April 27, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”(Revelation 4.1)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
Let’s review the first seven “connections” we have reflected upon between Ephesians 6 (put on the full armor/armament of God) and Revelation 2-3 (the words of accountability given to the Seven Churches):
“Put on the belt of truth and keeping it in place” with the charge of Christ to the Ephesian faith community which said “return to your first love.”
“Put the breastplate of righteousness in place” with the call of Christ to the Smyrna faith community which we could reference with Psalm 119.11, “The word of God I will hide in my heart that I might not sin against Him.”
“Put on your feet shoes fitted with the gospel of peace” with the call of Christ to the Pergamum faith community which said “Repent of tolerating the teaching of Balaam and Nicolatius in your midst leading you to idolatry. I am coming with a double-edged sword to fight against all those who stand allow it.“
“Hold fast to the shield of faith” with the call of Christ to the faith community in Thyatira which said “Do not hold to false teachings and ‘hidden truths’ of Satan but have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.“
“Take [with you] the helmet of salvation, …which is the word of God” with the call of Christ to the faith community in Sardis which said “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
“…and [take with you] the sword of the Spirit which [with the helmet of salvation] is the word of God” with the call of Christ to the faith community in Philadelphia which said, “…since you are holding fast to the faith I will establish you as a pillar in the temple of God which shall never come down and write upon it My Name and the name of ‘the city of My God.’“
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” with the call of Christ to the faith community in Laodicea which said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.“
Let me bring us round full circle and find that we are compelled to move forward. Over the past two weeks, I have presented the call to put on spiritual armor of God. We are instructed by Paul with a definition of faith as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11.1) I have to remind myself, while we love concrete and literal applications and visual aids, that we are a people called by faith to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Scripture itself is a work of faith as it presents to us “the evidence of what we have not seen.” No one alive today was alive at the turn of the first millenium when Jesus did the work of God among the people of the region of Israel. We did not see His miracles. We did not see His passion. We did not experience His resurrection first hand in the Upper Room, by the seaside or on the mountain in Galilee where He was transfigured one last time before the very eyes of the disciples who did. Yet, we have experienced the movement of the Spirit in us, on us, around us and through us. We have our own testimonies as to the effect which faith in Jesus as the Christ has on us and our lives. Our faith is the substance, the literal expression, of what we truly hope for deep down in our soul…if we will be honest with ourselves, others and most importantly with GOD. Bearing that in mind, I have reminded us and encouraged us to seize upon “the full armor of God” not in a literal visualization but in its spiritual elements: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and prayer. With those elements and by those elements we are protected from consequence of sin which is eternal damnation and separation from the abiding presence of Almighty God. How I want to say “love” of God when I speak of separation. However, as we know, nothing can separate us from “the love of God.” The full measure of God’s love is authentic justice. In the implementation of God’s justice, which is love, He rules over the just and the unjust, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil…over us all. He has the final say as to our final destination and it is merely the affirmation of our own “confident” expression of self as an end. God has left it up to us all to choose to believe or not believe that He is Almighty God and whether we will be obedient to His word and faithful to His calling in our lives. The cry in today’s culture and climate for “justice” is sadly a vague expression of authentic justice. The current call for justice bears the names of: reparation, restitution, vengeance and vindication…for the flesh and not of the spirit of humanity. It is a call for those who have not put on the full armor of God and found it most effective when the Spirit of God is in it.
I am reminded of the vision given to Ezekiel of “The Valley of Dry Bones.” In that vision, Ezekiel is asked “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel defers to God and responds “Surely, Lord, you know.” Ezekiel expresses is lack of believe or more aptly his lack of confidence to believe. If Ezekiel had true faith, he would have been able to answer “As the Lord wills!” The expression of authentic justice, God’s true love, is worthy of our vocalization. We know that God is not a God of the dead but of the living. (Mark 12.27; Luke 20.38) God then instructs Ezekiel to prophesy to the four winds. That is to say, God instructed Ezekiel to “speak the truth in love.” With each confident word from Ezekiel’s mouth, the wind (read ruach– the breath of God) begin to sweep across and through the valley. Slowly, methodically, emphatically and completely, the “army of the Lord” was brought to life. They were refitted for service to the Lord among the peoples of the earth. Ezekiel’s prophetic utterances were prayers of truth and justice representing the will of God for His people. And over His people there would be one appointed to lead them in the way they should go. He would be a Shepherd gathering the sheep from the four winds into one House. They would enter that “house” by one door, one gate, which was and is and will forever be the Shepherd Himself. It is that Shepherd, God’s Messiah, who would lead that “army of the Lord” into the Promised Land of heart, mind, body and soul. And His command was, is and will always be “mercy not death, compassion not tolerance, peace not compliance and obedience not asquiesence.” This is all that God has ever required of us from the beginning of time. The prophet Micah reproduced God’s invocation of restitution with these words: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8) This is, mighty ones of God, how we are to clothe ourselves in spirit and in truth putting on the full armor of God and being the Church as one people before all the world.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
You are our God and we shall be Your people in spirit and in truth. Continue to dwell among us and clothe us with what is fitting and good that Your will be done and our will be Your will done on earth as it is in Heaven. In Jesus’ name we live, serve and pray…AMEN.