The book of Psalms is Israel’s hymnbook. We read an interesting verse in Ps. 149:6: “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand”. The workers in Nehemiah’s day were employed in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. They had a tool for building in one hand and a sword for battling in the other.
We who know Christ as our Savior have in our hands a great weapon for our warfare which is none other than the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Hebrews 4:12 tells us: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. We must use our sword to advance the gospel of Christ and to defend the biblical world view and make our churches places of life-giving biblical instruction. While we have a sword in one hand we must also be a people who have the high praises of God in our mouth. Christ followers should always have a heart that is passionate about our Lord and not ashamed to express it in joyful worship. We must be singing soldiers, battling builders, and involved in worship and warfare.
Some churches are known for emphasizing one without the other. Their music and worship are uplifting and carries the congregation to the heights of praise. Other churches are strong in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. They are careful to expose error and thorough in their exposition of the life-giving Word of God. However our verse challenges us to employ both of these biblical privileges in our churches. To be a high-praises of God church without the sharp sword of biblical preaching could lead to shallowness and error. To be a sharp sword church without the high praises of God could lead us to be a cold church. May our Lord look down upon our assemblies and hear the music of worship and the ministry of the Word.
The little town of Britt, Iowa has a unique celebration. The town has been hosting the National Hobo Convention the second weekend of every August since 1900. It is the largest gathering of hobos, rail-riders, and tramps who gather to celebrate the traveling worker. Hobos were known to travel around living in outdoor camps looking for work. The first church I pastored happened to be in that town. I remember during one Hobo Day we had an unusual visitor in church that Sunday. He was obviously one of the hobos. His hair was long and stringy. His clothes were old and dirty and I remember him carrying a walking stick as he came into church and sat down in one of our pews. Our people didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet for him. They looked at him skeptically wondering if he was going to ask for a handout.
In the book of James we are warned to be careful with judging people based on their outward appearance. We are warned: “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).
Who are the hobos who enter our assemblies today that we prejudge? Are we displaying the love to our neighbors that Christ commanded us? Perhaps someone with multiple tattoos or piercings comes into church how will we react? What about the handicapped, or the homeless? Do we welcome people of color or illegal immigrants? Do we welcome those who may be living a sinful lifestyle to be among us to hear the Word of God? The next time we are tempted to judge someone who walks into church remember he or she is a soul for whom Christ died.
My wife and I were having fun taking two of our grandkids to a children’s museum. The kids had a great time interacting with the various exhibits. On the top floor we came to a fun house that had various mirrors that distorted your reflection. The kids, their parents and even their grandparents enjoyed watching our bodies become short and squat, and then grow long and lean. We watched as the reflections showed distorted foreheads and earlobes. We even laughed as our fingers dragged on the floor. I am so glad that those mirrors did not give an accurate reflection of what we really looked like.
I know of one mirror that does give us an accurate reflection of who we really are. This mirror does not reflect our physical image but it accurately reflects who we are spiritually. It is the Word of God. James 1:23-25 tells us: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does”. James challenges us to look into the mirror of God’s Word carefully and view the changes that we need to make in our own lives. As we stick out our tongue do we see words that come out of our mouth that need to be kinder and sweeter? As we observe our eyes are there things that we are viewing that we shouldn’t? As we take a look at our complexion are there spots of sin and scabs of hurts that need to be healed? Does our overall spiritual life appear unkempt and sloppy? Perhaps we have just let ourselves go.
The mirror of God’s precious Word shows us what needs to be fixed. It gives us an accurate reflection to areas that need careful attention. One day we will stand before our Lord as a spotless bride (Eph.5:26,27). Let’s look into the mirror of God’s Word to become more beautiful for Christ.
Learning to swim is an important step in our lives. I remember going to the Aragon pool in the town in which I grew up and longing to go into the deep end. The lifeguard insisted that I had to swim across the pool before I would be allowed to go in the deep end. He challenged me and encouraged me to keep at it. It was such an exhilarating feeling when I finally swam across the pool and confidently made my way to the diving boards.
Sadly many of God’s people never make it into the deep end of their Christian experience. They continue to play in the shallow end of the pool. Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers and lamented: “And I brethren could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it and even now you are still not able” (1 Cor. 3:1,2). These believers could not comprehend deeper spiritual truth. They were always bickering among themselves and causing division in the body. They were playing in the shallow end of the pool.
It seems that so many of God’s people in our day are staying in the shallow end of their walk with the Lord. They do not know their Bible. They do not spend time in daily prayer. They do not get involved in serving the Lord in any way, and they are constantly falling into sin. These shallow end folks are the ones who are fighting among themselves and are not fully enjoying their heritage in Christ. Just as that lifeguard challenged me, I challenge you to get out of the shallow end. Start studying your Bible every day. Read good Christian books on the faith. Get into a solid church that teaches the Bible. Spend extended times in prayer with the Lord. Get involved in sharing your faith and serving the Lord in some capacity. Leave your shallow spirituality behind and jump into the deep end with God. You will find that the water is so refreshing.
Running a race requires an all-out effort. It is draining both physically and mentally. Have you ever watched runners in a race able to increase their pace as they hear the cheers from the crowd? They seem to get extra energy and an emotional boost when those surrounding them go crazy and cheer them on. Fans in the stands have a powerful part in the performance on the track.
Hebrews 11 gives us somewhat of a hall of fame of The Faith. These people include: Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Daniel, David, Samuel and many others. Men as well as women are listed as examples of those who persevered in the faith. These all are described for us as a great cloud of witnesses. Heb. 12:1,2 challenges us: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”. These verses describe the race before us, the witnesses around us, and the Savior who is with us.
Every one of us who know the Lord have a race to run. It is the race of the Christian life. In it we are challenged to not let anything weigh us down or hinder us from pursuing Christlikeness. We also have the encouragement of the crowd. The examples of those in the Bible are to be our source of inspiration. They were fallen creatures just as we but if they could continue on so can we. We are not only surrounded by the witnesses we are to keep our eyes on Jesus. He is our greatest source of strength to keep running this race. He was victorious in His race as He endured the cross, rose from the grave and sat down at God’s right hand.
Getting a little weary in your race? Listen to the cheers from the crowd and look to Jesus as He is your biggest fan.
Due to a heart attack a close relative of mine was placed on a restricted diet. He was supposed to reduce his total calories per day and limit his portions. He was told to cut out fat, salt, sugar and caffeine. It was hard for him to feel that this restricted diet was actually good for him when the bad stuff tasted oh so good. He followed it for a while but then want back to eating the way he wanted to.
As I was reading Colossians chapter 3 I came across another heart-healthy diet. This one was not prescribed by a cardiologist but by the Lord Himself. In verses 8 and 9 we are told that in order to have a healthy heart we must put off all these: “anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, and lying”. These things are detrimental to our spiritual health and should be put on our “restricted intake” list. Further along in the passage we come across some exercises that will help our heart to grow stronger if we start doing them every day. In verses 12-16 we find exercises like: “showing tender mercy to people, being kind, along with the qualities of humility, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, forgiving one another, and exhibiting love”. I realized that some of these spiritual exercises may be a little strenuous for some, but they are guaranteed to bring results, they will strengthen our heart.
Another part of this heart-healthy diet is mentioned in verse 15. We are told to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. We are to let His peace calm us, surround us, and control us. We should not allow our heart to be troubled, afraid, and preoccupied with the worries and stresses of life.
Perhaps you are having a little heart trouble. Maybe you are suffering from a cold heart, or a flabby heart or even a hard heart. God has just the diet for you. Why not listen to the Great Physician and go on His heart-healthy diet today?
Physical fitness does not just happen. It takes work. You and I need to put in some effort if we want to maintain a healthy body. Some people go to the gym and follow a prescribed regimen. Others jog or bike, or cross train to achieve their fitness goals. A good workout may take many forms but they all take concerted effort.
What goes into a good spiritual workout? The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian believers and told them: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13,14). When Paul told them to work out their own salvation he did not mean that they were to work for their salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God that comes to us when we believe in Jesus. But he did challenge them to work out what God has worked in us.
How do we do this biblical workout? The verses tell us that a good workout comes by a daily life of obedience. The Philippians were obeying the biblical principles that Paul had taught them even now while he was away from them. Obeying the Word is truly a workout, especially when our old fleshly nature screams in resistance to the changes we need to make. The second part of a good workout is an awareness of God’s presence. Phil. 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling”. That means we are constantly in tune with God’s awesome and real presence in our lives. The third ingredient of a good spiritual workout is a dependence on God’s sovereignty. We may think that spiritual maturity all depends on our efforts but Phil. 2:13 reminds us that it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.
It pays to be in shape. But it does take work. Let’s follow the Lord’s regimen for a good spiritual workout.
The Apostle Paul writing from prison to the church in Ephesus was no doubt guarded by a Roman soldier perhaps dressed in his full armor. Perhaps this was the impetus for the passage in Ephesians 6:10-18 on the armor of God. Paul looks at each piece and makes a spiritual application to the soldier of Christ and his spiritual warfare with the forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He describes for us 6 pieces of armor and then gives us the spiritual application of each piece. Then he describes the 7th spiritual weapon without its corresponding Roman piece of armor. That 7th powerful weapon is prayer. How do we put on this armor so that we will be able to have victory after victory in our spiritual life? I think the best way to put on our armor is described for us in the old gospel hymn: “put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer”. We need to pray on each piece of armor.
The first piece of armor is called the belt of truth. We can put it on by praying something like: Lord I come to you today and wrap my mind with your truth. The devil and my own weak human flesh is constantly whispering lies to me. I wrap my mind today with your truth. It is true that you love me. It is true that Jesus died for me. It is true that I am your child. It is true that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. Father, help me to tuck in the loose ends of my ragged thinking and be wrapped tightly in the belt of your truth.
The next piece of armor is called the breastplate of righteousness. We know that we cannot stand before a holy God in the filthy rags of our own righteousness. Father I have taken the perfect holy righteousness of Jesus and stand complete before You dressed and protected in His righteousness. As I put on His righteousness I also desire to reflect in my own practical living the positional righteousness that I have in Christ. Lord today help me to live holy, righteously and godly in this present evil world.
The third piece of armor is the shoes of the gospel of peace. Today Father I want to be prepared to share the gospel with someone. Wherever my steps take me let me be alert to the opportunities to speak a word for Christ. May my feet be prepared, my eyes open, and my lips ready to give a word for You.
The next piece of armor is the shield of faith. Dear Lord, the flaming arrows of temptation, trouble, and trials will be flying at me today trying to pierce through and burn sin in my heart. You alone are my shield. I take up my shield of faith today and hide under its protective power. I trust You, depend upon You, hide behind You. I look to You only to quench these fiery darts.
The fifth piece of armor is the helmet of salvation. Lord You have saved me. I am yours. Today I put on this salvation as a helmet to protect me from any doubts that may come from the enemy. Lord I know you have saved me and I put on this helmet of assurance so that I can have confidence of my eternal security. Any doubts are deflected when my helmet is strapped on.
The sixth piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. As the other pieces of armor were defensive this one is offensive. Lord as I read Your Word today, I will apply its sharpened edge first of all to the splinters of sin and the foreign growths in my own heart. Lord cut me with your scalpel that You may heal me. Then Lord help me to take this sharp sword and use it in my witnessing to the lost, in my teaching to the family of faith, and in cutting my way through this world’s jungle growth of error.
Lord I finish putting on my armor by taking up the weapon of prayer. I realize that I have no power on my own to win any victory with my self-determination or human power. I pray to You my Lord wrapped fully in the armor of God and depending on You alone for victory.
For many years I had a special key chain. It was made from a 1903 silver dollar that my grandfather handed down to me. It was very precious to me as it was the only thing I had from him except memories. I also have a pocket knife and a sharpening stone handed down to me from my father. These things had very little monetary value but reminded me of the influence of these two men in my life.
Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews lists so many people who were examples of faith. They are really our fathers in the faith. They are handing down to us some very exemplary qualities that are of great value if we would claim them. Among these great fathers of the faith in Hebrews 11 I am impressed with three of them that leave us a great inheritance.
Abraham was the father of obedience. Heb. 11:8 says: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going”. Abraham obeyed even when he did not have all the details. He obeyed God through his pain when he was told to sacrifice his son. We offer God so many excuses for not obeying God’s clear instructions.
Moses was the father of decision. When Moses grew up he made the decision to choose to identify with the people of God. That decision would cost him the loss of his prestigious position. It would cost him intense suffering with the Hebrews. Yet he choose to follow the Lord instead of enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. We are called to make a similar decision. Choose to accept Christ and follow Him leaving Egypt behind.
Daniel was the father of steadfastness. His faith was so strong it enabled him to “stop the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:33). His steadfast faith was also seen as he lived a consistent life in a foreign environment over a whole lifetime. We are called to the same steadfastness.
These fathers of the faith leave us something more valuable than a key chain or pocket knife. They leave a powerful legacy of obedience, decision, and steadfastness.
Have you ever thought of the times that God in His Word praises His children and gives them encouragement? Sometimes we wonder if those who He has lavished praise upon actually deserve it. I think of John the Baptist whom Jesus calls the greatest born of women. What a marvelous statement. Yet remember when John was in prison he sent word to Jesus just to ask Him if He was the One. This mighty prophet had a momentary period of doubt. I think of what the Word of God says of Moses being the meekest man in the earth. I can think of a few times when he didn’t seem so meek. I am also reminded of Lot whom 2 Peter describes as having a righteous soul. In the book of Judges Gideon was called a mighty man of valor long before he did much to prove that statement.
What are we to make of these instances of lavish praise? The first thing that I can see that we can learn is that our great God loves His children so much. He is always there eager to see us serve effectively and live honorably. Another lesson I think comes out of these praises is that failure does not have to define us. Every one of God’s children have failed in some way or another. Yet God is so loving and encouraging and stands ready to enable our second chances. We see also from scripture that God sees our potential not our perversion. Jesus called Peter the Rock long before he began to live rock-like. God knows what we can become when we put all of our trust in Him. Finally, we need to learn that our true worth as an individual comes from our righteous standing in Jesus Christ. Lot was less than righteous in many ways but He believed and God counted it to him for righteousness, just like Abraham and anyone else who places their faith in Jesus Christ. God calls us His children, His sons, His bride, and His beloved. We are said to be more than conquerors, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and His own special people.
Because of the power of God’s grace, we who are so undeserving receive lavish praise from our Lord.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation