New Living Translation
The Whole Armor of God
Our lives are involved in a daily battle, fought not against people who may aggravate and challenge us but rather spiritual battles fought against unseen demonic foes whose assignment is to fill us with fear, anger and frustration. On our own, we cannot defeat these powerful foes. However. protected by the armor of God, we are victorious. Our faith in God brings victory.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 8:26-27)
Saved Through Grace
August 20, 2022
“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11
Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?
Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe!
(Romans 3:19-26) “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin.
But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same.
All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.”
Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile.
(Gal. 2:15-16) “You and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”
One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one:
(Gal. 2:21) “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point: (Gal. 3:1-4) “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”
A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
(Mark 12:28-31) Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:
(John 14:15; 15:9, 17) “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.”
“Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice
“Hey, what are you doing?”
“Building a wall.”
“Around my life.”
“All of it?”
“To protect myself.”
“From being hurt!”
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“I do. Simply because of this; if no one can get to me, I can’t get hurt. Pretty smart huh?”
“I need to know more about your past before I can accurately answer your question.”
“What happened to make you think you need to build a protective wall around your life? Before you answer, you have to tell the truth or I cannot give you an honest opinion. Agreed?”
“Well…Ah, what If I can’t remember?”
“Is that true? You can’t remember?”
Fidgeting as he looked at the ground, he finally let out a deep sigh and said, “Ok, here goes. A few years ago I met a woman who just knocked me off my feet. I’ve never been a guy who hangs out with women and gets dates anytime. I’ve always been shy that way.
“So we get involved and it gets serious. I mean I was ready to move heaven and earth for her. She said she was moving to Nevada. Well I had a good job and spent my entire life in Illinois. She said her family could get me a good job with one of the casinos and we’d be well off in a few years. After lots of talks, I agreed to leave it all for her; You know, the romantic, all-out sacrifice like in movies.”
“Sounds like a big sacrifice all right. But it sounds exciting too.”
“Yeah it was. And I got excited. Anyway, we moved to Nevada and her family came through with a great security job at the Bellagio. She was a blackjack dealer and made lots of money in tips. I thought I was in heaven. We had great jobs. Her family were good people and it never rained!”
“Oh no. I sense a collapse of your good life around the corner.”
“You’d be right. We’d been together in Nevada for three years when she met me for dinner in town. Just as they served dessert she said, “I’ve got to tell you something and you’re not going to like it.”
“When a woman you’re about to marry says that, your heart sinks and you want to scream. But I didn’t. Like a big dummy I just sat there, head hung, looking up at her. “Go ahead,” I said, “get it over with.”
“Well, ok. But first I have to tell you how great you’ve been since we’ve been together. I mean you moved across the states for me and gave up your life. How many men would do that for a woman?”
“Ok, that’s enough of that. Tell me the bad news right now.” I wanted to punch her and storm out. Now I knew what she was going to say and I think you do too.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Turns out her original boyfriend, well, her fiance, the guy she ran away from back when we met, returns to town and gives her a call. She falls all over herself and wants to take back up where they left off. She’s leaving me.”
Neither man spoke for almost a minute.
“Am I right in thinking you don’t ever want to be hurt like that again, therefore the wall around your life?”
“Exactly. Now you can see why I’m building it, right? So I can ask again, pretty smart, huh?”
“Before I answer, let me ask you a question. Do you wonder why you don’t see walls around lots of other people? I mean, do you actually think you’re the only person who’s had their heart broken? How many divorced people do you know? Lots probably. And guess what, one of those people had their heart broken in the divorce. Where’s their protective wall?
“If you finish building your wall, you may not be taken advantage of or have your heart broken but, and this is important, you will never find love again or have great friends that are willing to give their all for you. We have to be vulnerable to experience the rewards of love and deep friendship. Broken hearts come with the territory. No matter how hard you try, friendships can fall apart and engagements can be dashed into the dust. In all of life, there’s only been one person who never disappointed anyone even though everyone turned their back on him and he was killed for them. He even forgave the people who killed him. He refused to build a protective wall and got killed in the end. But his life, although not too long, was filled with power and love because he was always vulnerable.
Galatians 1:4 ~”Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.”
Galatians 2:20 ~”My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
7 Steps To A Changed Life
August 6, 2022
“So be careful how you live” ~Ephesians 5:15
We’ve all seen the book titles; 7 Easy Steps To A Satisfied, Successful Life; 10 Steps To Financial Prosperity, and so on. But what if I could tell you there are “7 Steps To A Changed Life” and they can be found in the Bible? It’s true. Absolutely. Because, through faith in Christ, the power of God in our lives is the supernatural catalyst that propels us onward and upward in a cleansing stream of forgiveness and renewal which leads, ultimately, to eternal life with the King of Kings.
Unlike other 7 Steps to Success plans, this one is not connected to a cost of hundreds of dollars, conferences and frustrating schemes that most of us cannot seem to grasp. These powerful steps are found in the Book of Ephesians, chapter five, verses 15-21 which follow:
- Be careful how you live.
- Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.
- Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
- Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
- Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life.
- Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.
- Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“But wait,” you say, “This is a fraud, just like all the other 7 Steps to something schemes. I’ve tried to be better, to trust God more, to be thankful for everything. And guess what, in a week or two, I’m right back where I was but with more guilt for failing again.”
I fully understand because we all have the same “tried to be better but failed” story. So why is that? How can I be a failure if God says I’m not? And how can I use these 7 Steps without the dreaded guilt of another failure in my life as a Christian?
The answer comes in two parts. Part One is. . .you can’t! Why do you think we all fail at living better with 7 Steps of change? Because we are weak and addicted to sinful desires.
Part Two is. . .our faith in God has equipped us with all we need to overcome those destructive desires that lead to failure and discouragement. And, a list of rules or 7 Steps will never lead to spiritual success by themselves which is what the Law was all about. But Christ fulfilled the Law and brought with Him Grace and Mercy. Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 4-6:
“We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.”
There it is. Simple? Yes. Easy? No! God has provided the only plausible, effective, victorious answer in that He’s given us His Holy Spirit who communicates directly with our Heavenly Father. Life is a daily endeavor. The past is gone. The future has not arrived. Unlike any other 7 Steps to Success book, the Bible can revolutionize our lives and bring personal victory as we sail through the treacherous waters of life with the Holy Spirit as our Captain because He receives our daily sailing orders from God Himself.
“Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No! You received the Spirit because you heard the Good News and believed it. You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now do you try to continue it by your own power? That is foolish.”
Not Human Wisdom
July 23, 2022
1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
Human wisdom is limited and finite, unable to penetrate the heart and soul or to uplift, encourage, challenge and give hope all at once. Only God in His infinite wisdom, through the Holy Spirit, can teach, encourage, forgive, and heal by divinely inspired words. As teachers and pastors rely on God’s spiritual guidance, His supernatural touch may go forth, penetrating all human hearts, planting seeds of hope and peace.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)
20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”
The most common attitude toward fundamental Christianity, by those who do not know Jesus Christ, is mocking or condescending. Just as the Bible declares, unbelievers think believers in Christ are foolish or mindless. If a pastor or well-known Christian person speaks publicly on current world issues, they must rely only on the Holy Spirit if their words are to have eternal impact; otherwise, they are wasting their time and energy. As Paul says:
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.”
As Christians, we have been given an amazing gift, the gift of a personal relationship with God, our Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, His only Son. Not only that, but with the gift, God filled us with His Holy Spirit; a supernatural link to God Himself. Along with this incredible gift comes supernatural, spiritual understanding the world cannot discern or understand. Quite the opposite, according to this verse:
1 Corinthians 2:14-16 “That’s why only someone who has God’s Spirit can understand spiritual blessings. Anyone who doesn’t have God’s Spirit thinks these blessings are foolish. 15People who are guided by the Spirit can make all kinds of judgments, but they cannot be judged by others. 16The Scriptures ask, “Has anyone ever known the thoughts of the Lord or given him advice?” (Isaiah 40:13) But we understand what Christ is thinking.”
Human wisdom may seem brilliant to our human understanding but in comparison to God, it is primitive and limited. Human wisdom took a bite of the forbidden fruit; human wisdom passed laws in America to stifle worship of God; human wisdom established false religions that deny the one true God, and human wisdom said the earth was formed, with all its complexities, from a collision of errant planets some billions of years ago.
Isaiah 5:21 “Woe to those who are wise in their own opinion and clever in their own sight.”
It Takes Effort
July 13, 2022
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Phillip was introduced to Christ at a small California church when he was nineteen. He was thrilled to find something worthwhile at last. His life had been mundane, unsettled and filled with a roller coaster of emotions as he looked for some kind of answer; something that made sense. And now he’d found it…Jesus Christ, God’s Son; and now his Savior. What a relief.
But, as it does, life moves on, carrying each of us along the strong current of circumstances, failures, needs, crashing businesses and broken hearts. Phillip had not tended to his newborn faith. He’d not watered with the words of the Bible. He had not learned to pray to dispel the weeds of doubt and uncertainty. In short, Phillip returned to what was convenient in handling the problems of life, what he had learned, even though his methods were faulty and weak. In a few years, Phillip’s faith was a distant memory. Change was no longer a possibility for him, he was alone in this troubled world, setting aside the only hope he had.
Faith in Christ, however, does bring the possibility of change, change that is permanent and eternal. In Phillip’s case, his daily struggles weighed heavily on him as his faith in Christ became more distant. His Bible sat beside his chair, unopened and unread. He was facing life on his own while his only hope lay in the unopened Bible beside his chair. Phillip was not protected, he was vulnerable. The armor of God, provided for every Christian, lay in a heap, collecting dust beside his chair also.
Phillip represents any Christian who has given up the battle to make the best choices in life even though God has prepared everything needed for victory. We are not alone in this fight which means if we are not victorious it is our choice, our fear, our laziness. Victory, however, is just a prayer of repentance away. The Holy Spirit is armed and ready to defend and guide every Christian. God has not abandoned us–we have turned our backs on Him when we refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and make all our own choices. Don’t forget, when we are weak (giving up our own strength), then we are strong (through dependence on Christ).
2 Corinthians 12:10
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.
Victory takes effort. Willie Davenport, who won the 110-meter high hurdles at the 1968 summer Olympics, came back from a severe injury to compete in the 1976 Olympics.
”It was the semifinals of the A.A.U. outdoor championships in 1975,” he recalled in an interview with Red Smith of The New York Times four years later. ”Taking off for a hurdle, I busted a tendon in my left knee. I had surgery the next day, and two days later I had a blood clot in my right lung. The surgeon wasn’t very optimistic. He told me I would walk with a limp and should forget about running. That was June. By January I was hurdling again, and that summer I won the Olympic bronze.” At 33, Davenport was the oldest competitor, ten years older than his fellow American, who was fourth.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
Our lives as Christians require daily practice—daily workouts at the Faith Gym. Life is an accumulation of daily and hourly events, decisions, actions, thoughts and choices. God has given us everything we need to make the changes—but it does take practice and effort.
July 5, 2022
“Our fight is not against any physical enemy” ~Ephesians 6:12
She lied when she was called into her supervisor’s office to supposedly give supporting testimony for her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. It worked. He was fired, losing his job and pension.
Later, in the conference room, Carl was removing the last remnants of his personal belongings, she appeared, smiling.
“Why did you do it?”, he asked. “You exaggerated to the point of lying. You could have easily supported me, Sally.”
Tears streaked down her face as Sally spoke, “Why don’t you ask Terry. Maybe she can answer your questions. After all, you have been sleeping with her behind my back!”, she said as she pulled his ring off her finger and threw it across the room.
How could this scenario take place between two lovers, planning to get married in the near future? Why would Carl even consider bedding down with another woman? Because we are not all basically good. Just the opposite, according to the Bible:
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than anything else and desperately sick—who can understand it? I, the Lord, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve.”
Mark 7:20-23 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
We fight invisible enemies, seen only by God and it is God who is victorious in all our spiritual battles. We must arm ourselves with His armor which is also invisible to us.
According to Ephesians 6:12 “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Obviously, we are defenseless against unseen, spiritual foes without the Holy Spirit who resides within us.
We can call out as King David did in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal Spirit within me—Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey you!”
God has given us the weapons we need, the power to defeat spiritual foes and the instruction manual (the Bible). By faith, we must apply our armor daily so we will be prepared to fight the battle in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ! The enemies are unseen but we are victorious!
Ephesians 5:8-9 “For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
Have You Eaten?
June 25, 2022
“Your words were found and I ate them. . .” Jeremiah 15:16
After fasting forty days and forty nights Jesus was hungry. Incredibly hungry! His body would have been screaming for sustenance. In one translation it says, “And the tempter came to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)
Have you ever been really hungry? So hungry you are weak and not sure when your next meal would come? Most of us have not, short of being lost or imprisoned. But even in prison, the captives are usually fed. One thing I do know, the farther between meals we go, the weaker and more vulnerable we become. And that is where Jesus was…weak. Satan could tempt him with food, or so he thought.
Instead, Jesus called upon the Word of God (Deut. 8:2-3) and replied, “It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:1-4)
Is God my food? Do I see that God’s word is the basis of my very life? Is it like food and water to my soul? Or has it become an occasional snack when I feel those slight hunger pangs a few times a day. You know, those times when a few bites will do. Do we savor every morsel He’s written or do we approach his banqueting table as a buffet, picking and choosing the bits we prefer?
The prophet Isaiah proclaims this, regarding the birth of Christ our Lord: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
2 Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.” – Phillips
1 Peter 2:1-2 “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.”
John 6:32-35 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:57-58 “I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
I knew a young man in the Navy who, after three years of good service went off the deep end, walked away from his duty assignments (more than once) and spent time in the brig (more than once). After getting his head straight, he was transferred to his final duty assignment, a Navy ship. On the first day, his immediate supervisor called him aside and said words something like this, “I know all about what you have done and I don’t care. I will judge you by what you do starting today. So if you want to get along here, just do your job and we will get along fine.” The sailor discovered that his supervisor was a man of his word which brought out the best in him. He was forgiven and was determined to show his supervisor how thankful he was.
Our walk with Jesus is like this relationship. He has taken our sins and forgiven us forever. Shouldn’t we show our Lord how thankful we are by devouring His word?
Jeremiah 15:16 “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.”