Ephesians 6:10-20, Romans 8:3

…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  Ephesians 6:17  

In seventh and eighth grade, our daughter, Jillian, cheered for the middle school football team. One of their staple cheers went like this. “A-T-T-AAA-C-K! A-T-T-AAA-C-K! Attack, attack, attack!” The cheer was designed to inspire the offense to take the ball down the field and score a touchdown. If you don’t score, it’s impossible to win a game.

The book of Ephesians, chapter 6, inspires us to put on the whole armor of God. The helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the shoes of peace are some of the essential armor pieces. These particular elements are designed to protect you from the arrows of Satan. But there is one offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). My friend, Danny, preached an awesome sermon in which he challenged his congregation to be conquerors. Satan never takes a day off, so we must be clothed with the armor of God to protect ourselves. But we also need to come out on the offensive, armed with Scriptures that we have memorized for all occasions. So when Satan comes at us, we’re not just taking blows, but we’re giving them too.

Danny is a big soccer fan, and he shared with his congregation how the US soccer team kept falling behind in games in the 2010 World Cup because they were playing back on their heels. The US team spent most of the games trying to climb out of the holes they dug for themselves. Danny shared how his father and brother played on a soccer team that went undefeated three consecutive years and had a different approach. Their team’s philosophy was to be on the attack from the opening whistle, put a couple of goals into the other team’s net, and watch the other team fall apart or scramble to catch up.

We don’t have to scramble to catch up or just stay afloat when we have God in our corner. God is with us, for us, and in us. He gave us his awesome, perfect Word that we can use to come out swinging from the moment we get out of bed until we put our heads on the pillow. To use the Word, we must be in the Word daily, seeking God’s special guidance. Brandish your sword, the mighty Word of God, and use it to become conquerors for the kingdom.

Prayer: Dear Father, may I walk out the door knowing that I can tap your mighty power when I get ready to face the challenges of the enemy. Through your mighty and Holy Word, help me arm myself in such a way that I am easily recognized by those I meet as being from your kingdom. In Jesus’s name, amen.


Avoid the Red Card

Romans 8:28, Exodus 20:3, 1 John 1:9

And we know that all happens to us is working for our good, if we love God and are fitting into his plan.   Romans 8:28

During the World Cup, it is apparent that the teams clearly understood which players had received yellow cards. When a player receives a yellow card from the referee, he is allowed to stay in the game. However, a second yellow card in the same game is the equivalent of a red card, which would remove the player from the game and also keep the player out of the next game.

Often, a player will receive a red card from the referee by going after an opponent too aggressively, or tackling a player in the goal box, or having a hand ball inside the box. When any of these plays happen, it not only hurts the player but also his or her team. A red card means that your team plays ten on eleven for the remainder of the match.

God was, is, and always will be the referee, and he will show us the yellow card when we begin to slip away from his plan. If we continue to play out of control and outside his game plan, God might red card us and let us sit on the sideline. Clearly, we can bench ourselves by putting ourselves above God and others (Exodus 20:3) through unconfessed sin (1 John 1:9) and allowing strongholds to separate us from God. When we go through the dry season, we wonder where God went. He hasn’t gone anywhere. God never leaves the field (aka throne). He will discipline us because he loves us, and he could give our minutes to others who are obediently following his game plan. God’s action is similar to how a coach might substitute for us if our actions are hurting the team’s chances to win the game.

But there is good news. When we confess the specific sins and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive us, forget that it ever happened, and put us back in his game. When we get back in the game, eternal things are waiting to happen. We will sense the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and through us when we are in step with God.

Prayer: Father God, please give me a burning desire to share the good news in complete accordance with your plan and your timing. I want to avoid your red card at all costs because I will not be working for the kingdom if it happens. In Jesus’s name, amen.


Penalty Kick

1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 3:4

                     Who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness,                                             by whose stripes you were healed.  1 Peter 2:24

When a defensive player tackles an offensive player inside the goal box or touches the ball with his hand inside the box, either is a severe infraction that warrants the stiffest penalty in soccer. Either violation results in a free penalty kick for the offensive team. The ball is placed on the penalty kick box directly in front of the goalie twelve yards away. One player is selected by his team to take the penalty kick. It’s the offensive star versus the goalie. Because the offensive star is usually so accurate and there is so much territory to cover, the goalie is pretty much helpless. He must guess if the kicker will go left or right, high or low, and leap that way as soon as the ball is struck. The odds are that the offensive player will score the goal. When the goal is scored, the defense has paid the price for the penalty kick.

Do you realize that Christ paid the penalty for our sins? When we commit infractions called sin, or transgressions of the law, they can’t go unnoticed by God, who cannot look on sin. God cannot ignore sin because sin separates us from him. But there came One who paid the penalty for all the sin that has been or ever will be committed. Jesus Christ bore all of those sins in his own body on the rugged cross because God loves us so much that he would rather have his Son die than see us eternally separated from him. Christ paid the penalty for us so that we wouldn’t have to. But there is one thing we must do: turn from sin and turn toward God. If we do that and believe that Jesus died for our sin, we will be forgiven, our debt paid in full.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for loving me so much that you sent your beloved Son, who has been with you before the beginning of time, to die a painful death so that the penalty for my transgressions could be paid in full. I am so grateful that I can have a personal relationship with you and Jesus. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Grappling in the Goal Box

Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5, John 15:5, Philippians 4:13

Apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Watching the World Cup, I notice that much of the attention goes to the flashy goal scorers. The highlights each evening prominently featured the goal scorers.

But it’s the battles in the goal box that are the most hectic plays. When a corner kick occurs, it is flat-out rough in front of the goal. There will be bodies flying, elbows being thrown, players getting kicked, holding, clawing, and scratching. Players contort their bodies as they leap high into the air for headers. Defenders will often do anything possible, including violating the rules, to keep the opponent from getting a shot on goal. It could include stepping on top of another player’s foot with his cleats. Ouch!

Satan fights us with the fervor of those goal box skirmishes. Satan uses any tactic that he can to dissuade us from obeying God. It’s doing battle with Satan through daily prayer and Bible reading that gets us ready when tough times come. If we wait until the tough times to cry out to God without having the relationship, then we won’t be in the position that we need to be.

By putting substantial roots down through daily communion with God, we won’t be blown away when the storms come. There will be no wavering. We will know that God didn’t cause the problems, and he, along with the Holy Spirit, will be there to see us through them. God promised that he will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and that he will be with us until the end of the ages (Matthew 28:20).

We need to memorize Scripture that will help pull us through tough times. Anyone can go into bunker mentality mode and get through stress. But it’s the believer with a strong foundation that can get through stress and strain like a saint, according to Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me have the daily discipline to pray with you and study your Word. I need you during the good times and the bad times. When the bad times come, help me know that you are always there with me. In Jesus’s name, amen.