ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

Each waking day we are in a battle. The battle is against the world, satan and our own flesh. The great majority of the world fall in defeat dying to a death they do not understand.

One of my favorite hymns is Onward Christian Soldiers. I never truly understood it until I put it together with the verses found in Ephesians 6:10-17. As Christians if we stand strong in our faith we have already won the victory. In WWII it was symbolic of capturing Berlin and papers proclaimed in their headlines ‘Victory in Europe’. For Christians it is our taking captive the knowledge of God and the headline reads ‘Salvation’.

To win this fight in faith each day we put on the Armor of God. Each day we fight not with sword but with: truth, righteousness, the Good News, trust, salvation, the Spirit and prayer. The spiritual forces of evil cannot withstand this weaponry. We see these battles fought daily when truth destroys lies, the Bible continues to be referenced where evil flourishes or when prayer heals. This and so much more.

Paul charged Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18 to “wage the good war”. Many try to do this using the mind alone. That will have its conquest but overwhelming victory comes when the heart and Spirit are a part of the battle plan. Now it is time for us to go into battle. ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Spiritual weapons are necessary as we wage war against the world, the devil and our own flesh.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:10-17 “the armor of God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord clothe me with Your armor.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the smaller battle fronts we face each day that the world, satan and our flesh present us?
  2. How do we see the spiritual forces of evil responding to the weapons of God in today’s world?
  3. How do faith, the Holy Spirit and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) give us victory?
  4. Do you have a battle plan for life?

TO WHOM SHOULD WE DO GOOD?

In Matthew 15:22-28 Jesus is confronted by a Canaanite woman. Historically the Canaanite were were pagan and spiritual enemies of Israel often leading them into idolatry. It would seem natural Jesus after having taken on human nature in coming to us would be repulsed by her request for help. Initially in the text it seemed as though that was the case but in carefully reading it through to the end we find that her faith not only brought her to Christ but led to her daughter’s healing. It causes me to ask if I were confronted by someone in need of help who had done myself or my family wrong would I be Christian enough to help them irregardless of the past? The answer should be most certainly yes.

To me this text has a great many spiritual lessons among which are first of all that our faith is seen in how strongly we hold to Christ as our Savior. For many their faith is weak when it comes to being tested. It is then we must remain ever stronger. As parents in the case of this mother we must also show this strength when the trouble is with our children. We must always remember that their trouble is ours as well and we can and most certainly should intercede on their behalf with our Lord and Savior.

As verse 25 would indicate I believe Jesus may well provide obstacles to our faith. Perhaps it is to see how earnest we are in our faith but He does hear and when He answers it is not only for our benefit but needs be for His glory as well. Indeed if our faith is an active faith we will turn whatever is against us into something for us. Faith is so critical that I believe it is the one grace that honors Christ most and when expressed Christ honors most in return. It is for that reason that we should take a lesson from Christ when it comes to faith and it is to all that WE SHOULD DO GOOD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Our faith should always find us following our Lord and Savior without question.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 15:27 “An active faith turns what is against us to something for us”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to do great good for others.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. To whom did Jesus most direct His ministry on earth?
  2. As Gentiles are we or not blessed through our support of Israel?
  3. What crumbs do the false masters (gods) throw to people that distract us from faith in our Lord and Savior?
  4. To whom are you doing good?

A WORLD THAT DOES NOT KNOW GRACE

Having something done for you when you are undeserving is grace. This is evident in so many ways in our lives and can be easily shared by us with others. The primary agent is the Holy Spirit. When we have His presence in our lives then the self-centered lusts of flesh and human nature are pushed aside and that which personifies grace (Galatians 5:16-26) comes to the forefront. For this to happen our spirit must connect with the Holy Spirit which happens when we read God’s Word and when we are in prayer (Romans 8:15-17).

Christian fellowship is also an agent of God’s grace (Malachi 3:16). When we gather with other Christians (as the Bible tells us where 2 or 3 are gathered) their is God’s presence. This growth in grace must then be shared with others as it so often is. This can be done (stirred up) by the laying on of hands (2 Timothy 1:6) or perhaps in a simple hug whether a person is in need or not. As believers we are not to neglect this as Paul shares in 1 Timothy 4:14 and in the doing we and others will grow in grace as our Lord and Savior would desire for us.

God’s purpose in all this is that we be assured of His many blessings and that life in the here and now is stable of purpose (Ephesians 4:11-16). This is necessary for at every turn lies the devil waiting (1 Thessalonians 3:5) to pull our spirit away from God and to a love of the world (1 John 2:15-17). A WORLD THAT DOES NOT KNOW GRACE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The means of grace is a measurement of our maturity as Christians.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Galatians 5:16 “walk in the spirit”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord fill me with grace.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How can we show grace to others?
  2. How does our spirit connect with the Holy Spirit?
  3. Why are Bible studies, fellowship groups and worship services important?
  4. How can the simple act of giving a hug be a ministry?

FREEDOM FROM SIN AND GUILT AWAITS US

We often look at the smallest of children as symbols of innocence. Free from any sin or guilt yet it isn’t long before that innocence goes away and human nature appears through acts of disobedience and defiance. As Christians we believe this is innate in all of us through the original sin of Adam and Eve (Romans 5;12). Only Christ can save us from this (vs. 16) and return us to a right relationship with God.

The Word of God speaks of 4 kinds of innocence toward which we should strive. The first is the absolute innocence just mentioned which comes through our relationship with Christ alone (2 Corinthians 5:21). Second our lives should be conducted in a manner in which Christ’s was which is to assure ourselves of legal innocence much like Pilate proclaimed of Christ in Luke 23:4. Making every effort to follow in Christ’s footsteps will help keep us on the right path.

Their are two remaining kinds of innocence. The first is moral innocence. This requires we conduct ourselves in a manner where our conscience remains clean based on our being obedient to God’s law. The last is spiritual innocence. We should be as 2 Peter 3:14 tells us found by our Lord and Savior “in peace, without spot and blameless”. As I have shared often before this requires we live lives displaying the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). A life of innocence in union with our Lord and Savior can be ours. FREEDOM FROM SIN AND GUILT AWAITS US.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Innocence often comes through instruction and influence.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Romans 5:12 “innocence lost by disobedience”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord make me clean.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  Why is Christian parenting so important in the life of children?
  2.  Why does evolution (macro) conflict with original sin and need for Christ?
  3. What is necessary to remain morally innocent?
  4. What is necessary to remain spiritually innocent?

CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE

Those of us who enjoyed Star Wars can easily recall the expression: “may the force be with  you”. As Christians we also are to have an invisible force in our personality that causes others to act. It is called influence.

To have this influence we must separate ourselves from the ways of this world. We must instead be salt (Matthew 5:13) which is to say that we use wise speech and be of good influence. In addition we must be light (Matthew 5:14-16) which serves as an example for others transforming lives. The church of the Thessalonians was such an example (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8) that by their mere example positive change took place. Imagine if our churches today were salt and light instead of so often going along with the ways of the world.

Christian influence must also be beneficial in relationships. That naturally begins in one’s home and extends to others. When those closest to us see we are living lives according to the teachings of God’s Word then they also can join you in glorifying God. That is being influential.

In truth if we are going to be influential as Christians we must live lives above criticism and we must plan to do so permanently. That is true CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Christian influence increases with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 1:8 “faith that is influential”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen my ability to be an influence for others.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What kind of influence are you on others?
  2. What kind of example are you for your family?
  3. Have you separated yourself from the ways of this world that are non-Christian?
  4. Is your church influential in your community?

WHAT IS GREATNESS?

As I write this we are honoring our families and most especially our Veterans who have lived out their lives, many in defense of our nation. Certainly  the word ‘great’ can be applied to their lives and deeds. But greatness can be even more. Most especially when we apply it to our Creator God.

God’s greatness, easily seen in His creation around us, is seen in His work such as Israel has experienced past (Judges 2:7) and present. Works which we should honor and glorify as we seem to do for mankind’s efforts on behalf of his fellow human beings. We need to remember in God we can find great victory and mercy while remaining aware that if we are disobedient there can also be great wrath.

There is also greatness in God’s Son Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The obvious top of the list being His death and Resurrection for mankind’s sin. We honor, and rightfully so, those who have died in the fighting of mankind’s short term evil and sins exemplified by men such as Hitler. Even more so we should honor Christ for His victory over the sins of all mankind for all eternity (Acts 2:29-36).

Now the responsibility of greatness is ours. Christ shares with us that our great reward which will be in Heaven (Matthew 5:12). Until then our Lord and Savior deserves to see a ‘great faith’ (Matthew 5:28) in us which He will acknowledge. A faith that is shown to all around us with great boldness as Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:13. For it is with this great boldness of faith and zeal (and on occasion great affliction) we will experience “great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). This is how we understand WHAT IS GREATNESS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: True greatness comes through our gratitude to God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 2 Peter 1:4 “experiencing the divine nature”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord wrap me in Your nature.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the greatest works of our Lord?
  2. How can we honor God for these works?
  3. How can you show great faith on earth?
  4. Are you experiencing the ‘divine nature ‘ of 2 Peter 1:4?

HOW THE WORLD SHOULD SEE US!

Having recently shared how a Christian’s spirit should be on the inside it is equally important how that spirit should manifest itself to the world. Scripture gives us many rules to guide our living one of which is to remain pure as God and the law He has given us is pure (1 Timothy 5:22). That comes with being content with what we have (Hebrews 13:5). Those who are not content often are led to break God’s command and covet what is not legally ours. That can include property or person.

It is also important that we show our love to others when needed through the act of forbearance (Ephesians 4:2). That is to say that when someone needs our  support, most especially during a difficult time, we will be there for them. To uplift one’s spirit as one day God will uplift ours into eternity is truly important.

Our conduct should always be honest, speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:25) with one another. Sadly in a world filled with satan’s deceptions that is often not the case. One of those truths is that mankind is to be industrious (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12) in providing for oneself and our family. The Bible, I believe, strongly discourages laziness and the dependency mind set it generates.

As to how we should react to others, God tells us we are even to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) as Christ Himself directs us. That sadly may cost us our life in a world growing ever more hateful but we must continue to pray for peace and act accordingly. It is only natural if we want to be a part of God’s Kingdom which is built on peace and joy (Romans 14:15-17). A Christian living in such manner will be truly liberated.

Life for us should be conducted in such manner for as Titus 2:14 tells us: we are here to be purified for Christ’s purpose. In so doing using Christ as our model we are to be about good deeds. For truly that is HOW THE WORLD SHOULD SEE US.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Manifest Christian faith in growing more Christlike.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Titus 2:14 “good deeds manifest who we are”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to grow more like You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What is ‘pure’ lifestyle?
  2. How should the church view an entitlement mentality?
  3. Is it possible to love an enemy out of their hateful behavior?
  4. Do you feel liberated as a Christian?

FILLED WITH GRACE

As a follower of Christ we are to show certain character traits both inside and out. That is not always easy but by God’s strength an effort must be made. Grace is that which is attractive to others and makes a person beautiful more so than any other attribute we are bestowed with. It is both internal and external. Today we look at several internal graces where it all begins.

Colossians 3:12-13 in showing how we can become a new person lists several characteristics among which is kindness. The ability to forgive and accept forgiveness. In a world of sin it is often said that Christians must “speak truth in kindness” but always with a forgiving heart as our Savior showed in His life.

Grace is also seen in humility (1 Peter 5:5-6). If honored show humility in receiving the honor. Submission and not pride is what God desires from His faithful. Our exultation for a life lived in Christian faith will come one day “in due time” as verse 6 informs us.

Gentleness in a contentious world where anger comes easily is also key. In James 3:17-18 we see that to be true. When some are quick to fight or make war (though necessary in  exceptional circumstances) as Christians we should be about seeking peace. This comes with gentle speech and action yet with firm resolve. To not do so will only see a response of violence.

In seeking God’s image for our own we must be about love. What it means to be filled with love is clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is what its all about and to have a heart of love is to have the heart of God. Indeed to have the heart of  God requires we be filled with the Holy Spirit. With His presence in our lives His fruits will be evident through our lives (Galatians 5:22-26) among which are self-control and so much more.

All of these will allow us to experience this life as God intended. A life filled with peace (Philippians 4:7) that will allow for a smooth transition into an eternity with our Triune God. That is what it means to be FILLED WITH GRACE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Living in God allows grace to grow greatly.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:7 “a life of peace”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I live the life of grace you wish for me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do you define grace?
  2. What causes others to be less than gracious?
  3. What does it mean to have a heart of love?
  4. Is your life filled with peace?

LIVING IN THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST!

I once received a book titled: Walking in the footsteps of Christ. It was a guide book for traveling in the land upon which Christ walked on earth. It is still my plan one day soon to take a journey to see those locations but until then it is more important to live a life such as He did.

The virtues of Christ are illustrated clearly beginning with His gentle nature. This is important to Christ as He expresses it in Matthew 11:29 when offering an invitation to come to Him. In a world of loud voices and behavior this type of available friendship is welcome indeed.

We also must be willing to deny ourselves that which is (we think) important to our life. It may be as simple as denying sleep or what we consider fun in order to join others in worship (Matthew 16:24), or it may be the ultimate seen in becoming a missionary.

The central focus on Christ is His nature of love (John 13:34). How wonderful our world would be if we loved one another as much as Christ loved us. A part of that love is seen in obedience most especially in the keeping of the commandments as best as we are able (John 15:10). In a secular world understanding obedience seems to be ever more absent. Obedience bespeaks submission but our human nature and its desires does not always allow for this or so it seems.

Christ as our example was benevolent as well (2 Corinthians 8:9). The idea of being charitable to others no matter their needs is commanded and indeed there is great joy to be found in being charitable. No one does it better today than those who call themselves Christian.

All these and more put together bespeak humility which is what God desires. Lack of humility was the downfall of mankind and the beginning of satan’s authority on earth. This requires that we have a forgiving nature. It is likely when our life changes as above we will find ourselves suffering wrongfully but we need to wear that with honor for we know Who we serve. Carrying all this out we will become pure as God desires (1 John 3:3). This is what God demands if we are LIVING IN THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: True spiritual enlightenment happens when everyone is living in the example of Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:3 “becoming pure”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord purify me.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are you willing to deny yourself to show your faith?
  2. What examples of self-denial have you experienced?
  3. Do you love all others?
  4. Have you ever suffered wrongfully?

COMING BACK HOME

It is said that “home is where the heart is”. The ultimate then is to have a heart for God and for us to return to God. That requires returning to God from sin or what is often referred to as a conversion experience. God is sought in many ways. Through meditation or mountain top experience some believe while Scripture tells us a conversion experience must first come through God (Acts 21:19). Paul shares here what God has done in his life as we can share as Paul did those holy moments from our lives with others.

Naturally Christ also provides THE WAY to return from a life of sin (Acts 3:26). This as we all should know happened at the cross in His dying for all mankind’s sin. For me that is the greatest reason to come back to the Heavenly home God has waiting for us. That reality comes easiest according to His teaching (Acts 2:13).  During this entire time and to assure we remain at home, where all we would ever need or want is provided, we have the perfect law of the Lord (Scripture-Psalm 19:7).

This coming home converted or released from sin results in our having an entirely new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17): Faithfulness (Matthew 24:45-47), gentleness (1 Thessalonians 2:7), patience (Colossians 1:11), obedient (Romans 15:13), self control (2 Peter 1:6) and above all love for others (1 John 3:14). These traits and so many more displayed in our lives indeed show we have turned our lives away from sin and that we hear God’s call and are COMING BACK HOME.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Conversion means turning away from corruption of sin to a contrite heart committed to Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “new nature resulting from conversion”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I come before You with a contrite heart seeking forgiveness.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What has God done in your life?
  2. Have you taken on a new nature?
  3. Are there sins remaining in your life needing forgiveness?
  4. What is the danger in removing Scripture from public life?

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