IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (Psalm 91:4)

The title of this devotion is a Latin phrase which my family recently came across in their studies and shared with me.  Literally translated, it means, “So much the better, we will fight in the shade.”  Allow me to share with you the story behind these words:

The Roman orator Cicero (hence the Latin) retold Herodotus’ account of the battle of Thermopylae, where the Spartan king, Leonidas, led a mere 7,000 men against over 100,000 Persian invaders.  When asked to report, a scout betrayed his sense of despair at seeing such a tremendous force with these words to Dienekes, a Spartan soldier: “Their arrows will blot out the sun!”

To which Dienekes replied, “IN UMBRA, IGITUR, PUGNABIMUS!”

“So much the better, we will fight in the shade!”

Friends and fellow warriors, the darkness is gathering more thickly each day in our world.  Many of our former comrades have fled or turned against us, succumbing to the approaching terror and abandoning the truth of the Gospel for the sake of preserving their own temporal well-being.  As we stand near the battle-lines and survey the vast host of the armies of darkness that have been arrayed against us, paralyzing fear grips our hearts.  What is our response to this seemingly insurmountable threat?

Very well, then.  We will fight in the shade.

And indeed we will.  I do not mean to say that Satan’s hordes could ever blot out the light of God’s truth with their onslaught of fiery darts; truly, it shines all the more clearly in the face of darkness and adversity.  However, we will be shaded by the wings of our mighty and caring Heavenly Father.  His love, His mercy, and His strength will form a shield around us to protect and preserve our faith even in the face of every evil that comes swarming against us, no matter how dark the days may become.

“And take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife,

though these all be gone, our victory has been won;

The Kingdom ours remaineth.” ~Martin Luther (A Mighty Fortress is Our God)

Yes, my friends; the battle belongs to the Lord.  Our faith rests securely in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, sealed and delivered to us in faith solely through His grace.  What have we to fear?  “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).  Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice as the mediator between God and mankind, God is and ever will be for us and with us, sheltering us beneath the wings of His love.  Though all the adversity of this world rails against us, it cannot prevail against the ultimate victory that we have through the cross.  Christ Himself tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

King Leonidas himself was approached by the Persian ambassadors before the battle at Thermopylae began.  Knowing the odds against this king and his lowly army, and expecting him to immediately comply, they commanded him to lay down his arms.  To which he replied:

“Come get them.”

Do not despair, my friends.  Our eternal equipment will see us through whatever battles may rage in the days to come.  The Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, is strong to save.  Let Satan come and once more taste the Blade which brought about his destruction.  Though the hands that wield this supreme Weapon are frail and weak, the foe will never pry it from our grasp, for the Sword itself is invincible, and One who forged it and delivered it to us is ever by our side.

Does Satan come roaring against us?  Fine.  Come and get it.  Do the evils of the world gather more thickly with each passing day?  Very well.  Then we will fight in the shade.  Our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world and all its troubles.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Give your Church the everlasting rest she longs for.

Until that time, we will fight.

“Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes.  I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.  In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.”  (Psalm 44:5-8)

See also 2 Chron. 20:12-19

Prayer: Heavenly Father, arm us with Your Word, that we may go boldly forth and proclaim the Good News of salvation to all who are in the clutches of sin and darkness.  Keep us steadfast in faith against the attacks of Satan, this world, and our own flesh.  Preserve and sanctify us by Your Holy Spirit, holding us ever in Your strong hand, that we may come at last to everlasting life and rest; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Commander, King, and Friend.  Amen.

 

From the pages of Building Christian Character through The Hobbit – Now available!  Click the “Books Available” tab at the top of this page to preview chapters 1-4 or to order a copy.

 

Chapter XIV – “Fire and Water”

 

“The dragon is inevitable – and let it come!  I repeat it, sir, let it come.”

Like the colonists living in Patrick Henry’s day, the people of Esgaroth have been living in the shadow of terror for too long.  Until they face the dragon that looms over them, they can never truly be free.  The dwarves and Bilbo have awakened the dragon’s wrath and stirred up his malice toward the men of Lake-town, but that is just as well – especially knowing that Smaug is destined to die in this battle.

Mr. Henry goes on in his speech to the Virginia Convention in 1775: “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace…What is it that gentlemen wish?  What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!”

The people of Esgaroth are so focused on their present suffering and the destruction of their town that they fail to see the wonderful, miraculous fact that seems so plain to us: Smaug is dead!  The monster of the north has been slain and the people of this region are now free from his centuries-long reign of terror.  While they may curse Thorin and Company for causing their present hardship, they ought to also recognize that the dwarves set into motion the chain of events that would lead to this great victory.

People have a way of delaying the inevitable.  As Christians, we often put off unpleasant battles in the hopes that the threat will just go away on its own, or remain sleeping beneath the mountain.  But the truth is, the monster is growing in size and strength with each passing day and year that we avoid confronting it – and the best we can hope for is that it will be our children or grandchildren who will have to combat the beast someday.  What terrible cowardice!

There are many difficult issues in our society that Christians are often reluctant to grapple with.  At best, we engage in minor skirmishes, hoping that it will be enough to stave off the threat without risking open war.  We make concessions to our faith and values, hoping that these compromises will reconcile us to the world.  They won’t.

So let it come.  Let us be the ones to wage spiritual warfare in our nation and world over issues of life, social values, and religious freedoms.  Let us boldly confront the evils in our society, even though it may mean a breach between Christianity and secular complacency.  Old alliances with those who undermine all that we believe and stand for may need to be cast down as we fend off the Dragon’s assault.  But it’s better that we take our stand now – while yet free to speak up and armed with the Gospel – than to relegate the task to our offspring who may be shackled and fettered with oppressive laws and a government that silences truth and wisdom.

We need to sound the alarm and take up arms against the Dragon right now, because he comes swiftly toward us breathing out deadly lies and fiery deceptions.  Christians at this time must especially take a stand on who God is and what He came to do.  There are many today calling themselves Christians who preach that Jesus came only to teach morality and self-enlightenment; that He was merely a wise teacher who set an example for how to live.  The battle-lines must be drawn here and now.  We must preach Christ crucified; that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God who died and rose again to atone for the sins of the world.  On this, there must be no compromise, because this is the truth and the difference between eternal life and everlasting death.

This will be a fierce battle.  We may risk much of what we have built up in times of prosperity to face the Dragon on this issue right now.  It will cause division and discord within our communities and country, because the world does not want to hear that Jesus is the only Way to the Father.  We will be condemned as intolerant – the worst possible sin of in postmodern society.  But the longer we postpone this battle, the stronger the Dragon will be when we finally face him and the more divided the Church will become, leaving the conflict to our descendants to fight with less hope and less strength than we currently possess.

We cannot afford to let sleeping dragons lie.  We must proclaim God’s Word – Law and Gospel – in truth and purity; even if it awakens all the fire-breathing menaces of every pagan religion, every secular humanist philosophy, and every false prophet that preaches any other Jesus than the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  We mustn’t allow our cowardice to hand down this great task to our children for the sake of a false sense of peace and unity in Church and world.  We must fight.

 

The Dragonslayer’s sacrifice…

He spoke harsh words that were difficult to hear and were rejected by many.  He warned the people of the approaching doom, and fought on their behalf so that they could have life and freedom.  He was a descendant of kings, and the only one who could know the secret to defeating the evil monster.  He stood alone at last, enduring the flames of the dragon’s wrath, scorned by many and abandoned by his companions, because he alone could defeat the menacing beast and save them all.  He gave up his life to defeat the dragon, quelling its fierce might forever, but falling under the death-throes of his terrible enemy.  And when all hope had faded, he rose again victoriously and was exalted as king.

Sound familiar?  The triumph of Bard over Smaug is a striking parallel to the victory of Jesus Christ over the Devil.  While Bard may not be a perfect Christ-figure throughout the rest of the book, this particular instance provides an awesome image of the Son of God come to save those who had rejected Him.  And all in all, Bard serves as a great example of Christian virtue contrasted with the greed and hypocrisy around him.

Bard was condemned by his contemporaries for prophesying “gloomy” things; not that anyone disputed the truth and veracity of his claims, but it just wasn’t very pleasant to listen to.  Similarly, Jesus lost many followers and was rejected by a number of would-be disciples because of his hard teachings; things like being willing to give up earthly possessions and duties to follow Him, being “born again,” forgiveness based on faith by God’s grace, eating and drinking His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, and even His own death at the hands of His enemies.  Like Bard, Jesus would eventually be vindicated in all of His claims.  Those who rejected His words didn’t do so based on evidence to the contrary, but rather simply because it was easier for them to believe something else.

Just as Bard is the last descendant in the line of Girion, Lord of Dale, so Jesus was the Promised One in fulfillment of the Messianic line, reaching back to King David, Abraham, and all the way to Adam – the first recipient of the Gospel promise.  Being of the race of Dale, Bard was the only one who could understand the thrush and unlock the secret to defeating Smaug.  His black arrow that had been passed down from his father and “came from the forges of the true king” would prove to be the key to Smaug’s downfall.  Jesus, as the only begotten Son of God, was the only One whose blood was free from the curse of sin and who knew the way to defeat Satan, the great Dragon.  He was “from the True King,” and the black arrow of His divinity would be the shaft that would pierce the Dragon’s heart and bring him crashing down in ruin.

In the end Bard stood alone, abandoned by his companions, and faced the dragon while surrounded by the flames of his wrath.  Jesus’ companions all fled to save themselves, though they had sworn to stay by His side – even if it meant death.  He faced down the dragon, enduring the agony of the very flames of Hell as the Devil’s malice was poured out upon Him.  He fought our battle upon the cross so that we could enter the lifeboat of His Church and freely obtain life and salvation through the waters of baptism, just as the people of Esgaroth fled to safety through the waters of the Long Lake while Bard battled Smaug.

Jesus certainly did not escape the battle unscathed.  Just as Smaug came crashing down upon Bard in his last throes, so too did Satan strike the heel of Jesus with physical death and the torments of Hell even as he fell in utter defeat.  But like Bard, Jesus emerged victoriously amidst cries of mourning to claim His rightful title of King and Lord, claiming the honor of defeating the Dragon and freeing the people from his reign of terror – and of securing all the treasures of heaven on our behalf!

The Sword of the Spirit

“Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

Now that you’ve been outfitted with all the latest defensive equipment, it’s time to talk about attack strategy.  Remember, though, “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” (Ephesians 6:12).  Conventional weapons will fail in this cosmic battle between good and evil.  Physical violence is bound to simply backfire, and even a logical or rhetorical strike against the enemy will often achieve nothing.  There is only one weapon that the enemy fears.

“For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  Although we are often tempted to trust in our own powers of persuasion when witnessing for Christ, those who are enslaved by sin and the devil’s lies are not readily won over by logic or worldly counsel.  Faith is a miraculous occurrence, and it takes something far more powerful than our own capabilities to produce this wondrous change in a human heart.  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

That’s right; Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, the Valiant One elected by God to destroy the enemies of mankind, has been manifested as a weapon of power and placed into the hands of His people.  This same Jesus who overcame sin, death, and the grave has been given to us in the form of God’s Holy Word, and with Him we strike out against the temptations, the lies, the anguish, the despair, the misery, and all the host of Hell.  Through this Word, the Holy Spirit works saving faith in those who are spiritually dead.

Feel the power of the Sword of the Spirit in your hands as it courses through your arms, body, and soul.  Practice using it daily, that you may wield it with grace and agility when in the heat of battle.  Meditate and pray upon it, asking God to give you the right words from His Scriptures at the right time.  Protected by God’s holy armor and armed with His Word, take your stand against the forces of evil as a hero of the faith.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Prayer: Lord God, guard and protect me as I venture out into the world.  Help me to confront the evil I find there with courage, perseverance, and above all, love – love for You and love for those who are oppressed by sin and guilt.  Bless me as I hold out Your Word of Life, that it may go forth and produce repentance and ultimately salvation for those who hear it.  All praise and honor to You and the Holy Spirit, through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Helmet of Salvation

“Take the helmet of salvation…” (Ephesians 6:17a)

Nothing can ruin a warrior’s day like being singled out by the enemy for a blow to the head.  Obviously, this important appendage needs to be protected just like the rest of our body.  But the helmet of salvation does more than just guard and protect the life of the warrior; its brilliant plumage identifies the warrior as a soldier of the Lord.  Our good works are a product of our hope of salvation and our thankfulness to a God who has saved us, proclaiming to all the world the mark of one redeemed from sin and death.

Under the beautiful feathers and adornments, this helmet is a triple-layered fortress for our most vulnerable area.  After all, Satan’s arsenal isn’t limited to a single type of ammunition or weapon.  His attacks are threefold; tempting us to despair over the sins of our past, assaulting our spirit with doubt through temptations and trials in the present, and inflicting us with foreboding over future judgment.  But God’s salvation protects our life in Christ from all three of these deadly weapons.

First of all, God’s salvation has already saved us from the power of sin.  We have been cleansed and made holy through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Our sins have been washed away, and the curse brought upon us in the Garden of Eden has been broken.  Our mission on this field of battle is to bring that same hope of salvation to all those around us who are still held prisoner by despair and hopelessness over their own wickedness.  As God commanded the apostles, so too does He command you and I: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47)

The helmet of salvation also protects us from the daily attacks of the evil one.  God’s power gives us strength to help us resist and flee temptation.  His love and atonement free us from sin’s guilt when we fail.  His promise supports us in time of need.  Whatever our affliction, we need only turn to Him to find the strength to overcome it.  “The Lord is my strength and my song: he has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2).  That fancy plume atop our helmet of salvation is not for inflating our own sense of self-importance – it is a testimony to the craftsman of the helmet and the Commander whom we serve.  As others see us bearing trials and burdens in God’s strength, we must always give the praise and glory to Him who has overcome the prince of this world.

Finally, the core of our helmet of salvation is the hope of our eternal life.  The future is a scary place, and at the end of everything, death our foe awaits.  But even this vile opponent has been defeated and cast down by our God.  “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death…then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’  ‘Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26;54-55)

As we rejoice in the salvation that is already ours through Jesus, and as we daily turn to God to save us from temptation and suffering, we long for that final salvation that is to come on the day of our Lord’s return.  Our helmet will remain a sure protection, saving us from our enemies for the sake of glorifying our God in heaven, now and always.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!

“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Prayer: Lord God, I thank You for arming me with the helmet of Your own salvation.  Give me strength and courage to withstand the tempter’s power, and bear me up when life’s troubles oppress me.  Let all who see Your loving hand in my life recognize that my salvation comes from You alone.  Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who has redeemed and saved me.  Amen.

The Shield of Faith

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16)

So you’ve got your kickin’ belt, your righteous breastplate, and your stellar boots all strapped on and ready to go.  You tromp out onto the battlefield ready to combat the forces of darkness.  Suddenly, you glance up; your courageous grin melts away as you see a shower of incendiary missiles arching straight toward you.

It’s a frightening scenario.  Even with all your vital parts covered by your body armor, you’re facing a world of pain if you can’t find some kind of “umbrella coverage” to block these flaming projectiles.  Well, our Commander hasn’t let us down yet, and today He gives us another remarkable defensive tool – the shield of faith.

Just as with the previous pieces of armor, we must make sure that this shield of faith is the genuine “GI” (God-issued) version, and not some phony replica that we’ve contrived for ourselves.  We trust in the belt of God’s truth, not our own version of the truth that shifts over time and changes with the notion of relativism.  We trust in the breastplate of God’s righteousness, not our own feeble attempt at living a life that’s up to the standard of perfection demanded of us.  We trust in God’s peace, not the shallow lies that we use to bandage over our broken relationships with God, others, and self while letting the real problem fester and grow.  And we trust in the faith that comes through God in the Holy Spirit, not in our own strength to “believe hard enough.”

This shield of faith is strengthened and reinforced by hearing the Word of God, through Holy Baptism, and through receiving the Lord’s Supper.  Through these means, God continually adds more layers to our protective covering of faith, making it more resistant to puncture and less flammable all the time.  When we put our faith in our own strength, our own ability to believe, and our own philosophical insights, we construct a covering of thin balsa wood that bursts into flames and is reduced to pathetic ashes by the scorching trials that daily assault us.

So how do we make sure that our shield is genuine, quality “GI” material?  Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure is to get out there and put it to the test against Satan’s attacks.  The apostle Peter gives good news to struggling Christians when he says that we “through faith are shielded by God’s power…In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and will result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:5-7)

Our Commander asks a difficult thing of us; to stride boldly into battle and allow our faith to be tested under enemy fire.  It’s certainly scary, but God knows that we’ve been equipped with the proper tools to defend ourselves.  It takes faith to go forward and do this – faith in God’s promises and His gracious will for our lives.  In a beautiful demonstration of God’s wisdom, He allows our faith to be proven to us personally before putting it on display for the world.  It takes faith to let Him put our faith to the test.

There’s a reason why God asks such a trial of us in the first place.  This battle is not just about me personally.  There are many more souls at stake in this conflict, and being God’s warrior means letting Him put me on the line for others, knowing that He will save and protect me while bringing glory and honor to Himself.  As others see God’s splendor reflected from your shield of faith – held high over your head and extinguishing countless flaming arrows – the Holy Spirit will be working to equip them with saving faith as well.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for the gift of faith that You have given me through the Holy Spirit.  Let me always trust in Your promises and rely on Your Word when my own strength would fail.  Be with me in all trials and tribulations in life, that I may bring glory and honor to You and shine Your love to all those around me; through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  Amen

The Boots of Readiness

“…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)

Let’s see; awesome belt…check.  Indestructible breastplate…check.  Footwear…hmm…

I’ll be honest; even with the fantastic pieces of armor already described, I’d be a bit wary about setting foot onto a battlefield without something to cover my tootsies.  We stand peering out of our tent flaps, reluctant to step forward.  Our motivation comes in the form of steel-pleated boots that God straps onto our soles (or souls?); supple, flexible footwear that comes straight from the forges of the Master Craftsman (Psalm 139:14).

What gives God’s warriors the motivation to charge forward into a world filled with darkness and tribulation?  It can only be the “gospel of peace” to which Paul refers.  Knowing what God has done for us, how can a believer do anything but leap into action when an opportunity to share the Gospel presents itself?  As Martin Luther said, “In he have faith, the believer cannot be restrained.  He betrays himself.  He breaks out.  He confesses and teaches this gospel to the people at the risk of life itself.”

The Gospel gives us peace; peace with God through repentance and forgiveness, peace with our fellow man through Christian unity and reconciliation, and peace within our own hearts through a right relationship with our Maker and a sense of purpose in our lives.  It’s also true that the Gospel will continue to cause division, conflict, and controversy in a sinful world because many people will reject the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  However, there could be no hope for peace of any sort without this saving Gospel message, and we would have neither the courage nor the desire to daily go forth into spiritual battle.

Most especially in the Easter season and throughout the year as well, Christ’s sacrifice of love urges and compels us to show love to our neighbors.  “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  We can “lay down our lives” for those around us by abandoning selfish interests and recklessly proclaiming the good news of Christ crucified for our transgressions.  May our feet be always ready to stand against the darkness of unbelief and despair, to bring light to the prisoners in the enemy’s dungeon, and to rush to the aid of those in need of spiritual assistance.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give me a heart that is daily rejoicing in the good news of Your Son’s all-atoning sacrifice.  Keep my feet ever ready to perform whatever good works of love You have prepared for me.  Thank you for the peace that comes from knowing I have been reconciled to You and can come to You in prayer, through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen.

The Breastplate of Righteousness

“…with the breastplate of righteousness in place…” (Ephesians 6:14)

NOW we’re talking!  When God hands you His own righteousness to protect your most vital parts from the Devil’s onslaught, it’s easy to feel downright invincible.  And for good reason; who wouldn’t feel like a Christian tank with a half inch of spiritual steel encasing them?  But watch out!  This piece of equipment is tricky, and many Christian warriors have fallen into the Devil’s trap because they misunderstood what this piece of armor really is.

Yeah, righteousness, awesome!  Let me strap on some of THAT!  But the important thing to understand is just exactly whose righteousness we will be sporting on the battlefield.  Is it a false sense of self-righteousness, or the righteousness that comes from God through Jesus?

That’s the mistake that has proved fatal for many would-be Christian warriors.  They look to their own works, their own “righteous” deeds, and their own sense of piety to save them from the accuser.  While good works are commendable (as well as commanded), they offer no protection against the slings and arrows of temptation or the piercing blade of judgment.  “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  When we look to our own deeds to save us, we strap on an “armor” that feels as heavy as lead and protects about as well as the new garments of a certain foolish emperor.  Shock and dismay await as we look down at our heart and see the scarlet stain of our own sin oozing from beneath this false armor.  Despair sets in as we question everything in which we had placed our hope for salvation.  I thought I was stronger than this…how can a sinner like me ever deserve God’s grace?

The Good News is that we don’t have to look to our own clumsy, cumbersome “righteousness” for protection from Satan’s accusing darts.  We have a breastplate of righteousness that comes from God.  It’s light and flexible; so much, in fact, that we find ourselves to be even more spiritually agile after donning this remarkable armor.  And yet it’s strong enough to survive a direct hit from the most adamantine weapon of the world or the Devil.  This is the righteousness wrought upon the cross of Calvary, composed of a precious alloy in which the perfect life of Christ is mingled with His innocent blood, and tempered in the very fires of Hell.  Wear it well, and trust it always.

“For just as through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for covering our sins with the true righteousness that comes from Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to always trust His promises, confessing our sins and living in the peace of forgiveness and a right relationship with You.  Grant us fervent zeal to share this hope with those around us, that they may also be protected from the Devil’s accusations on the day of Your glorious return.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Belt of Truth

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” (Ephesians 6:14)

I know what you’re thinking; what good is a belt compared to breastplates and helmets?  I mean, we’re up against roaring lions and fiery darts and stuff, and the first thing God hands us is a belt?  Well, our Heavenly Commander has been equipping warriors for thousands of years; guys like Joshua, King David, and the apostle Paul – and I hear they didn’t do too badly.  So let’s consider how this “belt of truth” just might save our lives in a combat situation.

First of all, we’re not talking some wimpy leather strap here.  God’s truth is a heavy-duty WWF championship style belt that covers and protects every inch of our core.  Jesus calls Himself “the Truth,” and it is His teaching and redemptive work that stands as our first line of defense against the lies of the Devil and the attacks of this fallen world.  When Satan nails us with a shot straight to the gut, accusing us of all the terrible, sinful behavior that we’ve committed today, yesterday, and throughout our lives, we have the truth of Jesus’ Gospel to repel the attack and prevent us from being cut in half.  When the world takes aim at the core of our being, His promise that we are saved by grace alone through faith protects us.

Secondly, spiritual combat can lead to some intense situations.  When fighting against the darkness of this world, God’s warriors can’t afford to have their pants falling down around their ankles because of lies they have told or truths that they have withheld.  At best, it can be an embarrassment to you personally and to the Commander in whose name you are fighting.  At worst, it could leave you vulnerable to a fatal strike from the enemy as you try to recover from your own lack of discretion.  Keep the belt of truth securely cinched and buckled to avoid such mishaps.

Finally, this belt is what holds it all together.  The rest of your armor will be loose and clumsy without it, affording you only moderate protection at best.  In a world of postmodern relativism, God’s warriors need to use the protective equipment He provides them with to its full potential.  Truth is what separates the clanking, bumbling buffoons from the elite swordsmen who exhibit the kind of dexterity necessary to fend off foes on every side.  God’s Word is truth, and without this truth we make a mockery of the very things we claim to be fighting for.

So buckle up, troops; the belt of truth is more than just a fashion accessory.  It is a vital part of your spiritual armor and a secure resting place for your only weapon – the sword of the Spirit.  Without it, we go from being soldiers of truth to mere hypocrites and liars; and the father of lies is always looking for fresh recruits.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank and praise You for the beauty of Your Gospel truth in Christ Jesus.  Help us to always look first unto His victory for protection and deliverance from the Devil’s lies.  Grant that we may faithfully abide in the truth of Your Word through all of life’s challenges and difficulties, through Jesus Christ, Your Son.  Amen.

The Full Armor of God

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…” (Ephesians 6:13)

It seems only fitting that the first devotional series on a website called “The Armory” should focus on Ephesians chapter 6.  If you’ve glanced outside the barracks lately, you may have noticed that the spiritual warfare in our world has reached a level of epic intensity.  Cadets and veterans alike may be tempted to simply pull back the flap on their tent, stuff some cotton in their ears to drown out the din of battle, and hit the cot until things calm down.

Of course, that’s absurd.  At a time like this, we need every warrior available on the field and ready to fight.  So for the next six days, we will discuss individual pieces of “GI” (God-Issued) equipment to make sure that you’re getting maximum protection and effectiveness from your spiritual armaments.  This is no time to be hastily throwing on your armor or neglecting the care of your weapons!

God has given us each individual piece of equipment for a purpose, and the word of God doesn’t waste precious real estate listing random bits of gear without a good purpose.  You’d better believe that what God tells us in Ephesians 6 has real relevance and meaning for our lives today!  It would be foolish for any soldier to neglect any part of his armor; the enemy is a master at identifying and taking advantage of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

So I hope you’ve been keeping your gear polished and in top-notch condition, because your Commander is waiting on the battlefield, and He’s going to want to see equipment that shines so brightly He can see Himself in it!  We’ll start first thing tomorrow by talking about one of your most important pieces of protective equipment; your…belt?  While oft neglected, it was issued for a reason – and you don’t even want to try to get along without it!

In the meantime, head out for the day’s fighting filled with the courage that comes from knowing your Commander laid down His life for the sake of our victory.  In this Easter season, we also recognize His power and greatness in the fact that He has taken it back up again in order to guide us and protect us from the assaults of the enemy.  Jesus Christ has triumphed gloriously over sin, death, and the devil, and He will lead us to success as well in our daily skirmishes.  To Him be the glory forever!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have given Your Son to die that we might live with You.  Forgive us our failure for His sake; cleanse, renew, and empower us to fight boldly for Your name’s sake.  Help us to recognize those gifts with which You have equipped us, and teach us to use them in a way that reflects Your grace upon those around us.  Through Jesus Christ, our risen and victorious Commander!  Amen.