What are you wearing?

Our clothing decisions are the hallmark of many special occasions. On a global scale, fashion is nearly a trillion dollar industry. Clothing is a daily decision of personal expression. Our self worth is often reflected in the way that we dress. In addition, societal norms also influence how we choose to clothe and adorn ourselves.

Although it is important to consider our outer garments and how we represent ourselves as we navigate the world around us, we must guard against becoming overly fixated on our outward clothing. Matthew 6:25 says “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Our spiritual attire is far more important. We must prayerfully consider which characteristics fashion us above any physical garment we might wear. When we attempt to navigate the world without wearing the spiritual armor that the Lord issued to us when we joined His victorious army, we are naked and vulnerable, no matter how impressive we look on the outside. When challenges confront us – what are we wearing? Do we wrap ourselves in anxiety and depression like a shawl? Are we short-sited, wearing rebellion or rebellion like a jacket, daring anyone to approach us? Do we accessorize our biases with gossip and envy? Are we taking every step with guilt, regret and shame as our primary footwear? Stop right now and take that ugly stuff off. If you can’t bear to part with some of those familiar garments – ask God to help you shed them.

The world is rough. In part, John 16:33 tells us “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Just a few minutes of any daily newscast provides an extensive list of reasons why we must spiritually suit up and prepare for each day wearing our full armor. Details about the entire ensemble are available in Ephesians 6:12-17: “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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 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. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

As familiar as they are, the Lord wants us to trade in our old rags for the beautiful outfits He has custom made just for us. Isaiah 61:3 says “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”

Holding Pattern

While an aircraft awaits clearance to land, it typically flies in an oval-shaped flight path over the destination airport. That flight path is known as a holding pattern. Sometimes we find our lives in a holding pattern – a place where God allows us to see our goal or destination but doesn’t provide immediate clearance to arrive. Life’s holding patterns can be frustrating and discouraging. Here are a few considerations to help you fly into your God-given destiny with confidence. Holding patterns:

  1. get our attention – When we are not bombarded with concerns that we normally experience on the ground, we can hear from God more clearly. Proverbs 2:1-5 says “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
  2. are designed to build you up, not break you down – Holding patterns boost your strength, patience, and endurance. Romans 5:3-5 says Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
  3. allow time for removal of dangerous obstacles – the Lord is preparing your destination, divinely arranging and rearranging obstacles that would otherwise hinder or compromise your successful landing. Isaiah 57:14 says “and it will be said: “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.”
  4. keep you focused on your destination – the longer your holding pattern, the greater your desire to land safely and arrive at your intended destination. Philippians 3:12-14 says Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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.”

  5. require clearance from The Control Tower – Admitting our inability to land independently is both an admission of our weakness and a confession of God’s strength. John 15:4-5 says “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
  6. give you greater appreciation for your “arrival” – overcoming adversity and cultivating a closer relationship with God during your hold makes your landing far sweeter. In the midst of a holding pattern, God can expose talents and gifts that you didn’t even realize you had. Genesis 50:20 says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
  7. bless you in new and exciting ways – landing victoriously after enduring a difficult holding pattern allows you to experience new dimensions of God’s provision, protection, grace, mercy, and favor. James 1:12 says Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” 

Behaving Boldly

Society often equates being “a good Christian” with being a doormat for the world to tread upon. Our Heavenly Father is full of grace, wisdom, mercy, love, and truth.  As Christians, we strive to embody those same characteristics. Unfortunately, a skewed worldly view means that as Christians, we are often expected to tiptoe through our existence, never offending or disagreeing with anyone despite the fact that others offend us daily. This passive perception of Christianity is wildly inaccurate. The same way that we are called to exhibit love, mercy, and grace, we are also called to holy boldness. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Holy boldness does not mean behaving with arrogant self-righteousness. We are not called to deputize ourselves as some sort of spiritual police, judging and discounting others, while placing ourselves on a pedestal. We are called to serve. Holy boldness is having the courage of conviction to stand for the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of opposition. Consider these scenarios:

  • When someone tells an offensive joke, do you laugh outwardly and cringe inwardly?
  • When you see someone being mistreated, do you look the other way?
  • When you see a glaring need, do you think about ways you can help or instead think about reasons why you cannot possibly lend a hand?

Love is the key component for holy boldness. We cannot operate in holy boldness apart from God’s Holy Spirit. God is love. 1 John 4:8 says “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Holy boldness inherently means operating with faith and courage in obedience to God. We are God’s hands and feet on this earth. God allows us to encounter situations which call us to holy boldness. These are situations where we recognize that we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Usually, these acts of kindness, concern, conscientiousness, truth, and assistance may be far outside of our comfort zone. Holy boldness doesn’t mean being rude, it means responding with loving conviction. These situations are designed for our spiritual growth and maturity.

Responding with holy boldness is a double blessing. First, it blesses the hearer or recipient because it can plant a seed where people examine their motives, actions, and responses. Second, it blesses the speaker or giver because of they are responding in obedience to God. Ephesians 3:12 says In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” The end of Galatians 5:6 says “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” We can navigate our lives with confidence, seeking our next God-given assignment, knowing that the Lord is the source of our hope, courage, faith, strength, and love. It is our relationship with God that allows us to operate with loving obedience and holy boldness. 2 Corinthians 3:12 says “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.”

 

 

 

Provoked to Prayer

As we go about our daily routines, we often observe troublesome situations: the homeless man begging at a busy intersection, a young mother yelling at her child, a senseless news story that breaks our heart.

Beyond observations, there are situations that we directly encounter: a tense conversation with a loved one, a stressful event at work, or unexpected news from the doctor.

All too often, we cluck our tongues, shake our heads and give in to feelings to irritation, frustration, or worry. These feelings and reactions are perfectly natural. However, I invite you to also consider the spiritual aspect of these everyday occurrences.

Have you ever asked yourself why certain situations resonate so deeply with you?

It is my belief that such situations are intended to prompt us to pray. That sinking feeling and burden that we feel in our heart is actually a prayer assignment notification. God is connecting with His very same Holy Spirit which abides in you to solicit your prayers. This is not just a nice idea, but a sacred responsibility. In fact, scripture specifically states that it is a sin against the Lord to fail to pray for someone. When we deny prayer, we are essentially denying the power of God to bring about resolution.

“23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”
– 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (NIV)

The next time you feel that vexation in your spirit – pray! Ask God to move in the situation of that individual as well as everyone else who who could fall into that same category or be associated with that category. For example, seeing the homeless man may prompt you to pray for him, but also for:

  • the entire homeless population
  • those who provide services to the homeless
  • those in positions of authority to influence policies that benefit the homeless

Your resulting prayer will bring you a sense of peace because you’ve been obedient and fulfilled your spiritual assignment. Prayer is one of the simplest, yet most powerful spiritual disciplines that you can develop. It requires no special tools nor qualifications, yet it has the power to bring about miraculous changes for God’s glory.

My hope with this blog is that you will be encouraged to cultivate a rich prayer life that strengthens, empowers, and blesses you.

So the next time you feel troubled, irritated or aggravated, I hope that you remember this post and are provoked to prayer!