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 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 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.

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 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