Alert and Armor-clad

soldiers on guard duty

Several years ago, Geraldo reported how armored four-legged critters from Texas were roaming the streets of Washington D.C.

If you saw them, you weren’t hallucinating—and Geraldo wasn’t sensationalizing. Not at all. You really saw a wandering “army” of armor-clad armadillos.

Sometime ago, biologists started tracking the armadillos marching through Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and beyond. Believe it or not, these nomadic critters are traveling northeast toward the Atlantic Coast.

So, if you’re in that neck of the woods, stay alert and watch out for invading armadillos!

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re commanded to stay alert and stand firm—just like soldiers on guard duty, standing watch at their posts.

The Scriptures communicate the orders of our Commander-in-Chief to his followers: Stay alert. Stand firm. Stand your ground.

The apostle Paul exhorts us to stand strong in Christ, recognize our position and identity in him and wear God’s armor. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

When we put on God’s armor, we’re putting on Christ (Romans 13:14). Paul also declares, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). When we rely on Christ’s strength and strap on God’s armor, we’re equipped to defeat the adversary.

The first three pieces of armor are riveted to our position in Christ.

The “belt of truth” is God’s Word, the source of all truth. We stand firm in the truth by squaring things with the Word. The “breastplate of righteousness” is our justified position in Christ. We’re declared righteous in Christ; but it’s his righteousness—not ours. The “shoes of peace” picture the peace of Christ that must umpire our hearts in Christ if we’re going to live victoriously in him (Ephesians 6:14-15).

The final three pieces of armor are riveted to our victory in Christ.

The “shield of faith” is what we believe about God and his Word. It equips us to deflect the enemy’s assaults, as we trust and declare it. The “helmet of salvation” guarantees our eternal victory, even when the enemy disrupts our daily victory. The “sword of the Spirit” is God’s Word, our sure defense—and when we declare it, the enemy hears and runs (Ephesians 6:16-17).

So—as soldiers in God’s army, let’s suit up, stay alert and stand firm in Christ!

Learning to Wait God’s Way

Waiting in Line

I’m a fairly patient man—but I don’t like waiting in line.

For that matter, nobody I know enjoys waiting. But we wait anyway—because we can’t avoid it. We often find ourselves sitting or standing somewhere, waiting for someone or something.

We wait at grocery stores and drive-thru windows. Stop lights and crosswalks. Busy airports and crowded subways. Italian restaurants and taco trucks.

Waiting isn’t easy. It’s hard for us to slow down and wait in our fast-moving world.

It can be aggravating if you’re in a hurry, exasperating if you’re running late and frustrating when you can’t do anything about it. But God doesn’t look at waiting like that.

God sees waiting as something more than just a worrisome thing we have to do every day. Believe it or not, God says waiting is a good thing. He views it from a different perspective.

Waiting requires us to stop when we’d rather go faster. It refocuses us to see interruptions as significant pieces of God’s plan for our day. It reminds us to enjoy God’s presence, receive his peace and discover his purposes.

Long ago, the wise prophet Isaiah wrote to some people who were tired of waiting for their circumstances to change:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope [wait] in the LORD will renew their strength … they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

Slowly but surely, we can learn how to wait God’s way—just as the warrior-king David did. He didn’t like waiting any more than you and I do, but he discovered how to do it.

As a man, David learned to wait patiently. He wrote, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

As a shepherd, David learned to wait confidently. He testified, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2).

As a warrior, David learned to wait expectantly. He believed, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock …” (Psalm 62:5-7).

As a king, David learned to wait continually. He encouraged, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8).

Friend, no matter your circumstances, you can rely on God for strength and stamina as you discover how to wait God’s way—patiently, confidently, expectantly and continually!

Texas Lemonade

lemonade stand

On hot summer days, we can usually find a makeshift lemonade stand somewhere, run by children who want to make a few bucks.

They’re simple set-ups where folks can buy a cup or two of lemonade, wet their whistle and encourage some kids.

Most youngsters are content to collect some quarters in an old coffee can for two hours of work—but not 6-year-old Drew Cox.

The young Texan didn’t just set up a lemonade stand in his front yard to snag ten bucks. He didn’t just serve lemonade to quench the thirst of a few kind neighbors and strangers.

Drew erected his stand with hopes of raising a lot of money to help his father pay off the medical bills that had piled up, after Randy Cox had been diagnosed with cancer and started taking chemotherapy.

As word traveled across the east Texas town that Drew was selling lemonade to help pay for his father’s medical expenses, good-willed Texans flocked to his stand.

Drew charged the customary 25 cents per cup. Some bought cups of lemonade, while others wrote checks and made donations—including one check for $5,000.

Amazingly, young Drew Cox raised over $10,000 in one day.

That’s compassion and generosity in action—roped together in the Lone Star state—to help a struggling father and his family!

Our Savior felt and demonstrated compassion for people everywhere. Children. Parents. Lepers. Adulterers. Soldiers. Rebels. Everyone.

The Bible says, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). First, our amazing Savior felt compassion, deep inside. Then, he jumped into action, on behalf of others.

Jesus never got stuck in the quagmire of passivity and inactivity. Instead, he dared to care—and decided to act. He got involved.

Our Savior’s heart of compassion always moved him to take action. He saw and felt something, and then he did something. Every time.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

I wonder how we’ll respond today to what we see and feel.

 

Heart Healthy

Hamburger

People who eat at the Heart Attack Grill can’t say they weren’t “pre-warned”—by the unique name of the restaurant—that the food served there is probably ultra-high in unhealthy calories.

In February 2012, a man had a heart attack while eating a “triple-bypass burger” at the Grill. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

In April 2012, a woman collapsed at the Las Vegas diner. She was eating a “double bypass burger” lathered with cheese and bacon, and smoking cigarettes. She was also taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

I wonder if they got well and came back for another burger.

The Grill’s tasty but “unhealthy” menu also includes “flat-liner fries” cooked in pure lard, butterfat milkshakes and no-filter cigarettes—served by waitresses dressed as nurses.

On top of all that, the Heart Attack Grill offers its super-high calorie meals for free to hungry customers who weigh more than 350 pounds. That’s good marketing but lousy dieting!

How’s your appetite for the Scriptures? Unnoticeable. Slight. Increasing. Ravenous.

How’s your intake of “spiritual” calories? Not enough. Too much. Balanced. Heart healthy.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It has 176 short but insightful verses. Every verse spotlights the importance of the Scriptures—and presents a nugget to mine, a principle to explore, a truth to believe or a challenge to tackle.

Friend, I challenge you to set aside an hour today to study and reflect on Psalm 119—or at least take 15 minutes to read and chew on a few verses. You’ll discover the value and importance of trusting and exploring the Scriptures.

The warrior-king David memorized the Scriptures to galvanize his commitment to being a man of integrity. He prayed, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

David meditated on the Scriptures to rivet his mind on what God values. He prayed, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times … your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors” (119:15-16, 20, 24).

David mined the Scriptures for nuggets of wisdom and insight. He prayed, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts” (119:97-100).

Simply put, we memorize, mine and mediate on the Scriptures because that’s the only sure way we can receive the right amount of “spiritual calories” and stay “heart healthy” every day.

Bolder than Before

Boldness

One morning, curious 5-year-old David Schroeder asked his father, “Daddy, why is that man sleeping on our kitchen floor?”

Mr. Schroeder replied, “Son, this man is lost, and needs Jesus. I’m brewing coffee so when he sobers up, I can share the gospel with him. I want to tell him about our Savior.”

The man snoring on their kitchen floor was just one of many lost souls who came to their small home. The Schroeders were missionaries, reaching out to the rugged lumbermen, fishermen and indigenous people who made their living in a remote lumber mill town on northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Mr. Schroeder was a “tentmaker” evangelist-pastor (like the Apostle Paul), working full-time at the lumber mill and shepherding a small church on the side. After work, he’d walk to the bunk houses and talk with the men about Jesus.

Schroeder’s father had a simple, straight-forward mission in life—to love people and tell them about the Savior. As young Schroeder grew up, what he saw and heard from his father changed him. It stayed in his heart, and shaped how he sees and talks with people today.

Dr. Luke tells the amazing story of how Jesus called and changed an arrogant, boisterous fisherman named Peter into a humble but bold leader. For three years, Peter followed Jesus everywhere. He watched and listened to the Savior. He admired and respected him.

But, on the night Jesus was falsely arrested and accused, Peter was asked repeatedly by others if he knew Jesus—and in three moments of rare cowardice, Peter disowned and denied knowing him. Ashamed and heartbroken, he walked away and wept bitterly.

Fast forward after Jesus’ resurrection to the day of Pentecost, where we see the fearful disciple turned bold apostle preaching persuasively and powerfully to thousands of people in the city of Jerusalem. He’s no longer afraid to talk about Jesus. He’s a changed man.

Empowered and prompted by the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly and confidently proclaims the good news of his risen Savior. He’s a different man.

Then, after being told to stop preaching, Peter and his friend John were arrested and threatened by the religious leaders, to which they replied:  “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

They confidently and courageously refused to stop talking about Jesus.

I wonder if you’re afraid to share the good news of Jesus. Uncertain of what to say. Reluctant to get branded as a Jesus “freak”. Hesitant to take a stand. Averse to being rejected.

Friend, next time you’re hesitant to talk about Jesus, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you. Recall the fear of a tough fisherman. Reflect on the courage of a humble apostle.

Then, ask God to remove your fear and replace it with boldness so you can stand and share the good news.

 

Lost and Found

lost and found

There’s no doubt that your grass is unusually long and desperately in need of a mowing when it’s so high, you can lose a car in it.

That’s what happened to a 78-year-old widow in Georgia. She lost her car in the front yard. Apparently, the elderly woman phoned the police to report that her late husband’s big Chevy van had been stolen. But then, just a few hours later, she placed another call to the police.

After looking more closely in her front yard, she discovered the inoperable vehicle parked there—in the last place anyone had seen it—obscured and overgrown by grass that hadn’t been mowed for a long time.

I wonder what that lady’s neighbors said behind her back. I wonder why they didn’t mow her tall grass. I wonder why they didn’t look for her “lost” vehicle.

Long ago, the leaders of Judah lost the Book of the Law somewhere inside the temple. That means they couldn’t find the first five books of the Pentateuch—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I wonder what happened to the Book. I wonder how they lost it.

Maybe the priests put it up on a backroom shelf, and forgot about it. Maybe it got buried under junk inside a closet, pushed under a pile in the corner or covered by dusty cobwebs.

We don’t know where they lost it, or why they left it there. But apparently, the leaders were okay with abandoning the Scriptures. Somebody put the Book down, nobody went back for it and everybody stopped reading it. They just kept on living, as if the Book wasn’t missing.

But one day, the high priest Hilkiah found the Book inside the temple, and gave it to Shaphan who took and read it to young King Josiah. After hearing the Scriptures, Josiah wept and tore his robes, and ordered five leaders to go and pray for God’s guidance.

Josiah repented on behalf of the nation, assembled everyone at the temple and then read the entire Book to them. The people of Judah came to their senses and got right with God—and an incredible revival broke out and swept across the land (2 Kings 22-23). 

I wonder if you’ve ever lost your Bible. Left it on a church pew or an office desk. Misplaced it somewhere inside your house. Tossed it into the car trunk. It sounds crazy, but some people often lose their Bible—just like they misplace a jacket, a watch or a set of keys.

I wonder where you usually put your Bible. On the coffee table. Inside a desk drawer. On a bookshelf. In the back seat. On a nightstand.

Friend, I hope you’ve got a special place for your Bible—inside your home and your heart. I hope you see it as a rare treasure, and enjoy exploring it. I hope you’re reading God’s Word—and “hiding” it inside you heart.

David sang, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” and “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119:11, 97). Is that the cry of your heart?

 

Running Strong

Running

English runner Roger Bannister finished out-of-the-medals in fourth place in the 1500-meter race at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki. Hugely disappointed, he almost quit running. Instead, after thinking it through, the 23-year-old refocused his determination.

He decided to keep running with the goal of becoming the first man ever to run a mile in less than four minutes. About a year later, Bannister clocked a time of 4:03.6, a new British record. That’s when he realized running a four-minute mile was within his reach.

Then, one year later in 1954, Bannister thrilled 3,000 spectators with a mile run clocked at 3:59.4, and opened the door for focused competitors to run faster than that.

Just 46 days after Bannister’s historic run, Australian John Landy ran the mile in 3:57.9. Since then, others have joined the sub-four-minute mile club. In 1999, Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj ran the mile in 3:43.13 and set the current men’s world record.

Friend, I hope you’re running strong in the greatest and longest race.

Our gracious heavenly Father is the greatest Coach ever—and he invites us to run alongside him with purpose and endurance. He encourages us to stay on course and imitate his Son Jesus. He cheers when we live as humble, Christ-like champions.

Young Saul was an angry Christian-killer before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. But with Ananias’ help, he discovered God’s purpose for his life. Rough around the edges at first, Saul grew spiritually—and gradually became a radically different man because he ran with Jesus.

Somewhere along the way, Saul changed his name to Paul—and recognized he had a long way to go. But he was committed to growing in Christ—even in the face of adversity. For years, the young apostle was flogged, arrested and jailed for sharing the good news of Jesus.

That’s when Paul wrote, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14).

That’s running with purpose—keeping an eye on eternity.

Another tenacious first-century leader challenged and encouraged us when he wrote, “Let us run with perseverance …” (Hebrews 12:1).

That’s running with endurance—keeping an eye on eternity.

So, if we want to run long for our Savior, we must stay in the race and keep a steady pace. If we want to run strong for our Savior, we must rest in his presence and rely on his power. If we want to run well for our Savior, we must reflect him, not ourselves. Let’s go for it!

 

Roaring Through Life

Motorcycle Harley

A New York state trooper clocked Anthony Anderson going 193 mph on his motorcycle, as he sped past and raced down the highway. The officer went after him and radioed for help.

Others joined the wild chase. They eventually caught and arrested the 28-year-old speedster—somewhere in Rosendale, about 20 miles from the first sighting—and nailed him with 14 traffic violations.

Anderson was notorious in his hometown for racing recklessly through speed traps. He was a constant threat to motorists and pedestrians. Addicted to speed for years, he rode way too fast on his motorcycle—and it finally caught up with him.

I wonder if you’re racing through life in the fast lane, swerving in and out of situations and endangering yourself and others.

Some of us roar through life, as if we’re tied to a souped-up Harley. We hate road detours, stop lights and long lines. We flinch at the thought of sitting still or taking a nap. We get an adrenalin rush from careening through life. We run out the door at breakneck speed.

That’s a frantic and foolish way to live. I know because I used to be like that—but not anymore.

So friend, if that’s a blurry snapshot of your wild and crazy life, I’ve got good news. You’re not some crazy nutcase who can’t change. But you may be a stressed-out knucklehead who’s on the road to burnout—or gearing up for a stroke or a heart attack.

More than ever, I believe God wants us to slow down before we melt down. That’s why it’s so important to take a break. Catch our breath. Get our bearings. Tweak our perspective. Adjust our priorities. Enjoy people and life. I believe God invites us to do that every day.

After years of being hurried and harried, just trying to survive—David learned to slow down and rest up. But David had to remind himself to intentionally think and live that way.

That’s why he wrote, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6).

God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Take your foot off the pedal. Ease back on the throttle. Lower your landing gear. Slow your pace. Learn to rest.

Jesus invites, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened …” (Matthew 11:28). Clearly, our Savior invites us to lighten our load and loosen our grip, as we walk with him.

So then—before it’s too late, I urge you to wise up and slow down. Unclog your brain and unclutter your schedule. Ignore your Facebook feed. Laugh from the belly. Whistle a catchy tune. Help a struggling neighbor. Enjoy today with God, family and friends.

Together, let’s stop rushing and start resting!

 

God’s Feat with Your Feet

Feet

Former Marine Keith Levasseur ran the 2012 Baltimore Marathon, finishing 29th with a time of 1.46.58. At first glance, his time doesn’t seem all that impressive.

But before you judge the marathoner’s feat, consider what he put on his feet. Levasseur wore flimsy flip-flops instead of expensive running shoes, and ran as fast and hard as he could.

The 34-year-old athlete—whose feet and quads were extra sore after finishing the marathon—ran the race wearing sandals in order to earn a spot in the amazing Guinness World Records for an unique entry entitled, “fastest marathon completed in flip-flops”.

If you raced through the streets in a big marathon, which popular brand of running shoes would you choose to wear? Nike. Puma. Saucony. Rebok.

If you attempted something wild like Levassor’s world-record feat, what would be your crazy alternative to running shoes? Slippers. Moccasins. Boots. Socks.

No matter what you pulled out of your closet that morning, folks would focus on your unusual running feat because of what you put on your feet.

Did you know God focuses on your feet?

Romans 10:14-15 says, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”

So, if you’re a Christ-follower who’s sharing the good news of Jesus with people around you, God sees your feet—and says they’re winsome, attractive and beautiful.

In other words, God sees and values your decision to go and share the good news of Jesus with the people you encounter every day.

When God sees your heart and feet taking you from one person and one place to another so you can share the good news of our Savior, he smiles and approves. It’s as if he stops and says, “That’s awesome. Keep going and sharing!”

Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” That’s why you and I must love people and talk about our Savior. Otherwise, they may never have an opportunity to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus.

So then, let’s entrust our “average” feet to God for the “amazing” feat of lifestyle evangelism—going and sharing the good news with people everywhere!

 

Out of the Blue

Blue Lobster

Veteran lobster boat captain Bobby Stoddard of Clarks Harbour, Nova Scotia, had heard of blue lobsters, but he had never seen one—until he heard one of his men yell, “Hey, we got a pretty one in this trap!”

That “purty” lobster inside the trap turned out to be a rare catch—and one out of two million lobsters with a genetic variation that causes them to turn blue—and stay that way for life.

Stoddard wasn’t sure what to do with the uniquely blue-colored lobster, after an ocean research institute expressed no interest in his awesome discovery. He told a CNN news reporter, “It probably belongs back in the ocean, but I’d like for as many people as possible to see it.”

Similarly, our heavenly Father wants as many people as possible to hear the good news about his Son Jesus—before it’s too late. I wonder how many of us share God’s passion for lost people.

The apostle Peter wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8-9). That’s patient love.

The apostle John testifies that our Father loves us so much that he sent his only Son from halls of heaven to Planet Earth so he could die on a cross for our sins. He wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son …” (John 3:16). That’s sacrificial love.

Our Father sent his Son because he doesn’t want anyone to die spiritually and live eternally separated from him. He doesn’t want anyone to reject his Son. Instead, he wants everyone to repent, trust his Son Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life.

God is incredibly patient, but he won’t wait forever. When it comes to stiff-arming and rejecting Jesus, time is running out. One day, the window of time and opportunity for non-believers to repent and get right with God is going to shut—and eternity future will start.

Have you come to faith in Jesus Christ? If not, I invite you to meet and trust my Savior!

Until that day, let’s share the good news of Jesus with as many people as possible, recalling what he told his early followers, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no man can work.” (John 9:4).

Time is definitely running out—and one day, time will be no more. I wonder how many men, women and children will come to faith between now and then because we lovingly and patiently shared the good news of Jesus with them.

Until that day, let’s be passionate about sharing Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation, forgiveness and eternal life with as many people as possible—everywhere we go.

Friend, the eternal destiny of people we know and love—and individuals we don’t know but choose to love—hangs in the balance.

Will you tell them about Jesus before it’s too late?