September 11, 2021.

It has been twenty years since September 11, 2001, and although that horrifying event shocked the world, it did not take God by surprise. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not terrorist attacks, not pandemics, not lockdowns, and not divisions and disagreements of every kind under the sun. God knows that we will suffer these things, and because our world is fallen and broken, he has given us his Holy Spirit to help us in times of need.
As Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons [and daughters] of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:14-17).
As believers in Christ, when we find ourselves in crises that are overwhelming, we can depend on the Holy Spirit to come to our aid in times of trouble. Paul described the work of the Spirit, saying “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (v.v. 26-27). The Holy Spirit prays for us and calls on God the Father to help us when we are so troubled, we do not know how to pray. When we groan, the Spirit groans with us. When we cry out, the Spirit cries out on our behalf, and this is true whether we are crying out for help individually or as a nation.
Paul goes on to reassure us that no matter how desperate things may seem God’s plan is always perfect, and he will make a way for us to move forward, especially in times of extreme uncertainty and suffering: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (v. 28).
The first century Church was a persecuted Church, and Paul wrote the Books of Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians from a Roman prison. He encouraged the Roman church, writing “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” (v.v. 31-35). Paul reassures us that while the Spirit rushes to our aid from his dwelling place deep within our hearts, Jesus is also constantly interceding for us from his place at the right hand of our Father. If God is for us, who then can be against us? We are children of the Most High God, and in him we already have the victory! (See 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.)
As Paul wrote, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.v 37-39).
As I write this article, my daughter, who was five years old on 9/11, is sending me videos of my granddaughter, who just turned seven, and is cheering at her first First Grade football game. The little cheer squad just did a beautiful, awkward, heartbreakingly cute tribute to everyone whose lives were changed twenty years ago when our country was under attack. God is the God of life, and life will always win out.
Although things may seem dark today, the integrity of God does not change. He is in control of everything, and whether it seems to be for good or for evil, God always makes a way to bring light into darkness and snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Therefore, let not your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice, all for the glory of God Almighty. He is with us, and he will never leave us nor forsake us. For we are his.
May God bless you and your precious families, and may God bless the United States of America.



All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

The Whole Armor of God – Part Three

The Armor of God is not something that we have to put on every day before we walk out the door to do battle with the world.
In fact, we only put on God’s armor one time, and then we wear it forever. Once we put on the Armor of God, it belongs to us. We do not put it on, take it off, and put it on again, because the Armor of God is not physical armor, it is spiritual armor. We wear it everywhere we go for all time and it covers us in all circumstances.
At the very first Passover, God instructed Moses to tell his people to place the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of their houses, to protect them from the angel of death that would come that very night to strike Egypt:
“Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go and select lambs for yourselves according to your clans, and kill the Passover lamb.
Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin.
None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever’” (Exodus 12:21-24 ESV).
That first Passover in Egypt was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for our sins. John the Baptist acknowledged this in John 1:29:
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ’Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (ESV).
The blood of Passover lambs offered cover and protection to God’s people in ancient times, so the Blood of God’s Son, the Lamb of God sacrificed for our sins, offers cover and protection for everyone who receives salvation through Jesus Christ today.
The first place that the Blood of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament is in Luke 22:44 while Jesus was praying before his crucifixion in the garden of Gethsemane:
“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (ESV).
Ephesians 6:13 exhorts us to stand firmly on the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, saying:
“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 firm” (ESV).
Before introducing the Armor of God, Paul encourages us to take a stand, and to stand firm. But the ground that he is asking us to stand on is not “common” ground, it is holy ground. It is the ground that is founded on the solid rock of the gospel. It is the ground upon which the first drops of Christ’s Blood fell, in the place where his passion began. It is ground that has been redeemed by his Blood from the curse that followed the fall in Genesis 3:17 when God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you…” (ESV). Before God presents us with his armor, he gives us a solid place to stand that is under the redeeming Blood of Christ.
The first piece of armor we are presented with in Ephesians 6:14a is the Belt of Truth:
“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…” (ESV)
John the Beloved Disciple describes Jesus’ interview during his trial with Pontius Pilate this way:
“Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:37-38a ESV).
Before we can accept salvation, we must be exposed to the truth. An unbelieving world will always ask, “What is truth?” Jesus is the answer. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6). This Belt of Truth establishes us in the Armor of God.
“After [Pilate] had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him’” (ESV John 18:38b).
The innocence of Christ establishes us in his blamelessness. The perfect, sinless Lamb of God took our place and our punishment at the Cross, and in exchange for our sin, gave us his righteousness. The Blood of Christ washes us clean: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18a ESV).
Therefore, the next piece of armor we put on is the breastplate, which protects us from attack on all sides:
“…and having put on the breastplate of righteousness…” (Ephesians 6:14b ESV).
Before Jesus was sent to the Cross, Pilate ordered that he be scourged. John 19:1 says,
“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him” (ESV).
Torn by the lash, Jesus’ back and torso were the next place to be touched by the Blood of Christ, through his righteousness, for our healing:
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24 KJV).
As we take a stand on the firm ground of salvation, buckled by the Belt of  Truth and girded in the Breastplate of Righteousness, our steps are guided by the light shining from the Word of God:
“…and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 ESV).
Jesus’ feet were nailed to the cross, and as when he washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:1-16), so his feet were bathed in his own Blood so that we can walk in his Way, established in his Truth, clothed in his Righteousness:
“’Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16 ESV).
Thus prepared, Paul tells us to “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…” (Ephesians 6:16 ESV). When we walk with our feet shod with the Gospel of Peace, we are covered by the Shield of Faith:
 “So we are always of good courage…for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:6-7 ESV).
Finally, Paul tells us to “…take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 ESV).
Before the crucifixion, Pilate’s soldiers “…twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on [Jesus’] head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands” (John 19:2-3 ESV).
Jesus exchanged the Crown of Thorns, which was a crown of mocking, for his Helmet of Salvation – the Crown of Life. He exchanged the robe of persecution for the Robe of His Righteousness (James 1:12; Isaiah 61:10).
At the moment that we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior – when we take the  helmet of salvation - we are redeemed from the curse, washed clean from every sin, and given the gift of the continuous presence of God dwelling in us as the person of his Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever (John 14:16). Because Jesus’ brow was bathed in his Blood, we now can have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30).
The hands of Christ were pierced so that our hands could hold the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit, with which to fight every spiritual battle (Isaiah 49:16).
Once we are clothed in the whole armor of God, our task is to pray “…at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV).
We are to remain alert, stand and pray, with the Holy Spirit and for the family of God, who are “all the saints.” Especially for those whom God has placed in leadership positions in Christ, that we may all boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel (6:19).
God has given us a place to stand, protection, guidance and all the equipment we need in Jesus Christ. Every place that was touched by his Blood becomes armor for us. The ground we stand on has been redeemed. Where he wore a crown of thorns, we are given the Helmet of Salvation. Where he was scourged for our healing, we wear the Breastplate of his Righteousness. His feet were pierced so that we can walk in the Gospel of Peace. His hands were nailed to the Cross so that we could have the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit. We are forever cleansed, safeguarded and equipped by the Blood of the Lamb, and we wear the Armor of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).

The Whole Armor of God – Part Two

Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Ephesus, located in what is now Turkey, while he was a prisoner in Rome in around 62 AD. The economy of the large, cosmopolitan town was based on the worship of the Roman goddess Artemis whose temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Idol worship, prostitution, occult practices and money lending brought great wealth into the area. That was the climate in which God called Paul to plant churches and spread the gospel in and around the port city (Arthur, pg. 1987).
The epistle to the Ephesians can be divided into three parts. In chapters 1-3, Paul gives us a picture of our inheritance in Christ, God’s eternal plan for the mystery of the church, and how we are sealed by his Holy Spirit:
“In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:13-14 ESV).
After assuring believers of our riches in Christ in the first three chapters, in chapters 4-6:9 Paul gives instruction on how followers of Jesus should behave in the midst of the darkness of this world:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift” (4:1-7 ESV).
In chapter 6:10-20, Paul warns us that while we are called to walk in a way that provides an example to a lost and dying world, we will also face times of struggle and spiritual warfare. He assures us that God has not only sealed us with his Holy Spirit, but he also provides us with the covering of his armor, so that we are able to take a stand, and continue to stand with his supernatural strength to meet any challenge:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm.
 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (6:10-20 ESV).
This series will continue with Part Three.



Arthur, Kay. Introduction to “Ephesians”. The New Inductive Study Bible: English Standard Version. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2001. Print.