Monthly Archives: June 2015

First Responders – Called to Serve

Peninsula Community Church

First Responders – Called to Serve

June 28, 2015

Good morning to all that are here today. Today, we celebrate those within our community that have given themselves tirelessly to serve and protect each of us. Today, we have representatives from the various first responders represented in our communities (Selbyville Fire Department and Sussex County Emergence Services). Over the last couple of years and specifically over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to experience what these servants go through every day. From the Paramedics and EMTs who respond to that call when you are sick, having difficulty breathing, or having cardiac arrest to the fire fighter who responds when there is a fire or car accident to the police officer who risks his life each day to protect us every day, these men and women are truly servants. In my short filled career as a volunteer chaplain for the paramedics and doing the ride-a-longs, I have witnessed the professionalism of those who get that call and who respond at a moments notice. I have been on the paramedic truck when they have received 7 or 8 back-to-back calls in a 12 hour shift and you don’t have time to grab lunch or a take a break. I have been on the truck when you have experienced that call for the drowning, the cardiac arrest, or the 9 month old baby that is not breathing.

In the last few months, I have begun to serve the Selbyville Fire Department as an associate member. Through the fire department I have witnessed the call that goes out that could be 1 or 2 in the afternoon or 1 or 2 in the morning but you respond faithfully and professionally. As with the paramedics and the EMTs, I have witnessed the calls to the frequent flyer who is looking for their drug fix or they are lonely and want someone to respond. I have witnessed the patient who is more than grateful and sorrowful that they got you up to come help them. And I have seen those who are belligerent and nasty in their approach to you providing them a needed service.

As a church, we thank you for serving us so well. You are truly all servants of the community. Webster’s dictionary define’s a servant as one who is devoted to or guided by something! We all thank you this morning for being devoted to serve this community whenever you are called. We thank you because you serve us all equally based on the need and not the individual who is being served.

As we consider servanthood, we remember that the Bible has much to say about being a servant. We are also reminded that Jesus was considered the greatest servant of all. Listen to these words. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).

When we think of the First responders we think of those who are servants. In my opinion, First Responders epitomize servanthood. As I thought about this idea of servanthood, I thought of specify qualities that define what servanthood is all about. These qualities include but are not limited to the following. First Responders are courageous. First Responders are flexible. First Responders are faithful and dedicated to what they do. And finally First Responders  are selfless, they put others first. Let’s take a brief moment and define these.

Let us look at the fact that First Responders are courageous. We have heard it said that First Responders run in when others are running out. They respond when the call goes out for a “shots fired” or “building on fire.” To define the term courageous we might use words such as brave, fearless, heroic, bold, daring, and gutsy.

As we look at this idea of courage too often we think of courage as not having any fear but real courage is not a lack of fear but it is fear in control. Nelson Mandel has stated “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Ralph Waldo Emerson stated A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer. Here is a fact, First Responders push beyond the fear and respond with courage when others would shrink away. Thank you for your courage.

Secondly, First Responders are always ready. Being a First Responder is never convenient as they do not choose the hour or the event that needs a response. No matter the hour of day or the time of night the First Responder is ready to respond. They may have just sat to eat their lunch or dinner when a call goes out. First Responders are always ready for action whether it is a cardiac arrest, a drowning, the frequent flyer, a car accident, a house fire, or an emergency call where no one knows for sure what is happening. What many do not know is that First Responders are always learning and expanding their skills. Why? It is so they can be the best they can be at what they do and so they will always be ready to respond at any time. First Responders are always ready. And for that we say thank you.

Thirdly, First Responders are faithful and they are dedicated to the cause they are called to. Whether it is a call at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in morning they respond. It might be the same person you have transported a hundred times but you respond because you are faithful and you are dedicated to your calling. You treat each one with respect and you provide the same care to all. You remain dedicated even when you don’t always receive the thanks you should. You are dedicated even when you are chasing down the report of a power line that is down and you have to search for it in the pouring rain only to find that there is no wire down and you have been driving up and down the road looking for the wire. Thank you for being faithful and dedicated to your job.

Fourthly, first responders are selfless. Not only are First Responders courageous, not only are they always ready, not only are they always faithful to the task but they are also selfless. They give of themselves when they are tired and when they are exhausted. They will leave their dinner at the table or they are awakened from their sleep to respond to a call. Most of those who respond in times of need are volunteers. They do not get paid for what they do but they still do it because they live a selfless life and give of yourself so others can they live and have life. We thank you for that.

As we look at the First Responder, we see that in many ways First Responders model the life of Christ. It is my belief First Responders are often the hand of God extended to those who are in need. As we consider that, I am reminded that Christ was also courageous. We do not always think of Christ as being courageous, but He was willing to leave the glory of heaven to become a man here on earth. He came so that He would face all of the temptation and anxiety that we face each day. He took these things on so that he could understand our life and have a human perspective about this life. The only difference between Christ and mankind is that he faced these things without sin. Christ was courageous when he stood His ground and He faced the enemy and won. He ran in when others ran away. He was courageous as he took that journey to the cross. He was courageous when he gave himself for us that we could live this life free from our past and our past wrongs. A second point here is that he is not only courageous but He brings courage to those in despair and who have lost hope. Have you lost hope today? I suggest that you turn to the one who is courageous and fights for you.

Secondly, Christ is always ready. Throughout scripture, we find that the Bible tells us that God never leaves us nor does He forsake us. He is always ready to bring hope and life to us even when we are despondent and discouraged. The Bible tells us that if we draw near to Him that He will draw near to us. When we are in need, He is alway ready to respond to our need. Just as an EMT or Paramedic responds to every call, Jesus Himself responds to our cry for help. That is what we call prayer. No call is minimized. Christ is always ready to respond when we place that call to him by way of prayer. We call and He answers because He is always ready.

Thirdly, Christ is always faithful and dedicated. Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Hebrews 3:5-6). God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthian 6:9). If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Here is the beauty of Christ. Even if we lose faith in Him or in our circumstances, He never loses faith or hope in us. He remains faithful. He is dedicated to all that follow Him. Here is a key point that we must understand. There is nothing you can do that would cause Christ to not love you or not respond to you. There is so much in life to destroy our faith and diminish our hope but with Christ we can rest assured that He is faithful to us. He does not leave us nor does He reject us. He always loves us. He is dedicated to us and he is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness when we call on his name. There is no need too great or no need too small that He is not interested.

Fourthly, Christ was selfless. Paul grasped this better than most. when he stated, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8).

He left heaven to come as a man! He came to give himself freely and selflessly for us. Jesus came as the ultimate servant. He came to serve us so we could understand how to truly live. The scripture here tells us that he emptied himself and was willing to die to save others. That is the greatest of all selfless acts possible. To give oneself so another could live that is the greatest act of selflessness known to man.

We have seen this morning that First Responders are courageous, always ready, they are dedicated, and they are selfless. We have seen that Christ is courageous, always ready, dedicated to us and has proven himself to be selfless. So how do you respond to Christ? First of all, do you live courageously? Do we live life to the fullest? Do we stand for truth? You may not be fighting a fire or answering a call to the police but we all have issues in our life that requires us to respond with courage and strength.

Secondly, do you live in an attitude of readiness? Are you ready to serve others. Are you ready to be engaged in life with a cause? The call you receive may not be to a house fire or to shots fired but we all have the opportunity to the live for God. Are you ready?

Thirdly, do you live as one that is faithful and dedicated? Are you faithful to the task you have been called to whether that is work, family, or where you volunteer? And fourthly, do you live a selfless life? Is your life all about you or is about others and understanding what helping others is all about.

Let us pray!

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Ephesians – The Sword of The Spirit

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – The Sword of the Spirit

June 21, 2015

Ephesians 6:17 … and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

Today is Father’s Day! What a great day to celebrate fathers and all they do. As a father, myself, I recognize the responsibility that comes with this special calling. It brings me joy, it humbles me, and it scares me all at the same time. It is for this reason that I believe our topic for today is so important. For that reason I do not believe it is an accident that we are at this juncture of our study of the Book of Ephesians. We have here a passage that if is properly applied will enhance our effectiveness in the battles we face.

In the last part of Ephesians 6:17, Paul focuses on the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Before we get into the meat of the message let us do what we have done with the other parts of the armor. Let us look at how this piece of armor was used in Paul’s day. First of all, the sword was a key component to the soldier’s armor. It was a two-edged or two-sided sword which was sharpened on both edges for maximum results. This was critical because when the soldier was in the midst of a battle, he did not have to worry about hitting the target as he could move the sword in almost any direction.

While he could swing the sword in any direction and hit the target it was also important for him to understand that to be effective the soldier had to be trained on how to use the sword. While damage could be done while swinging the sword aimlessly, the soldier could also potentially wound his own comrades in the process. In modern warfare we call this friendly fire. For that reason, the army and especially the individual soldier would spend hours in developing their technique and training on how to use the sword effectively. They did not wait until they needed the sword to learn how to use it. The training was critical because the sword was the first offensive piece of armor defined by Paul. The other parts of the armor as great as they were served only to protect against an onslaught of the enemy .

In this passage, we find that our sword is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Whether we believe it or not, the greatest offensive weapon we have in our daily battles against the evil one is the word of God. To understand this, we need to understand two words used in the Greek New Testament for the word “word.” The first word is “logos” which represents the entire inspired, God breathed words given to us by the Holy Spirit. That is what we would call the Bible. It is what is referred to in John 2 where John proclaimed that Jesus was the living word of God.

The second word is the word “rhema” which is the word that is used here in this text. The word  “rhema” represents the spoken word. It is a word in season (2 Timothy 4:2). Let me explain it this way. Have you ever been walking through a difficult time in your life and someone gave you a Scripture that in that specific moment positively impacted you, encouraged you, and set you free. That is “RHEMA” is a spoken word that comes to us in the moment we need it most. It is one of those words that fulfills what Paul said to Timothy.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16). The Logos, the entire word of God, has been given to us to disciple us and help us grow. But there are times where we will use a specific passage to speak a word of life and to challenge another person in their personal growth. You see the logos word, the entire gospel, can become the “rhema” word that is spoken in season and at the right time.

With that in mind let me make this most important statement. We must know the Logos of God so that we can speak the Rhema of God. That is, we must know the Bible, the word of God and only then can we speak the word of God effectively. To be able to do this, we must learn the word and know the word of God. This is critical because the Bible is active and powerful as confirmed in Hebrews 4:11-13). For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. The word used correctly can and will bring healing.

The warning here is that we must know more than a few verses that we pull out and use over and over again. This means that we must learn more than one or two passages that we use for every circumstance. I have had the chance to talk to several in recent days who are not believers and they have all stated similar things. They all stated that they have been turned off by those who use the Bible to seemingly force them to be something they are not. Even for some who were nominal believers, most of them stated that they did not know the word and it was confusing for them to be confronted with passages that they did not understand or know. When this occurs it is not the RHEMA word.

Another issue we have is that too often we use the sword of the spirit against our comrades in arms and not the enemy we are fighting. Too often, we use the sword of the spirit against others in order to manipulate and control the behaviors of those we associate with rather than to build them up. For example, as we heard a couple of nights ago in the marriage class, husbands too often use the “wive submit to your husband” passage as a means to control their spouses actions and so when they do something they don’t like they throw the dart of submission at them. The same is true of wives who throw the “love your wive as Christ so loved the church” Scripture to control and manipulate their husbands.

That was never the intent of Scripture. Scripture is and has always been in place to point to Christ the redeemer and savior of the world. This does not mean that scripture is not to be used as a means to bring reproof and correction, but there is a difference between reproof and correction, and manipulation and control. That is not grace and it certainly is not the mercy which Christ and the gospel is all about.

While we can misuse the Scriptures, too many times we underutilize Scripture, or at least we are not versed in how to us the Scripture efficiently and effectively. The result of such action is that our effectiveness is diminished, we lose victories that could be won otherwise, and we can do more damage than good. Therefore, to use the sword effectively, we must practice using the word correctly.  And like the warrior’s sword we must use develop our skill of using scripture appropriately.

But how do we learn how to use the sword? To do so we must consider three things. First we must consider memorization. Read and memorize the scripture. Repetition is the best way to learn things and by memorizing Scripture you can begin to learn it. You may find that hard to do but it is always interesting that we can memorize other things. I am amazed at those who play golf regularly and who can remember the course they have played 5 or 10 years before. They can remember the holes they played, the position of the pin, the distance to the pin, and what club they used. And so on and so on. For others, they can tell you the stats of every player on their favorite team. You see by memorizing Scripture we get God’s word into our minds. If you can’s remember then write the word down on a piece of paper and read it as often as you can. The desire is to get it into your mind.

Secondly, we must meditate on scripture. This is what David meant when he stated that he has stored up His word in his heart (Psalm 119:16). We must consider what the word is saying to us. Is there a promise? Is there a sin to avoid? Is there a command I need to obey? This is another good reason for writing the passage down so we hear and begin to process it.

Thirdly, we must make application of the word we memorize and mediate on. James 1:22 reminds us that we are to be doers of the word. His warning is that we would not just hear the word but we must apply the word and thereby activate the power of the word in our lives. Then, with God’s Word in our heads through memorization, in our hearts through meditation, and in our hands through application, we have the power to affect change by speaking it, sharing it, and living it. We will therefore always be ready with His words on our tongue.

We mentioned this briefly last week. Christ clearly shows us how to do this. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:1-4). Jesus knew the word and when confronted he used the RHEMA word to counteract the enemies stance in that moment of time.

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Ephesians – The Helmet of Salvation

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – The Helmet of Salvation

June 14, 2015

Ephesians 6:17and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In the text today Paul is calling us to take the helmet of salvation with us. It is interesting to note that Paul does not say put on the helmet, but he says to take the helmet of salvation. Paul also refers to the helmet of salvation in 1 Thessalonians 5:8. It is he that he describes the helmet as the helmet of salvation of hope. Paul states But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 

Because of Paul’s emphasis on the helmet of salvation as hope, my desire today is to focus on this one aspect of salvation. And that is the hope we have in Christ. If we look around our world today it will not take us long to see that hope is fading for so many. A few years ago, we were offered hope and change. We have seen a lot of change but have experienced a lot less hope. Please note that this is not intended to be a political statement but it serves as an overview of the landscape of the society in which we live. There is so much to feel hopeless about. There is so much in our world to cause us to lose hope and to cause us to want to give up.

We live in a world where morality and right and wrong have been turned upside down. We live in a day where one who has had a sex change is elevated as being heroic and awe inspiring while those who fight for our freedom have been deemed cowards. We live in a day where the Ten Commandments can’t be posted in the public forum because it supports one religion op era another but teachers in some public school are free to teach the Islamic faith without hindrance. We live in a day where those who work hard are punished for their hard work while those who do not work and are able to, expect to get everything for free and are allowed to do so. We are living in a day when a man on the street can be killed by a cop who is carrying out his job and there are protests while a cop can be murdered and there are those who attempt to justify it because their desire is to make political points. There is so much that is present today that serves to discourage us but it doesn’t have to be that way.

To understand hope we must begin with the fact that real, genuine salvation brings hope! Here is the deal! When we receive salvation, we receive hope. To fully understand this, we must understand that Biblical hope is more than a desire to see something fulfilled or to wish for a particular outcome. Therefore, it is more than wishful thinking! Biblical hope is a certainty that is manifested in the heart of the believer who fully trusts and commits their life to God. G.K. Chesterton stated Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all…As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.

What does G.K. Chesterton mean by this? He means that real hope is not measured by how much hope we have when everything is going great. Nor is it measured by how good or bad our circumstances are in any given moment. The fact is that we can lose hope when our hope is based solely on our circumstances or on our experiences. For most people, their hope is based on how good or bad their particular circumstances are. This has been called circumstantial hope which is in reality a desire that our circumstances will fit within a specific context or within a specific set of desires. Let me illustrate this. We can hope that our favorite team will win. We have no assurance they will win, however, we simply base our hope in their potential for victory which is based on one’s past experience with the team and also the team they are playing. But the reality is there is no guarantee associated with this kind of hope. It is nothing more than wishful thinking. The problem with circumstantial hope is that it is fragile and and it is easily changed. It is so fragile that when the events of life don’t work out as we hoped they would, we are affected negatively. We are easily shaken, we are easily depressed, and we lose hope.

Our hope, however, must be anchored in God who is unchangeable and is forever faithful. This is the hope that keeps us steady. He is the anchor that solidifies our thinking about life because understand who God is and He never fails us. It is this anchor that keep us hopeful when the storms of life are blowing hard against us. A great illustration of this is the story of Joseph. He had a promise from God but there was no way he could know the outcome of the promise. He certainly did not expect the road God would take him on to fulfill the promise. There was no way for him to know how God would use him to set his people free or give them life.

For those who do not know the story, let me refresh your memory. Joseph had a God given dream that his brothers would bow to him and serve him. This enraged his brothers, so they sold him into slavery. Once in Egypt, he found favor and was soon promoted to Pharaoh’s assistant. This was short lived when Pharaoh’s wife made a pass at him and Joseph, being a man of integrity, rejected the advance. She falsely accused him. He was imprisoned for doing the right thing. What would that do to your hope? If you were falsely accused could you continue to trust that God had called you and that He would keep you? Or, would you lose hope.

We know now that even while Joseph trusted God, the downward spiral continued. While in prison, he was forgotten even though the chief cupbearer for Pharaoh promised he would put in a good word for him. With this turn of events, he could have lost hope but his trust was in God and not in his circumstances. He kept his faith and trust in God! In the story we see this paid off as God did not forget him and at the right time he was released and restored as Pharaoh’s right hand man. Through this action he was positioned to save not only Egypt but his entire family. You see God was at work even when Joseph did not sense it. The real testimony here is that Joseph did not let his circumstances dictate where his hope would lie.

The second idea presented by hope is that we must refuse to adjust our belief system to the circumstances we experience. Life is filled with events that will destroy our hope and cause us to change who we are as believers. While God will use the circumstances of our life to grow us and change us, we must never let the circumstances of life dictate our belief system. This should be determined by who God is and what he has done for us. Remember, we must adjust our lives to the gospel and not adjust the gospel to our lives. The three Hebrew children understood this principle. Their hope was strongly anchored in God’s faithfulness. This position of strength helped them to stand against the king who ordered anyone not bowing to Nebuchadnezzar’s god to be sentenced to death. Their hope was so strong in God that they could proclaim that no matter what was to come, they would still worship God. That is real hope!

Listen to the exchange between the king and the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3:15-18. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

Did you see it in the exchange. They refused to adjust their belief system in order to meet the requirements of the times. They were more faithful to the integrity of their beliefs and their hope in God than they were to personal pleasure that would only last for a moment. They stood steadfast in the hope that God was on their side. They had a confidence that He would deliver them. As a result, they were able to focus beyond the furnace and the possibility they might die, to the hope of God’s protection. The Hebrew children’s story is reminisce of the words spoken by Job when he faced very difficult circumstances. Job stated, Though he slay me, I will hope in him (Job 13:15). He is confirming the fact that our belief system must not be adjusted based on our circumstances.

Finally, note that this is a helmet of salvation. The helmet was intended to protect the head from damage that could potentially end one’s life. To live in hope we must take every thought captive to the glory of God. The enemy knows he does not have to get us to give up, all he has to do is simply cause us to begin to doubt God’s word, His will, and His ways. He knows that if we begin to doubt what God has said, we will begin to lose hope and we will begin to put our hope in those things that do not bring life or a future in the long run.

Because of the ability of our thoughts to dictate how we think and who we are, we must know the word of God. This means that we must know the promises of God and must follow the ways of God in all we do. When Jesus was tempted, He did not use positive thinking or cute pithy sayings. He used the word of God to combat the enemy’s temptations. Today, that is what we need. We need to combat a lack of hope with the word of God. We must combat the tactics of the enemy with the intellectual exercise of reading the word, meditating on the word, and then making application of the word into our life.

By saturating our hearts and minds with the word of God, we are filled with hope and we are assured that we have a future. This does not have to be a debatable issue when our hearts and minds are on God. So do you feel hopeless today? Do you feel your hope waning? If so my prayer is this. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13). May you be filled with the hope that is yours in Christ.

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Ephesians – The Shield of Faith

Peninsula Community Church 

Ephesians – The Shield of Faith 

June 7, 2015

Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…

As in the previous parts of the armor we have discussed, when we read this passage we encounter a practical illustration of a spiritual principle. The soldier of Paul’s day was equipped with a shield when they went into battle. The purpose of the shield was to protect the soldier from the darts, arrows, and spears that would be lobbed their way. The shield itself was made of metal, leather, or heavy cloth which was often bound by metal straps to hold it all together.

It is noteworthy that the shield had several uses. For one, it was a defensive weapon that could be moved about to ward off the attacks of the opposing army by way of the darts that would be flung at the soldier. In Paul’s day, soldiers would often soak their arrows in tar and oils so they could be lit and then fired at the opposing army. If hit by one of these arrows the soldier would not only be wounded but would also feel the effects of their skin and clothing being burned.

The shield would also protect the warrior. The soldier would hide behind the shield while in battle, not out of fear but for protection against the onslaught of the enemy. The shield was long enough and wide enough that it could be placed in front of the soldier so that he could squat behind it. Thirdly, the shield protected those soldiers around them as shields of that day were designed to be interlocked with the shield next to it. For example, in battle, the front line warriors would position their shields so that the army behind them would be protected. The second line of warriors would in turn extend their spears beyond the line of the shields so that the onslaught of the enemy would be thwarted. The idea presented here is that the soldiers needed each other and would work together for the success of the entire army.

Spiritually, the believer in Christ uses the shield of faith to protect themselves against the fiery darts aimed at them. The bad news is that the evil one flings darts at us every day and all day long. His attempt is to get us to sin or get us to give into the temptations hurled at us. This barrage of flaming arrows from the evil one can take many forms. Let me give you a few. There is temptation, doubt, anger, frustration, pride, despair, fear, guilt, shame, confusion, deception, discouragement, depression, hopelessness, greed, lust, presumption, stubbornness, laziness, suspicion, jealousy, hate, wrath, discord, and conflict. His darts might also include the bitterness over one’s spouse’s busyness or their inattentiveness to one’s needs. It might include the guilt about yesterday’s lust, the sense of failure, or it can be the thought that you are not good enough. The list continues to go on and on. These darts while they are spiritual, emotional, and mental are also very real and therefore must not be ignored. To do so would subject us to his attacks.

While this is the bad news, there is also good news and it is very good news. The good news is that we have the means to fight back and resist the darts that are thrown our way. The shield of faith combined with the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of peace give us the strength to overcome the power of the evil one. These tools help us combat the darts thrown at us. The shield of faith is raised against the barrage of darts thrown at us. But what is the shield of faith? Faith is based in having trust in something or someone. For us as believers it is a faith in God who never fails us. By knowing God and who He is, our faith and trust in Him grows. Our faith is in the Lord who is able to protect us and keep us safe! I have always said that to understand faith we must get to know God more. The more we truly know God and understand who He is, the more our faith will increase. So in essence we trust God who is our shield. Like the soldier, when trouble comes we hide behind him and find protection in him because he is our shield.

The Bible is replete with passages that relate to God as our shield. Listen to a few of these. In Genesis 12:3 when God called Abraham to a covenant relationship, God spoke to Abraham that He would be his shield. That is, He would be Abrahams’s protection and covering. David had a view of God as being his shield, as well. Listen to David’s words. O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. Selah But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah (Psalms 3:1-4). But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12).

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,

my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:2-3). The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:7). Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you (Psalm 33:20-22). He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday (Psalm 91:4-6).

Solomon when he penned the Proverbs also saw the power of recognizing God as our shield. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints (Proverbs 2:6-8).

While God is our shield, it is interesting to note that the shield of faith is used to protect others thus we know that we are not alone in the battle. How awesome is it to know we are fighting many of the same battles? We are interconnected to one another just as the shields of the Roman soldiers were interconnected to protect the individual soldier but also the soldier next to them. Roman shields were interlocking. Two-thirds of the shield would cover a soldier and one-third of the shield would cover the person next to him. This made the Roman army nearly invincible, because there was no gap in the battle line.

Sometimes our faith is weak but when we have others along side of us our faith is strengthened. When we see the faith of others, our faith is built up. The fact is Christians cannot stand alone against opposing forces; we need each other in order to live faithfully. A Christian community helps us stand strong. Faith knows that our worth is derived from the One to whom we belong, that God’s love embraces us, sets us free to be truly ourselves, and helps us accept the people around us.

The third idea here is that not only do we need to know the God who is our shield but we must know that the shield of faith fits us properly, it is our shield. We might reject the call of God to take the shield of faith or we may try and add to the shield of faith but we will fall short when we do that. We must know that it is our faith and it is a faith that has been given to each of us. I am reminded of the story of David when he went to fight Goliath. Saul wanted to give him his armor but it did not fit David. Saul was a tall large man and David was just a young boy at the time. Instead of using Saul’s armor, David used what God had given him. You see, all we need is the faith God has given us. The Bible tells us that faith does not have to be any bigger than the size of a mustard seed to accomplish great things. Think about this. The smallest of seed has the greatest of results! So here is the point, our faith, no matter how small, has the power to move mountains when it is focused on Christ as our shield and our protector.

The final point is this when do we use the shield? The Scripture here tells us that the shield of faith is to be used in every circumstance of our life. When we trust God, we will always have enough faith and grace to make it through every issue we are walking through. Too often, we worry about if we will have faith for tomorrow or enough grace to face the difficulties of life. Here’s a fact though. You don’t have to worry about having faith for tomorrow because you are guaranteed that you will faith tomorrow. Why is this? It is because our faith is in the one who does not fail. We will always have enough faith as long as our focus is on Christ the shield and provider of our faith.

Listen to the writer of Hebrews. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

In the midst of Satan’s rain of fire, we can take up the shield of faith. Instead of fretting or becoming anxious, we can look to Jesus who is not only the originator of faith but also the one who perfects our faith. The key is to focus on God who is our shield and our protector. To do so does not mean that we will not ever face problems or difficulties in our life. That is inevitable but we can face them courageously when we take the shield of faith to ward off the flaming darts of the enemy. We must also choose to walk in faith. We can choose to fight in faith and trust God or we can choose to fight in fear and reject the teachings and power of God. So let’s get dressed and fight the good fight.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Putting on the Gospel of Peace

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – Putting on the Gospel of Peace

May 31, 2015

Ephesians 6:14-15Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

So far we have looked at the armor of God and have reviewed the following pieces of the armor. First, we looked at the belt of truth to understand that we must walk in truth and not in the lies that are being continually perpetrated by the evil one. Last week, we looked at the breastplate of righteousness. In this we saw that God has forgiven us and has made us righteous through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Today, we will move to the next piece of God’s armor required for spiritual battle. Today, we will look at putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace.

Once again, we see in this passage a practical illustration of a common aspect of life in Paul’s day. The church at Ephesus understood the necessity of wearing shoes in their day and they understood visually what it meant for the warrior to wear shoes in battle. In battle, there were many issues that the soldier might face that made it necessary to wear protection on their feet. It might be the heat of the sand. It might be the jagged rocks and other sharp debris found in the soil. It might be something as simple as a twig or some other shard that would penetrate the foot and cause pain. Without proper protection there was also the possibility of a strain or sprain that could sideline the strongest of warriors, distract the warrior, or cause him to be ineffective in battle. For the warrior to be effective, it was critical for the soldier to wear protective shoes on his feet. This was critical as the soldier’s shoes allowed the warrior to step freely without fear in the face of battle. 

It is interesting that doctors have reported that the most neglected parts of the body are the feet. Rather consciously or not, too often, we neglect to care for our feet until there is a problem. One of the best methods to care for the feet is to wear the right type of shoe. For the warrior his sandals were made of layers of leather up to 3/4 inch in thickness and were studded with hollow-headed hobnails. In other words, they were like cleats. The shoe of the warrior covered not only the feet but also covered the leg to about half-way up the calf and at times up to the knee. The shoes worn by the soldier were secured by leather straps or leather laces. The purpose of his shoes was to protect his feet and allow him to grip the turf underneath his feet. The result was he had greater ability to stand his ground in battle.

In our society, we have a different view of shoes. For us shoes are more of a fashion statement than they are a mode of protection. In fact, it is noteworthy that a Consumer Reports National Research study found that women in America own an average of nineteen pairs of shoes while 15% of women surveyed stated that they have thirty pairs of shoes or more. Additionally, according to Glamour Magazine, the average woman will purchase 469 pairs of shoes in her lifetime. This will total more than $25,000 being spent on shoes in one’s lifetime.

In looking at our text, we find that the shoes discussed here are more than physical shoes, they are spiritual in nature. When dissecting this verse we find that the actual Greek translation of this passage would be, “Let the shoes of your feet be the Gospel of peace, to give you a firm footing.” Stability comes by being fitted with the Gospel of peace.

Another interesting concept of this passage is that there is a call to readiness. This insinuates that the soldier does not wait for the battle to put on his shoes. He puts on the shoes long before the the battle begins. Spiritually, the idea that is communicated is that we must be ready for battle by having our feet shod with the gospel. That is we are ready for battle because we have the gospel in us.

These words have a faint echo of words spoken by Paul and by Isaiah. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:17. Paul stated And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Isaiah complimented this thought when he stated How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns (Isaiah 52:7).

To understand the Gospel we must understand that the Gospel is the good news. It is the good news that brings peace. For some who read Paul’s letter it seems strange because the question is posed “how can we have peace in the midst of the battle and warfare?” Why is this? The greatest reason for this peace is that the enmity between God and man was overcome. As believers, we have chosen to fight on the side of God and therefore God is no longer our enemy. Conversely, if we fail to accept God’s gift of salvation, we are in essence fighting against God. Think about it. If choose not to accept Christ, you are in essence fighting against the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who called fire down from heaven, and the God who sent a storm to redirect Jonah’s life. This is the same God who opened the earth and swallowed the rebellious children of Israel. I am not sure about you but I do not want to be on the opposite side of God.

When I was in Junior High School in Bridge City, Texas, I was regularly picked on by some of the older students. I wasn’t the only one as these bullies chose to pick on anyone smaller than them. One day, I was pressed up against a locker in the hallway of the school by one of the bullies when I heard this deep voice from behind the crowd. I looked up and it was my cousin’s boyfriend. He was the starting all American linebacker for the varsity football team. She had shared with him how these kids were bullying the younger kids and he came to our rescue. He grabbed one of the kids and held him by the collar with his feet dangling off the floor and said a few choice words to him. It was something like “You mess with my friend, you miss with me.” You see in life we have been bullied by the evil one, but on the cross Christ took the enemy by the throat and said “you mess with my friend, my child you mess with me.” Through the cross we have been repositioned from a state of enmity to a state of friendship and partnership.

Listen to what Paul proclaimed in Romans 5:1-5. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The good news is that through Christ we are on the right side of the battle. It is for that reason that Paul calls this the Gospel of peace. When you think about it, peace is an interesting emotion in that we can have peace about some things and yet be anxious and fearful about others. Very few of us experience a general peace about life and still fewer have a peace that reaches the inward man. And yet that is the purpose of Christ’s peace.

I love what Dallas Willard had to say in this regard. He said “Even in the case, through no fault of my own, there must be a struggle between me and others, there does not have to be a struggle within me.” He continues “I may have to resist others, for some good reason, but even so I do not have to make things come out right. I am not the one in control of outcomes. I do not have to hate those whose course of action I resist, or even get mad at them, and so I can always be at peace within myself as well as towards others.” He continues by saying that the greatness of God and the love of God forms my peace, and at the same time my love and my joy. Job of old had many worrisome questions in the midst of his troubles but when he beheld God they simply did not matter. That is why Isaiah could honestly proclaim You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Isaiah 26:3). Look at the parameters established here. You will be in perfect peace when your mind is on Christ because you trust Him with everything in life.

Nothing in this world can destroy my peace or rob me of peace even though in our world today there is so much that can steal our joy and peace. The economy is still fragile. There are wars and rumors of wars. There are shootings and murders taking place daily. The drug epidemic has escalated and is getting worse by the day. The moral fiber of America is being shredded on a daily basis. But with all of this, I am reminded of what Jesus spoke to His disciples. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you. ’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I’ (John 14:27-28).

To understand this we must understand that the Gospel of Peace cannot and must not be separated from the author of peace who is also the author of Gospel. To have real peace, we must come to know the real giver of peace. His name is Jesus. He came so that I could live a real life. Not some legalistic or false spirituality kind of life but one filled with God’s love and His peace. I do not know about you but I yearn for that kind of peace and that kind of life. It is available to us as we put on the shoes of peace.

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Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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