Armor of God

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 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. 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. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

www.bible.com/116/eph.6.11.nlt

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Does it ever seem that the circumstances you face are so complicated that there is no way out? No matter which way you turn, you only see trouble.  In those moments, we have a tendency to focus on the problem rather than God and His power to conquer any obstacle.  When problems arise, we begin to question.  What are we going to do?  How are we going to overcome this?  In Exodus 14 while escaping the oppression of the Egyptians, the Israelites began to question why they were brought to the desert, what Moses had done by leading them out of Egypt, and why they even agreed to follow him.

Exodus 14:13-14 says, Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.   They were focused on the obstacles, and their thoughts and actions were controlled by fear.  How often do we find ourselves in that same situation?  Instead of focusing on the problem, who to blame, and how we can fix it, we must turn our focus to God.

As stated above in Exodus 14, sometimes we must calm our fears, be still, pray, and trust God to make a way in His perfect time.  Other times though He may tell us to “get moving”.  Exodus 14:15 says, then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.  In other words, “I’m opening the door, now you need to follow my instructions and just move on through it”.

Psalm 77:16 says, When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled!  The sea trembled at the power of God; there is no obstacle which is greater than His power!  Psalm 77:19 goes on to say, “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”  God was able to part the Red Sea leaving a dry path for the Israelites to cross escaping from the Egyptians, and He still has the power today to open doors for us that we may not even know are an option.

I’m sure it was terrifying for the Israelites to step out onto that ocean floor with an enormous wall of water on either side!  The door that God opens for us may be scary, but if we’ll just trust Him and move on through it, we will see the power of His deliverance.

When it seems as though the enemy is winning, God is still in control and knows exactly what to do. So instead of focusing on the problem and how we can fix it, we must not let fear control our actions.  We must choose to trust God and wait patiently for Him to make a way.  We must obey and move on through when He says it’s time.  Even when our problem seems as big as the Red Sea with no apparent solution, God has the power to make a way!

Dandelion Attitudes

Now that I’m teaching middle school students, I no longer receive sweet, dandelion bouquets, but the message of this old post still applies. God constantly holds us in His hand like a beautiful bouquet, bitterness and all, and He continues to loves us through it.

Strength Renewed

A carefully picked bouquet of dandelions was handed to me by one of my students.  To her dismay, an unappreciative boy pointed out that dandelions are actually nothing but a bitter weed.  The little girl was crushed.  The bouquet she worked so hard to create and was so proud to present to her teacher was suddenly nothing but a bunch of weeds.  I quickly pointed out to the class that there are many weeds that produce pretty flowers.  As bitter as a dandelion may be, it still has a certain beauty to offer.

A little research revealed that dandelions have many good qualities.  Although bitter-tasting, they are surprisingly nutritious containing calcium, iron, vitamins B and C, just to name a few.  Dandelions also have medicinal uses.  They are such a great diuretic that children sometimes wet the bed after playing with them. Who would have thought that bed wetting could be caused by playing…

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Bucket Full of Joy

What makes you happy? Many of us think if we just made more money or could win the lottery, we would be happy. For some, our happiness is based on relationships such as marriage or friendships. For others, happiness revolves around sports. And of course, if we can’t find happiness in other things, we tend to search for happiness in CHOCOLATE!

Unfortunately chocolate is not enough for the things that have been going on lately. Last week our country was rocked by an intentional bombing at the Boston Marathon injuring many innocent people on April 15. Just days later West, Texas was devastated by the explosion at a fertilizer plant on April 17. The same week marked the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19 and the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20. Many in our nation were affected personally on a scale that is unimaginable. Whether you were affected personally or not, however, you WERE affected. We often find ourselves glued to the television in shock wondering how such things could happen.

Aside from national tragedies, we all have personal issues that often rock our world. Deaths, strained relationships, illness, heartache, and so many other things affect the happiness of our daily lives. Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Unfortunately that does not literally mean we will weep through the night and tomorrow everything will be ok. But instead it assures us that there WILL be a time of joy even in the midst of our trials.

The happiness that things such as money, relationships, sports, and chocolate provide is NOT the same as joy. Happiness comes and goes, but joy is long lasting and brings true contentment. Happiness causes short term pleasure, but joy is long lasting. Happiness isn’t something that you can cling to during the trials of life, but real joy endures the trials. True joy is only found through a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I’ve never had to retrieve water from a well. When I was young we had a well, but it had a pump. But like me, if you haven’t actually done it, you’ve probably observed it on Little House on the Prairie or some other show. Water didn’t just come out the sink by turning a knob as it does for us today. A bucket tied to a rope was lowered down into the well and then rolled back up and carried to the house for use.

For Christians, joy is like a bottomless well of water. The water is always there, but we have to lower the bucket to get it. It takes effort on our part. We can’t just turn the knob and expect joy to flow freely. We must make the choice each day to lower our bucket. So how exactly do we get the joy into our bucket?

  1. Pray – When things are out of your control, pray as if every aspect of the situation hinges on your prayer. James 5:16 says, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Prayer is not a one-sided conversation for you to tell God what you want or how you feel. He wants to talk to you too, but often we do not take the time to listen.
  2. Believe – Trust God to bring you through it. Psalms 34:19 says, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” His plan is not our plan, so things may not work out exactly how we wanted. But He WILL carry you through. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
  3. Read the Bible – Search for what God wants you to learn. Don’t just sit down to read quickly through a daily plan. Take the time to search for what God wants to say to you through those verses.
  4. Look for positive aspects of life – Each day make an effort to find one good thing no matter how desperate your situation. Record those blessings in a Gratitude Journal so that you can see and hold in your hand all the blessings He bestowed during the trials.
  5. Avoid whining and complaining – Instead of making you feel better, complaining actually highlights the negative, keeping it your focus, and just makes the situation worse.
  6. Serve others – Doing something for someone else in their time of need helps you forget your own troubles for a moment and increases your joy while decreasing your stress.
  7. Laugh – Laughing actually provides many benefits. It relaxes the body, relieves stress and pain, benefits heart and immune systems. Laughter really is good medicine. So watch a funny movie, hang out with a friend who tells stupid jokes, or whatever makes you laugh.

Finally, guard your bucket. Don’t allow Satan to steal your joy. He wants to rob you of your joy and will use anything possible to discourage us, cause us to worry, and even create doubt. When it seems that your Bucket Full of Joy is running low, go back to the well. Make sure that you are praying, believing, and reading your Bible. Make the choice every day to lower your bucket, and remember Psalms 30:5 which says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

We won’t always be happy, but we can still have joy in the midst of the chaos.

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Still Small Voice

Do you ever search for direction from God? When I need his guidance, I would like to get some type of huge announcement or spectacular display so there’s no doubt what God wants me to do. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear an audible voice like that of Morgan Freeman, see an enormous billboard, or feel the heat of a burning bush? We watch and wait for an extraordinary sign that will announce His will, but God is often found not in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary.

In 1 Kings 19, Elija is in quite a mess after proving Baal was not the mighty god that many prophets claimed. His life has been threatened. He is feeling very alone and possibly sunk into a deep depression due to the circumstances. Elijah truly needed a sign from God.

Verses 11-12 say, “And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

When Elijah needed to hear God’s voice, there were massive events that Elijah probably assumed would lead to hearing from God. But even when God wasn’t in any of those moments, Elijah had enough faith to keep waiting. Eventually he heard not a loud booming voice, but instead, the still small voice of God.

When someone whispers, we have a tendency to pay closer attention. I know my eighth grade students all strain to hear every word if someone in the room is whispering. As I get older, I have discovered that I must focus even more to hear a whisper as I get older. If only we all strived that intently to hear God’s still small voice.

So why would God speak to us in such a quiet voice? Maybe His desire is simply that we draw near to Him. Stop looking for a huge announcement. Slow down, tune out all the distractions, and just focus on what He has to say. If we truly want to hear God’s voice, we need to purposely go to a quiet place and listen closely for that still small voice.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We’ve probably all said it or at least thought it when an unexpected crisis left us gasping for breath. Accidents happen. Bad decisions are made. Illness suddenly strikes. Death occurs. These events are not a part of our plan and will shake us to our core.

Before David was crowned king, he experienced one of these life shattering moments. In 1 Samuel 30, he and his men returned home to find their city in ruins and their families had been taken captive. Verse 4 says, So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.

The remainder of chapter 30 tells how David faced an unexpected crisis and provides some valuable lessons for our own challenges, even the small stuff.

1. Find strengthIt’s okay to cry, but find strength from the Lord as David did. (v. 6)

2. Pray for God’s direction – David inquired of the Lord (v. 8). Don’t react out of anger but instead seek God first.

3. Fight the enemy if God leads – Don’t allow Satan to knock you down and win. Get back up and fight! (v. 8, 17)

4. Some people may not stick with you or may turn against you – David’s men turned against him (v.6) and some were too exhausted to go to battle with David (v. 9-10). Unfortunately, your problems may be too intense for some friends to handle. Be thankful for those who offer support.

5. Minister to others despite your own crisis – David took time to stop and care for a man in need (v. 11). Ministering to others’ needs can relieve some of the stress of your own situation.

6. Share God’s blessings and grace with others – David shared the plunder with all (v. 26) Don’t keep to yourself God’s blessings through this crisis. You never know how it may help someone else.

When life isn’t going the way you thought it would, are you going to allow the unexpected crisis to break you, or will you jump up ready for battle? Satan will be waiting to crush your spirit, but instead go to God and ask Him how you should proceed. There is no crisis greater than God’s power and direction.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. There are many seasons in life, and some will be difficult. But praise God there will also be many times to laugh and dance!

Well it’s that time again. Time to reflect on the past year, time to consider behaviors and attitudes that need to be adjusted, and time to refocus on those things that are most important.

As a new year approaches, Psalm 91:1 seems to be standing out for me. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

What is this secret place? It is a place of constant communion or close fellowship with God. When we stay closely connected to Him, we will also reside under His shadow where we will find rest from the heat that often makes a situation seem unbearable. His shadow also provides a shade of protection and a refuge from the storm. It’s a place where we can find comfort, peace, and safety.

When I am far from God, not relying on Him or worshipping Him daily, then I am also far from the comfort of His shadow. That’s when I find myself sweating the small stuff and frustrated that the heat is so intense. I may feel desperate, begin to doubt God, and take matters into my own hands. What I need is to move back to that secret place and recommit to Him.

Whether your New Years’ Resolution is to do away with bad habits or to improve some aspect of yourself, the most important key is to habitually dwell in the secret place because doing it alone often leads to resolutions that are quickly tossed aside.

This year, before making any other resolution, make a new commitment to live in the shelter of the Most High,

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