Monday, August 31, 2009

Armour of God - Shoes of the Good News of Peace

Armour of God Part one, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 2c, Part three

“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” (Ephesians 6:15)

There are so many ways in which to look at these words and I’ll take a look at as many as I can think of. If you can think of others, I’d love to hear them.

First, a bit about the footwear worn by Roman soldiers. They wore a heavy, leather sandal that was studded with hobnails on the soles for protection and for better traction on rocky ground. Don’t get ahead of me now.

Each day we get up out of bed and walk out into a spiritual battleground. And that battleground – the trials we will face each day – will probably be rocky to one degree or another. What kind of protection, if any, do we walk out with each day? Many a soldier has been stymied by inappropriate or poor footwear and increased casualties in war have been a result.

So how are we, soldiers in God’s army, to prepare ourselves to get through the battles that a day will bring as unscathed by the enemy as possible? This is where that “many ways in which to look at these words” come in.

1. We prepare ourselves by making sure that we are standing each day on the sure foundation of Christ.

We will walk through many types of terrain in this life – rocky, slippery, steep (up hill or down hill), dry, floods, fraught with traps, being surrounded by animals or finding ourselves all alone. None of us knows what a day will bring. But Jesus is our Rock. If we make the choice to intentionally stand upon Him as our foundation, He will carry us through in whatever trials we find ourselves.

And standing on the Lord means knowing Him through His promises, His warnings, His commands and the depth of His love for us through His Word. And God’s Word does not fill our minds and hearts by osmosis. We need to crack open our Bibles and read them. God’s Word and prayer are how we can “put on” the spiritual footwear we need to get through each day.

Remember, though, this is not meant to be a ritualistic, I-have-to-read-the-Bible today kind of thing. We are cultivating a relationship with our Lord. If you don’t love to read God’s Word, ask God to give you a love for it. It’s not just a book, it is God’s letter of love to you and God will use it to speak to your heart about the trial (or in many of our cases, trials) you are facing right now.

2. Daily maintaining a relationship with the Lord through prayer, and studying His Word, and asking for forgiveness of our sins so that we don’t allow those sins to become a wedge between the Lord and us will give us peace.

By continuing to abide in Christ we will know that we’re right with the Lord and that He’s with us in all that He gives us to do and in every trial we face His peace will reign in our hearts no matter the circumstances.

3. As we are given God’s peace, we can then take that peaceful spirit with us as we walk through each day.

I like the Bible in Basic English version of this verse, which says, “Be ready with the good news of peace as shoes on your feet;”

As we interact with the people God gives us each day, having been prepared by the Lord first thing that morning by sitting at His feet and letting Him speak to our hearts, giving us wisdom for the day and peace to lead us in our words and actions, we will then be able to effectively minister to others. Our kind words can be what gives someone else who’s having a bad day, or a bad life, the strength to go on another day.

(Let me say, too, that there are some people who believe that their “big” devotional time (and by big I just mean the main devotional time. How long that is is between you and the Lord) for the day needs to take place in the morning, and if you can and desire to do that, great. It can be a good discipline to do that if you know you’ll forget or won’t have the time or energy to do it later in the day. But if you can’t have your main devotional time of the day first thing in the morning, at least commit to starting your day by reading a verse and praying for God’s wisdom and direction for that day. It will set your mind on the Lord and your perspective on the things that come your way that day be godly and eternal.)

And others, believers and unbelievers, will watch us as we carry the peace of God through our battles. We can be a source of inspiration for our brothers and sisters in Christ to keep walking steadfastly in the trials they face, and we can be a light to those who have yet to know Christ as their Savior and Lord.

We can allow God to prepare us to bring the Good News of Christ - that He died on the cross to pay for their sins - to them as they see and desire the peace that we have, and we’ll be able to say that the same peace we have can be theirs as they invite Jesus Christ into their hearts and lives.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday Foodie - Lemon Cream Scones with English Lemon Curd

Bake at 350

Well, the creek rose some, but I was able to get to the other side. Kind of like a chicken during rainy season. (Refer to my last post for some 'splainin'.)

Anyway, I was able to make my Sunday Foodie and at the same time participate in the Flavor of the Month at Bake at 350. And there was much rejoicing. So be sure to hop on over to her blog and check out the many other mouth-watering lemon and/or lime recipes.

So this month’s theme over at Bridget’s lovely blog is lemon, lime or a combination. I chose lemon in the form of Lemon Cream Scones with English Lemon Curd. I must give credit where credit is due. I found this recipe in the cookbook The Village Baker’s Wife by Gayle and Joe Ortiz. They own Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California. I’ve never been there, but I almost feel like I have by the many behind-the-scene stories included in the book and by the way they share a number of the bakers’ inspirations to so many of their creations, including the delectable cinnamon roll recipe I have used to make our Christmas breakfast for several years now, Christopher’s Buns created by Christopher Love. If you adore baking I highly recommend adding this cookbook to your baking resources.

And now, on to the recipe.

Lemon Cream Scones

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/3 cup unsalted butter, chilled
½ cup currants, optional

Egg Glaze (optional)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Pulse several times to combine the ingredients.

In another bowl, mix the cream, egg, vanilla, and zest. Set aside.

Cut the butter into ½-inch pieces and sprinkle them over the flour. Pulse several times, or until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Transfer the dough to a bowl and add the cream mixture. Stir to combine. Stir in the currants, being careful not to overmix.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, gently pat the dough into an 8-inch circle and transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut into 8 wedges. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make the glaze. Using a pastry brush, coat the scones with the glaze.

Place the baking sheet on the center rack in the oven and bake for 19 to 22 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center. Let the scones cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

English Lemon Curd
3 large eggs
½ to ¾ cup sugar (use less for a more tart flavor)
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

In the top of a double boiler, (I just put a little water in a pan and put a bowl with the ingredients in it over the top) whisk the eggs and sugar until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture resembles slightly whipped cream. (It will thicken slightly as it cools.)

Remove it from the heat, cover, and stir frequently as it cools. When cool, strain and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Foodie Postponed

This week's Friday Foodie will be on Sunday, Lord willing and the creek don't rise...aka my back decides to cooperate with the rest of my body. Talk amongst yourselves.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Prayer Requests

Taking prayer requests today. Don't forget you can email them to me if you wish by clicking on the postcard on the right.

Blessings to you,

Armour of God - Breastplate of Righteousness

Armour of God Part one, Part 2a, Part 2b, Part 2c

I doubt a week ever goes by without the enemy wagging his boney, little finger of condemnation in my face. he usually doesn’t have to wag it very long, though, before I take over condemning myself – a consequence of having removed my breastplate of righteousness.

“and having put on the breastplate of righteousness..” (Ephesians 6:14b)

The enemy loves to bring up our past sins, whether it was 20 years ago or yesterday, and shoot his arrows directly at our hearts –

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

If we’ve taken off our breastplate of righteousness – our claim to righteousness through Jesus alone - we are completely open and vulnerable to those attacks. The arrows of guilt sink deep into our hearts and we stumble in the knowledge that we have sinned against our beloved God. We condemn ourselves and our usefulness is lessened because we aren’t standing in the righteousness that is ours. Many times we will then try to earn our righteousness back by – performing this good work or being “perfect” - then we’ll be made right before God, we reason.

“But Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

Today, that’s kind of like saying, unless you’re more righteous than the Pope, you’ll never get to heaven. So many people look at that statement, and because their idea of righteousness is being a religious leader, or serving at church, or feeding the hungry or being a missionary, or any other type of work, they think they’ll never make it.

But Jesus boldly made that statement because the scribes and Pharisees were missing it. They thought it was all about their own self-righteousness rather than a righteousness that comes through faith in God.

Even Christians, knowing they have been justified through Christ alone, can try to earn God’s love and favor through good works. We couldn’t earn righteousness through good works before salvation, and we’ll never be able to earn it that way after.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-- just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’

So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ (Deut. 27:26) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." (Galatians 3:1-11)

It is by your faith in Jesus Christ that you have been made righteous. We can so quickly forget that we haven’t been given a second-class righteousness that works sometimes and sometimes doesn’t; we have the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we now claim by faith through His precious blood that was shed on Calvary. If you have that faith in Him, you have been justified and are no longer guilty of even one sin you committed. God has declared you to be innocent of all charges.

So, let us add to our royal armour the breastplate of righteousness, along with our belts of truth, so that when the enemy tries to dredge up the past to condemn us, our hearts will be defended as we boldly stand in the righteousness that is ours through faith in our everlasting Lord, Jesus Christ.

Once we’re saved we will still sin, but there are still no works we can do that will erase the guilt. There is only one thing to do: fall into the waiting and loving arms of the Lord, asking for forgiveness. The enemy’s arrows can no longer touch you as you remember that even before the words, “I’m sorry” are uttered from your lips, you’re already forgiven and have been since that day on Calvary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Funnies - Ninja Kitty

Josh and Brenna, this is just for you. No tissues needed.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the hallway...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Thanks - The Cacao Plant

I love chocolate. I really, really do.

I also love the thought that at some point God planted a cocoa bean plant, which is actually a small tree, in one spot of the world, and a sugar cane plant, which is actually a grass, in another spot of the world, and then grinned, knowing that someone, somewhere would think to combine the seeds from one and the fibrous residue from another so that we could enjoy a cup of hot cocoa with a good book on a rainy day.

Or so that we could send a heart-shaped box of varied confections of them to a special love on Valentine's Day. Or enjoy it frosted it on a cake to celebrate a child's birthday. Or munch on a box of them in a movie theatre either covered in a candy-coated shell or coating a gooey junior peppermint treat.

Or hide a sleeve of it, masterfully blanketing a peanut butter cup, in the bottom shelf of my fridge, otherwise known as Mom's Private Stash Shelf, for whenever my little ol' heart desires.

So for all it's wondrous forms, thank you, Lord, for chocolate.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prayer Requests

Hello bloggy friends. Well, it seems Tuesday was feeling left out so Tuesdays are going to be prayer request day. While I do pray for you corporately, I'd be honored to have the opportunity to pray for you individually. If you have any needs you'd like me to lift up to the Lord in prayer, you can leave it in a comment to this post or you can email it to me by clicking on the post card on the right above my profile picture.

May God bless you abundantly.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Armour of God - Girding With the Truth, Take 3

Well, since nobody guessed the title reference in the last post, all bloggy points will be rolled over to next time.

Part One, Part 2A, Part 2B of this series on the armour of God.

So. They say practice makes perfect. And I did say that we needed to master the usage of each piece of spiritual armour. And that means the Lord wants to us to look at the belt of truth again. Or maybe He just wants me to look at it again and that means bringing all of you along with me. I do so appreciate your patience.

The last couple of times we saw that girding your waist with truth means that 1. Jesus is the Truth, and we cannot move about successfully in spiritual battles without knowing Him through salvation; and 2. We need to be spiritually sharp and alert, or in other words, always be walking in the Spirit, so that we don’t stumble when we are spiritually attacked.

This time I want to look at another way that we can prepare ourselves for spiritual battle, and quite possibly avoid stumbling ourselves, making us easy prey for the enemy.

These are some other definitions of the word truth: the state or character of being true; honesty; integrity; truthfulness; agreement with a standard; accuracy, fidelity or constancy.

Since our standard is our Lord Jesus Christ, and He is Truth, and since we need to be imitators of Him (Ephesians 5:1), our lives, within and without, need to be characterized as lives lived in all truth and integrity and sincerity.

It is when we begin to lie, or be dishonest, or deceive, give a false impression or in any way be a hypocrite to our faith and all we believe in Jesus Christ, that we will begin wandering into the territory of the enemy, who is the father of all lies, and be easy prey for his attacks.

When we begin to live a falsehood, deceiving others and even ourselves, we cannot be walking in the Spirit, and we will not survive attacks in our own strength.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:5-7

In 1 Corinthians 1:11, Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Because Paul was an imitator of Christ, and lived his life in all sincerity, he was able to confidently tell others that they could safely be imitators of his life in Christ.

Can we do that? Do we walk in such a way as to imitate our Lord and His truthfulness in all things that we would be happy to have someone else imitate us, or even suggest to someone that they do?

Not that we could ever be perfect. Paul certainly knew that he wasn’t. But he was a true servant of the Lord, having nothing to hide. He admitted his weaknesses and he completely depended on the Lord’s strength for everything he was called to do and endure.

I pray that as we walk every step of our lives in the Spirit, that all we do in Him, whether in thought or speech or deeds, is wrapped in the truthfulness of God, so that we maintain lives that are humbly free of all pretense.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Friday Funnies - Some People Wanna Fill the World With Silly Church Signs

Fifty bloggy points for anybody who can guess what the title is referencing.

I knew there had to be a Starbucks in heaven.

Way to be positive. Sort of.


Cause God's from Wisconsin, not New York.

Not-so-holy spirit.

And it dothent cotht a thing.

An offer you can't refuse.

Thursday Thanks - Slippity Slop

This week I feel like I’ve been drug through enough emotional pig slop to make even a pig disgruntled. (Get it? Pig..disgruntled…anywho..) The enemy loves to throw our pasts and our weaknesses in our faces and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this has come right on the heels of the series I’m doing on spiritual armour and the persecuted church.

If you’ve ever taught the Bible before, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve heard the moans, seen the cocked grins and heard the all-knowing chuckles as someone shares with a group that they’re going to be doing a teaching or a Bible study on something like Learning Wisdom Through the Worst Trials You’ve Ever Heard Of or some other equally formidable topic. Every teacher in the group shares a knowing look as all instructors of the Word have experienced this dreaded phenomenon. We also know that we will be required to learn much more about the subject than we will ever be able to teach.

We know it’s necessary, though, to be able to teach somewhat authoritatively, the key word for us here being somewhat, as God is always the authority. We can’t effectively teach what we don’t know, so we must get a first-hand lesson. And yet we still feel so very unqualified as we stand (or blog) before you.

But I’m still here and I’m not about to give up. I am only more solidified in my resolve to continue teaching, as best I can, the truth that is found in Jesus Christ and His Word. And if I have to go through some hog slop in order to be purified spiritually and be more Christ-like so that I can continue to proclaim the truth and to hopefully be a better encourager to you, then for that I’m thankful.

The truth is:

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name (besides Jesus Christ) under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the spirit of the antichrist), because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Blessed be the Name of the LORD.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another Thought On Girding With Truth

I just read another explanation for "girding your waist with truth," and rather than writing a whole new post I'm just going to post this as an addition. I think they can both be true.

Because girding your waist meant pulling up and tying off the tunic so that the worker or soldier would not stumble, girding with truth can also mean to be spiritually sharp and alert so that we won't stumble.

"Therefore girding up the loins of your mind, being sober, perfectly hope for the grace being brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance, but according to the Holy One who has called you, you also become holy in all conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:13-16)

I would welcome any other thoughts on this.

God bless.

Armour of God - Girding With the Truth

Armour of God Part one.

As we continue on our journey to our own Promised Land, remember that there will be attacks by the enemy along the way. But God has given us tools, so let’s begin to understand the usage of each piece of spiritual armour, clothe ourselves in it, and master it.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,” (Ephesians 6:14a)

I’m going to stop mid-sentence in this verse so that we can focus on truth, which is a weighty piece of armour all by itself.

But first, let’s take a quick look at the words “stand” and “therefore.”

Greek Word Lesson Alert!

Stand - “abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set (up), stanch, stand (by, forth, still, up).”

Therefore – this word should always cause us to look back to see what it’s there for.

Verse 13 said, “Therefore, (because we wrestle against spiritual wickedness - vs.12) take to yourselves the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

So, we need to keep abiding in our relationship with Christ so that we can withstand the days of evil, or the days of trials - the days we are attacked by the enemy and our faith is tested so that at the end of our lives we are still found standing boldly in Christ, proclaiming His Name to all.

Okay, onto the armour.

When Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesians, it was common practice in that day to “gird the loins” or gird the waist. Because the men in those days wore long tunics, in order for them to work or fight efficiently when they went into battle, they had to pull up the hem of their garment so that they didn’t trip on it and that allowed them to move about freely without stumbling. So girding about was the way they readied themselves.

The first thing we need to do to ready ourselves is to know the Truth with a capital T. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

In order for Him to make a statement like that He either had to be off His rocker or He had to be God, claiming that He was the personification of all truth.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

We can only stand in the strength of Christ if we have already come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, Who is the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.

So, do you know the Truth that is Jesus Christ? He is the only begotten Son of the Father who loves you so much that He came to earth, born as a baby in a humble stable, to live and then die as payment for your sins. All you need to do is ask for forgiveness for your sins, accepting Jesus’ payment for them.

“For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son; in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

If you would like to read more, please click on the tab at the top entitled How To Know God.

If you have truly received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, don’t ever let the enemy tell you that you aren’t saved.

“And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blamelessly at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who called you, Who also will do it.” (1Thessalonians 5:23-24)

Next up: Breastplate of Righteousness

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Funnies - Me Community Church

Sprint's cashing in on the whole pervading "it's all about me" attitude. Just a couple of weeks ago, I found a Sprint cell phone brochure, obviously geared toward very young adults. On the front it had a young 20-something guy, smiling and having the time of his life with his new Sprint phone. At the bottom it read: It's finally all about you. Oh brother.

Have a great weekend. And put away that Sprint cell phone at church on Sunday!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday Thanks - God's Grace

A friend gave me a book today called You Write the Ticket, Lord, written by Dorothy A. Galde. Two things struck me about it right away.

First, the dedication is "to those who hurt, with love and understanding." Love and understanding, even by a woman I don't know, and a woman who has since gone on to be with the Lord at that, is still something I appreciate very much.

And second, her preface is as follows:

Kites rise against the wind.
So do airplanes,
So do people.
Dr. V. R. Edman, President of Wheaton College
Said to me years ago,
you have to write a book
to let others know of the
bouquet of difficulties
the Lord has been pleased to present you.
There are books we can give
to those who have suffered physically,
to those who have lost a loved one,
but He has given you such a
garland of griefs
you must share it."
I wrote and rewrote,
I submitted and submitted,
I waited and waited.
But God has His own time,
and it is perfect.
My desire is that others may be encouraged,
and that Christ may be lifted up.

Dorothy A. Galde
Prescott, Arizona 1982

"the bouquet of difficulties the Lord has been pleased to present you" and "garland of griefs."

Those words add color to the picture of God's grace that I had already formed in my mind. My vision of the beauty of His plan encased in pain is a little clearer because of them and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Real Jesus Freaks

For a while now I’ve wanted to start doing monthly posts regarding the persecuted Christian church around the world. So every first Wednesday of the month I’ll feature a country that is listed as a restricted nation as a result of their persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

First, a little background on the beginnings of the persecution of the Christian church. (And please know that when I refer to the Christian church, I am not referring to any religious institution, but the body of Christ, which is composed not of brick and mortar, but of each follower in Jesus Christ.)

Subsequent to our first and greatest Martyr, Jesus Christ, Christians have been persecuted since very shortly after the His death and resurrection and the continued dawning of the Christian church as disciples were scattered among the nations. These martyred men, women and children stood by their faith in Jesus Christ through unimaginable threats. I pray we are humbled, motivated and energized to take our trust in the Lord to new levels and put feet to our faith.

Ironically enough, the next recorded martyrdom, which is chronicled in the Bible, took place as Saul, a then future apostle who would be re-named Paul, stood by approvingly, protecting the garments of those who stoned to death Stephen, a bold and courageous believer in Christ.

“Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him (Stephen) with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (Acts 7:57-8:3)

It is thought that most of the apostles were martyred for proclaiming the Name of Jesus Christ.

Peter was martyred in Rome in 64 a.d. by crucifixion, reportedly upside down, because he said that he was not worthy of dying in the same manner as his Lord.

Andrew, Peter’s brother, was crucified by order of the Roman Governor Aegeas in Greece on an X-shaped cross in 60 a.d.

James, the son of Zebedee, was killed by King Herod Agrippa with a sword.

John, James’ brother, was exiled to the island of Patmos. Though the attempt was made to kill him by throwing him into a vat of boiling oil, he didn’t die as a result of his torture, but of old age in 101 a.d.

Bartholomew, after converting the brother of the King of Armenia to Christianity, was ordered by the king to be beaten with rods, crucified and skinned alive. Because he was still alive after all the torture took place and still continued to exhort everyone to turn to and worship Christ, he was beheaded.

James, the son of Alphaeus, was martyred in 62 a.d. in Jerusalem by being thrown from the top of a temple, then stoned and beaten with clubs, while he reportedly prayed for his attackers.

Thaddaeus, or Judas, the son of James, was beaten to death with a club, then beheaded in Persia.

Philip was martyred in 51 a.d. in Phrygia. Some reports say he was whipped, thrown in prison and then crucified. Other historians say he was tied to a pillar and stoned to death.

Simon the Zealot, whose exact method of martyrdom is uncertain, though it was reportedly by either by crucifixion or by being sawn in half.

Thomas was reportedly martyred in 72 a.d. in India by four soldiers who pierced him with swords.

Matthew was martyred by order of the king of Etheopia. He was arrested while preaching in the church, dragged outside, nailed to the ground with short spears and beheaded.

Paul was beheaded with a sword in Rome in 64 a.d.

In 64 a.d., a fire broke out in Rome. Some believe the fire was set by the Emperor Nero, who then blamed it on the Christians, and then tortured them for it. Afterward Nero, who was quite insane, continued to torture and kill Christians by having them dipped in wax, impaling them on poles around his palace and lighting them on fire, racing his chariot past them and yelling, “Now you truly are the light of the world.” Christians were also killed for sport by being thrown into an arena to be eaten by dogs or lions.

But the persecution only fanned the flame of the Christian faith and the church grew exponentially.

And in 168 a.d., Polycarp, who was a bishop in Smyrna (now Izmar, Turkey) and the last living link to the apostles, was brought into an arena before the Roman proconsul who tried to get him to deny Christ and swear by Ceasar.

Polycarp proclaimed, “Eighty-six years I have served the Lord Jesus Christ, and He never once wronged me. How can I blaspheme my King Who has saved me?”

He was then threatened with beasts and with burning by fire. Polycarp basically said, “Bring it on.” A bonfire was made in the center of the arena and they were about to nail him to a stake. He told them they need not bother. “He who gives me strength to endure the fire will enable me to remain still within the fire.” So they simply tied his hands behind his back.

Polycarp prayed his final prayer: “O Father, I thank You, that You have called me to this day and hour and have counted me worthy to receive my place among the number of the holy martyrs. Amen.”

The fire was then lit, but Polycarp didn’t burn. But rather those who watched said that he “was not as burning flesh but as gold and silver refined in a furnace. And we smelled such a sweet aroma as of incense or some other precious spice.”

Because he wouldn’t burn, the executioner was ordered to stab him with his sword.

If you’d like to find more information on the persecuted church, a good place to start is The Voice of the Martyrs. Another good resource, and one where I gleaned much of the information in this post is the book Jesus Freaks by dc talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. You can find their website here. And please be praying for our repressed, tortured and imprisoned Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

Next month we will look at the persecuted church in Vietnam.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Armour of God - Who Are You Fighting?

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)

This is the exhortation that Paul gave just before he launched into an admonition to remember what enemy we face in spiritual warfare, just as it was the same admonition that God gave to Joshua just before he and the Israelites marched into their own warfare to claim the land the Lord had promised to His people.

And I will tell you that whether you know it or not, you are in the midst of a spiritual battle. There are unseen battles for souls, for our attention, for our strength, and for our witness in Christ. If you’re going to fight successfully, you must heed Paul’s warning to be strong in the Lord. There is no strength outside of the Lord – outside of an abiding, intimate relationship with the Lord Who is over all.

So how is your strength? Are you and the Lord tight? Is your relationship with Him one of trust; of learning more of Who He is every day through the Word He has given to us; of spending time every day in communion with Him, talking to Him, but also listening to Him?

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6-12)

There have always been wars upon the earth. This kind of war is just as detrimental, maybe even more so, because it’s an unseen war. People tend to deal with what they see, but we are reminded that the bigger battle is with what we don’t see.

This is who our enemy is: the spiritually wicked rulers of darkness who dwell in the heavenlies; the former angels who chose to fall from grace and who now live as enemies of the Lord of Light and of anyone who chooses to follow Him.

Our enemy is not our spouse, it’s not our children, it’s not our neighbors, it’s not our co-workers, and it’s certainly not our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s not even ourselves, although we can allow the enemy to use us against ourselves. Oh, the enemy would love for us to think it is. He is the ancient and evil warrior whose deceptions and traps are well worn. He knows how to cause our focus to be linear rather than to point the finger of guilt where it belongs: squarely at him.

So we need to take our eyes off of the people we’ve thought we had some sort of dispute with, forgive them, and remember that the enemy is only using the situation to keep us angry and unforgiving.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Because this is a different kind of war we need to have a different kind of armour. We can’t fight this enemy with trillions of dollars of military jets and guns and bulletproof vests.

God has given us spiritual armour and if we wish to stand at the end of each battle and at the end of the war it would behoove us to become an expert in the usage of each piece of equipment, put it on, and never remove it. The enemy never takes time off and neither should we.

This is longer than I thought so I will start next time with our spiritual armour. In the meantime, let’s stop warring with one another and forgive each other. We have bigger fish to fry.

The reality is, we’re on the same team with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be fighting our common enemy together. Rather than helping the enemy by tearing one another down with angry words and spiteful attitudes, we need to be encouraging and praying for each other so that we can all have the strength we need to keep fighting and find our way to our Promised Land.