FITTED FOR YOUR RACE!

I have heard a thousand sermons about the urgency of the Gospel, and understandably so considering its life saving ability. I myself have preached countless sermons about the importance of making sure that we are living with a Christ-like concern for the spiritual condition of all of those around us. Today I want to take a different approach to a piece of scripture that has been the key passage to many of these messages of urgency, Ephesians 6:15. Paul writes in his instructions regarding the armor of God, “and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

It does not take a theologian or an exhaustive study of the Greek language to understand that no matter which translation you refer to, the key words in this text is “readiness” and “gospel.” However, I want to look at two other words that reveal to us the personal and unique message that God gives each one of His believers, “feet” and “fitted.”

Let’s begin with the first word, feet. There are two types of running, distance and sprint. One is a journey of perseverance and the other a battle of raw speed. When we speak to being urgent in the spread of the gospel, we are to look at it with life-saving urgency. Speed is of the essence, lives depend on it. With that said, world class sprinters don’t just use any old shoe they pick up at a local Wal-Mart. They spend hundreds of dollars on shoes that fit every contour of their feet ensuring that they can provide and maximum capacity. As goes the feet, so goes the performance of the runner.

Now let’s look at the second word, fitted. The shoes of an athlete are often made specifically for the athlete. The take scans and design each shoe, no two are the same, even on the same athlete. The shoe is fitted specifically for the athlete, the track they will be running on, and the goal the athlete is called to accomplish.

Just like each athlete has specific needs to accomplish the goal in which he or she has been training, we as believers have needs in order to accomplish the goal in which God has created us to accomplish. We were all born to reflect God’s glory through sharing the message of grace and love in what Jesus did for us on the cross.

God has fitted each of us with a specific set of circumstances, successes, failures, tragedies, and victories in order that we would be able to accomplish carrying the message of Christ in our individual mission fields. No two believers testimony will be the same and each one is unique from others so that we will be ready to share testimony to those who need it the most. God is the author of our life and knows every curve, every bump, every win, and every loss that we will endure and uses that for His glory and the furthering of His kingdom. We are “fitted” with a unique message for our unique journey.

This week, take solace in knowing that God has a plan for your life and in the words of James, “count it all joy” when bumps and bruises come about. After all you are being molded, fitted, and made for His glory!

~Joe Ward

Breastplate of Righteousness

One of the most telling pieces of evidence regarding creation is the design of the human body. It stands to reason that the most important and vital organs necessary for life would be enveloped by one of the strongest bones in the human body, the breastplate. Our perfect Creator and Father was well aware of the importance of protecting the heart of man.

Ephesians 6:10-17 instructs us to put on the full armor of God every day so that we may stand against the attacks of the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. This week we will look at the importance of putting on the breastplate of righteousness.

Throughout scripture we see hundreds of references to the “heart of man” and very few times is it used in the context of the life-sustaining organ that pumps blood through the body. Instead it is used to describe the condition of man’s soul or spiritual walk. It said that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and we have all heard phrases like, “he is kind-hearted” or “I have a soft spot in my heart…” and even “it was tugging at my heart strings.” None of us need a doctorate to understand that these phrases do not mean a physical change in the organ inside a body, but instead to the condition of a person’s spirit.

It stands to reason that an asset like the heart should be guarded and protected. If the heart fails, so does the body. The evil one wakes up every morning with a singular purpose to destroy the heart of man and place him in direct opposition the will of God. It is for this reason we are called to daily guard and protect or heart with righteousness. Romans 3:10 declares that “non are righteous, not one,” therefore we must depend wholly on the righteousness of the One who took our place.

Daily we are to be reminded of the condition of our hearts, both where we were before Christ, and where we stand today in Christ! Much like a top notch athlete must work diligently each day to maintain his or her athletic ability, we must work daily to grow closer to Jesus in order that we might be dressed in His righteousness alone. A heart that seeks the Lord daily is focused and stands ready to defend against attack. The heart that fails to seek the Lord will be easily distracted and swayed.

The breastplate of righteousness is not an item that you put on like shoes or a hat. It is a growing and evolving guard and protector over your life. However it is an item that one must choose to wear daily. To seek the will of our carnal desires is to choose to live in your own helpless and hopeless unrighteousness, making yourself exposed to the evil ones attacks. To live in His righteousness means to rest in His defense and His protection!

 

~Joe Ward

Armed & Dangerous

Ephesians 6:10-14 reminds us of how critical it is that we be prepared for the spiritual battle that we are going to face. The question is not if, but when the evil one will attack. Our loving Father has given us specific tools and protection to use in that battle. While we can rest assured that the victory is won in the complete work of Jesus on the cross, we also know that until that day that He returns, the evil one is set on leading us astray.

Our first piece of armor is the belt of truth. In essence this is the understanding of the truth of who Christ is and what you are in Him. The evil one would have you believe that you are but a human and under the rule of this world. The truth is, you are a child of God, a co-heir with Jesus, and more than a conqueror! This is the truth that holds everything together. Much like the belt we wear to hold our pants up, this belt of truth should give us security, confidence, and most importantly, urgency!

When we fully understand the truth of who we are in Christ, we must be just as urgent with the mission of Christ! Jesus commissioned His followers with an urgent and important task of carrying the message of His immeasurable grace to the ends of the earth. When we put on the belt of truth, we are cinching up our cloak so that we can move about with urgency.

This week, my challenge to you is simple. Pray for God to reveal to you a complete understanding of the truth of who you are in Christ and how that effects your every moment. You are set free in His love, you are saved by His death, you are justified in His resurrection, and commissioned by His words!

~Joe Ward

The Army of God

The battle is on. Every day, there is a spiritual battle that goes on around us that of which we are completely unaware. Satan and is demonic minions wake up each morning with a singular focus of destroying our relationships with each other and placing us in direct rebellion to God. Satan does not take a day off, or even a mid-day break. It is for this reason that we must be diligent in preparing for spiritual warfare. While we can rest assured that we have victory in Jesus, there are still battles that God allows to take place so that we can become more mature in our walk with Him. When we look into the text of Ephesians 6:10-18, we see that God implores us to put on His armor every day. Each tool that He calls for us to use is purposeful in the battles that happen in our life. Over the next few weeks, as I blog, we will be looking at the spiritual use of each tool! Be prepared because the enemy will attack, but we will be prepared! The battle is on!

Joe Ward, Pastor

Peter’s Betrayal

“Woman, I don’t know Him!”………… “Man, I am not!”…………. “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”…..1,2,3. Just like that we see the first recorded example of a prominent leader in the church experiencing a spiritual, ethical, and moral failure. This wasn’t just any leader, this was Petros, Peter, the Rock. Peter was headstrong, committed, and driven to prove his commitment and loyalty to Jesus. This was the one that Jesus had a named the rock, the pillar on which Jesus would build His church. How could this be? How could Jesus have made this statement when He knew that Peter would fail Him?

Today is the Friday before Easter, the day that we mourn the events of the cross. There is no debate the pain and torment that Jesus experienced on the way to the cross was beyond our comprehension. Jesus’s friends and family miserably watching in helpless horror. I can only imagine how hard this day had to have been on Peter. Peter had just days earlier looked boldly into the eyes of his best friend and leader, Jesus, and swore that he would never leave or deny him. Now, here he was watching Jesus beaten, whipped, and crucified knowing that he had done the unthinkable, denied that he even knew Jesus.

The days that followed for Peter must have been incredibly painful. Surely he lived with the guilt of his actions, replaying his behavior over and over in his mind. Each time recognizing things and actions he could have done differently to avoid his tragic and painful fall. There must have been unspeakable joy in Peter’s heart to know that that Jesus was alive! He had risen, just as He had foretold! However, this meant that Peter must face Jesus and the reality of what he had done. Surely this meant punishment, Peter must have thought that he would likely be removed from his role as a disciple and would no longer be a part of growing God’s kingdom.

Peter returned to what he knew, fishing. It appeared he wasn’t much of a success at that either because we see in John 21:3 that they fished all night and caught nothing. The next morning a figure on the beach instructed Peter and the disciples to toss the nets on the opposite side of the boat. When they did as he instructed, they were unable to haul in the load of fish. But for Peter, there was something different about the figure on the beach. He realized it was Jesus. Peter put on his robe and jumped in the water as fast as he could to reach Jesus. Peter was racing to Jesus, he sought forgiveness, he sought restoration, he sought grace.

I am certain that Peter assumed that there would be a lengthy dialogue replaying each of his sins. I am sure he thought Jesus would create this lengthy plan to restoration and one day if Peter executed all of it, he might be able to tag along with the disciples and wash their feet. The last thing that Peter expected was unconditional forgiveness and complete restoration. John 21:15-18 shows us that not only did Jesus forgive his sin, but restored him to pastor of the first church.

Today I write this to encourage those of you who are followers of Christ and have experienced a moral, spiritual, or ethical failure. For one to truly understand amazing grace, one must have been in a position to be unforgivable, and yet receive forgiveness. Today we celebrate our sins being nailed to the cross, all of them. The sins of today, yesterday, and tomorrow. On Sunday we celebrate Jesus’s victory over that sin. He is no longer dead in sin, and we are no longer dead in our sin, no matter how big or small that sin may appear to the world. This weekend, celebrate your victory over sin, your unconditional forgiveness, and your purpose and worth in His kingdom. He has great plans for you, just follow Him!

In Him,
Joe Ward

Passed Over

Passed over……..for a promotion, for the team, for fill in the blank thing in this world. Being passed over is never fun and rarely a positive thing. Being passed over leaves you feeling short on value and absent of purpose. But there is one instant where being passed over is the best thing that could have happened to you.

There in the garden Adam takes the bite. In that instance God’s perfect creation tainted by sin and its ugly consequence, death. That sin and its unavoidable consequence was passed on generation by generation, leaving each person separated from God and their sin like filthy rags in the eyes of God.

God’s people, encapsulated in slavery to the Egyptian Pharaoh, found themselves in reach of freedom. Each plague pushed Pharaoh closer to letting God’s people go free. But God continued to allow Pharaohs heart to be hardened and Pharaoh failed to release God’s people. This meant there would be one final plague, the gravest of all the plagues. The angel of death would kill the firstborn of each family across Egypt.

God instructed His people to take their finest lamb, unblemished, and sacrifice it. The blood of the perfect lamb would then be spread over the wooden door post. This would serve as a shield, a protector, a sign to the angel of death to pass over that home. When morning came, the cries of the mothers in Egypt could be heard for miles. The Israelites had been passed over, and they were so incredibly thankful to God for His grace.

Today we can celebrate the same wonderful gift of being passed over. We are born enslaved in sin and dead in our trespasses. It is because of the sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb on the wooden cross that we can be set free! Jesus is the shield, the protector, and a sign to God that we are righteous, not in our actions but in the final act of Jesus on the cross! It is finished!

There will be things in this world that pass us over and pass us by, but the greatest gift of all was the gift of being passed over! The things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!
Blessings,
Joe Ward

Grace Over Grace

“Here comes another….”, before she could finish the word wave another large and powerful wave washed over her and her brother. The red flag warning on the beach meant that a barrage of large waves would be washing into shore non-stop. The kids screamed in excitement as the waves swept over them and before they could get their footing another would arrive. Just as the waves washed over the children playing at the beach, so it is with God’s grace!

John 1:16 says, “Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness.” Like waves constantly washing over us, God’s grace sweeps over us again and again and again and again. If that seems repetitive and somewhat overstated, then my mission was accomplished. Rest in the promise of God’s word that the Lord’s love is never failing and because of that we are not consumed or destroyed by our sins but instead, we receive grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

Why is it that we have been given this amazing grace? What have we done to earn or deserve this grace over grace? Our answer is incredibly hard to believe in this world of transactional and conditional love and forgiveness. The reality is that we have down nothing to be worthy of, or deserve this gift of new mercies every day. As we see in our text from John 1:16, it is “out of HIS fullness” that we receive that undeserved grace. It is in God’s whole, complete, and perfect love that grace pours over us!

It is God’s fullness, not our worthiness, which makes the repentant heart restored by a loving God. The world may have space for condemnation, shame, and see those who fall short unworthy of forgiveness, but God sees His children through the lens of Jesus Christ. God’s fullness means that when He sees His children fall short of His expectations and cry out with a repentant heart, He only has room in His heart for grace and forgiveness.

So I encourage you today, if you have become discouraged in your walk with the Lord because of your lack of perfection, wade into His sea of grace. Let the waves of love and forgiveness crash over you again and again. Just the moment you think you have done too much or gone too far, the next large and powerful wave of grace washes over you. Wave after wave. Grace after grace.

Resting In His Grace,

Joe Ward