Pearls of Purity

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting with my mother and her showing me her beautiful jewelry and explaining to me how she had acquired her different pieces…whether it was a handed down family treasure or a special gift from my father. I vividly recall this one piece of jewelry…a necklace…that she always described as a cultured pearl necklace.

Since my mother’s passing just over 4 years ago, I have kept all her jewelry and oftentimes wear some of her pieces as a meaningful reminder of her amazing love and beauty. I recently pulled out her box of jewelry and saw again the cultured pearl necklace that she would often describe to me.

I never really knew why she always called it a “cultured” pearl necklace instead of just a pearl necklace. After some research, I have finally learned what a cultured pearl is and the difference between a cultured pearl and a natural pearl.

We know pearls to be one of the most valuable and precious natural gems…but in order to understand their value, it is important for us to know just how a pearl is created….because a very important element must be present in the process of making a pearl.

A natural pearl begins to form when a foreign object such as a grain of sand enters an oyster shell. This grain of sand causes friction in the inner tissue of the oyster thus causing the oyster to encapsulate this grain of sand in layers of a substance called nacre. It is this substance nacre which a pearl is actually composed of. The pearl grows in size as the number of nacre layers increases.

This process is truly an amazing act of God, isn’t?! I mean for something so beautiful and precious and pure to develop so perfectly and organically from an oyster at the bottom of the ocean is beyond comprehension to me!

But I would like to draw your attention for a moment to not only the beauty and value of this gem, but to the presence of a very important element here…the grain of sand (foreign object) that causes the friction!

How many of you like friction in your life? I can venture to say more confidently than not that you…like me…are not big fans of friction, right?!

Why? Because friction doesn’t feel good…it makes us uncomfortable.

The word friction is defined as “the rubbing of one body against another; the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact; the clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views; disagreement.

Yup…that sure doesn’t sound too good to me!

However, this friction must be present in order for this grain of sand to develop into a valuable gem that is refined, stainless, spotless, free of blemishes, and free from foreign, contaminating, or inappropriate elements…a pure and natural pearl!

And so, just as this friction must be present in order for this grain of sand to become a beautiful pearl, God allows and uses friction in our lives to develop, refine, and purify us in our character and in areas of our lives.

This friction can occur in your relationship with your spouse, co-worker, friend, family member or child…and many times in your relationship with God!  This friction can be between your will and God’s will for your life… your fleshly desires and God’s desires…what you want to do and what God wants you to do.

Are you experiencing any friction in your life right now? Is there a command that God wants you to obey that is rubbing you the wrong way or making you uncomfortable?

God wants to develop our character….He wants to develop purity…pearls of purity in our lives.

This developing process…this refining process…this purifying process…may not be comfortable… but He wants us to walk in purity in all aspects of our lives so we can be more and more like Him…And He doesn’t just expect us to figure it all out on our own and do it in our own strength!

An oyster producing a beautiful pure pearl is truly an act of God…and we too as Christians cannot form these pearls of purity in our lives apart from God and his strength.

Apart from me [God], you can do nothing. John 15:5 NIV

It is important that we embrace the friction that God allows in our lives for the purpose of developing purity in our character, just as an oyster shell encapsulates…surrounds and embraces…the friction caused by the grain of sand.

In my opening paragraphs, I mentioned the cultured pearl necklace that belonged to my mother. The big difference between a natural pearl and a cultured pearl is that a “natural pearl” is really an act of God in nature whereas a “cultured pearl” is not truly pure in that it has been tampered with.

A cultured pearl develops when it has been purposefully injected by man with a foreign substance in order for the oyster to begin producing a pearl.

Many of us may think that we can become pure or achieve purity in our own strength…in our own efforts. Or we may allow things in this world to tamper or hinder us from allowing God to develop purity in our character and in areas in our lives.

We don’t want to produce pearls in our lives that are cultured…we should desire to develop pure pearls by God working in lives…using the friction to build purity in our character…in our thoughts, actions, and speech.

Are your thoughts, actions, and speech pure? Do they glorify and honor God?

How is your thought life? Do you ever struggle with impure thoughts?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

What do your actions say about you being a Christian? If you claim to be a Christian are you being an example of Christ or are you compromising in your actions?

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 NASB

How is your speech? Is it encouraging and uplifting or more often negative and critical?

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 NASB

The key to victory in developing pearls of purity in your character such as your thoughts, actions, and speech is first your willingness to allow God to help you and second your discipline to make necessary changes.

God wants you to develop purity in your character and allows the friction so that you will rely on Him and not  on yourself and your own strength.

I know friction doesn’t feel good but if we would embrace the friction and rely upon God, he will develop, refine, and purify us in our character and areas in our lives to glorify Him.

He already knows how precious and valuable we are…like that precious and valuable pearl…and He already knows the end result…that we are His masterpiece.

We aren’t perfect and definitely a work in progress for sure…but with His help and strength we can develop these pearls of purity in our lives.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 NLT

As I reflect back, I am not quite sure that my mother knew exactly what a “cultured” pearl meant…but in this case it really doesn’t matter, does it?  The beauty of this necklace still reflects the friction that developed these valuable pearls and even beyond that the treasure it is to me that it belonged to my beautiful mother.

Reflection Points:

1)      Are you experiencing any friction in your life right now? Who or what is involved in this friction?

2)      Is there a command that God wants you to obey that is rubbing you the wrong way or making you uncomfortable?

3)      Can you see how God will allow and use this friction to develop purity in your character and areas of your life?

4)      Are your thoughts, actions, and speech pure? Do they glorify and honor God?

5)      How can you develop pearls of purity in the impure areas of your life?

Action Points:

1)      It is important to embrace the friction in your life and realize that God will use it to develop, refine, and purify your character.

2)      Part of embracing the friction is your willingness to rely upon God to help you. He wants you to depend upon Him and His strength…not your own!

3)      Discipline yourself so that you can make the necessary changes in your thoughts, actions, and speech.

4)      Making these changes is possible when you surround yourself by other Christians and are open to accountability in your life.

5)      Read God’s Word to grasp scriptures that speak to your specific areas of struggle.

6)      Be encouraged that God has a plan and a purpose…even specifically in your “friction”…and that He will build your character and strengthen you greater than you could on your own.

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Happiness?…or Joy

We live in a world where it seems everyone is seeking happiness. Because really? Why wouldn’t anyone want to be happy?

Society is infiltrated with phrases like “Don’t worry, be happy” or “Find your happy place” or “I just want to be happy” …and we live our lives…looking for that person, that family, that job…reaching toward that goal, that accomplishment, that lifestyle…working hard towards buying that house, that car, that thing…whatever that may be…that will ultimately satisfy us and consequently make us happy. And if we can all be honest…we have all been there. I know I have!

But have you ever found that person to marry, reached that goal, purchased that thing, etc. and still have found yourself looking for happiness or something to satisfy and fulfill you?

Not that it is wrong to want to be happy, but unfortunately, many people who are just seeking happiness will find themselves disappointed and dissatisfied.

Because even when you have achieved or received…accomplished or obtained… the very thing in life that you are hoping will make you happy, you realize your happiness is short lived and you find yourself once again saying, “I just want to be happy.”

It’s so important that we realize that happiness tends to be dependent….dependent upon happenings…dependent upon our circumstances…dependent upon other people…dependent upon our moods…dependent upon our emotions…dependent upon our station in life…dependent upon the temporal and external (what is happening outside of us).

Happiness is fleeting, short-lived, and not constant. Still just want to be happy?

At the end of this past July, well-known pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in CA preached for the first time since his son’s death, 4 months prior. His son Matthew suffered from mental illness and unfortunately committed suicide. So tragic and disheartening!

When Rick returned to the pulpit, he had his wife Kay also share some words regarding their family tragedy. And one thing she said that really stood out to me was that as they walked up to their son’s house,  knowing what had just taken place, she pulled out her necklace and showed it to her husband Rick. It said “Choose Joy”.

I mean can you even imagine! Choosing joy when you have just learned of your son’s death! That’s the last thing I would be thinking about or choosing for that matter! How about you?

Not to be facetious by any means, I would venture to say that they were not feeling happy…but because Rick and Kay have “chosen joy” through their pain, they are still giving much hope to the hopeless today.

As Christians, we can be hopeful that God will use “all things”…the good and the bad, the blessings and the pain…in our lives to work things out for good.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NASB

Happiness is sometimes interchanged with joy, however, as I mentioned earlier….Happiness is dependent…Joy is a choice.

According to the dictionary…

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being, a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”

Joy which comes from the word “rejoice,” is defined as “to feel great delight, to welcome or to be glad.”

In the Bible, depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” appear about 30 times, while “joy” and “rejoice” appear over 300 times. Hmmm, this should make you wonder where God’s emphasis is…

So what is the difference between happiness and joy? Why should we choose joy and what does the Bible say about it?

We can certainly gain a greater understanding of why happiness is different from joy by examining the following Bible scriptures and passages.

In Genesis 30:1-13 is the story of two sisters, Rachel and Leah, and their rivalry over their husband, Jacob. Each woman tries to have more male children in order to please Jacob, even using their handmaidens to conceive more offspring. When Leah’s handmaiden, Zilpah, bore Jacob a second son…

Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher. Genesis 30:13 NIV

Thus the word “happy” comes from the Hebrew root word ashar and means “to set right or be blessed.”

We can see from this example that Leah’s happiness was dependent upon external factors…giving her husband Jacob another son.

In the book of Philippians, we can see another example…and example of an individual named Paul who, while imprisoned in Rome, teaches us the difference between happiness and joy and how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances.

Paul uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times in Philippians and talks about his faith and trust in Jesus Christ and how it changed his whole perspective on suffering.

The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice. Philippians 1:18 NIV

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again–rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NLT

The word “joy” comes from the Hebrew root word chevdah and means “rejoicing, gladness” and also comes from the Greek root word chara and means “to be exceedingly glad, cheerfulness.”

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds… James 1:2 NIV

How could we ever consider going through difficulties and trials a reason to feel joy? How could Pastor Rick and Kay Warren “choose joy” in the midst of their tragedy and pain?

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:3-4 NIV

Joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and it is through this perseverance that our faith matures and is strengthened.

So how is this joy possible?

When we accept Jesus Christ not only as our Savior but also our Lord (our master), we can expect this joy to permeate our life whether things are good or whether things are bad…because the Holy Spirit dwells in us and gives us joy.

Joy comes from Jesus who lives in us, not from what’s happening outside of us. Joy is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord.

Joy is internal and constant while happiness is external and dependent upon outward circumstances. And most importantly this joy is everlasting and not fleeting or short-lived!

Again…joy is a choice…it is an attitude towards life. We can choose joy or not. God is our source of joy so we can have the strength to choose joy in the midst of our life circumstances.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10 NIV

It is possible to have true, everlasting, inner joy in our hearts whatever we face in life whether it is good or bad….because ultimately God will “work all things out for good” and as Paul said, “Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”

True joy is eternal because it is based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, which is itself an everlasting source of joy.

So it is my prayer for you and me today…Choose Joy!

Reflection Points:

1)      Are you looking for happiness today? What do you think will bring you happiness…a marriage, an accomplishment, a material object?

2)      Have you ever found that person to marry, reached that goal, purchased that thing, etc. and still have found yourself looking for happiness or something to satisfy and fulfill you?

3)      Do you want to have happiness or joy in your life? And Why?

4)      Do you know the difference between happiness and joy?

5)      Knowing the difference, would you choose joy?

Why Wait?

In our world of modern advances, technology and creativity, we have developed an attitude of “Why wait?” Because really…who likes to wait? I certainly don’t!

Where ever we look, we can see how society…people like you and me… have created a culture and environment of convenience to prevent us from having to wait…for just about anything!

Why wait to watch your TV show with commercials…when you can push your DVR?

Why wait in the long register line at the grocery store… when you can check out quicker on your own?

Why wait at a restaurant to eat…when you can make a reservation ahead of time?

Why wait to cook your family dinner (especially when your kids are screaming at the top of their lungs that they are hungry!)…when you can swing by the drive thru on your way home?

And don’t get me started with our “why wait” style of communication with our I-phones,  I-pads, I- this and I-that!

But there is one area that comes to mind that modern technology and advances continue to try and help us in with our “why wait” attitude…and that is with our desire to get into better physical shape…whether that is losing weight or developing stronger muscles or just being healthier. Even though there have been weight-loss pills and other products created to help meet our physical goals, it still comes down to our diets, exercise, and flat out discipline that truly bring about the results that we desire.

I still can’t figure out why God created us in such a way  that we can exercise for months…  control our food intake…exert a lot of energy, sweat, and tears just to get into the physical shape we desire…and then? We stop our training for just a few weeks and we fall right back out of shape! Certainly a question I will be asking God in heaven one day!

However, this is a perfect example for us to experience the concept of having to wait in order to see the end result of whatever we are waiting for.

Waiting to reach our physical goals especially when we have been disciplined…sweating for weeks and working hard with our diet and exercise…sometimes months…can be challenging.

And so it can be challenging as well when God is asking us to wait…for whatever that may be.

Is God asking you to wait today?

What about when God is asking you to wait…and you aren’t even sure when your wait will end?

Why would our all-powerful God have us wait when He is so sovereign and almighty and can make things happen in an instant?

Why wait?

Because when God is asking you to wait…it isn’t just about what you are hoping for at the end of the wait, but about what you will become…in the wait. 

Whatever you are waiting for today…it is in the wait that you will develop your spiritual muscles of faith…it is in the wait that you will be rescued from yourself and will give God control… is in the wait that you will be molded, shaped, and transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ… it is in the wait that you will grow stronger in your faith.

Waiting develops your spiritual muscles….waiting develops your faith.

Just as your physical muscles must be exercised, stretched, and fed in order to grow…so too your spiritual muscles must be exercised, stretched, and fed in order to grow in your faith….and this happens while you are in the wait.

Exercising Your Spiritual Muscles

Exercising your physical muscles will strengthen and grow your muscles just as exercising your spiritual muscles will strengthen and grow your faith.

Spending time reading God’s word, praying, and even fasting are just a few ways we can exercise our spiritual muscles.

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Proverbs 4:20-22 NIV

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105 NLT

Stretching Your Spiritual Muscles

Just as stretching plays a critical role in building your physical muscles by allowing them to expand the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles, stretching your spiritual muscles helps you grow in your faith and go beyond what you would try to do in your own power and strength.

Our faith will be tested and we will experience this stretching when we demonstrate, for example, patience, when we really want to take control…forgiveness, when we really don’t want to forgive…and self-control, when we really want to say something we shouldn’t.

Stretching our spiritual muscles will develop our character, develop perseverance, and strengthen our faith.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV

Feeding Your Spiritual Muscles

Just as your physical muscles need to be nourished with food in order to grow so too your spiritual muscles need to be nourished with “spiritual food”…God’s word.

We need to feed ourselves “spiritual food”…God’s word… in order for our faith to grow. The more we feed on God’s word…the more we will understand our God and believe His promises for us…the more we will depend on and trust in Him…thus causing our faith to grow.

A great place in the bible that will surely grow your faith is feeding on Hebrews 11 which has been coined “The Hall of Faith”. I love this chapter because when we read about the faith of others in the bible and what God has done for them, we will be encouraged and our faith will consequently grow!

When your words came, I ate them, they were my joy and my heart’s delight… Jeremiah 15:16 NIV

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 AKJV

These are the tools God uses to shape our spiritual muscles of faith. God is not just interested in the end result of what you are waiting for but what you will become…in the wait.

Waiting is by no means easy…but God isn’t about easy. He is about building our faith. Our faith can grow or weaken…in the wait. Which one are you going to choose?

Reflection Points:

1)      Is God asking you to wait today?

2)      What are you doing …in the wait?

3)      Is you faith growing stronger or getting weaker…in the wait?d

4)      What can you do to build your faith…in the wait?

Action Points:

Exercise, Stretch, and Feed your spiritual muscles…in the wait!  Review the points above on how to do this practically so that your faith will grow and be strengthened…in the wait.

Forgiveness

I have come to accept …as you probably have as well…that people are not perfect…and they will disappoint us. Certainly not shocking news…and usually those who may disappoint us are people we are very close to ….and for me that very well may be my wonderful husband Billy.

There are times that my husband will say things that may disappoint me…and yes even hurt my feelings. Ok, not so wonderful but here comes the wonderful part!

My husband can be very black and white and we often joke that he needs to sometimes find shades of gray! I think it’s the “coach” in him…But the one thing that I have always admired about him is that he is quick to ask for forgiveness…almost too quick!

Let me explain… When he hurts my feelings, he apologizes and asks for forgiveness immediately…and my thoughts? Well my feelings are hurt! I am still upset! I am not ready to accept his apology just yet and forgive him. I mean give me a moment here!

However, regardless, I am supposed to forgive him…even through my hurt feelings. Whether Billy is right in what he said and I was just emotional about it or whether he was wrong in what he said and I was still emotional about it…I must still forgive him.

And truthfully…I really need to forgive him even if he didn’t apologize or ask me to forgive him. It is one thing to forgive someone when they apologize for a wrong but what about when they don’t apologize?  Ouch! That one is a tough one I know!

Do you know the difference between giving an apology and asking for forgiveness? This is pretty interesting…

Apology is defined as … “a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another; a statement saying that you are sorry about something.”

Forgiveness is defined as… “granting pardon for or remission of an offense, debt, etc.; absolve; granting pardon to a person; ceasing to feel resentment against; stop feeling anger toward someone who has done something wrong.”

So giving an apology is basically telling someone you are sorry for a wrong while asking for forgiveness is asking someone to pardon a wrong and to no longer feel resentment or anger towards the one who wronged them.

Have you ever said that you have forgiven someone but you still harbored feelings of bitterness, resentment, or anger in your heart?

An apology is something written or spoken…forgiveness is something that takes place in your heart.

I am trying to teach my children the difference as well. When one wrongs another, instead of just apologizing and saying they are sorry, I want them to learn to ask for forgiveness. They may not fully understand this concept just yet but my hope is that forgiveness is slowly sown into their hearts as they continue to grow older and mature.

The Bible is very clear about forgiveness and Jesus isn’t messing around…

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 NIV

I believe there are 3 important aspects about forgiveness…

1)      Accepting God’s Forgiveness

2)      Forgiving Others

3)      Asking for Forgiveness

1) Accepting God’s Forgiveness

When we truly understand and accept God’s forgiveness towards us, then we will better understand the other 2 aspects of forgiveness.

Have you ever felt guilty for something you have done and wondered how God could ever forgive you? Do you know that no sin is too big or too great for God to forgive?

Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from EVERY lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14NASB

It is easy for us to have feelings of guilt and shame but God does not want us to feel that way…feelings of guilt are not from God!

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1NASB

We can have a clean slate with God! He is a loving, compassionate, and gracious God! He says that He will trample our sins under his feet and cast them into the ocean depths (Micah 7:19)…and that He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers them no more! (Psalm 103:10-13)

God wants us to come to Him, confess our wrong, and ask for forgiveness. He is a forgiving God! He sent His son Jesus to die on the cross for us…for you and for me…so we may be forgiven for our sins.

But one of the biggest challenges that I believe we face is …we don’t forgive ourselves. Why? If God… our almighty, powerful and sovereign God…can forgive us, than why can’t we forgive ourselves?

Check out this perspective…

When we can’t forgive ourselves then what we are really saying is that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t good enough! The beatings, the torture, the blood that was shed…the death, burial, and resurrection…wasn’t good enough!

It wasn’t good enough? Really?

Of course it was! …Ladies we can be free of all guilt and shame… and the Lord will even heal our hurts/pains when we confess our sins and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness!!!

2) Forgiving Others

Forgiving others for the wrong they have done to you can be very difficult.  Wouldn’t you agree? …Many times this can involve those closest to you… a father or mother, family member, ex-husband, a child, coworker, etc.

Why?  Because especially as women we get our feelings hurt. We get emotional… And let’s not forget our pride…

We may say that we have forgiven someone but still hold against them what they did to us. We may say that we have forgiven someone but continue to remember and even remind them of the wrong they did.

It is one thing to forgive when someone apologizes for the wrong but what about when they don’t apologize?

No matter how many times someone has wronged us…whether they apologize or not…we are called as Christians to forgive them. Note: Forgiving that person doesn’t mean you are saying what they did was right.

Peter asks “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister when he sins against me?  I tell you not, seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21 NIV

God understands our pains and hurts! Our feelings of hurt are very valid. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be hurt when someone wrongs you, but what I am saying is that we have a choice…a choice to forgive…and through this forgiveness God will heal us too!

Forgiving others is…

not about the other person…

not about accepting or justifying what they did to you…

not saying what they did to you was ok…

not dependent upon their apology or lack thereof.

Forgiving others is…about you.

When we forgive others regardless of what they have done to us or how they have hurt us, it gives us freedom and releases us of carrying a burden we don’t need to carry.

Do not let what happened in the past keep you there and cause you to be hurt as you play it over and over in your mind. Because that person has probably moved on and it’s time for you to also! Let it go and release it to God. He is a just God!

3) Asking for Forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness is certainly not easy especially if our feelings have been hurt. The reality though is that some of us may be prideful or just flat out stubborn. (Oh I know that’s me!)We want to wait for the other person to approach us first.

Asking for forgiveness can be difficult because we don’t know how the other person will respond or if they will accept your apology or forgive you. It doesn’t matter! You are in doing what God is asking you to do!

Forgiveness begins with humbleness…Whether it’s humbling ourselves before another person or humbling ourselves before God. (2 Chronicles 7:14) We need to take responsibility and do our part.

We can ask others to forgive us when we have wronged them because that is what God wants us to do.

We can come to God with confidence because he is a gracious God!

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV

Have you forgiven yourself for a wrong you have done? Is there someone you need to forgive today? Who do you need to ask forgiveness from today? Trust me I know it isn’t easy but healing begins when we can accept and ask for forgiveness.

What are you waiting for?

Reflection Points:

1)      Have you ever felt guilty for something you have done and wondered how God could ever forgive you? Do have a hard time accepting God’s forgiveness? Why?

2)      Do you have a hard time forgiving others who have wronged and hurt you deeply?

3)      Is there someone you need to forgive right now? What is holding you back?

4)      Do you have a hard time asking for forgiveness when you have wronged or hurt someone? Do your feelings or pride get in the way of asking for forgiveness?

Action Points:

1)      If you have a hard time accepting God’s forgiveness or face feelings of guilt and shame, it is important to understand that we serve a forgiving and gracious God who doesn’t want us to feel guilty or shameful. Confess your sins to God and pray for the Lord to help you and remove these feelings. Remind yourself of these scriptures.

2)      If you experience bitterness, resentment, and anger in your heart…pray and ask the Lord to search your heart and show you if there is anyone that you still need to forgive and release to Him. Yes…feelings of hurt are valid when someone has hurt you but God is our ultimate healer and He will heal the brokenhearted! (Psalm 147:3)

3)      If you have a difficult time asking for forgiveness…pray that the Lord would show you why and remove those feelings that hinder you…whether it is fear, hurt, or pride.

Your Daily Armor

Getting 2 little boys dressed every morning sure has its challenges! As one complains that he wants to wear a particular dinosaur t-shirt, the other complains that he wants to wear his construction truck t-shirt…As one wants to wear his jeans, the other wants to wear his shorts…As one wants to wear socks and shoes, the other wants to wear his croc shoes…and oh the daily battles begin!

As their mother, my job is to make sure they are properly dressed for the day…whether their clothes are specific for a particular activity…for a specific weather forecast…or just for their morning at school.

My job is to provide them with the proper attire and encourage them to wear what I have provided…and whether they choose to put on their jacket, for instance, as the weather is now cooling down, is their choice…because once they are dropped off at school, I am unable to enforce the need to put on their jacket in the cooler weather. I have provided what they need…but they need to take action and put it on.

And so it is for us as Christians…

God has provided us with proper attire to wear on a daily basis. He has provided us with a daily spiritual armor to prepare us for our day…to provide us with protection…to even arm us to fight when we face daily challenges and possible battles.

We as Christians…as children of God… have an enemy, Satan the devil, who is very real…who wants to steal, kill and destroy us! (John 10:10) We have an enemy who prowls around constantly seeking to destroy those who are weaker than he is. (1Peter 5:8) We have an enemy who is a liar and considered the father of lies who will tempt us and bombard us with fears, worries, doubts, and insecurities. (John 8:44)

Do you ever feel bombarded with fears, worries, doubts, and insecurities?

If the devil can’t keep you from being from saved, you better believe that he will do everything in his power to cause you to…be tempted…be distracted… stumble…get you off track…and get your focus off of God!

But as God’s children, we have been given the power to overcome the enemy…

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1John 4:4 NIV

God has provided us with power…His daily spiritual armor…but we are the ones that need to take action and put it on!  This is how we can be ready and prepared to fight whatever darts and flaming arrows the enemy throws our way!

What does it mean to put on the Armor of God daily? Do you put on God’s spiritual armor every day?

The Armor of God

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV

Paul was actually in prison when he wrote about this “Armor of God”.  Because Paul had no other company than the Roman soldiers who were guarding him, we can see that he really knew in detail what the soldier’s armor looked like. Because really…what else did he have to do?

And even more amazing…It has been said that Paul was actually chained to a Roman soldier in his last few years in prison! Can you believe that? Seriously? Way too close for comfort for me! I mean isn’t it bad enough spending all that time in prison but then having a guy chained to you too?

The first interesting point to note about this Armor of God in verse 13 is that we need to “put on the full armor of God” …not just part of the armor!

We are to put on the “whole armor.” We are not to go armed partly with what God has appointed, and partly with such weapons as people use; nor are we to put on “a part” of the armor only, but the “whole” of it. A man needs “all” that armor if he is about to fight the battles of the Lord; and if he lacks “one” of the weapons which God has appointed, defeat may be the consequence. Barnes Commentary

In order to gain a greater perspective of this Armor of God, each piece of armor is described below as it relates to a Roman soldier and then as it relates to us as Christians. This will provide us with a greater understanding of why we need to put on each piece of armor daily and how we can do it!

Belt of Truth (vs14)

Just as a soldier’s belt holds his armor in place and carries his weapons, the truth holds our spiritual armor together. So as Christians, we must first understand what truth is.

Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6 NIV

The truth is that when Jesus died on the cross, he made a way for all people to be free from the power of sin. Just as the belt held a soldier’s armor down and helped keep everything in place, so Jesus in our lives keeps us in order and keeps us together.

Breastplate of Righteousness (vs14)

In a suit of armor, the breastplate is a very important piece of equipment to the Roman soldier because its purpose is to guard the soldier’s heart and other very important organs. Without a solid breastplate, a soldier could easily be killed with one blow from the enemy’s sword or arrow.

We put our breastplate of righteousness on when we put our faith in Jesus. (Being righteous is being right, perfect, or without sin.) Righteousness is a byproduct of faith as we trust in God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. God is righteous and the only way for us to be righteous is by having faith in Jesus who died to take away our sin. (Romans 3:22) He is our strength in our times of weakness! (2Cor 12:9)

Feet Fitted with Readiness (vs15)

Footwear was essential for the Roman soldier. According to historians, a soldier’s shoes were studded with sharp nails. These shoes would allow them to travel great distances in short time to navigate through rough terrain with ease. The modern day equivalent would be some sort of combination of combat boots and cleats used for outdoor sports like football and baseball.

The bible tells us to be prepared or ready with the gospel of peace to give us sure footing. The gospel of peace is being sure that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are saved from our sin and we have nothing to fear from God or people.

The idea seems to be that the mind is to be steadied, kept from fear and flutter, by means of the good news of peace – the good news that we are at peace with God; and “if God be for us, who can be against us?”(Romans 8:31) Pulpit Commentary

We too may have to walk through rough times…rough terrain like the soldiers…but with adequate footwear “fitted with readiness”, we can walk through those difficult times and come out unharmed. We can only have this sure footing when we have put our trust in Jesus.

Shield of Faith (vs16)

The soldier’s shield is used to defend himself against the enemy’s attack. It is in essence the armor’s armor. If a soldier’s shield was hit by a flaming arrow, the shield would still burn…so before soldiers went into battle, they would soak the shields in water. The wet linen and leather would stop the shield from igniting…even when there was a flaming arrow embedded into it.

So what is our shield? Our shield is the knowledge that our God has our lives in his full view and that He is in control of every situation and circumstance that comes against us.

True faith is…not only believing that Jesus is our Savior… but believing and trusting Jesus for His promises, His love, His grace and His return. It is having faith that whatever comes our way is in His hands.

(For more about the significance of this shield of faith, check out one of my earlier devotions called “Don’t Drop Your Shield!”)

Helmet of Salvation (vs17)

The helmet is one of the most important pieces of armor because it protects the soldier’s head. Without a helmet, the soldier would be easily crushed.

Paul compares our salvation to a helmet. Salvation is being saved from the punishment that we deserve because of our sin. Putting on the helmet of salvation is really denoting that we recognize each and every second of the day that we saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is important because Satan will lie to us trying to convince us that we aren’t good enough to be saved or that we can exceed the limit of God’s grace.

Sword of the Spirit (vs18)

The sword is the only offensive weapon a soldier has to strike his enemy. All the previously mentioned pieces of armor are for defense…for protection.

As Christians, the sword is the word of God. It our offensive weapon to fight the enemy.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword… Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

Even Jesus used the word of God to fight the enemy when he was tempted in the desert! (Matthew 4:1-11) What better reason than that to read God’s word and  memorize scriptures to have in your arsenal to fight when Satan attacks you with fears, doubts, and lies! I have experienced in my own life the great power in speaking God’s word…His scriptures…out loud!

To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

So are you ready now to put on the Armor of God daily?

As I pick and choose which daily battles to fight with my 2 little boys, my hope is that they  will not only put on the proper attire that I have provided for them…but that as they grow up they will understand the importance of putting on God’s armor…so that they too will be armed and equipped mighty warriors in God’s army!

Reflection Points:

1)      Do you ever feel attacked with fears, doubts, lies, or insecurities?

2)      Do you know that as Christians we have a enemy who is very real and will attack us?

3)      How do you handle the enemy’s attacks?

4)      Do you put on the full Armor of God on a daily basis?

Action Points:

1)      It is important to understand that as children of God, we have been given the power to defend ourselves and fight against the enemy and his schemes. God has provided us with His spiritual armor to wear each day.

2)      God has given us one weapon the Sword of the Spirit to fight against the enemy. It is important that we read God’s word and memorize scriptures so that when we are overcome with fear, doubt, anxiousness, or insecurities we can fight back with God’s word.