Advent Day 25, the Gift of Prayer

December 25, 2011

The Gift of Prayer

 

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

Paul’s final gift for us this Advent is the Gift of Prayer.   Ephesians 6: 18 says, “pray at all times in the Spirit” and Verse 19 “pray for me.”

Pray at all times.  Sounds remarkably like 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing” Doesn’t it?

Pray in the Spirit.  That sounds a lot like Romans 8:26, which says that when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray, the Spirit helps us in our weakness and prays for us with groaning too deep for words.

Is there any greater gift to open on this Christmas Day, other than gift of the Christ-child Himself, than the ability to be able to connect with Holy God in prayer? 

And it’s a gift to be able to offer prayers on behalf of others.

Continue reading “Advent Day 25, the Gift of Prayer”

Advent Day 24, The Gift of the Sword of the Spirit

December 24, 2011

The Gift of the Sword of the Spirit

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

There is an interesting story of the great evangelist and reformer, Martin Luther, who ultimately founded the Lutheran and Protestant faiths.  There used to be a stain on the floor in his study at Wartburg Castle.  When giving tours, the guide would remark that the stain occurred when Luther threw his ink bottle at the devil.  You see in his later years, Luther was hounded by the enemy, and had seasons of depression and mood swings, which he called evil spirits. 

In The Seal and Pledge of the Holy Spirit, Brian Allison reports:

The devil sought to discourage [Luther], by making him feel guilty, through rehearsing a list of his sins. When the devil had finished, Luther purportedly said, “Think harder: you must have forgotten some.” And the devil did think, and he listed more sins. When he was done enumerating the sins, Luther said, “Now, with a red pen write over that list, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” The devil had nothing to say.[1]

Luther, threw ink at the enemy.  It was his way of tangibly saying, “The word of God is stronger!”

It is perhaps easy to suggest that in Luther’s own defense against the enemy he was strongly influenced by Jesus himself.  In both Matthew 4 and Luke 4 when Jesus was tempted by the enemy, Jesus was victorious because he threw words of scripture back at the devil. 

Today’s gift is the only offensive weapon in the full armor, and that is significant.  “… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17

Continue reading “Advent Day 24, The Gift of the Sword of the Spirit”

Advent Day 23, the Gift of Weaponry, the Helmet of Salvation

December 23, 2011

The Gift of Weaponry, the Helmet of Salvation 

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

The next piece of armor covers your head.  We’ve covered our feet with peace, surrounded our waist with truth, and have protected our heart with the grace of Jesus. We have lifted high the shield of faith and have been reminded that God is always closer to us than the enemy.

Next: Ephesians 6:17 “the Helmet of Salvation.”  You are saved from your head to your toes.   Be wise, wear a helmet!  Protect your mind.

In the past 20 years or so, helmets have become a standard part our daily routine.  When I learned to ride a bicycle, I never wore a helmet.  And I had an accident or two… maybe that’s why I’m the way I am?  But now, you wouldn’t think of teaching your child to ride a bike without first wearing a helmet.  Why even cowboys and bull riders are wearing helmets instead of cowboy hats.    Why?  Because they work!  They protect your head.  They keep you safe.  Have you read recently of all the research and technology put into the new NFL football helmets?  There are molded shells and something called TPU padding.  There is a lot of science going into protecting players’ heads. They’ve come a long way from the leather-heads of the early days of football. 

Construction workers, athletes of all types, soldiers, firefighters… all wear helmets.  Whether they look cool or not, they protect your head.    

So, Paul says here, make sure you know everyday that your salvation saves you, protects you, keeps you in the game… keeps you mentally alert.

And how do you get your salvation?  That’s the same question the Roman jailer asked Paul and Silas.  Their answer? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Acts 16:31 (NCV)

And think about Paul’s words in Romans as it relates to transforming our mind, which is the key central point in all our decision making.  How do you know what God’s will is? “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.” Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)  How do you renew your mind? By transforming your thinking.  And how do you transform your thinking?  By meditating on God and His word and His promises for you.

The infant Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.”  Fascinating that the One who said in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life” was born in the House of Bread!  Feed on His words.  Transform your mind.  Defeat the enemy.

Keep your head and your thoughts protected.  Keep it safe.  Wear a helmet! His helmet of salvation.

Father God, thank you for the gift of protection for my mind.  Thank you for your word which renews my thinking.  May I dwell on you and your thoughts today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 22, The Gift of Faith

December 22, 2011

The Gift of Weaponry, the Shield of Faith

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

And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One. (Ephesians 6:16, NCV)

What an interesting picture this is!  First of all, when I think of Roman soldiers and their shields, I think of them using the shield to protect against swords and maces, in hand-to-hand combat, not flaming arrows.  Think about flaming arrows… they must be shot at you at quite a distance, right?  I think that is good news, even great news!  If you are child of Christ, if you have any faith in Him — yes, there IS a battle going on — but know that you are ALWAYS closer to Jesus than you are to Satan.   Let me say that again: you are always closer to Jesus than you are to the enemy.  You will supernaturally be protected by the closeness of God. 

What is faith?  Hebrews 11:1 says: Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. (CEV)

Hold up that faith shield.  Believe in what you can’t see, and in doing so, you will see God in a real way.

If you are a new creation in Christ, then you are born of God, you are a child of God.  Look at the reference to “faith” in 1 John:

Everyone who is a child of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world—our faith. So the one who conquers the world is the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4-5 (NCV)

So… our faith… your faith… conquers the world!  What a great gift! 

And that fits right in with Jesus own words: “I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world.”  John 16:33 (NCV)

Use this gift this Advent to help you defeat the enemy and the lies he throws at you.  Deflect them with your shield of faith.

Father God, thank you for the gift of faith.  Would you please increase my faith in you?  Would you help me use this gift to defeat the enemy?  And thank you that you are always closer to me than Satan.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

© 2011. Rich Ronald

Advent Day 20, the Gift of the weaponry, the Breastplate of Righteousness

December 20, 2011

The Gift of weaponry, the Breastplate of Righteousness

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

There is a new song by Francesca Bastestelli called “Be Born in Me.” It has been the cry of the heart of our family this Advent.  There is a line in the chorus that says “I’ll hold you in the beginning, You will hold me in the end, Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem.”

What does it mean to “make my heart your Bethlehem?”  Well, if we say that Bethlehem is the place where Jesus was born, we are saying to God “make my heart a place where Jesus is born, where he lives.”

If we dig into the story of Bethlehem, we learn that Bethlehem was also the City of David.  The place where the young shepherd boy tended his flock, and where he later downed a giant named Goliath with a single stone.  It is here where David was anointed by Samuel. 

It was also here where Ruth gleaned wheat from nearby fields and met her husband Boaz.  Ruth was David’s grandmother.

Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”  It makes sense then, that Jesus was born here for he later fed thousands with a few loaves of bread.  And he also said that He is “the true bread from heaven” and  “the bread of life” (John, Chapter 6).

Does Jesus live in your heart?  He came from the House of Bread to give us life, true bread, true sustenance.  Jesus is all we really need.  He satisfies our greatest hunger and strengthens us spiritually, just as bread does physically.   What happens when you don’t eat for a few days?  You become weak, right?  What happens when you don’t feast on the Bread of Life daily?  You become spiritually weak, and you give the enemy an opportunity to break into your spirit and your heart.

So how do you protect your heart?  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place (Ephesians 6:14, NIV).

Where do we get our righteousness?  Only from affirming the grace-saving love of Jesus. By dying for us, Jesus’ sacrifice is our covering of righteousness, like when the Old Testament priests offered sacrifices for sin.

Paul is actually saying that accepting Jesus into our heart is one of the weapons of spiritual warfare that will keep us spiritually strong and well fed. 

It’s also the reason that Satan hates you.  Cover your heart, protect your heart, with the righteousness of Christ.  Protect your heart… don’t let the enemy use your heart… don’t give the enemy your heart.  He will use worldly “love” to get to you.   He will use fleshly “love,” or more appropriately lust, to get to you.  It’s one of his most successful schemes. 

Your heart belongs to Christ.  He bought it with His sacrifice. 

Receive this great gift and may it protect your heart.

Father God, my prayer is that Jesus will be born in my heart.  And may His sacrifice be my righteousness.  And may it cover and protect me from the enemy.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

© 2011.  Rich Ronald

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.