Are You Prepared?

A young man had his first holiday without his parents. He knew he needed sunscreen but his mother always used to put it on for him. He smeared it roughly on his body but at the end of the day he was sunburned in all the places he had missed. He had been unaware of the danger from the sun and was not prepared to properly protect himself.

There is a spiritual reality that we cannot see. It’s not just the actions and attitudes of people, there are forces behind it. We need to be aware of the danger and protect ourselves. 

Dragon

In Revelation 12:17 the dragon (the devil) goes to fight against the church, and it is happening today. In Revelation 20:10 the devil is defeated. At the end of the Second World war, Germany was defeated and the war was over, but battles still went on. The devil was defeated at the cross but battles still go on. The victory is won but you will be under attack, and they will try to persuade you to change sides. ‘Devil’ means ‘deceiver’, it’s all about lies. 

So, how do you mount a resistance against the attack of the devil? Put on the armour of God. It’s a well known Bible passage, Ephesians 6:10-24. I won’t print it as it’s so long, but you can look it up. Paul uses the imagery of a soldier because he’s under guard. It’s imagery that has been used before:

The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is.59:15b,16,17)

roman-armour

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. (Eph.6:13)

* The belt holds everything together – hold on to the truth. Only God’s truth can set us free. 

* The breastplate covers the heart – how easy it is to lose our self image. Don’t compare yourself with others. 

* The shield was metre and a half long, covered in leather. It would be wet down to protect against flaming arrows. But it was most effective in the Roman shield wall. The soldiers would stand close together and overlap the shields in front and the sides. Those in the middle would raise the shields overhead. In this way the group was invulnerable. When you’re under attack, you need to keep close to others in church. 

* Shoes for preparation – you need the right kind of footwear. Make sure you are prepared by studying the Scriptures and keeping close to God.

* The sword is the only offensive weapon. Sword of truth – use the word of God to challenge wrong. Canadian Mounties study real money for a long time to learn to identify counterfeits. They know what is right – the right feel, the right pattern, so they can spot it when they handle a fake. If we’re not tuned into God, how can we spot error? 

[based on a sermon at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]

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In Time of Trouble

In time of trouble say:

First – God brought me here. It is by His will I am in this strait place. In that I will rest.

Next – He will keep me in His love and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.

Then – He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last – In His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

I am here – by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.

[William Murray, quoted in Our Daily Bread]

I am here

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Be Worthy, Be Completely, Make Every Effort

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph.4:1-3)

This passage gives concrete down-to-earth advice on living out our discipleship. It tells us how to deal with the reality of Monday morning – for Paul it was chains. Three pieces of advice: Be worthy, Be completely, and Make every effort.

Be worthy Live worthy

Live worthy of the calling you have received. Not sure what your calling is? You may not know what God is calling you to, not specifics, but we all have a general calling to holiness and purity. When we go with what God has generally called us to, then God will give us the specifics.

Be completely Be humble

* Humble. This is counter-cultural. Society today tells us to push ourselves forward. Humility brings unity. Humility is like underwear – you can’t see it, but you can see its effects. 

* Gentle (meek). As someone once said, ‘Meekness is not weakness.’ Being gentle doesn’t mean we allow people to walk all over us, we can be firm, but still gentle with people. John Stott said, ‘We need to be masters of ourselves and servants of others.

* Patient and forbearing. The same applies here as above with gentleness, with regard to other people, but we sometimes have to be patient with God too. He doesn’t always let us in on his plans, and sometimes we have to trust that he is in control, even when life gets hard.

Make every effort Make every effort

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. God has created the unity. When we are saved we become part of the church, Christ’s body on Earth, but we can pick away at it. Use the superglue of peace. We can’t do it at distance, we have to get close to one another.

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. (Eph.4:11-13)

The passage goes on to talk about how to keep the unity (v4-16): grow up and build up. We are intended to become mature and like Christ. When we look at what Jesus has done, he gave completely and made every effort, so can we do any less?

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What Does It Feel Like To Be Saved?

The experience of the moment of salvation varies widely. You can’t promise someone that when they submit to Jesus and ask him to be their Saviour, they will feel God’s love and peace fill their heart. It happens that way for a lot of people, but there are plenty for whom it was not like that at all.

Crown of thorns heart

Some have an amazing experience. Some people don’t feel anything and don’t know if it ‘worked’. Some don’t even have a moment they can point to when it happened, there was just a gradual realisation that the relationship with God was different. 

But however you come to it, what does it feel like once you’re saved? We cannot presume to know another’s heart, only God knows. Other people look for fruit – a change in your lifestyle to show you’re different. But there are lots of people who do good things without being saved.

You don’t need to prove it to others, you need to be sure yourself. 

I compare it to falling in love.

18 Bride and Groom

Like salvation, there are outward signs that give us a clue, but inside, it’s not really something you can describe. When you fall in love, you think about the one you love all the time. You long to be with them and to hear from them. You think of ways to please them and you love to do things for them. 

For example, my husband is always in the back of my mind. When I make him a cup of tea, I’m not trying to bribe him or repay something he did for me. I love him, and I love to do things for him. It lifts my heart to see him smile, and his presence gives me reassurance and hope.

HeartHeart

Is it like that for you with Jesus? How much do you think about him? Are you amazed at all he’s done for you? Do you want to make him smile? Is prayer a drudge, or do you talk to him all the time? Do you study the Bible because you’ve been told you should, or because you want to know him better?

Charles Wesley’s famous hymn referred to Jesus as the ‘Lover of My Soul’, and there’s a more modern chorus with the same theme:

Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Jesus, I will never let you go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the Rock, and now i know
I love you, I need you,
Though my world may fall, I’ll never let you go
My Saviour, my closest friend,
I will worship you until the very end
(Hillsong)

MindThink

Another thing to look at is your opinions and beliefs. Some Christians will erroneously tell you to clean your life up if you want Jesus to accept you. The reality is that when you come to Jesus, as you are, he changes your heart, and you find yourself uncomfortable with some of the things you used to think, say, and do.

Paul said to the Philippians, ‘if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.’ (Philippians 3:15)

You make changes to your behaviour (which provide evidence for others that you are saved) not just because you instinctively want to please the One you love, but because your values have shifted. I remember the joy when I realised one day that, instead of rushing past as I used to do, I had stopped to help someone without even thinking about it.

Paul explained it to the Roman Christians: Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. (Rom.6:17)

We obey from our heart because our changed heart has changed our mind, not from our mind where we’ve decided we ought to.

Are you changed?

This is a vital question you need to ask yourself if you think you’re a Christian.

If it doesn’t seem so, maybe you haven’t surrendered your heart, or maybe life has just got in the way and you’ve lost sight of the One you love. Go and talk to a mature Christian you can trust, and ask them to help you find the lover of your soul, Jesus. And God bless you as you do.

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Thinking Thursday: My Lord’s Prayer

When Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, it was as a model or example of the way we should pray. There is no special power in the words themselves, to be repeated exactly. Rather, this is how you should pray. So, based on Matthew 6:9-13, I wrote my own. I thought you might find it helpful.

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Thank you, God, that you want us to call you Father. You are far above all the things a father should be, but as close and as loving as the best father. 

May your name be honoured and praised throughout the world. May your rule extend to all men’s hearts and rebellion cease. And may that be especially true in our lives. 

We need bread, Father. Not just food for our bodies but food for our souls. Feed us both, we pray, every day. 

When others hurt us, we try to forgive them. Teach us how, and forgive us in our turn. 

Help us to stay out of trouble, and strengthen us when trials come. 

May our lives bring you honour and glory, and extend your Kingdom. We will praise and glorify your name for ever. Amen 

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Thinking Thursday: I Have Superpowers!

I have just been to see the new X-Men film, Apocalypse. I loved it. But as I was coming home from the cinema I started thinking about these characters with superpowers.

X Men Apocalypse

This film in particular introduces us to teenagers who don’t know what to do with their powers, or sometimes how to control them. This is complicated by the reaction of the ‘normal’ humans around them – mostly fear and consequent rejection.

In the X-Men franchise people with superpowers are called mutants. In the Heroes franchise on TV, they are called evo’s (evolved). In both cases they have to cope with being different and struggle to know what to do with their powers.

Did you know that I have superpowers?

There is a power in me that was used to raise Jesus from the dead.
his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. (Eph.1:19-20)

This power is for us who believe – so if you’re born again you have it too. We’re not mutants or evo’s, we’re reborn – a new race of human beings. And like those teenagers in the film, many of us don’t appreciate the power we have or know what to do with it. Like them, we’re afraid of being different, of being ridiculed or rejected.

We have other powers too:
be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom.12:2)
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil.4:7)
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. (Gal.5:22)

All these powers are gifts from God. We don’t create them in ourselves, but we can smother them so they don’t show.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Rom.12:6)

What have you been given, that maybe you haven’t even discovered yet? If you knew you had superpowers, wouldn’t you walk a little taller, be a little more confident? You don’t need to worry what other people think or say. You are being remade in His image, to be the person you were meant to be. You are of the new race, citizens of another kingdom.

But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:20)

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Thinking Thursday: How and What Should I Pray?

Supplication

Paul prayed for the Ephesians, and, like the Lord’s Prayer, it’s a good model for us to follow:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:14-21)

HOW:

For this reason – he is concerned that the Ephesian Christians might lose heart because he is in prison (Eph.3:13). We can bring all our concerns to God, and our thanks and praise as well.

Bow my knees – Jewish practice was to stand in prayer. Kneeling indicates submission and commitment. Perhaps it’s helpful to us to kneel, for a physical act to affect our hearts.

Father – Prayer connects us to the Father and to his purposes in our lives, the church’s lives, and the whole world.

WHAT: 

… that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph.3:16-17a)

Strengthened with power – Purpose
Christ may DWELL in your hearts – Goal. Not temporary, dwell means to settle

.. that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph.3:17b-19)

Comprehend … the love of Christ – Rooted (gardening) & built up (construction).
Jesus love is wider than all eternity (John Stott). A love that goes on and on.

Filled to all the fullness of God – Goal, and what a goal! How would it be for you to be completely filled with God?
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Col.2:9-10)

Develop power so Jesus dwells
Discover love so God fills

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph.3:20-21)

God will take your prayers and do so much more.

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