Who’s to Blame?
The light had just turned green and before you could get your foot on the gas pedal, “Honkkkk! Honkkkk!” Later, you’re in the grocery store check-out line and witness a customer cussing out the grocery clerk for not double-bagging her milk.
“What on earth?” you think to yourself. “Why is there so much anger?”
The Bible tells us our struggles are not against flesh and blood (other people), but against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (See Ephesians 6:12-17)
God has given us the truth about where our struggle lies, and it’s not with other people. So, who’s ultimately to blame? Evil. There are unseen forces of evil fueling sin in our world and they prey upon everyone. We have specific guidelines on how to combat this evil. Through Christ, we can be awesome warriors against the evil that tries to sneak its way into our lives.
The Belt of Truth
Picture yourself with oversized garments that would fall down and trip you if you had no belt. The belt is important; it keeps everything in place, and nothing falls down around our ankles to trip us. Truth takes many forms. Christ laid down his life for our sins, rose again to a resurrected life, and He lives today. That truth is the basis of our faith. We may need to see the truth about a particular situation in our life. We may need to be more aware of telling the truth to ourselves and others. Whatever the circumstance, the Christian who is not walking in truth will be tripped up, so it’s imperative that we stick to the truth. (Ephesians 6:14)
The Breastplate of Righteousness
We are instructed to guard our hearts with the breastplate of righteousness, making heartfelt decisions in our lives based on the character of our Lord. This is the 21st-century bullet-proof vest. Without it, we are easy targets for the bullets of envy, strife, unforgiveness, revenge, and jealousy which seek to destroy our hearts. God fills our hearts with his love, leaving no room for the enemy’s evil suggestions. (Ephesians 6:14)
Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
As servants of the living God, when we walk with proper footwear, we carry the message of where we are headed, and why we are going there — the gospel message. If our feet are not ready, we may be delayed by the enemy who doesn’t want us on the path. On the path toward God, we are not barefoot where rocks and rough terrain (life’s circumstances) damage our walk; we can make it to our destination. (Ephesians 6:15)
The Shield of Faith
The Bible tells us to hold up the shield of faith with which we can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. Using faith as our shield, we believe without doubting, believe in God’s victory over all the sin in our life (evil), and believe He is all-powerful and loves us unconditionally. Against that kind of faith, the one who seeks to destroy us has no power. (Ephesians 6:16)
The Sword of the Spirit
Get proactive with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. God wants us to know His Holy Word and use it! In every struggle we face, we are not fighting flesh and blood. God’s Word is able to pierce all the evil thrown at us. Jesus used scripture when tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:10). There is power in God’s Word! (Ephesians 6:17)
The Helmet of Salvation
This helmet protects our thought life. Since the original sin when Satan convinced Eve that God didn’t want her to know too much, he has used that same trick over and over. He takes aim at our thought life. Satan reasoned with Eve, and brought doubt into her mind by using worldly logic.
Salvation says I am bought by the blood of the Lamb, and my mind is fixed on serving the One who died for me. It does not fit worldly logic that the God of the universe would take the lowly form of a human being, and allow Himself to be crucified to pay the penalty for our sin. (Ephesians 6:17)
Worldly logic is not God’s way. He is above that. So, when the intellectuals and the critics of our faith are energized by Satan’s thought processes, we must protect our minds by the helmet God provides.
We must stay focused and remember we are not fighting flesh and blood. We must pray for those who are being used as pawns to carry out the enemy’s plans and we need to love them through it. We must also pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ regularly (Ephesians 6:18). This is God’s plan.
So, when you are tempted to blame others for your misery, remember they are flesh and blood – just like you. Know your true enemy. Love God. Love others.
Our Love Should Be Ridiculous
by Stephen Sanders, Author, crosswalk.org
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
Every once in a while, you meet a Christian who just flat out makes you feel good about life in general. It doesn’t happen probably as much as it should, but nonetheless, it’s always nice to see. Even though it may just be a brief encounter, you leave that conversation feeling important, hopeful and restored. Sometimes, it’s even so powerful that it inspires you to become a better person.
I recently had an encounter with a certain pastor who just flat out blew me away with the way he carried himself. This was actually my 2nd time meeting him, and I just can’t describe the attitude of this man. His love for God and love for people was simply contagious. Everyone in the room was just so peaceful and complimentary after he left. I found myself wanting to be more like that because, well, I’m not.
Showing “brotherly affection” towards others is not something that comes naturally for me. I tend to make a lot of excuses when it comes to being more outgoing and more loving. After all, it’s much safer to just ignore people I don’t know or have things in common with. That makes perfect sense, right? It’s wiser to just let someone else share God’s love with them; someone who can “minister to them more effectively than I.”
God continues to deal with me about this on a daily basis. Not only is displaying love towards one another one of the chief commands of the Christian faith, but it’s the core of who Jesus Christ was while he was on earth in the flesh. It’s easy to assume that Jesus would have gotten along easier with the “church folks,” but He actually spent all of His time with tax collectors, prostitutes and such; people who He had absolutely zero in common with.
The religious people of that day mocked Jesus for loving the way He did. Jesus’ love was ridiculous.
I’ve been studying the heck out of the book of Romans lately. It’s been great because I’ve begun to see this continuing contrast between the “church folks” and the “actual church” that Paul was ministering to in those days. The “church folks” were so proud of the list of regulations that defined who they were and set them apart from the society in which they lived. The “actual church” simply grabbed hold of the free gift of Christ and displayed it openly to that same society. The “church folks” disqualified others from becoming God’s Chosen because of what they were unwilling to do. But the “actual church” made no assumptions about who could and could not be “saved.”
The early church let the good news of the cross speak for itself… and they would scream this truth to everyone… everywhere… even if it meant dying a gruesome death. Their love was ridiculous.
In today’s culture, self-sacrificial love to the point of death sounds just as extreme as it did back then. So many of us make excuses as to why we don’t need to love like that. Christians and church doctrines manage to create unwritten laws that shield us from having to actually love like the Spirit of Christ so desperately wants us to. We take specific scriptures and turn them into shield for our own protection. Take Romans 12:1-2 for example:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Until recently, I’d only recognized this scripture as an instruction to “beware of society and it’s influences.” And it’s true that the world does things way differently than the Holy Spirit does. But I’ve always overlooked the importance of “test and discern what is the will of God.” You see, we cannot “test the will of God” if we are so far removed from society that we are out of touch. The same “enemy society” that we are to not become influenced by is also the same exact place where God has strategically placed us to seek His will for our lives and display the gifts and talents He has placed in us.
Sound impossible? It’s really not… it just takes a ridiculous love for this lifestyle to be functional.
In actuality, it may appear to many as being very dysfunctional. But that’s okay! This Christian walk was never meant to be something that caused us to take ourselves more seriously than we ought to anyway. To tell you the truth, Jesus said that the “actual church” would “confound the wise and shame the strong.” So don’t be afraid to be excessively full of life, hopeful, positive and patient when others try to make that difficult to do. Look for excuses to just randomly meet the needs of others… especially your enemies! That’s love… that’s the sort of thing that everyone, Christians and non-Christians, long for deep down inside. That’s what the love of Christ is all about.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25 NKJV
Frederic Remington captured the essence of America’s Wild West. Born on this day in 1861, he grew up in a family with abundant first-hand experiences. After studying art, he traveled widely throughout America’s plains, gaining more insights.
He even learned from his own failed ventures of owning a sheep ranch and a saloon. With perspective developed from these experiences, he was able to paint realistic images that felt authentic and conveyed drama.
Remington produced many paintings for popular journals. As the National Gallery of Art articulates, he “established himself as an accurate observer of western life at a time when eastern audiences were eager for images of the Far West.”
The images he captured came to life, overwhelming with movement. The people seemed realistic. Even today, his paintings present breathtaking insights into life on the prairie. At the same time, we can picture how conditions could be hard, dangerous, and uncertain.
Life in the West, in some ways, resembled Canaan before it was settled by the Israelites. God wanted them to follow His directions and be guided by His laws. But in many ways, this remained an unruly place – like the West – where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” But to those who would listen, God was ready to bring peace and order.
God still offers us His peace for all who trust Him and who live according to His Word. Make Jesus the Lord of your life.
By: Charles Spurgeon
“And thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:14
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 118:5-14
Hear Jehovah, the everlasting Father, saying, “I will help thee.” “Mine are the ages: before the ages began, when there were no worlds, when nothing had been created, from everlasting I am thy God. I am the God of election, the God of the decree, the God of the covenant; by my strength I did set fast the mountains; by my skill I laid the pillars of the earth, and the beams of the firmament of heaven; I spread out the skies as a curtain, and as a tent for man to dwell in; I the Lord made all these things. I will help thee.” Then comes Jehovah the Son. “And I also, am thy Redeemer, I am eternal; my name is wisdom. I was with God, when there were no depths, before he had digged the rivers, I was there as one brought up with him. I am Jesus, the God of ages; I am Jesus, the man of sorrows: ‘I am he that liveth and was dead, I am alive for evermore.’ I am the High Priest of thy profession, the Intercessor before the throne, the Representative of my people. I have power with God. I will help thee.” Poor worm, thy Redeemer vows to help thee; by his bleeding hands he covenants to give thee aid. And then in comes the Holy Spirit. “And I,” saith the Spirit, “am also God—not an influence, but a person—I, eternal and everlasting co-existent with the Father and the Son—I, who did brood over chaos, when as yet the world was not brought into form and fashion, and did sow the earth with the seeds of life when I did brood over it,—I, that brought again from the dead your Lord Jesus Christ, the Shepherd of the sheep, I who am the Eternal Spirit, by whose power the Lord Jesus did arise from the bondage of his tomb—I, by whom souls are quickened, by whom the elect are called out of darkness into light—I, who have power to maintain my children and preserve them to the end—I will help thee.”
For meditation: 2 Corinthians 13:14: what a mighty benediction!