Archive for February, 2023

Gird Up, Sober Up, Look Up

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ….” I Peter 1: 13

Few generations have faced the world offering them little hope. Every breeze from the Orient brings with it the smell of Chinese explosives as a threat to war, environmental pollution, wock’s threat that divides, drugs, crime, corruption, and COVID threatening death pull tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine. Little wonder live as though there is no tomorrow. “Seize the moment” is the mantra of the rising generation that lives as though there is no tomorrow.

The older generations are faced with a culture that affords them no fewer woes.

Followers of Jesus in every generation can attest to the truth of Jesus who promised that in this world there would be tribulation. The Bible Book of I Peter deserves a reread. It was initially written to people to whom hope did not come easy. It might be called a Book of Hope. For us as for the initial audience, hope gives the Christian encouragement in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this life because it focuses our affection on the blessings of the source of all hope, Jesus.

The verse focused in the above text offers three pillars of hope.       

First, “…gird up the loins of your mind….” All three expressions are symbolic expressions. When a warrior in the biblical era was about to go into battle he would tuck his robe into his belt enabling him to act more adeptly. This expression used here means to get mentally prepared. Many people falter and fail to deal adroitly with issues.  They have no mental reservoir from which to draw waters of wisdom. They simply don’t know what to do and they fall apart. They have failed to do as instructed to “Study to show yourself approved unto God….” If that is indicative of you, change it today and set up a plan of Bible study. Enroll in spiritual boot camp and start training. You will have tribulation, count on it. Get to know God better and learn His standards.

Second, “…be sober….” This isn’t related to drunkenness or other drugs only. When not sober the mind is under an external influence, alcohol. Is your mind clouded by any external influence? Are you inclined to give allegiance to any philosophy contrary to the Scripture? If so, sober up, that is come out from beneath any alien influence.

Third, “rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ….” If you have come to understand who Jesus is you know He offers hope. For it to be yours you must not only know it, but believe it. Believing in His grace, His unmerited favor, gives hope. Live on the basis of faith/rest. Then you can say if not sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness….” Gird up, sober up, and look up in hope even in our hopeless society.

Equipment for Spiritual Warfare

Robert Louis Stevenson once said: “You know the Caledonian Railway Station in Edinburgh? One cold, east windy morning, I met Satan there.” We do not know what actually happened to Stevenson. What manifestation of Satan is not definite. It may have been a person being used by Satan or even a demonic presence. We have all experienced the force of that evil influence.

Our loving Lord knowing this has provided us with what is needed to counter Satan. The Apostle Paul was the penman used to describe it. He was in prison in Rome at the time chained to Roman soldiers. Using the equipment used by the soldiers as a ready-made illustration he describes our equipment.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation. and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6: 10 – 17)

We are to:
Have our waist girded with truth. A wide belt was worn around the midsection. From it, readily accessible, were other weapons and provisions. They represent the truth upon which we are to rely.

Wear the breastplate of righteousness. Our lifestyle is to protect our reputation. Once a man accused Plato of certain crimes. “Well then,” said Plato, “we must live in such a way as to prove that his accusations are a lie.” The only way to meet the accusations against our character is by a superior lifestyle.

Have our feet shod with the gospel of peace. The sandals worn by Roman soldiers had short spikes like on older golf shoes. They enable him to be surefooted in battle. The gospel of peace enables us to be surefooted. 

Utilize the shield of faith against the fiery darts of the wicked one. These were not the smaller oval shields. These were the larger oblong ones providing a defense against fire tipped lances. Faith is our shield against the assault of the evil one.

The helmet of salvation is essential. Our salvation provides us forgiveness for the sins of the past and strength to conquer sin in the time of temptation.

The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. We can never conquer in a contest without the word of God. Study to know this asset. 

Like Robert Louis Stevenson you are sure to meet Satan in some form daily. Now that you are mindful of your armament, go forth and conquer.

Mountain High

My wife and I set out on an adventure going from Salmon, Idaho to Dillon, Montana. Separating the two towns was the formidable Rocky Mountains. To get there we were to travel the Lehmi Trail used by Lewis and Clark to cross the Rockies. It was an ancient route used by Shoshone Native Americans to go from their home range in Idaho to the plains of Montana to hunt buffalo. As a young Lehmi Shoshone girl named Sagaweea had traveled it. For that reason she knew of it and later led the Lewis and Clark expedition on the way west.

We soon found out why it is still called a trail. It didn’t qualify to be called a road. About an hour out on the trail I noticed there were no car tracks and I soon learned why. At points the trail which was one vehicle wide ran along cliff edges with dramatic drop offs. Belatedly I realized it was not wise to travel it.

When we finally topped out we were captivated by the vista that lay before us. How thrilling it must have been for the Shoshone each time they looked at the Montana plane teaming with buffalo. They hunted there and took their store of meat back to Salmon at no little effort. It was a supplement to their salmon diet.

On the summit was a small National Park of only a few acres with a picnic area. In the park we were amazed to find a small spring with water trickling down the mountains. I stood with a foot on each side for a reason. That trickle flows into the Jefferson River which flows into the Yellowstone River which flows into the Missouri River, which flows into the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico. I can say I stood with one of my feet on each bank of the Mississippi.

I was reminded of a story I heard when living in New Orleans. A young man was seen running across a wharf and jumping as far as possible into the Mississippi River. He swam back and did it not once but three times more. When asked why he was doing it he said he was offered $10,000 if he could jump across the river. When assured that was an impossibility he said he thought so, but it was too good of an offer not to try.

Had he only known that if he had gone further north it was small enough he could have jumped it.

That comparison has lived with me. There are some offers too good not to try. We often frustrate ourselves by not thinking of how to accomplish things.

“Seek” is still good advice. Show me how Lord is a good appeal. Don’t give up on that daunting challenge facing you without a trial. The trail may be challenging and the mountain high, but try.

Perseverance is often a cause for success, therefore, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)     

Keep jumping.

Life Is a Class in Character Building – Part Two

Joshua 1: 8, 9

We are what we are because of what we do with our opportunities.

Can you imagine the emotions and apprehension of young Joshua that night in Egypt when the death angel passed through the land and he was helping his parents pack for the trip into the unknown?  Nevertheless, he was faithful.

Think of how he must have felt on the shores of the moaning Red Sea as the army of Pharaoh pressed in on them, still he was faithful.

As one of the spies sent into the land of promise, he observed there would be adversaries; and while faint-hearted companions cowered, still he was faithful.

Faithfulness today is as rare as an albino peacock.

Be faithful.  You never know what God is using present circumstances to prepare you for. The aloe plant blooms once every 100 years, but every hour of that century is needed to prepare it for that moment of blossoming.

Remember, Jesus said we should labor with such faithfulness that it might be said of us, “You have been faithful over a few things.  I will make you ruler of many.” Faith is trusting God even when you have no reason to.

“Faith, might faith, the promise sees.
Looking to God alone
Laughs at impossibilities,
And shouts, ‘It shall be done.’”

God not only isn’t against you or even neutral about you, He is enthusiastically for you.

Memorize this verse from Sidney Lanier’s poem, “The Marshes of Glenn.”:
“As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
I will fly in the greatness of God as a marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the
marsh and the skies:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God.”

Joshua uses the expression “the Lord your God.”  Lord translates the Hebrew name JEHOVAH which the ancient Jews reverenced so much they would not even articulate it.  God translates the word ELOHIM which is used for God 2,555 times in the O.T. It was plural for ELOHA. Elohim not only speaks of the trinity, but helps reveal the character of God.  It is a reference to the limitless increase of His power and glory.  It meant the mighty one.  It was to show that not even 10,000 other god’s were equal to Him.  This is the God who is present with you.

The God who conquered Canna is the God who is for you.

Life Is a Class in Character Building – Part One

Joshua 1: 8, 9

Jesus lovingly is offering you a set of circumstances, which if responded to properly, will build in you character that which is pleasing to Him and profitable for you.

Do you believe that? Whether you do or not is evidenced by the way you respond to what happens to you.

You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.  In doing so you reveal your character. A little verse depicts the difference in people. Two persons looking out a prison window indicates how different people can respond to the same circumstance: 

Two men looked out bars, one saw mud, the other stars.

We were created by a loving God who intended us to look up and see the stars.  The Greek word for man “anthropos” means “the up-looking one.”

This little verse takes that point further.     
“Man cannot live until he sees
The stars through the cypress trees.”

The stars symbolize hope and the cyprus depicts sorrow.  Only when you can demonstrate hope amid sorrow do you have the character needed for life.  It is character pleasing to the Lord.

The O.T. character Joshua confronted character building circumstances in the face of adversity.  By studying him and his response, we can learn proper responses to adversity.

Moses had died.  Joshua, his assistant for years, emerged as God’s chosen leader.  Joshua put his foot on the platform of history so loudly that all ages echo with the tread.

The exhortation given him and the people he was leading indicates their state of mind. So, God said: “Be strong….” Literally, stop being weak, or don’t freak out.  As a follower of Jesus, you need to remember He said, “You shall receive power…”

Resultantly you can say, “I am strong in His strength.”

“Be of good courage…” Do you, like them, ever lack courage? Don’t. 

“Do not be afraid….” Literally, “stop being afraid.” 

“Don’t be dismayed….,” meaning, don’t quit.  The greatest barrier to faith that leads to excellence is the tendency to quit. Excellence is more than a wish, it is a pursuit that never stops.

Got it? Be strong, be of good courage, don’t be afraid, don’t quit. By following that formula you, like Joshua, can conquer the walled city you face.