it to be for us.  That’s the way it CAN be.  It’s not just a pipe dream or an awesome goal.  With the Holy Spirit in us and encouraging us daily, it CAN be that way. 

A good marriage takes a lot of hard work… a good family life even more work.  It is understandable to say that you may feel like you’ve put out all the hard work you can muster at your job and that there just isn’t enough time or energy to put in the hard work to make your marriage in the way God intended. I get that.

Someone once said that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition, in that each spouse does 50% of the work.  No, marriage is a 100-100 proposition.  Both the husband and the wife are to pour 100% of their energies into making it work.

One could drone on and on about what makes a good marriage and what makes a bad marriage, quoting wedding vows and divorce statistics.

It’s not that simple.  Life is complex.  It is complicated as a single adult.  It’s more challenging as a couple.  And it gets really interesting when that couple adds some children into that life.  But what a gift your family can be!  What a joy our children are!  Especially when we take the time to see them as God does.

Billy Graham says “Children will invariably talk, eat, walk, think, respond, and act like their parents. Give them a target to shoot at. Give them a goal to work toward. Give them a pattern that they can see clearly, and you give them something that gold and silver cannot buy.”[2]

Marriage, and family, is a great gift!  When you have a little more time this Season, read Ephesians 5:22 through 6:4 and ponder how you can be a better parent, or a better child, in your family.  Ask God to give you His grace and His eyes to see your family members the way He does.  That is a wonderful gift!

Father God, thank you for the gift of my family.  Let me see the members of my family the way you do.  Use me to bring your peace and your grace and your love to my family this Season.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald


[1] The Case for Marriage, by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, 2001, Broadway Press.

[2] Billy Graham, The Hour of Decision, 1958

Advent Day 16, The Gift of Encouragement

December 16

The Gift of Encouragement

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

When you feel a need for encouragement, how do you get it?  Do you call someone special?  Do you exercise or paint or play a game with your son or daughter?  How about singing or dancing or just watching a play or a movie? Or maybe it’s just connecting with a good friend over coffee or tossing a ball to your dog.

We all need encouragement from time to time, don’t we?

Today’s gift is what I see to be the Gift of Encouragement.  It’s probably just the way I’m wired, but I see encouragement all through the paragraph that begins with Verse 18 of Chapter 5: Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20, NIV)

Within the past year or so I took a spiritual connection assessment.  It asked a series of questions about how one connects with God.  Some people connect with God best by being out in nature; some in quiet solitude.  For me, my strongest connection with God is in worship.  I love to worship and sing my heart out and I love those musicians who lead worship and so skillfully take us to a place of complete adoration of God.  And truly, when one is fully immersed in worship, I can understand how Paul connects it with being drunk.   And I see this as a gift of encouragement in that he says “to speak to one another with psalms…”

The Psalms are a fabulous source of encouragement. Many are David’s personal journal entries.  I can so relate to David.   Often he begins a Psalm, such as Psalm 69, with a cry: “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life!  I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold… I am weary with my crying… I wait for my God…” And then, as he journals and writes and ponders the greatness of God’s blessings through the next several verses, more than likely in song, the Holy Spirit takes him to a place of adoration at the conclusion: Verse 34: “Let heaven and earth praise Him!”

May I encourage you to encourage one another, through the words of the Psalms, or through other places of Scripture?  Write them out as prayers and give them to one another… and encourage one another.

That is the true Gift of Encouragement!  God gave us His word, filled with songs of blessings.  Yes, you can read them yourself. However, isn’t it great when God gives you a word of Scripture that he wants you to share with someone else?  Or he directs someone to a specific passage and they write it down and give it to you?  This is how the body is built up. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, answered the call of her destiny with a song and a word of encouragement.  Following her encounter with the angel Gabriel, and as she met with her cousin Elizabeth — who was also supernaturally pregnant, carrying her son, John the Baptizer — Mary quotes the Old Testament song of Hannah from 1st Samuel 2. 

“I’m bursting with God-news! I’m walking on air. I’m laughing at my rivals. I’m dancing my salvation.  Nothing and no one is holy like God…” (1 Samuel 2: 1-2, The Message)

The words of both Mary and Hannah!  That is sheer joy and encouragement all in one!  May you receive this gift, and be available to give this gift to others, during this Advent season.

Father God, thank you for those who encourage me when I need to be encouraged.  Thank you for blessing me with every spiritual blessing.  May I be both a giver and a receiver this Advent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 15, the Gift of Christ, an offering, a sacrifice

December 15

The gift of Christ himself, an offering, a sacrifice

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Do you know that “smell” is one of the senses that can trigger a very specific memory?  I still remember the smell of our new, plastic telephones in our brand new home in 1967.  Can you remember your grandmother’s perfume?   Or how about the leather smell of the saddle of your first horse or new car?  A certain flower?   A visit to a different country?  Bombay, India in late June has a different smell than the moutains of Switzerland in the spring time. 

What is the most pleasant fragrance you’ve ever smelled? 

One year at Bibletimes Marketplace, our children’s summer Bible school event, one of the workshop leaders talked about the fragrance of the burnt offerings by the Old Testament priests.  He took some seasonings, popular in the Middle East, like cumin and paprika, and mixed in some rosemary plants and rose petals, and threw it in a fire.  What a beautiful and amazing aroma it was!  And you can imagine the additional flavor similar to smoked brisket as the carcasses of bulls or rams were offered to the Lord.  The Bible suggests that such fragrant offerings were pleasing to the Lord God. 

Today’s Gift if the gift of Christ himself.

Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

Paul writes that Christ loved us so much, he gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 

It’s hard for most of us to get our hands around the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son, and that such an offering, a sacrifice, was pleasing to God.

There are two things to think about here as it relates to the sacrifice of Jesus.  The first is that a true sacrifice is one that is offered by oneself.  In the Old Testament, Leviticus Chapter 1 has certain rules about offering a sacrifice.  The first is this:  when a man offered bulls or birds, Leviticus says he did the actual killing himself.  And then, he gave the slain animal to the priest.  There is a reason for that.  You must offer your own sacrifice to identify with the killing of life. 

The second rule from Leviticus as it relates to sacrifice is that the one making the offering is to skin the animal and give the meat to the priest to burn.  But the skin is offered to the priest to keep as a robe.   This is so significant!  God had to kill and skin an animal to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness in Genesis, Chapter 3… to cover their sinfulness.  In the same way, the offering, the sacrifice of Christ, clothes us in righteousness.   God doesn’t see our sin when He looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Jesus, clothing us in a garment of praise, with a beautiful aroma, that is pleasing to the Lord our God.

So, this gift of Christ himself, an offering, a sacrifice… is, indeed, the Greatest of All Gifts. 

Receive this gift today… the gift of our Lord Jesus!

Father God, I give my heart to Jesus today!  Thank you for this most wonderful Gift.  Thank you for the sacrifice He gave to clothe me in His righteousness.  May my life give off the sweet aroma of the love of Jesus to everyone I meet today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 14, the Gift of a New Self, in the Likeness of God

December 14, 2011

The gift a new self, in the likeness of God

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

Today’s gift from God is a three-part gift.  Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 24: It is the gift of a new self.  “… and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Putting on the new self.  It can’t really happen until you, Part 1, take off the old self and then, Part 2, renew your mind, for Part 3, putting on the new self.

Are you a collector?  Do you have things around the house that really have no value at all?  I confess, I’m one of those people.  I used to collect all sorts of things.  Baseball cards.  45 records.  Pop Bottles. License plates. Old newspapers with great headlines.   I’m sure when I decided to keep these things there was a reason… but, today… I don’t know why, really.  They just take up valuable storage space.

We all have some old junk in our lives… and throughout this chapter Paul takes the reader through a long list of old junk we need get rid of if we are to live the full life that God has for us:  impure sensuality, greed, stealing, unwholesome talk, bitterness, wrath, anger, slander. Get rid of it.  Renew your mind. 

“Put on the new self in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24)   

That is a tremendous gift!  Once we say “yes” to being a Christ-follower, we get to get rid of the junk and live a life in the likeness of God!   In your old self you might have had the label “adulterer,” “thief,” “loser,” “addict,”  … but guess what?  That’s not you any more!  What a beautiful gift!  Like putting on a new, gorgeous dress or an Armani suit. 

I visited my mom a few years ago while I was on a business trip.   I was on my way to a meeting, but I first took some time to drive with my mom to one of her weekly Bible studies to visit some old friends.  One dear woman, when seeing me for the first time in probably 20 years, saw me all dressed up in an Italian suit and ready to tackle the business of the day exclaimed: “You look like a million bucks!”   Isn’t it great to look like a million bucks?  But let me tell you, when you are a new creation in Christ… your value to our Lord is “priceless.”

I think that one of reasons we collect stuff is because we hope that someday it will be worth something. We can sell it on Craig’s List or on eBay.  And we think, if this thing is worth something and I own this thing, then I am worth something.  

May I tell you something?  Once you put off the old and put on the new self, in the likeness of Christ, you are the wealthiest you will ever be! Your Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  You have been given every spiritual blessing… you can’t get any wealthier!

Here’s how The Message summarizes this gift: 

“Everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (Ephesians 4:24, the Message)

God wants to reproduce His character in you!  And it’s beautiful when you let him do it!  It’s a beautiful, priceless gift!

Get dressed up for today’s gift, the gift of putting on a new self, in the image of God.

Father God, thank you that I am priceless in your sight.  Thank you for the new gift of a new self, created in your image.  Let me receive this gift every single day, even today!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 13, the Gift of Learning with a Purpose

December 13

The Gift of learning with a purpose

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

 Have you ever visited one of the great redwood forests in California?  These natural skyscrapers set records for height and girth.  And they never stop growing until it’s time for them to die.

How about you?  Are you still growing?  Spiritually?  Or have you peaked and are just waiting until it’s time to move from this life to the next?  I believe that for a Christ-follower, retirement is not an option.

You’ve heard it said that God has a wonderful plan for your life… and the idea is that we grow to fullness, maturity in the faith.  Not just grow old… but grow in maturity of the faith.  God does not want you to reach a certain level that you might determine on your own as “being mature” and then let you stop or coast the rest of your life.  God expects growth from you, year after year, season after season, just like the giant and grand redwood trees.

I want to gently challenge and encourage you:  Do you have the same level of faith you had a few years ago?  Or, are you experiencing a fresh and daily delivery of manna from heaven? 

Do you remember the manna that rained down on the people of Israel as they wandered through the desert for 40 years?  God gave them just what they needed for that day by way of a bread-like food, each and every morning. 

The people of God need to look to God to provide for them every spiritual blessing  — remember, that was our first gift in Ephesians 1:3 — every day.  If you were to measure the relationship you have with God, is it new and fresh and growing every day?  Or, do you take that relationship for granted?  May I encourage us to press in to all that God wants us to receive, fresh and new each day? 

God has given the body of Christ great leaders and teachers, both inside your local congregation and outside of it, or those who have gone before us whose writings can inspire and teach.  He has put people on the mission field, who by their example of living for God daily in a small village, can teach us how to depend on God… or how to see the miraculous move of the Holy Spirit in a way we’ve not seen before.   They all have great things to teach, if you are willing to be taught.

Today’s gift is from Ephesians 4:11-13: 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his 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.

While there is a number of ways to look at this passage, I’d like to focus on the “so that” portion.  God desires we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Another way of saying that is “learning with a purpose.”

Do you have a bucket list that includes learning new things?  I hope so.  May I encourage you to search out and find new ways to learn new things about how great is our God in heaven?  May I encourage you to grow in spiritual maturity?  Paul says that those who are mature are not tossed here and there by the waves when trials or challenging times come. They press into the love of Christ, as the head of the body, which holds us, collectively, all together.   And they do so by their willingness to be taught and encouraged by those who hold the spiritual leadership posts of Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. 

Every single one of us can find someone more spiritually mature than we are.  Search them out and learn from them.  It will strengthen you… so that down the road, you might embrace the position of leadership yourself.  And don’t ever give up learning more and more about God’s love and plan for you.

Receive the gift of learning with a purpose… and keep growing.

Father God, let me never tire of desiring to learn more and more about you and your love and perfect plan for my life.  In Jesus’ name,  Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald