Friday, April 27, 2012

Girding Your Loins with Truth

Ephesians 6:14a, NASB

Truth.  What is truth?  Isn't that one of the questions of the day?  Remember at the beginning of this series when I mentioned the tactics that the devil uses.  He is the father of lies.  Is it any wonder that one of his methods is to try to muddle the truth- to get us to question whether or not God really said something.  In contrast, Jesus said the He is the Truth.  I am once again reminded how important it is to know and study the book God has given us.  We need to be lovers of truth.  We need to know that truth so well that Satan is not able to trick us with his lies.

So what does it mean to gird up our loins with truth?  Other translations refer to this as the belt of truth, but in my research I have come to prefer the image of girding our loins.  I was fascinated to learn that this was something that was done before engaging in anything strenuous and physical, such as going into battle.  The photo I found is actually of a woman who has "girt her loins" as an aide in doing her labor.  Can you imagine trying to carry that load and manage a long skirt about your ankles.  By girding her loins she has her hands free to carry even more, rather than needing them to deal with her skirts as she walks. 
This girding up of your loins was more than simply tucking the long fabric of your robe into a belt.  The fabric of the knee length tunic was pulled up in front until it reached your upper thigh and collecting the extra material in the front-so that the back of your tunic was snug against your backside.  Next, you would tuck the extra material in front between your legs and gather it behind you.  Then you divide the material evenly on each side of your back and wrap each side around your waist, tying it together in the front.  Now you were ready for battle with your robes tucked neatly out of the way.  Girding you loins has come to mean "to get yourself ready for battle," and now it makes sense to me.

It is the Truth that will keep us from stumbling as we engage in this spiritual battle.  Before we can do anything else we have to make sure we have prepared ourselves, we have girded our loins.  The rest of the armor won't do us much good if we are tripping and stumbling because we have not taken this very first step.

I had the honor of sitting under a pastor for many years who often reminded us that those whose work is to identify counterfeit money spend their time studying the real thing, not the counterfeit.  They have to know the real thing so well that they easily recognize the counterfeit.  I recently read an article about that whole process, and it confirmed this idea.  This idea is vital for us as we contemplate girding our loins with truth.  From the beginning Satan has been at work trying to twist the truth, sometimes with very bold, blatant lies, and at other times just ever so slightly.  Praise God, He has provided us with what we need to counter these attacks.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Take up the Full Armor of God

Continuing my thoughts on the Armor of God:
Ephesians 6:13
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm.

We need every piece of the armor God provides.  If we are missing even one part of it we leave ourselves vulnerable.  This verse exhorts us to "take up" the armor.  Imagine what would happen if all I did was keep the armor polished but never actually put it on.  All the preparation in the world won't do me any good if I leave my armor home in the closet when I go out.  Before my feet even hit the floor in the morning I need to be aware that I am engaged in a battle and take up that which God has so graciously provided to defend myself.  When I do that, Paul tells me that I will be able to resist whatever Satan comes at me with.  When I put every piece in place I will be able to stand firm.

What does it mean to stand firm?  It means we resist, we refuse to abandon our beliefs, we refuse to budge, we oppose and defend, we withstand.  Do you see how important this armor is going to be?  Oh, the enemy is a good one for finding out our weaknesses and pounding us in those areas.  God has given us the perfect armor to be able to stand even amid these onslaughts. I can hardly wait to start taking up each piece and really looking at.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Armor of God

Last night several ladies and I wrapped up our study of Ephesians.  Our final study covered the Armor of God. I would like to share with you what I got out of that section of Scripture before I leave it behind for now.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, stand firm.  Ephesians 6:10-13, NASB

We are engaged in a battle, but it is not with the people we meet on the street.  It is not with politicians, or the media, or scoffers, or judges, or whomever else we might be tempted to focus on.  Our battle is spiritual in nature and we need to do everything we can so that we can "stand firm."  We need the full armor of God.  We need every piece of that armor or we will be vulnerable to attack.  And we need to "take it up."  It won't do me any good if I leave it sitting in the closet, or at the foot of my bed, or tucked away some place collecting dust.  I have to make an effort to put it on every day.  It sounds so easy- but armor can feel a bit awkward-sometimes it even requires the assistance of another person to put it on.

What I love about Paul's exhortation here is his statement about where our strength comes from- the Lord.  Thank goodness I do not have to rely on my own strength as I face the world with God's armor in place.  I also love that I am putting on God's armor and not something that I have fashioned for myself.  Satan is a schemer and we cannot become complacent about his role in the world.  I think it is important for us to know our enemy.  And we know plenty about the ways of this evil one.  From Genesis we learn that he is more cunning than any. That he tries to get us to question and doubt God's Word.  He tries to make us believe that we can be lord and master of our own lives. (I fall for this one far too often.)  He is the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), he is a  murderer, a liar, and the father of lies (John 8:44), and he is a tempter (Matthew 4:3: 1 Thessalonians 3:5).  But God has given us the armor we need to stand firm against him no matter what he tries to throw at us.  This armor is important stuff and I think it is beneficial that we understand how each piece has been specifically designed to protect us against very specific threats.  So I hope you will join me as I delve deeper into the armor of God over several posts to come.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do You Know Him

I was asked the other day by a friend if I knew so-and-so.  I answered yes, but then thought, I don't really KNOW her.  I greet her by name when I see her.  I know she is married and has three kiddos.  I love her taste in clothes.  But I don't really know her, not the details that make her who she is.

I am always on the lookout when I read through the Bible for insight into who God is.  Psalm 86:1-17 provided me just such insight this morning.
From the Psalmist I learned that God is:
-able to protect me
-so good
-ready to forgive
-full of unfailing love
-the One on whom my life depends
-the maker of each and every nation
-performs great miracles
-God alone- there is no other God
-slow to get angry
-full of truth
-the One who rescued me from the depths of death

I needed to know that God this morning.  I needed to know He is slow to anger and ready to forgive.  I needed to know that He is merciful and gracious.  I needed to be reminded that I was rescued  from the depths of death.  I have been struggling with some sin in my life.  I can be really good at deceiving myself, not calling it what it is.  I was challenged yesterday to face it head on- to trace its "veins" as it has spread deep within my life, and not let any of it go unnoticed or unnamed.

I spent some time rooting around in the mud with God to find all the areas where this sin has had an impact on my life.  Oh my goodness, how can one little sin be connected to so many others?!  I spent some time confessing in detail to the One who is ready to forgive, confessing my sins, not in general, but being very specific.  I spent some time with Him laying out a plan for the future to help me avoid continuing in that sin.  And while it was not an audible voice, I heard very distinctly at the end of my quiet time this morning. "I have told you what is good and right and acceptable, now go and do it."  So I am off to do what I have known all along I should be doing- time to stop making excuses for myself.

I highly recommend you visit Tim Challies' Blog

Grace, Peace, and Mercy

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Morning Smoothie

I read a blog this week that caught my attention, Walking Through the Valley.  Stephanie and her husband are on a difficult journey and I was very convicted about my own attitudes by what she shared.  I hope you will visit her blog and read her perspective.

The weather has warmed up here and I am switching from my morning cereal to a morning smoothie.  A couple of years ago I was introduced to the benefits of Kefir.  I decided to take the plunge, ordered some Kefir grains online to make my own milk, and have been loving it ever since. It was so easy to do and was the catalyst that got me interested in making my own yogurt.  Kefir is considered a probiotic powerhouse, outdoing yogurt.  One of my goals with my diet is to get in two probiotic servings a day, so between my homemade yogurt and homemade Kefir I have no problem meeting that goal.  You can purchase Kefir milk at the grocery/health food store, but it is rather expensive.   It is also a little tart, so I tend to use it in smoothies, having never really developed a taste for it on its own.  I have heard of some people who use it in place of buttermilk...hmmm, maybe I need to try it with my pancake recipe.

Breakfast Smoothie Recipe
 1 cup Kefir milk
 1 cup frozen fruit
 1 T honey or agave
 1 T flax seed oil

Combine all ingredients in a blender and enjoy.

This is my process from start to finish so you can see how easy it is.

About a tablespoon of Kefir grains in glass jar.  It is important not to use any metal utensils or containers when making Kefir milk.

I love these mason jars with the measurements on the side.  I add between 1 and two cups of regular milk, depending on how many smoothies I will be making the next morning.  Gently swirl contents then cover with a coffee filter and secure.  I used to secure it with a rubber band, but started using the ring when my rubber bands all disappeared.  It breaks from my "no metal" rule, but as it never comes in contact with the milk I don't think it is a problem.  Once that is done simply place the jar in a dark spot until the next morning.

In the morning, place a fine mesh strainer over the blender and pour out the Kefir milk from the jar.  The liquid drains through leaving behind the Kefir grains.  I use the wooden spoon to work all of the liquid through the strainer until only the grains remain.

Kefir grains multiply over time so you will always have more than enough for yourself and some to share with a friend to get them started too.  Scoop out the grains and place in a clean jar to start tomorrow's batch.

Now I have one cup of Kefir milk in the blender.  Next I add 1 tablespoon flax seed oil for all of its health benefits, then one tablespoon of either honey or agave.  I made the switch to agave last fall because of its lower glycemic index.  (If you measure the oil first the honey just rolls out of the spoon.)

In goes one cup of frozen berry blend.  I love that our Sams Club carries the big bags.

And then it is time to enjoy!  
Ken and the boys really like these too, so when they are around I make a larger batch.

It really is a simple process.  I have even placed my extra grains in the freezer for backup in case I ever lose a batch.  The freezer also works well when you are gone for a month or two and cannot tend to the Kefir, which I have done.  Just take out your grains, add your milk, and soon it is rejuvenated.  Have I enticed you to give it a try?  Anyone nearby can just ask me for some grains, otherwise you can find sources online.  Just remember, you don't need to buy more than a tablespoon, unless perhaps you are going to make large batches, as in no time at all you will have more than you need.

Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Study, Meditate, Obey

I have moved into the book of Joshua for my Old Testament reading.  The LORD had some instruction for Joshua as he stepped into the role of leader of Israel after Moses' death.  These words in particular caught my attention, "Study this Book of the Law continually.  Meditate on it day and  night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it.  Only then will you succeed.  I command you-be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:8-9, NLT1

I am convinced that those instructions are not obsolete.  Yes we have pastors who preach, books that teach, seminars and conferences that inspire and equip, but there is no replacement for spending time studying The Book.  I wish I could share with you the wonderful things I have heard from the women in my Bible Study group-for some this is the first time to study it for themselves and they are excited.
Notice that word "continually" in these verses?  We have to pick it up over and over and read it for ourselves.  Once a week just won't cut it.  One of the wonderful benefits we have in Christ is that the Holy Spirit is right there with us and He can illuminate God's Word for us as we read.  What an amazing gift!  What an incredible resource!  We don't have to wonder how to live in this world, God has laid it out plainly for us all to see.  We don't have to wonder who to believe, God is the source of all truth.  If you have followed my writing for very long you have heard me say it over and over again, my greatest desire in writing is that you will be inspired to pick up this precious gift we have, God's Word, and spend time with Him there.  I am here to cheer you on!

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Call to Discipline

Would it surprise you to learn I am lacking discipline lately?  I have been struggling for a few weeks just to do what I know I should and finding all kinds of silly excuses not to.  Even my prayer journal has been hit and miss, with more misses than hits last week.  How timely that Courtney over at Women Living Well posted this on her blog:

The time has come to stop praying about it and confessing my failure everyday and start doing something.  I am somewhat limited on physical activity at the moment as I am nursing a sprained knee and sprained ankle.  My sweet son Matthew pointed out that I do not have to live with these weak ankles.  So I went online and found some suggestions that I am going to put into practice beginning today with the Ankle Strengthening Program.  With my good ankle I worked through most of these today. (The one using the towel was a lot harder than it looked.) 

The other thing I need to work on: getting to bed at a reasonable time.  10:30, lights out for me.

Ken and I decided to enlarge the pond in our backyard and began work on it this past week.  The first two photos are from this past winter- notice the size of the water feature, the little pond was not much bigger than it.

My amazing hubby dug a huge whole in the backyard-
16x9 feet at it's widest and  two feet at it's deepest,
with lots of shelf space for plants!
Below is the current stage of the pond- notice the size of the water feature- it is the same as the "Before" photos.   Still a lot left to do- including choosing plants, and adding a bog area.

I sat out by the pond this morning and enjoyed my quiet time by this peaceful spot.  I enjoyed the sound of the water spilling into the pond as I contemplated what the Kingdom of God is like.  Then Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like?  How can I illustrate it?  It is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds come and find shelter in its branches."  He also asked, "What else is the Kingdom of God like?  It is like yeast used by a woman making bread.  Even though she used a large amount of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough." 
 Luke 13:18-21, NLT1

What if I am that tiny mustard seed?  What if I am that little bit of yeast?  My part--your part--in the Kingdom of God may seem like a small or insignificant role.  Yet when we do our part God can take our wee offering and do something incredible with it.  We have no idea the impact our individual lives have on the whole world, or what God can accomplish if we will simply do what He asks of us.  I am dealing with the effects of weakness in a part of my body that I never give much thought too, except when I am in pain and can't walk very well.  I don't even want to think about what my lack of discipline could be doing to the Body of Christ.  In love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the whole body for the building up of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:15b-16, NASB  (Feeling convicted yet?)

Courtney's challenge to develop some discipline has come at a good time.  What about you?  Are you up for the challenge?  Leave a comment below about what things you want to work on and let's encourage one another as we strive to be the women God wants us to be in 2012.

Grace, Peace, and Mercy, Deb

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Retiring to a quiet place

My reading in Luke chapter 10 brought me to my personal favorite in Scripture, Mary the sister of Martha.  The New Living Translation 1st edition renders it, As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home.  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He taught.  But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing,  She came to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?  Tell her to come and help me."  
But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details!  There is really only one thing worth being concerned about.  Mary has discovered it--and I won't take it away from her."

It is no surprise to those who know me that I have a Mary heart.  Martha was a wonderful hostess- she perhaps had the gift of hospitality.  Look what she did:  She welcomed Jesus and the disciples into her home.  She busied herself with all the preparations necessary to care for her guests.  How about you?  Have you welcomed Jesus into your home, into your heart?  And now that He is there are you busy with all sorts of things trying to make Him feel welcome?

Mary dropped everything else to sit at Jesus feet and listen to His word.  And we are told that this was the better choice.  This was a choice that Jesus was not going to take away from her.  We are not told what Martha did at this point.  Did she join Mary at Jesus feet or continue her preparations, perhaps with an unhappy heart?  I like to think she joined Mary, but we just do not know.

I have a list of prayer requests "a mile long."  Praying for others is a good thing.  This morning I am gently nudged by the Lord to remember the better thing.  To listen to His Word.  I start there before I do any praying.  There is so much left for me to learn if I am going to be the woman God wants me to be.  Even Jesus understood the need to go to a quiet place and we have the record of Him doing so on several occasions.  How can I possibly think I can do anything less and be successful in my own work?

Grace, Peace, and Mercy,