Armor Up

Samarai armor

This past Sunday I preached the second message out of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6. The critical truth of this armor is two-fold. First, this is God’s armor, God’s strength and God’s protection for us. Secondly, knowing that it’s imperative that we have it to protect us from the Devil’s schemes, we must put it on. That’s our part. So the question arises; how do you put on the armor? Here’s a brief explanation of all six pieces of armor Paul describes in Ephesians 6:

  1. Truth
    • There’s no value in unapplied truth. Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Seek the truth but put on the armor of truth by applying it.
  2. Righteousness
    • Putting on this piece of armor is as much about what you don’t do. Remember, that our righteousness does not come by way of anything we can do. Only true righteousness is imputed (put on us) by God through Jesus. Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) How do you put on the armor of righteousness? Stop trying to be righteous on your own. (We mostly do this through religious yet un-scriptural works.) God is not impressed by us, He’s impressed when He sees the Son’s righteousness on us by faith.
  3. Gospel (Good News) of peace
    • Even in the midst of the spiritual battle that Paul warns us about, and the one that we know’s going on deep down, we can  have peace. How? Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus promised that we can have peace, deep, soul-quenching peace even in the midst of the battle; in Him.
  4. Faith
    • This piece of armor deflects the “fiery darts” of the devil. How do we have it? By continually and deliberately placing the full weight of our faith in Jesus’ ability and not our own. That’s what faith is. So, continue in the process to which Jesus has called you and learn to take faith from your own ability and place it in Christ.
  5. Salvation
    1. I know what you’re thinking; how do you put on salvation? Salvation is of the Lord! That is correct, it is. You put it on, not in any way trying to save yourself, but living as though it matters. You put on salvation by remembering that there’s more to life than just this life. The Apostle John said, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16) If you’re only tied to the stuff of this world, Satan will use that against you. Make sure you’re tied to the next life, store up your treasure there as you live fully here.
  6. The Word
    • This is how God instructs in truth. Just like the armor of truth, it must be applied. But, you will never apply it if you don’t read it. Whatever you do, don’t let everything you know, or even most of what you know about the Bible be second hand. Read it for yourself.

Make sure you put on the whole armor today and live in the protection and security of the Lord!

Below is a link the the full sermon from Sunday:

After the Candles Go Out

Candlelight Service
Candlelight Service

Like most churches, we have done our best to minister during the Christmas season to anyone God put in front of us as well as declare the truth of the Gospel. Having seen many new faces over the last month I guess we can deem this past Christmas season a success. Of course, nothing would make it more of a success than if all those who have come in contact with Jesus this Christmas have been changed by Him. This is not just a goal for those who do not yet believe but also very much a goal for those already a part of the church.

So, now the candles from the Christmas Eve service our blown out and, as we speak, the Christmas decorations are being taken down. It’s time for a new year.

I imagine most people are beginning the new year with thoughts of what the year will bring, some with resolutions, some with regrets looking forward to escaping the past. I guess there’s all kinds of thoughts we can have when a new year approaches. Of course, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have the opportunity to find yourself with hope; hope that the new year can be one that brings you closer in fellowship with Christ, experiencing the life-altering influence of His Spirit and the ability to hear more when your Good Shepherd speaks. I’ve been reflecting a lot on Psalm 96 as I prepare to preach a New Years message this Sunday. I love how so many of the Psalms speak of the newness we find in God, even when we’ve known Him for a long time:

Oh sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth!
(Psalm 96:1)

As a pastor, I often find my personal “hope goals” are often the same as the goals I have for our church. This year, I have one goal in particular:

This year my goal is too big to be a resolution and is probably impossible to measure. As a matter of fact, this goal is something that should be on going and should be, and have always been, the most important goal of my life since meeting Jesus Christ.

This year my goal is to make decisions, act, speak and even think (thinking is probably the most difficult) as if the only thing that matters is what Jesus thinks. Is that crazy or what?!

You see, my thinking is simple. If Jesus Christ is really the creator of the universe (See John 1:1 and Col. 1:16-17) and all of this world is really about what He’s planning and what He’s doing…and…He’s calling me to follow Him, hear His voice and live the life He’s given me, then, my crazy proposal is, I should care about what He thinks.

So, that’s my New Year’s “Hope Goal.” To live, act, move and breath as though what Jesus thinks matters. What do you think? Are you crazy enough to try this with me?

I was struck by the words of Oswald Chambers this morning, as I often am, so let me conclude with an excerpt from My Utmost for His Highest:

“If we have never had the experience of taking our commonplace religious shoes off our common-place religious feet, and getting rid of all the undue familiarity with which we approach God, it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and familiar are those who have never yet been introduced to Jesus Christ. After the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable darkness of realizing Who He is.”

Now that the candles are out, it time for us to live as though Christ has come and that what He thinks really matters. Read More

Focal Point


I’m not much of a photographer, however, like a lot of people I do like to look at a good photograph. I couldn’t tell you what makes a photograph good, I can only tell you when I see it. The only thing I like more than looking at a good photograph is taking one. Fortunately for me, there are cameras these days that do most of the work for you. Automatic settings and focus help non-photographers like me pull off a decent photo every once in a while. For me, it’s pretty much the blind squirrel finding an acorn scenario.

I think the feature that helps the most with my “point and click” is not just the autofocus but my camera automatically locates the focal point. The truth is, unless there’s a focal point, autofocus does little to help.

So it is with the church. The church must have the proper focal point. If it doesn’t then all the focus in the world will amount to nothing. What do you think should be the focus of the church?

Your view of the church growth movement may affect how you answer this question. Also, depending on whether you’re in the vocational ministry or a lay-leader in the church or simply a church attender may make a difference too. However, I fear this question is more commonly answered incorrectly than not. Is church about people, the Great Commission, discipleship, worship services or social justice?

Sure, church should include all these things but none of these should be the focal point of the church. If they are, focus can quickly become attentive to the wrong things.

What, then, should be the ultimate focus of the church?

As I look at the New Testament epistles the answer should be easy. But, how many of our churches, church members and attenders come into “worship” services and programs in our churches and completely miss the focal point? Honestly, it shouldn’t be possible but unfortunately I think it happens all the time.

I could give many, many more references from the Epistles but here are a few to make my point:

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according with the Scriptures…”(1 Corinthians 15:3) Emphasis mine

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…”(2 Corinthians 3:5)

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 6:14)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace…”(Ephesians 2:13-14)

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

“….I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8)

“And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:18)

As I said, I could give many more examples but as Paul wrote to the church, he always focused on the centrality, the focal point of Jesus.

All the difficulties we find in the church: division, dissatisfaction, gossip and faded worship are all symptoms of the real problem, Jesus isn’t the focal point.

But, when Jesus is the focal point the fruits are obvious:

1. Authentic, Spirit and Truth worship in the church.

2. Fulfillment of the great commission including the necessity of discipleship.

3. A heart for others that will result in social justice.

4. Unity within the Body. (Remember, Jesus never causes division within His church. If there’s division, it’s not from Him.)

5. Believers who follow Jesus with obedience [to Jesus] that stems from love for Him and His Word. Obedience to Jesus causes the Christian to abide in Him and therefore produce all kinds of good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)

Lord, help us that Jesus may be our focal point, our only focal point. I understand, by that, the rest of your purpose will come into focus. I pray for Jesus to be our focal point, and I pray it starts with me; today.

What’s a Christian? (Part 1)

I’m going to write a blog series entitled “What is a Christian?” I almost titled it “What is a Christ follower” but I don’t want to confuse the topic. The truth is, there are a lot of ideas of what a Christian is in our culture, even in the church culture, and many of them are not biblical. I also realize there is no shortage of books, blogs and articles discussing this topic but I think another topical discussion may be helpful. I’m preaching a series now through the book of Ephesians and, along with that, a mini-series of the church called “Full Church.” Within the series, each week, I’m making statements about the church: “Church is…”

So, I want to spend some time on the blog making the same type of statements: A Christian is… I would state it like I have in the church series but it would really sound like Forrest Gump, “Christian is as Christian does, sir.”

But what comes to mind when I ask you, what is a Christian?

For me the answer begins with; a person who follows Jesus. But, what does that look like? I’m confident that what some believe defines being a Christ-follower falls short of what Jesus actually says it is. For example, a Christ follower is not someone who calls on Jesus simply when they need something. It’s much more than that. If you confess to being a Christian I probably don’t have to convince you of that but let’s dig a little deeper into the Christian.

Where do we start?

I can think of no place better to begin than Jesus putting Pharisees and Sadducees in their place. It’s always a little fun to see the religiously educated try to play a game of theological tennis with the creator of the universe. In Matthew 16:1 the Pharisees and Sadducees want Jesus to give them a cosmic sign from heaven to prove His Messiahship. (Keep in mind that at this point of the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus has nothing left to prove.)

We can actually learn something about being a Christian in the way Jesus answers their request.

Jesus tells them that though they have no trouble telling the weather, “Red sky at night shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds take warning,” they can’t see what’s going on right in front of them. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “You can’t interpret the signs of times.”

Wouldn’t it be crazy to be so concerned about “God stuff” like the Pharisees are and miss what Jesus was doing right in front of you?

This can happen in the life of the modern day Christian too. I see it most when Christians define Christianity simply as where they’re going when they die. Now, I’m not stating that heaven is a bad thing to be looking for but that is not the definition of a Christian. It would be a tragedy to be simply focused on heaven, or the future, and not realize what Christ is doing in the world and in your life right now.

What’s a Christian?

A Christian is a person who can recognize that God, through Christ and His Spirit, is doing a work in front of us, in the world and in us, right now.

Then You’ll Be A Witness

For my morning Bible reading time during the last month, I’ve been following a pre-made reading plan called “thirty days with Jesus.” I’m constantly looking for Jesus when I read the Bible but it’s been great to spend 30 days in passages that consist of His story on earth and His teaching.

As Jesus instructs His disciples near the end of His life on earth, He spends a lot of time encouraging them about the future. Now, if you’re reading passages like Luke 21, you may wonder how I can use the word, “encouraging.” But, the focus of Christ’s words, in my estimation, are not about the end times as much as that the disciples, and followers of Jesus, will be ok.

Here are a couple of encouragements that I see in Luke 21 as Jesus teaches:

1.     The most difficult days of your life will be when God speaks through your life the most.

Jesus tells the disciples that they’re going to be arrested, imprisoned and some even killed because of the Gospel. But, His encouragement in all that bad news is found in these words: “This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” (Luke 21:13, ESV) In other words, Jesus is telling them, no matter their circumstances, they will be able to live the life to which He’s called them.

The same is true for you and me; difficult circumstances don’t mean that you can’t live your life in Christ today. Actually, Biblically, the opposite is true. Difficult circumstances mean you can live the life Christ has for you.

2.     The Gospel is never bound by circumstances.

If you were to study church history, you would notice that the church flourished when persecution was the highest. There can certainly be an argument for the same today as it’s believed that one of the nations with the fastest growing church is China which is a country that is closed to the Gospel.

Just as it seems the proclamation of the Gospel may be stopped, Jesus’ words to His disciples rings true again. “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21:15, ESV)

Just when I think I can’t be a witness for the greatness of Jesus and His story, He gives me the words and wisdom to do just that.

This is the good news of Jesus’ teaching that can make all the difference for you today. If you’re having a difficult day, this is the greatest opportunity for God to work in and through your life.