Build Your Own Sword

Most of us are familiar with the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. Some of us may even put on this armor for spiritual protection as we begin our days. But, do we really use it? Are we aware that we are daily involved in spiritual warfare?

We are exhorted in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Today, I want to highlight one specific piece of our spiritual armor. Ephesians 6:17 says, “And take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

I recently listened to an online message by Ron Zondervan. He challenged his listeners to build their own spiritual swords. We can gain some insight for how to build a spiritual sword by looking at how military swords were made in the past.

Military swords were crafted uniquely for each sword bearer. A different size, shape and weight for each weapon. Steel forged with an anvil and hammer. Grinding, hammering and heating changed a piece of metal into a weapon. Heat applied to the blade was critical. The craftsman started applying heat at a low temperature and then gradually increased it. Finally, the blade was sharpened with a whetstone. A coarse grit stone was first used. Gradually, finer grit stones were used to achieve the sharpest blade.

The steel for our spiritual swords comes from the Bible. However, we must open the Bible and learn His promises if scripture to be our effective weapon. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” All verses have the potential of becoming material for a spiritual sword. However, each of us will craft a sword that is usable for our own battles. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

The Holy Spirit is the fire applied to the sword we are constructing. In Acts 2:3-4, the Holy Spirit descended like tongues of fire at Pentecost. Today, the Holy Spirit is our Helper who gives us understanding of the scriptures we use to build our spiritual swords. The Holy Spirit knows just how much “fire” to apply for the best spiritual sword. We must be careful to heed I Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Finally, our spiritual sword needs sharpening with a whetstone. Jesus is our stone.
I Peter 2:4 describes Jesus as the living stone who is precious in God’s sight. Verses 6-8 continue, “For it stands in Scripture: ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone, a chosen and precious cornerstone; and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame.’ To you who believe, then, this stone is precious….” Ephesians 2:20 emphasizes, “Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.”

In summary, the sword that Jon Zondervan encourages us to build is a sword composed of scriptures found in God’s Word, refined by the Holy Spirit and sharpened by Jesus Christ. The result is a powerful spiritual sword!

II Corinthians 10:3-6 reminds us, “For though we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The sword of God’s Word is a sword of truth we can pull out whenever needed. Jesus declares in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The truth reminds us who we are and the power of God that is working with us and for us. It reminds us that we are victorious. Truth reminds us that the devil is defeated.

As we take a closer look at Ephesians 6:14-17, we will notice that the sword of the Spirit is our only offensive weapon. It is all we need. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This special two edged sword penetrates and implants God’s Word into our souls. It also pierces and cuts out what is not of the Lord.

So, how do we wield this spiritual sword? We skillfully handle our sword through praise, proclamation and prayer.

There is power in praise. It is good for us to fulfill Psalm 103:1. Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. According to Psalm 22:3, the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Join me in declaring Psalm 71:14, “As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.”

God’s Word is alive and needs to be proclaimed. Isaiah 45:21 says, “Declare what is to be, present it– there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me.” Matthew 10:27 tells us, “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” The words we speak out loud are powerful. Our words change us and our circumstances.

I Thessalonians 5:17 simply says, “Pray continually.” Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” James 6:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Specific scriptures are effective prayers. Praying God’s Word back to Him is a powerful weapon against the forces of evil that surround and attack us.

In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus used the Word as His sword when fighting spiritual battles. Three times (verses 4, 7 and 10) satan tempted Jesus and each time Jesus fought back with a specific scripture. Jesus knew the scriptures well. His spiritual sword was sharp.

My Reader, have you built your spiritual sword? Philippians 2:10-11 says, “Be ready to speak to the enemy. Then be ready to skillfully handle your sword as you fight the enemy.” I encourage you to take time to study God’s Word. Scripture is “God-facts” – not just stories. God’s Word is a sword to pull out when you are tempted or discouraged. Find specific verses that will help you overcome such hindrances as fear, doubt, worry. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you to the appropriate verses. Then speak these words with the authority of the name of Jesus.

HOPE for 2021

As I reflect upon the year of 2020, I remember it as a year of challenges and uncertainty. I also remember God’s faithfulness through all of the challenges. Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT says, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” New mercies each morning also includes new mercies for each year. God’s mercy gives me HOPE for 2021. Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I HOPE in Your word.” As we begin the new year, let’s take time to fill our minds with scriptural words of HOPE.

The LORD delights in those who fear Him,
who put their HOPE in His unfailing love.
Psalm 147:11

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober,
set your HOPE on the grace to be brought to you
when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.
I Peter 1:13

You will be secure, because there is HOPE;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
Job 11:18

Those who HOPE 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 be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction, persistent in prayer.
Romans 12:12

But HOPE that is seen is no hope at all.
Who hopes for what they already have?
But if we HOPE for what we do not yet have,
we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25

HOPE does not disappoint, because the love of God
has been poured out within our hearts through
the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:5

There is surely a future HOPE for you,
and your HOPE will not be cut off.
Proverbs 23:18

May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess,
for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

Although HOPE is not used in Philippians 1:6, it is a verse that offers HOPE. “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” With the assurance of this verse, I believe Psalm 71:14 is a good verse to declare for 2021. “As for me, I will always have HOPE; I will praise You (God) more and more.

Autumn Artistry

Bursts of multicolored foliage announce the arrival of the autumnal season. It is a beautiful time of year in western New York. Vibrant colors explode from the treetops. Spectacular beauty abounds.

While hiking a heavily treed trail, my husband and I were under a canopy of color. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind that sent a multitude of leaves fluttering to the ground. We were now walking upon a fresh carpet of colorful leaves. We were not only under a canopy of color – we were in a cocoon of color.

While seeing organic leaves, my spirit begins to think of scripture verses found on the leaves (or pages) of the Bible. I discover some spiritual symbolism. Wind is often an image of the Holy Spirit. The vibrant colored leaves reveal various messages. Let me explain.

There is always an abundance of yellow and golden leaves. They remind me of the Golden Rule which describes the ethical principle of treating others as one prefers to be treated. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” He states in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

The yellows deepen into a display of oranges. Orange leaves look like fire flames. In Exodus 3:2, “The angel of the LORD appeared to him (Moses) in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” God’s presence was revealed through fire. In Luke 24:32, the two disciples traveling on the Road to Emmaus asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?Acts 2:3 reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit as fire. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

The red leaves are radiant. Red symbolizes the blood of Jesus. I John 1:7 NLT says, “The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.Ephesians 1:7 tells us, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Green is always evident because evergreen trees mingle among the deciduous trees. Evergreen – everlasting – eternal. All of us know the wonderful promise of John 3:16 NKJV. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Another applicable verse is Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Holy Spirit, depicted as wind, causes these beautiful scriptures, like leaves, to flutter around us. Acts 2 gives us the account of the Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is described as wind. Acts 2:2 says, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. John 14:26 NKJV says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The Holy Spirit helps us remember these verses that are scattered at our feet as we walk through life.

I realize God, the Author of our universe, is an Artist! In Genesis 1, God spoke and created the earth with words. He crafted the trees surrounding us on our hike. He fashioned the seasons that allow for nature’s beauty to be slathered upon the leaves. I imagine God holding a miraculous multicolored paintbrush in His hand that allows Him to simultaneously splash treetops with heavenly hues of red, orange, gold and green. Maybe the Bible is His can of paint from which He pronounces vibrant and victorious words of promise and hope.

Autumn artistry is definitely created by the hand of the Master Artist!

Breadcrumbs from God

In 1812, the Grim Brothers published the German fairy tale Hansel and Gretel. In the story, Hansel and Gretel are kidnapped in a gingerbread house. They leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind them as they walk through the forest. Their intention was for the breadcrumbs to be a trail helping them retrace their return.

Today, a trail of breadcrumbs can refer to a series of connected pieces of information that will help lead to the solution of a problem.

Spiritually, I believe God provided a trail of breadcrumb for the Israelites when they traveled to the Promised Land. In contrast to Hansel and Gretel’s trail, God’s trail led the Israelites forward. They would not return to Egypt.

The breadcrumbs are known as manna. The story is found in Exodus 16. For forty years, God provided breadcrumbs until the Israelites reached the Canaan border. Every morning the ground was covered with thin flakes that looked like white coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey. Psalm 78:24 says, “He (God) rained down manna for the people to eat, He gave them the grain of heaven.

Each family gathered and prepared their daily share of manna. They ate these breadcrumbs for sustenance during their travels. The sun dried up the remainder of the manna.

God had an additional purpose for His breadcrumbs. Deuteronomy 8:16 says, “He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you.

The Israelites’ breadcrumbs of manna led them along the path to the Promised Land. These crumbs helped them keep moving in step with what God had in mind.

God still gives us spiritual breadcrumbs today. His breadcrumbs are found in scripture. We can feed on His Word every day. He gives us fresh words every morning when we read our Bibles. Like the Israelites, we need His fresh bread daily. God’s Written Word gives us spiritual nourishment, strength and guidance. Psalm 25:4 says, “Show me your ways, LORD, teach me Your paths.

Breadcrumbs do not end in the Old Testament. Jesus refers to bread when satan tempts Him in the desert. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.‘”

Jesus says in John 6:31-35, “’Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.

Manna was a foreshadow of Jesus. However, Jesus is not just a breadcrumb. He is the whole loaf of bread!

Jesus says in John 6:48-51, I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.

I wonder if Jesus made breadcrumbs out of bread. There are two accounts in scripture where Jesus feeds a multitude of people. On one occasion He feeds 5000 and 4000 on another. (See Matthew 14:13-21 and Matthew 15:32-39) Both times, Jesus gives thanks and breaks either 5 or 7 loaves of bread. Not only is everyone satisfied, but there are leftovers. That’s a lot of broken bread that may be described as breadcrumbs!

I do not mean it in an irreverent way, when I suggest that we may partake of breadcrumbs today. However, let us remember that broken bread is more than breadcrumbs.

Broken bread is symbolic of Jesus’ dying on the cross. Jesus explained this to His disciples while they were sharing the Passover meal. Luke 22:19 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’’”

In I Corinthians 11:17-31, Paul refers to these words of Jesus. He also stresses the holiness of the sacrament of communion. He focuses upon the bread in verses 23 and 24.For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’”

When we celebrate the sacrament of holy communion, may the pieces of bread we consume lead us back to Jesus.

One final scripture for us is found in Revelation 2:17. “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.

Manna and broken bread. Let us we remember the meaning of these symbolic breadcrumbs. And then, let’s leave our own spiritual trail of breadcrumbs leading others to the Bread of Life.

Dark Outside – Light Inside

It is wintertime. This means short days and long nights. It is part of the rotation of the seasons. The winter solstice is past, so the daylight is beginning to increase very gradually. There is hope for sunshine. However, during this darker season, many people encounter depression. There are both physical and spiritual causes of discouragement. What season are you experiencing spiritually? Are you in the light more than the dark regarding what God is doing in your life?

Although it is physically dark outside, we can still see in the light spiritually. I want to share some scriptures that will help us focus on the light of God. His light is not seasonal – it is available every day.

And God said, “Let there be light,”
and there was light.
Genesis 1:3

You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
Psalm 18:28

The LORD is my light and my salvation–
whom shall I fear?
Psalm 27:1

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim You,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
Psalm 89:15

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Psalm 119:105

The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD
that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
Proverbs 20:27

Light is sweet, and it pleases
the eyes to see the sun.
Ecclesiastes 11:7

let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Isaiah 2:5

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
Isaiah 60:1

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:4-5

I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.
John 8:12

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made His light shine in our hearts to give us
the light of the knowledge of God’s glory
displayed in the face of Christ.
II Corinthians 4:6

for you were formerly darkness,
but now you are Light in the Lord;
walk as children of Light.
Ephesians 5:8

You are all children of the light and children of the day.
We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.
I Thessalonians 5:5

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, God’s special possession,
that you may declare the praises of Him who called you
out of darkness into His wonderful light.
I Peter 2:9

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. . . .
if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,
we have fellowship with one another.
I John 1:5&7

I prefer more light both physically and spiritually. However, just as we survive the dark days and nights of winter, we will also live through the dark days and nights of the spirit. We have the promise of eternal light and life. Revelation 21:23 says, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”