And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
To stand firm in our story of faith, we have been instructed to intentionally put on the full armor of God one piece at a time. Once all is in place we are then instructed on how to effectively use the armor against the devils destructive schemes. We are all dressed up, so now what?
We pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. As we are equipped with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God, we have the resources for standing firm. Prayer ignites and empowers the armor. Praying must be done in the Spirit – in submission to His authority and affections. Just as Christ prayed for the cup of death to be removed, he also prayed for God’s will not His own. That is praying in the Spirit according to God’s will.
We put on the armor and pray in the Spirit on all occasions. The word “occasions” in the Greek refers to “a critical or decisive point in time, a moment of great importance and significance.” Most “occasions” call for prayer, however, we often just want to use a piece of the armor to work out the need of the moment. However, the most effective way to stand firm in any occasion is to pray with the armor on and ask God for His will to be accomplished.
As I began a lifelong journey of hiding God’s Word in my heart, I realized that the only way the armor of the Word would be ignited in my life was by praying the verses I memorized for specific people and purposes. I began to attach each verse I memorized to a person and would pray that verse for them each time I reviewed the verse. The verse that I have prayed for my children is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) I have seen the Holy Spirit work this truth into their lives as they have consistently sought, served and loved God and people.
Using the armor of the Word we can go to battle for others and for ourselves as we pray for all kinds of requests for healing, relationships, and struggles with sin. There is no request that is too small or too big – bring them all before “the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Once dressed with God’s armor, we are to first pray in the Spirit and secondly we are to be alert and perseverant in those prayers. “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” To be alert is also referred to in Scripture as watchfulness. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2) Watchful is “a mindfulness of threatening dangers which with conscious earnestness and alert mind keeps me from all drowsiness and all slackening in the energy of faith and conduct.”
When Jesus found his disciples sleeping while he was praying about his cross-bearing journey, He said to them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38) Every Christian you know is fighting a battle because the enemy is intent on destroying God’s children. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) This is why we must stay awake to the things that threaten our families, marriages, friendships, and ministries. This year I have seen the enemy take down a minister of the gospel who I have known personally for many years. Unfortunately those of us who know him were not alert enough to the temptations he was facing. We had fallen asleep and had not persevered in our prayers for this saint. This failure to be watchful has taught me to be ever vigilant in my prayers for myself and for all believers.
What about you? Are you all dressed up, but lack power to take down the enemy of your soul?
Pray in the Spirit always,
Sacred Story is honored to have Nancy Taylor as a guest contributor. Nancy loves the Word of God and has been hiding it in her heart for over 15 years. In her book, “Taking the Word to Heart,” Nancy shares her journey of scripture memory and practical ways to get a firm grip on God’s Word. She loves to encourage women in their walk with Christ through writing, teaching and mentoring. She and her husband William live in Houston, TX and enjoy spending time with their two adult children, their spouses and their two grandchildren.
Around 3 pm, I fear I am going to fall asleep at the carpool wheel. I have had some close calls so now, before charging out the door in the afternoons, I call in my “super friends,” the “wonder twin powers” of “the eagle” (Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk®, that is) and and “granules of instant coffee.” All that is remaining is a little hot water to dissolve everything, ice cubes, and your choice of a cold beverage addition such as water (in a pinch) or your preferred milk. Low fat milk is my go-to, but dairy-free folks can substitute regular sugar (or sugar-free alternatives) for the sweetened condensed milk and choose a favorite “milk” to pour over at the end. Be creative and experiment to find your ideal ratios in this caffeine concoction.
For some New Orleanian -Vietnamese style voltage, try combining my favorite instant chicory coffee with sweetened condensed milk and then add ice. My brew gives me a reboot in the afternoons. What’s your afternoon energy booster? Reply in the comments section.
“…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.” Eph. 6:17
For the last few weeks we have studied critical components of the armor of God needed to fight the battle we forge against the enemy. There is a REAL battle going on and we must remember the resources God has made available to every believer. Our job is to recall these resources and utilize them daily.
We have discussed the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of readiness and the shield of faith. Today we focus on the final two aspects of our armor: the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.
What is the helmet of salvation? We all know how critical it is to protect our heads. We wear bike helmets and ski helmets to cover our heads so if we are hit in an accident we can hopefully avoid a terrible injury. While it may seem obvious, the head houses the brain which tells the body to do everything it does. Without our brains our bodies don’t work. We can’t breathe, walk, talk or eat. Our brains are critical for life.
In the spiritual realm we must understand the battle that is constantly going on in our minds. This is a battle between lies and truth. Satan will do any and everything to get our minds off the truth. As Dr. Constable says, “Satan has consistently aimed his personal attacks at getting people to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey the revealed will of God.” This happened when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God’s goodness. His tactics have not changed since the garden, nor have they needed to. His strategy is effective but we have something better.
What are we to do? We must protect our heads by recalling our salvation. The battle always starts in the mind. As God’s children, our salvation reminds us of our inheritance and secure position in Christ. Should even the worst happen and we are dealt a deadly blow, we are still secure in Jesus and heaven is our promised future. Nothing can change this. We need this reminder daily by preaching the gospel to ourselves and mentally putting on our helmet of salvation. This helmet also helps us recall the promises of God in order to fight the battle in the mind.
Pastor, teacher and friend, Dwight Edwards, says it this way:
“What the mind lingers on, inflames the emotions, captivates the will and eventually controls your life.” What is your mind lingering on today? God’s promises or Satan’s lies?
After our helmet is on (along with the rest of our defensive weapons), we pick up our most effective weapon– God’s Word in combination with the Holy Spirit. When we are submitted to the Holy Spirit and armed with truth, we are strong and ready for battle. Nothing can stand against us. We are assaulted daily with spiritual attacks. Remember God’s Word is POWERFUL. It is alive and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). When Jesus was tempted in the desert by Satan, he countered each one of Satan’s attacks with pure Scripture, nothing else. While Satan persisted in his tempting of Jesus, he eventually fled. Make note that he left until an “opportune time” (Luke 4). Stay on your guard because our enemy prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Where are you today, friend? Are you doubting God’s goodness and believing the lies of Satan? Have you forgotten your position as a redeemed daughter of the King? Put that helmet of salvation back on by recalling your inheritance. (While we never lose our salvation, we can forget the power that is ours in Christ!) Now that your mind is renewed, pick up God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit help you fight those lies with truth.
My three year old often asks me to play the “soldier song” in the car, Onward Christian Soldiers. He loves singing about being a soldier in the Lord’s army even though he does not understand the reality of spiritual warfare yet. The truth is, I need that song too, even if it is a bunch of 4 and 5 year old kids belting it out on that CD. I need to hear:
“At the name of Jesus
Satan’s host doth flee;
on then Christian soldiers,
on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
at the shout of praise:
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise!”
May the Lord give you strength to fight the daily battle, armed with your helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
“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.” Ephesians 6:15-16
On the shoreline of China in 1932 stood a woman who had confidently picked up her shield of faith and pulled on the shoes of readiness from the gospel of peace that rang within her soul. Standing at only 4’10” Gladys Aylward, a simple parlor maid from Northern England, was about to usher in the Kingdom of God to entire regions of China. She had no money, no husband, and no training, yet her work in orphanages, prisons, and the political climate of China at that time transformed generations to come. How was this tiny remarkable woman about to make such lasting change? She had picked up her shield of faith. She had put on her shoes and was ready to bring the gospel of peace.
Gladys Aylward’s story deeply inspires me to answer God’s call on my life because I am equipped with the armor of God. Fear, doubt, shame, insecurity, and pride are all flaming arrows of the enemy who seeks to destroy you and me by distracting us. My fear tells me I will get hurt; my doubt tells me I can’t do it; my shame tells me I’m not good enough; insecurity tells me someone else will do it better; my pride tells me I could find better. These carefully aimed flaming missiles hit us right where it hurts, and cause us to turn away from the actual battle in order to put out the internal fires.
Paul is telling us how we can advance against the enemy today. You can extinguish the schemes of the devil to hurt and distract you right now by putting on the shoes of peace and picking up your shield of faith.
To know Jesus Christ is to know the gospel of peace. To believe in Jesus Christ is to have faith in his power. Paul is saying there is a readiness to go and faith do what the Lord has called of you that comes when the gospel of Jesus Christ has taken root in your soul.
With the shoes on and shield up we can align ourselves with the strategy of the Lord- the winning strategy of loving God and loving others- quickly and swiftly. His strategy is always the winning strategy! We are light on our feet with these shoes on, moving with agility to dodge the flaming arrows, not weighed down by our shame or pride.
These shoes can take us places only the Gospel can take us. In Psalm 18 David says, “you make my feet like the feet of a deer, you cause me to tread upon the heights.” This is where the shoes of readiness that comes from standing firm in the peace of Christ can take you. But it takes picking up the shield of faith to actually go do the work of the Kingdom. His calls always take faith to believe.
Sister, what does it look like today to pick up the shield of faith?
What internals fires are you trying to put out which distract you from the actual battle?
What does it look like today to be ready to go share our gospel of peace in your context?
There is an unseen world around us, one just beyond our eyesight. One with an enemy seeking to paralyze you, but one with a Savior who stands in supreme victory. When you answer the call of God on your life with readiness, walking in the peace that he is with you wherever you go, in whatever situation you are safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place Ephesians 6:101-14
I Almost Pushed the Red Button: It was only the second day of school and to my surprise, I was seriously considering resigning. No, I didn’t have another something lined up, and to be honest, I didn’t care. I just wanted out. I had been struggling for a while with leaving teaching for a myriad of reasons and found myself constantly questioning God about what my next step should be. I wasn’t hearing from God and found myself slowly becoming a grumbler and complainer. I didn’t want to be, but it was true.
Listening to Lies: As it turns out, the real cause of my grumbling was that while I was still seeking God, our relationship lacked intimacy, as it became about me getting what I wanted. As a result, I inadvertently began tuning my ears to the lies of the enemy, and found myself operating on lots of flesh and very little spirit. God reminded me He definitely wants me to bring my issues to Him, but this can’t be the basis of our relationship, as it could easily misguide my heart, my prayers, and worst of all, miss Him. This is exactly what the enemy wants.
Be strong in Gods Strength: When deer hunters hunt, they often wear camouflage, intentionally and patiently stalk their prey for hours, while lying in wait for the opportunity to make the kill, ultimately devouring the unsuspecting deer. While the deer has no way to protect himself from the attack of the enemy, as followers of Jesus Christ we have an entire arsenal that we can draw from, beginning with the truth of God’s word, In Ephesians 6:10 Paul reminds us to be strong in the vast strength and mighty power of God, meaning that we are not in this battle alone and need not attempt to go at it in our own strength. For this is not a physical battle. We must rely on and exercise the power of the Almighty God who lives within us to resist the constant advances of the enemy just as Jesus did when He was in the wilderness. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but divine and given to us by God to tear down those strongholds the enemy tries to establish in our lives. We must actively take captive the lies of the enemy and surrender them to the obedience of Jesus Christ. The enemy tries to make us weak, but the spirit of God in us helps us to stand firm and makes us strong.
Slowly Becoming: It took some time for me to learn what it meant to be strong in the power of God, but while reading through the Gospels I noticed Jesus was always stealing away to spend time with the Father and knew I was in dire need of an encounter with Him. At first, I was expecting and badly wanting to hear God say “Yes my child, resign, right now, today, in this moment, go!” But that’s not what God spoke. Instead, He loved on me, drew me in and taught me to draw on His strength, which meant that slowly, my complaints turned into thanksgiving and praise, discontentment for my job grew into appreciation, my unrest became peace, and my joy was restored.
Is there a battle you’ve been fighting in your own strength? How can you rely on the mighty power of God?
Sacred Story is honored to have Winter Butler as a guest contributor this month. A quick “hello” below:
Hey ya’ll! I just wanted to say thank you for letting me share my heart with you! My sweet daughter Seven and I have been members at Houston’s First Baptist church since October 2010. Though we are not Texas natives, God has loved on us and blessed us with an amazing church family, as well as unique opportunities to serve Him and grow together. We are ever grateful for God’s hand of grace and evidence of love in our lives, shown by the precious gift of salvation He has bestowed upon us. #love ~ Winter
I enjoy tinkering with oils and vinegars, not only for salads, but for all kinds of applications. I realize cold pressed organic virgin coconut oil has been touted as one of the “latest and greatest,” but my draw is purely flavor-driven. Coconut is one of my love languages; I adore coconut yogurt, seven layer magic cookie bars (the one on the side of the condensed milk can), Girl Scout Somoas, pina coladas, Thai soups and curries made with coconut milk, and more. Formerly found exclusively at health food stores and specialty markets, creamy and spreadable coconut oil (at room temp.) is now widely available, inspiring me (and hopefully you!) to invent coconut-infused thrills every time I take a lovely whiff. My latest culinary treat, besides smearing fragrant coconut “butter” on homemade toasted bread with jam, is barely melting a few tablespoons in the microwave and tossing it with raw sweet potato strips (french-fry cut), ground cinnamon, and kosher salt, then scattering them evenly on a cookie sheet to roast (400 degrees) until edges are browned and crispy. Move over butter, make room for coconut-scented creations.
This is just one example of coconut oil sold in stores, among many brands with variations and price points – find your favorite! To learn more about the health benefits and health concerns of coconut oil, click here.
Anyone remember the days of gelatin salads and Frito pie? I love strolling down what I call, Food Memory Lane, and recreating tastes from the past. When I was invited to bring a potluck salad item to a ladies event over the summer, all I could dig up in my refrigerator that could qualify as a salad ingredient was fresh fruit – no lettuce, vegetables, nothing. And then inspiration struck as I rounded my pantry and spotted a box of lemon Jello smiling at me. One of my favorite pastimes while visiting my grandparents’ home during the vaporizing Baton Rouge summers was making jiggly gelatin salad. My grandmother never followed any fancy recipe, just the one on the box, followed by scattering whatever fresh fruit she had on hand, and maybe some toasted pecans or cubed cream cheese, and voila: cold, colorful, vibrant, and totally appeasing to the young and young at heart. Go retro chic and take a whimsical gelatin salad to your next potluck event.
For another stroll down Food Memory Lane, especially now that the weather is cooling, stock up on some snack size Fritos. Then spoon bubbling hot chili inside the chip bag, top with grated cheese, sour cream, and perhaps some pickled jalapenos, and inhale this crunchy carnal combo…with a plastic spork, but of course. Perfect for a camp out, tailgating, or just a fun weeknight dinner with less dishes to wash. What’s your favorite vintage delight?
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…” Eph 6:14 NIV
I ❤️NY. I always imagined living there. So, when I was invited to move there for work I was gushing with a big YES. It was almost like a wedding proposal. The box was pulled out, he took a knee and then said, “I want you pray about it for 30 days before you decide… ” Wom, wom. I begrudgingly assured my boss I would do so.
Immediately I was too busy planning a move from Dallas to NYC to inquire of God, or anyone for that matter; until I was also invited to consider Houston. I never liked Houston. I went into prayer certain the Lord would confirm my decision. To my surprise, dreams of NYC brought on nausea and Houston perfect peace. God made the answer clear. It was my turn to stand firm in obedience.
Like Laura shared last week in her story, “I resolved to move to Houston.” With every intention of moving back to Dallas, I headed to Houston and met my new friend, Laura Wilcox. The journey has not been easy for either one of us, but we have stood firm.
To stand firm is not waiting passively but actively engaging all of God’s armor. Dr. Constable in Sonic Light explains that “Paul described the items that the Roman infantryman wore in the order in which he would have put them on. He first put on, over his short tunic (long shirt), a belt that would hold both the “breastplate” and scabbard (sheathe) in place.” Without the belt in place everything fell off, including the sword which was hung on the belt. The “truth” could refer to both God’s revealed truth, that the Christian has believed, and the Christian’s own truthfulness, specifically: a lifestyle that reflects the truth.
The “full truth” of God (i.e., His Word and its power), combined with the Christian’s spiritual integrity, are together the only adequate basis for a defense against Satan. Similarly, righteous conduct (personal righteousness) seems to be in view as well as the righteousness of Christ that becomes ours at regeneration, both forms of righteousness being represented by the “breastplate of righteousness.” “The “breastplate” covered the soldier’s body from the neck to the thighs. It was usually bronze or chain mail. It had a back piece, but it was the front part that gave it its name.
What I have learned about wearing these two crucial pieces of armor are invaluable.
God’s word is truth. Truth is truth regardless of what I see or how I feel. For example, my fear doesn’t change God’s promise that he will never leave me, never forsake me. My inability to see him doesn’t mean he’s not right here with me until the end of time. All that I am hangs on God’s truth. I can stand firmly in it. I can rest in it.
The breastplate covers my heart and protects me from making decisions out of emotions. A righteous path is the right way. There is always a right way – whether I want it or not. A righteous step of obedience releases the full measure of God’s best for me. When you are held together with truth and covered with the breastplate of righteousness, you can go confidently into any challenge, any battle, any new territory and confidently stand firm.
What decisions are you facing? I’d love to be in prayer with you. Feel free to share in the comments below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The victory is yours.
In His Unfailing Love,
In the hectic seasons of life, my salads have evolved from lettuce-based salads into “what’s-in-my-produce-drawer-today-salads.” Frankly, I got bored with soggy, lettuce salads from a bag. Give me crunch! Give me color! Give me creativity! Turning beautiful, raw produce into slaw form delivers on all three, thanks to a mandoline slicer, one of my favorite kitchen tools. Think of it as “going slawing,” like the old “Let’s go Krogering” commercials. My internal conversation goes something like this: “Ooh…an apple! Yea, a carrot! Score, a few green onions! No way, a wedge of cabbage and a fennel bulb!” It’s the little joys of participating in transformation. Most raw fresh produce will slice easily into paper-thin results on a mandoline, but use common sense and skip items like okra, eggplant, and potatoes. Why? For several reasons, but who wants to eat raw okra, eggplant, or potatoes anyway? Here are some steps to demonstrate how simple the process is:
- Shave chosen produce into large mixing bowl. I recommend a mesh glove or use safety guard on tool to prevent hand-slaw. Again, use common sense and don’t try everything on a mandoline, like green onions for instance – just use the knife. If you don’t have a mandoline, order one! In a pinch, a box grater can suffice, but use the length of the item vs. the width. Or just practice those budding knife skills.
- Toss a fresh, fragile herb into the salad bowl, like cilantro, basil, tarragon, or mint (the bruisers – not hearty ones like thyme rosemary, or sage). Choose a theme based off the herb. Cilantro and lime? Basil and balsamic? Tarragon and lemon? Have fun.
- Make a trusted homemade vinaigrette to coordinate your theme. The ratio is 2 parts oil (extra virgin olive oil is standard but you can experiment with others) to 1 part acid (vinegar, lemon, lime juice, or a combo?). Then play a little with the balance…add more or less honey, pressed garlic, dijon mustard, and salt. For extra zing, add a little lemon or lime zest.
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. Ephesians 10:13
“I really love your ministry and yet I plan on staying in Dallas after I graduate [from seminary].” About 18 years ago I wrote this email to a leader within the division of the missions organization which employed me. I responded to his inquiry about whether I would consider directing the women’s side of a ministry to professionals in Houston.
I so appreciated him reaching out. However, I wanted to remain in Dallas where I had lived for two years and begun to develop sweet community. Plus, I resisted moving to the place where I grew up because of dynamics with family members who lived in Houston; due to brokenness, pain, and challenges in our past, we all responded differently, fracturing relationships. I felt like I’d be harmed in the crossfire of the emotional and spiritual battles.
Fast forward a month. A dear friends’ mother who approaches the throne of God for me with fervent prayer – and did so before I came to Christ – told me during a phone catch up that she had been praying for me and didn’t know whether to share her impression. She felt like the Lord was moving me back to Houston. This dear prayer warrior had NO IDEA I was being offered an opportunity to work alongside a ministry in Houston. I started to weep after she mentioned her impression. I realized God was getting my attention. This was not just about a location and an outlet to fulfill my passion for ministry, it was about standing firm in my story and taking up the armor of God.
Satan wanted to keep me and my family from experiencing healing, growth, and new blessings. He used intimidation, temptation to avoid a battle, and fear of conflict as strategy to keep me from entertaining the location of Houston for my next step. I am grateful God makes His voice known when we truly want to do His will. In my mind, I subconsciously assumed God wouldn’t send me back to Houston and didn’t even recognize there was a battle until it came to light. This is where the admonitions in Ephesians 6:10-20 we are reflecting upon this fall in our series of Standing Firm in Your Story come to life.
In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul exhorts the believer to be strong in God’s mighty power, introduces the armor as the way to fight against the devil, and describes in greater detail the battle against the unseen, evil realm. In verse 13 Paul speaks of actively taking up the armor in the “evil day.” In the last year I read a classic written in the 1800’s by a Puritan named William Gurnall called The Christian in Complete Armour. Gurnall explains that the “evil day” can occur under multiple conditions: 1) a day when joy deserts us 2) a day when past sins are remembered 3) the day of affliction is the day when present sin is revealed 4) it is the day Satan comes to tempt 5) it is the day of trouble. Gurnall reminds us that we cannot escape the days of darkness. They will come but God makes a way to resist the evil day by standing firm through the armor He provides.
After I resolved to move to Houston, I recall the enemy threatening in an overt way since his subtle tactics had been exposed. I took up the armor of God to resist fear, self-absorption, and intimidation. I affirmed God was for me and able to protect me. I embraced His desire to pour out a new chapter in my story which I trusted would be for my good and spill over into good in the lives of others. By the time I moved to Houston I felt expectancy about what was in store. AND I can truly say eighteen years later that even though the battle remains challenging at times, I would have missed rich blessings on many levels had I not chosen to stand firm.
What “evil day” are you facing? Perhaps you are not sure how the devil is trying to steal God’s work in and through your story. Pray for wisdom, asking for the devil’s schemes to be brought to the light. I’d love to be in prayer with you. Feel free to share in the comments below or email me at email@example.com.
Sister, let’s make a fashion statement of faith. Go to your wardrobe and put on the armor.
Next week Brandi will continue our series as she talks about specific pieces of armor in Ephesians 6:14.