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Our Armor in Christ

By |2024-07-06T02:33:10-04:00July 6th, 2024|

Pastor Bailey’s newfound friend shared with him the story of his abuse and addiction. Though the young man was a believer in Jesus, because of his exposure to sexual abuse and pornography at an early age, he was plagued with a problem that was bigger than he was. And in his desperation, he reached out for help.

As Christ-followers, we wage war with unseen forces of evil (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). But we’ve been given weapons to fight our spiritual battles. They aren’t the weapons of the world, however. On the contrary, we’ve been given “divine power to demolish strongholds” (v. 4). What does that mean? “Strongholds” are well-built, secure places. Our God-given arms include “weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense” (6:7 nlt). Ephesians 6:13-18 expands the list of things that help protect us: the Scriptures, faith, salvation, prayer, and the support of other believers. When faced with forces bigger and stronger than us, appropriating these munitions can make the difference between standing and stumbling.

God also uses counselors and other professionals to help those who struggle with forces too big to tackle alone. The good news is that in and through Jesus, we needn’t surrender when we struggle. We have the armor of God!

The Authority of Jesus

By |2024-05-01T02:33:12-04:00May 1st, 2024|

Even after Jesus had set my son Geoff free from years of substance abuse, I still had worries. We’d been through much together and my focus sometimes  remained on his difficult past instead of the future God had for him. Parents of addicts often worry about relapse, and one day at a family gathering , I pulled Geoff aside. “Remember,” I told him, “we have an adversary, and he’s powerful.” “I know, Dad,” he responded. “He has power, but he has no authority.”

In that moment I was reminded of Jesus’ incomparable  authority to rescue us from our sins and transform our lives as we look to Him. Immediately I thought of His words to His disciples shortly before He returned to His Father in heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go . . .” (Matthew 28:18–19).

The crucified and risen Jesus  has made a way for us to come to Him no matter what our past may be. . . He holds both our past and our future. Because He’s promised to be with us always (v. 20), we can be assured that He’ll accomplish His purposes and that our lives are  in His unfailing hands. Jesus gives us unparalleled hope, a hope so good we can’t keep it to ourselves. The devil and the world may have some power for a little while, but “all authority” belongs to Jesus forever.

Pray and Watch

By |2024-04-29T02:33:15-04:00April 29th, 2024|

When fighting spiritual battles, believers in Jesus should take prayer seriously. A Florida woman found out how dangerous it can be, however, to practice it unwisely. When she prayed, she closed her eyes. But while driving one day and praying (with eyes shut!), she failed to stop at a stop sign, flew through an intersection and went offroad into a homeowner’s yard. She then tried unsuccessfully to back off the lawn. Though not injured, she was given a police citation for reckless driving and property damage. This prayer warrior missed a key part of Ephesians 6:18: be alert.

As part of the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul includes two final pieces. First, we should fight spiritual battles with prayer. This means praying in the Spirit—relying on His power. Also, resting in His guidance and responding to His promptings—praying all kinds of prayers on all occasions (v. 18). Second, Paul encouraged us to “be alert.” Spiritual alertness can aid us in being prepared for Jesus and His return (Mark 13:33), gaining victory over temptation (Mark 14:38), and interceding for other believers (Ephesians 6:18).

As we fight spiritual battles daily, let’s permeate our lives with a “pray and watch” approach—combating evil powers and piercing the darkness with the light of Christ.

Angel Companions

By |2024-04-28T02:33:06-04:00April 28th, 2024|

As medical test after medical test filled up Bev’s schedule, she grew overwhelmed and weary. Doctors alarmed her when they told her they were looking for cancer somewhere in her body. Each day God faithfully encouraged her with the promises of His presence and an abiding peace when she turned to Him or read the Bible. She battled with the uncertainties and frequently learned to roll the “what ifs” onto God’s shoulders. One morning Bev came across a verse in Exodus 23 that popped out from the page to her heart before a serious surgery: “I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way” (v. 20).

Those words were spoken by God through Moses to His people, the Israelites. He was giving His laws for His people to follow and leading them to new land (vv. 14-19). But in the middle of those instructions, He told them He would send an angel ahead of them “to guard [them] along the way.” Even though this wasn’t Bev’s life’s situation, she remembered that the care of angels is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture too. Psalm 91:11 says, “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” And Hebrews 1:14 tells us God sends angels as “ministering spirits” to serve believers in Jesus.

If we know Christ, He’s got an angel or angels near us to minister to us as well.

The Valley of Praise

By |2024-04-19T02:33:16-04:00April 19th, 2024|

Poet William Cowper struggled with depression much of his life. After a suicide attempt, he was committed to an asylum. But it was there through the care of a Christian physician that Cowper came to a warm, vital faith in Jesus. Soon afterwards Cowper became acquainted with pastor and hymnwriter John Newton, who encouraged him to collaborate on a hymnal for their church. Among the hymns Cowper wrote was “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” which contains these words pressed from the crucible of experience: “You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread, are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.”

Like Cowper, the people of Judah also met God’s kindness unexpectedly. As an alliance of armies invaded their nation, King Jehoshaphat gathered the people for prayer. As Judah’s army marched out, men in the front ranks praised God (2 Chronicles 20:21). The invading armies turned on themselves, and “no one . . . escaped. . . . There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it” (vv. 24-25).

On the fourth day, the very place where a hostile invading force gathered against God’s people was dubbed the Valley of Berakah—literally, “the valley of praise or blessing.” (v. 26). What a change! God’s mercy can turn even our most difficult valleys into places of praise as we give them to Him.

God’s Greater Power

By |2024-03-05T01:33:17-05:00March 5th, 2024|

In March 1945, the “Ghost Army” helped US forces achieve the Rhine River crossing—giving the allies a vital base to operate from on World War II’s Western Front. The soldiers were most definitely human, not apparitions, all part of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. On this occasion, the 1,100-man team imitated 30,000 men by using inflatable decoy tanks, blasting troop and vehicle sound effects over speakers, and more. The relatively small number of Ghost Army members led the enemy to fear what appeared to be a far greater force.

The Midianites and their allies also trembled before a tiny army that loomed large in the night (Judges 7:8-22). Gideon, a judge, prophet, and military leader of Israel, was used by God to make his puny army a source of terror for the enemy. They also used sound effects (blown trumpets, smashed clay jars, human voices) and visible objects (blazing torches) to make the vast enemy—“thick as locusts” (v. 12)—believe they were facing a colossal foe. Israel defeated their enemy that night with an army whittled down from 32,000 men to just 300 by God’s command (vv. 2–8). Why? Because that made it clear who truly won the battle. As God told Gideon, “I have given you victory over them” (v. 9 nlt).

When we feel weak and inferior, let’s seek God and rest in His strength alone. For His “power is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The Fierce Struggle

By |2022-05-16T09:06:11-04:00May 16th, 2022|

In 1896, an explorer named Carl Akely found himself in a remote section of Ethiopia, chased by an eighty-pound leopard. He remembered the leopard pouncing, trying “to sink her teeth into my throat.” She missed, snagging his right arm with her vicious jaws. The two rolled in the sand—a long, fierce struggle. Akely weakened, and “it became a question of who would give up first.” Summoning his last bit of strength, Akely was able to suffocate the big cat with his bare hands.

The apostle Paul explained how each of us who believe in Jesus will inevitably encounter our own fierce struggles, those places where we feel overwhelmed and are tempted to surrender. Instead, we must “stand firm” and take our “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11, 14). Rather than cower in fear or crumble as we recognize our weakness and vulnerability, Paul challenged us to step forward in faith, remembering that we don’t rely on our own courage and strength but on God. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” he wrote (v. 10). In the challenges we face, He’s only a prayer away (v. 18).

Yes, we have many struggles, and we will never escape them by our own power or ingenuity. God is more powerful than any enemy or evil we will ever face.

He Will Fight for You

By |2021-06-21T09:06:05-04:00June 21st, 2021|

The wounded horse was named Drummer Boy. One of 112 mounts carrying British soldiers into battle during the famed Charge of the Light Brigade, the animal showed such bravery and stamina that his assigned commander, Lieutenant Colonel de Salis, decided his horse deserved a medal as much as his valiant men. This was done even though their military action against enemy forces failed. Yet the cavalry’s valor, matched by the courage of their horses, established the clash as one of Britain’s greatest military moments, still celebrated today.

The confrontation, however, shows the wisdom of an ancient Bible proverb: “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). Scripture affirms this principle clearly. “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4). Indeed, even against the sting of death, wrote the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Knowing this, our task still is to be prepared for life’s tough tests. To build a ministry, we study, work, and pray. To create beautiful art, we master a skill. To conquer a mountain, we secure our tools and build our strength. Then prepared, we’re more than conquerors through Christ’s strong love.

Wearing Our Courage

By |2021-01-30T08:06:05-05:00January 30th, 2021|

Andrew lives in a country that is closed to the gospel. When I asked him how he keeps his faith a secret, he said he doesn’t. He boldly wears a button that advertises his church, and whenever he’s arrested he tells the police that “they need Jesus too.” Andrew has courage because he knows who’s on his side.

Elijah refused to be intimidated, even when the king of Israel sent fifty soldiers to arrest him (2 Kings 1:9). The prophet knew God was with him, and he called down fire that consumed the platoon. The king sent fifty more, and Elijah did it again (v. 12). The king sent fifty more, but the third platoon had heard about the others. The captain begged Elijah to spare his soldiers’ lives. They were more afraid of him than he’d ever been of them, so the angel of the Lord told Elijah it was safe to go with them (vv. 13–15).

Jesus doesn’t want us to call down fire on our enemies. When the disciples asked if they could go full Elijah (call down fire) on a Samaritan village, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:51–55). We’re living in a different time. But Jesus does want us to have the boldness of Elijah—to be ready to tell everyone about the Savior who died for them. It may seem like one person taking on fifty, but it’s actually One on fifty. Jesus provides what we need to courageously love and reach out to others.

Unseen Realities

By |2020-12-29T08:06:05-05:00December 29th, 2020|

In 1876, men drilling for coal in central Indiana thought they had found the gates of hell. Historian John Barlow Martin reports that at six hundred feet, “foul fumes issued forth amid awesome noises.” Afraid they had “bitten into the roof of the devil’s cave,” the miners plugged the well and scurried back to their homes.

The miners, of course, were mistaken — and some years later, they would drill again and be rich in natural gas. Even though they were mistaken, I find myself a little jealous of them. These miners lived with an awareness of the spiritual world that is often missing from my own life. It’s easy for me to live as if the supernatural and the natural rarely intersect and to forget that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but . . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

When we see evil winning in our world, we shouldn’t give in or try to fight it in our own strength. Instead, we are to resist evil by putting on “the full armor of God” (vv. 13-18). Studying Scripture, meeting regularly with other Christians for encouragement, and making choices with the good of others in mind can help us “stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). Equipped by the Holy Spirit, we can able to stand firm in the face of anything (v. 13).

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