God’s Call to Action

For decades now I have been praying the armor of God in Ephesians 6 over myself nearly every day, and today I realized something new.

Ephesians 6:14-17 (NIV 1984) says:

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Here are the components mentioned in the above passage, with my non-seminary observations:

  • Truth.  This is God’s perspective on anything and everything.
  • Righteousness.  This is right standing with God, which we receive only through the grace and sacrifice of Christ.
  • The Gospel of Peace.  The good news is that God has reconciled us to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, thereby giving us peace with him.
  • Faith.  Hebrews 11 says “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV 1984)  While my thought had always been that faith is the one “act,” if you will, that Christians “do” when they accept Christ as Savior, it was pointed out to me recently that in Ephesians 2:8 the grammar actually states faith itself is a gift of God.
  • Salvation.  Again, this is the work of God in our lives; we cannot save ourselves.
  • The Spirit, or the Word of God.  God’s word, the Scriptures, penetrates to the core of our soul and reveals God’s truth through the Holy Spirit.

In the past month or two I have become more aware of how every component of God’s armor is something he does for us.  This morning, however, something else became clear to me:

Our shoes, the gospel of peace, give the expectation that we will spread peace to each other and with God everywhere we go through the good news of what God has done in our lives.

Think about that for a moment.  Do you bring peace to every situation you enter?  Does your story of what God has done for you permeate everything you do?  When people look at your life, do they see someone responding to God’s gift of peace with him by acting peacefully with everyone, or someone taking advantage of the peace of God in their own lives but refusing to allow peace in their everyday relationships?

I would propose that putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace is similar to wielding the sword of the Spirit; they are both offensive, not defensive, parts of our lives.

  • We are to engage culture, not retreat from it.
  • We are to take steps of faith, not simply hold our position.
  • We are to enter into conflict, not avoid it.
  • We are to forgive, not hold a grudge.
  • We are to speak and act peacefully, and not just when it is convenient.
  • We are to share what God has done for us, not keep it to ourselves.

For me entering into conflict rather than avoiding it is something I regularly have to choose; it does not come naturally.  Sharing my faith outside of church is hard for me, not easy.  Taking steps of faith is difficult for me.  I am grateful, however, that God has been helping me to grow in these areas.

God will help you in your unique situation; all you have to do is ask.

In which of these areas do you need to grow?

How to Deal with Rejection

Because human beings are broken people we should not be surprised when they disappoint, hurt or reject us. Dealing with rejection, then, should be something we plan for rather than something we hope we never have to deal with.

Yesterday my pastor made the point that Jesus did not just suffer rejection; Jesus planned for it. That idea got me thinking about my own life.

A number of years ago at a former church I decided to become a licensed pastor. If you are uncertain about the difference between a licensed and an ordained pastor, a simple way to think about it is that a licensed pastor is planning on being in ministry temporarily and an ordained pastor is planning on lifetime ministry.

Applying for licensure was a big deal. At this church the process was a year long, including mentoring and spiritual vetting. At the end of the year I and two others seeking licensure were placed before the congregation for a vote of confirmation.

Little did I know that while I was outside the room someone was inside doing a character assassination on me and circumventing the due process of voting. As the Director of Worship Ministries I became the fall guy of worship tensions at the time.

When I came back into the room after the voting the other two had been confirmed and I had not.

I was devastated.

I kept it together while the meeting ended and then left immediately. Fortunately a close friend on staff caught up with me and we went out to get a bite to eat and talk it over.

A week later I had lunch with this man who talked harshly about me and he asked forgiveness for what he had done. The next year, and from time to time even now, I had to go back and forgive him again in my heart.

Eventually I was confirmed and I was able to work with this church elder again.

Since the fall of man rejection has become part of the human experience. Jesus knew this and knew that even his own father would have to reject him so he could fulfill his purpose.

I’m not perfect, but here are a few points that made all the difference in my experience with rejection.

1. Jesus is my model. He did not condemn; instead he forgave. My goal was to forgive and not become bitter, and I revisited that goal every time I thought about that experience.

You need to make this choice ahead of time.

2. I had a close friend. That night would have been radically different if my friend had not pursued me to see how I was doing.

You need to have a close friend.

3. I met with my detractor right away. I don’t remember if he initiated that meeting or I did, but dealing with it immediately was key.

Do not skirt the issue; deal with it as soon as you can.

4. I sought God. God is the only person who will never leave, forsake, or disappoint you. He will give you the strength to make it through tough times.

You need to make this a practice now and not just throw up random prayers in difficult times.

You may not know how or when you will experience rejection, but chances are you will experience it sometime in your life.

If you are struggling with rejection now you can begin these steps now. It’s never too late.

How can you better prepare to deal with rejection?

One Step to a Better Attitude

I have been reminded in the past few months of how difficult it can be to maintain a proper attitude in life.  Our own experiences and the news provide plenty of opportunities to be negative and down in the mouth.

Yesterday I was laying stone and another worker taking a few minutes’ break came up to watch.  He began to complain about how the owners had asked him to do some completely unrealistic things simply because they have too much money.

To his credit, what they asked was a bit loony.  They wanted to put air conditioning ducts in the porch outside. You know how your mom always told you to shut the door because she did not want to be air conditioning the neighborhood?  These people wanted to have that set up permanently installed in their porch outdoor kitchen.  Rightly so the company refused to do it because the cool and warm air together would create condensation leading eventually to mold and liability for the air company.

Stepping back from the crazy nature of it all, however, I have to ask, “What did it matter?”  My dad has a saying.  “Maurice, it all pays the same.”  If the owners want us to tear down what we built because they don’t like it after all and we get paid to put in the replacement, what does it matter?

The final analysis has to do with attitude.  In masonry, as in ministry, we are in a service industry, and people are going to do unusual things.

The man watching me had a negative attitude because he had to remove what he had installed and place it somewhere else.  The truth is that he was getting paid to install the same equipment twice in the same home.  isn’t that like the double bonus zone or something?

Gratitude.  We need gratitude.  Your attitude is up to you and no one else.

And so today I am going to practice my own form of gratitude, because I constantly need to adjust my attitude in the positive direction.

My divorce.  Here is my best opportunity to be negative, but I am going to be positive about it.

1.  Because of my divorce I have learned to know myself again.  Five years ago I had a much harder time expressing my emotions; now I am much more in tune with myself.

2.  Because of my divorce my relationship with God has gone to heights I never experienced before.  When you hit rock bottom you can either wallow in the seeming absence of God or cry out like never before.  God answers.

3.  Because of my divorce I can relate to people better than ever before.  The world is broken, and 50% of people inside and outside of the church are divorced, and most of the rest have experienced some other kind of brokenness.  Leading out of my brokenness has enabled me to connect much more effectively with people from the platform and throughout the week.

4.  Because of my divorce I have been forced to think creatively about my future, and the results have been unpredictable and refreshing all at the same time.  This blog, writing poetry, pursuing my doctorate this fall, private teaching and mentoring have all come to fruition because I have been forced to think differently.

5.  Because of my divorce I have been learning how to watch for God to open doors rather than trying to make things happen.  Everything I am now is a result of God opening doors.  I’m excited about what he is going to do next.

6.  Because of my divorce I understand more completely what it means to be a partner in a marriage.  The hours of counseling opened my eyes to the false ideas I believed about being a spouse and made room for the right ideas and beliefs to grow.

7.  Because of my divorce I am learning more clearly how to forgive.

I could go on for a while here.

Divorce is not God’s plan.  Period.  But we are fallen people, and when we sin and make bad choices or simply are oblivious God shakes us up so we see things clearly.  Then he takes us right where we are and walks through it with us, still loving and caring for us, and makes us better people than we were before, if we allow him.

At first I was choosing to be grateful.  Now I truly am.

Where do you need to improve your attitude by choosing to be grateful?