The FULL Armor: Righteousness Is Safe

The second piece in this series of armor is the "breastplate of righteousness."  This would have been made from hard and durable materials like metal or tough leather sewn together.  The breastplate covered everything just below the neck down to the naval, extending as far as each side.  It's purpose is simple: to protect the vital organs from a forward attack.

Note that the breastplate did not protect against rear attacks, because a good soldier kept the enemy always before their face.  Should the soldier turn away and attempt to retreat, they left themselves vulnerable to a sword or arrow.

In the Biblical realm,  the breastplate is made of "righteousness."  This word, dikaiosynÄ“ most literally means "a condition acceptable to God," or "right with God."  While we recognize "there is none righteous" in and of themselves (Romans 3),  2 Corinthians 5:21 shows us that we can be made the righteousness of God.  Just as Ephesians 6 suggests, we can wear HIS righteousness.

Why would righteousness be a breastplate?  Because sin's primary target will be the seat of your emotions, the source of life.  Sin targets the heart.  Holiness is the ultimate protection against sins of the heart.  But there's a catch:  It only protects from the front.  Keep moving forward.

Righteousness is not a cloak we put on once.  It is a daily fight, and death to self.  It is a city of refuge and impenetrable wall save a personal choice to remove oneself from its protection.  In order to utilize its strength a soldier must face the battle head on.  Turning a blind side to the enemy even for one second opens your life up for extreme danger.  All too often we flirt with the enemy, and though it seems harmless and safe - sin always brings death.

Righteousness is the second piece of our armor.  When you wear a right relationship with the Lord your heart will always be safe.  Don't take off the armor.  Always work to keep it on.  Face your sin.  Kill it.  The devil flees only by resistance. (James 4)

The truth makes free.  Righteousness is safe.


In today's age of modern warfare depicted in news stories and video games, we often skim Ephesians six believing we have a firm grasp of it's meaning.  We have equivocated it with medieval armor and explained it away as a simple metaphorical task. But upon further examination, we find the armor of God to be an in-depth daily process required for effective living.

Each piece of armor was given for a specific purpose, and presented in a specific order.  Neglecting one piece, or attempting to assemble your armor out of order can lead to some very literal battle scars or fatal injuries.  So, today let's take a look at piece number one.  Ephesians 6:14 "Stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth..."  In other words, Paul is saying, "don't go lookin' like a fool with your pants on da ground."

To understand each piece's specific purpose, we have to return to the culture and context of this letter to the Ephesian church, unfortunately it may not be the European chain mail we've seen in the pictures.

  In this time, "loins" osphys implied more than just the waistline of an individual; It was the source of generative power.  A person's loins were their ability to reproduce.  Their future.  Their spawn/creation. Everything that was to come came from the loins.  1Peter 1:13 implies that the "loins of your mind" are responsible for what reality you create.  Literally speaking, that which you create comes from the loins.

To "girt about" the loins was a very important practice....and still is.  I will never forget a particular skit I was a part of as a teenager.  I was running a little late for the evening service and could not find the belt that I needed to match my clean pair of pants.  So,  I left my shirt untucked and thought no one would be the wiser;  That is, until the "bad guys" picked my character up, and turned me upside down and began to shake as if my lunch money was going to fall out...Well, something fell out....ME!!!  But my pants stayed in the air.  And there in front of 300+ teenagers I learned the invaluable lesson that loins should always be "girt about."

In this Ephesian culture, the outer garment was loose, flowing robe-like material.  If the loins were not girt about,  the garment would hinder the movement of the soldier.  Girting about your loins made sure that everything stayed in its proper place,  movement was unrestricted, and the girdle would serve as the sheath carrier for the sword.

The girdle itself was equivocated with "truth."  The etymology of this word alÄ“theia, meaning what is both objectively and subjectively true, is rooted in the word alpha.  This word, synonymous with Christ, signifies a definite beginning and end.  This is what we would call an "indeclinable noun."  Meaning "truth" has only one form and number.

It is no coincidence that truth is the "alpha" and first piece of God's armor.  If we are to reach the world for Christ (generative power) and produce a generation that is committed to Christ, its foundation must be in truth.  We must intentionally girt ourselves with truth.  Seek it out.  Pursue integrity and expel deception.  Apart from the "belt of truth,"  our movement will be restricted and our ability to carry God's Word severly  handicapped.  Loins girt with truth make us free to fight.

Deceit will trip you and slow you down. Have you intentionally put on truth today?  Or are you looking like a fool with your pants on the ground?

Spoiler Alert!

I am THE WORST person to watch TV with.  I like to think out loud; and by think I mean comment on the acting, content, and storyline.  If I am going to watch TV it has to be a series/movie that will make me laugh or grab my attention with a down-to-earth, realistic story-line.  One of my very favorite series over the last several years has been "24."  

For those who might not be familiar, 24 is the saga of actor Keifer Sutherland, known as agent "Jack Bauer" of the Counter Terrorist Unit. (CTU)  Each season is 24 episodes, with each representing one 60 minute period in Jack Bauer's day.  It is an intense thriller, and the thing that makes it perfect is that it is totally plausible; putting the life of our service-men in perspective.  Without fail, at some point in each season, the writers want you to believe Jack Bauer has died and will not return.  But seriously,  there can't be 24 episodes if the main character dies.  Not to mention, as a loyal fan I follow the news, and how can they kill off the actor they signed a 4 season agreement with?  

So since I'm one of those people who totally involves their emotions in the characters and storyline, I rationalize those nail-biter moments away by using logic....out loud.  As you can imagine, that may or may not get annoying to everyone else sitting in the room.  It's not my fault they have not considered the facts beforehand....that does not give them the right to excuse me from the force.

Ever had one of those nail-biter moments in life?  Maybe it has been an intense week or month in the series that is your life.  Just like this cynical television critic or the kid that reads the back of the Nancy Drew novel, have you considered that life is not THAT much different from these two situations?  

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."  EXPECTED END.  Meaning even when today's episode doesn't make complete sense and some characters look like they have disappeared for good, you already know the end.  No need to worry. 

God gave Noah a promise that sustained him through the storm.  Moses knew that before the end credits would roll,  Israel would find themselves in a promised land, even when the scenes shifted.  The three Hebrew children recognized their expected end "our God will deliver us," which influenced their actions and inspired their proclamation, "But if not, we will not bow down." 

Perspective is everything.  When the scene gets rough or the season is tough, just remember that the divine director signed a binding contract with his own blood.  The story of your life cannot be lived out by another character;  it is a custom role suited for only one:  you.  As a believer, no matter what you face - you can read the back of the book and know who wins.  

MOVIE REVIEW: Left Behind//The End Begins

The year 2014 has been called, The Year of the Bible Film" and while there have been numerous biblicaltitles released, I would propose that 2014 is really the year of the Independent Christian film. Films like, Gods Not Dead, Moms Night Out, Alone Yet Not Alone, When The Game Stands Tall, and more have come to the big screen, collectively grossing well over 100 million dollars. Now towards the end of the year comes the much anticipated, Left Behind.  From the producers of the original film with Kirk Cameron, (one of the first independent Christian films to come to theaters), comes a remake with a lot of factors in its favor. First, its directed by Vic Armstrong. You may not know his name, but hes known as Hollywoods most prolific stunt coordinator, with such credits as Indiana Jones, Thor, Superman, and The Amazing Spiderman. Second, the film has major talent from Academy Award winner, Nicolas Cage, One Tree Hills, Chad Michael Murray, and Jordin Sparks, winner of American Idol. Bring in to the mix the largest, (but still minuscule by Hollywood standards), budget ever for an Independent Christian film, and you seemingly have a recipe for an awesome film. But is Left Behind really that good of a movie? Ill try to break down the various aspects of the film in this review.

    Those familiar with the book, Left Behind, will find that the new film is a tad different. The rundown is as follows:
    Airline Captain, Rayford Steele (Cage), is flying his jumbo jet across the Atlantic ocean when suddenly the Rapture occurs. Panic breaks out and Rayford must calm his passengers, and land his damaged plane safely. His daughter Chloe, (played by Cassi Thompson), is on the ground and sees the destruction the Rapture causes first hand; she struggles to find out what happened and why her mother and brother disappeared.
    The story is much simpler than the original film on purpose. Producer Paul Lalonde has stated that he wanted to devote an entire film to the rapture to convey the event accurately. As a story, its okay; but unfortunately the simplicity of plot causes the film to drag quite a bit. Devoting an entire film to the Rapture sounded good, but an event that happens in the twinkling of an eye has a hard time filling an hour and a half. So Ill give the story, a 2.5 out of 5 stars.


    I have heard many comments from people saying that there was no message and no clear explanation of what happened. Let me put those rumors to rest. By the end of the film it is crystal clear what happened, who caused it, and where the missing people are. It is said during the film that you must believe God to go to Heaven, but no conversions actually take place. It feels like the characters various stories went unresolved, as far as salvation goes, to set us up for a sequel. The message gets, a 2.5 out of 5 stars.


    I expected my favorite character to be Nic Cage, however, his role was pretty much confined to the captains chair. Although I did love watching him forcefully tell a passenger to take his seat! I enjoyed Chad Michael Murrays interpretation of Buck Williams, and while I wouldnt call it spectacular, I did like him better than Kirk Cameron in this role. Cassi Thompson did an excellent  job with her role as Chloe, in my opinion the film was really about her. But my favorite character in this film was definitely the character of Melvin Weir, played by Martin Klebba.  His role was so funny I was laughing out loud in some parts! Overall Id give the acting 3.5 out of 5 stars.

    The camera work in the film ranges from good to excellent, but leans about 95% percent to the side of excellent. Some of the shots are absolutely fantastic for an independent film. However, the real test of this kind of film is the visual effects. To do an action packed end times film its only fitting that you have some good visual effects. The VFXin Left Behind range from bad to good, never very bad, but never very good either. There are some legitimately cool action moments though! The third act of the film called for some heavy duty VFX, however, it felt like they needed about $10 million more to finish them. Its not terrible, but at best Id say its passable. So Im going to have to give Technical, a 3.5 out of 5 as well.

In summary, Left Behind under delivered for me. The quirky supporting characters and comedy, while funny, carried on way too long after the Rapture making Left Behind feel a little like a parody of the original rather than a better version. But its still an exciting ride and is at least worth seeing once, and for some, more than once. I believe the producers to be well-meaning men of God and I personally hope Left Behind does well in theaters so they can give us a more deserving sequel. In short, Left Behind is an ambitious film that stumbles often, but only because it reaches so high.

Final consensus, 3 out of 5 stars

(If they would have made an end credits scene introducing Nicolae Carpathia, I would have given it  3.5 stars!)

Guest Post by: Josh Allen

The "Soap" Opera

IKEA is a Swedish land of incredible inventions.  I have never walked through that place without seeing at least one thing that I could not live without; having no idea how I ever survived without their latest tool of convenience!  My friends also share a love for this great place where recently on one of our group pilgrimages, a two dollar purchase would teach me an invaluable lesson in leadership and development.

Any good salesman knows that before he can market a problem solver, he must first establish a baseline that there is in fact a problem that needs to be resolved.  Insert dramatic infomercial music, black and white shot for extra emphasis, and that over-acted disgusted face as we walk into your bathroom right now.  Do you use bar soap?  Have you ever noticed how even the best grooved bathtub holders for bar soap collect a residue that is a cake mixture of hardened soap and dead skin cells?  Ever picked up a bar and there's the wet gooey layer because the bar of soap sat in the moisture that never fully drained or dissipated? 

Here's where IKEA's ingenious plastic invention comes in!  Similar to the product you see in the title, this $2 plastic holder suctioned to the shower wall, holding the bar upright so that gravity could do it's work and allow all that moisture to drain!  This would also keep the bars of soap from ending up on the floor like they so often do.

 Having seen this revelatory item, eyes have now been opened to this epidemic that must end!  So, someone I know purchased several of these, attached them to the wall, and placed the individual bars of soap in them.  The story is told that every day when the purchaser got in the shower, one particular bar of soap was not in it's new place; It always found it's way back to its old spot.

One reported they followed the cycle:  After the purchaser would get in the shower, the soap was it its new spot.  After the owner of this particular bar would get in the shower, it was always out...until one day, all evidence of the soap container magically disappeared; All in one swift move, both the problem and the solution disappeared for good. Here are some takeaways:

1.  People Won't Always See What You See.

Someone saw junk, and the other saw treasure.  Someone saw a collection of dead skin cells, used soap, and bacteria, while someone else examined a difference in routine placement.

The world needs Visionaries, driven to look toward the future, calculate the risks, and affect change to generate momentum and growth.  If it can be better, then why should it stay the same?  If we can do something new and effective, why stick with the status quo?  The visionaries of the world are those IKEA inventors,  church leaders, writers, and communicators who keep the world moving.  Without visionaries, we will still be living without electricity, cars, and the technology that makes life a blend of complicated and fun. Don't be discouraged if people don't see what you see; that only means you will go places others cannot go. 

2.  You Cannot Not Force A Solution.

Left to themselves, the managerial type would take what they were given, and ONLY what they were given, and make it as comfortable as could be. ( AKA. the regular soap shelf. ) Visionaries hate "comfortable" just as much as Managers hate "new."  This tension, though irritating at times is necessary to a steady flow of life.  If you are to be an effective visionary, you must first understand that change cannot always be forced.  "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still."  You will lose the heart and buy-in of those you seek to lead if you mandate change on a "if it a'int broke don't fix it" personality.  Take a step back and utilize your opportunities to communicate.  As you communicate, either your philosophy will change, or your followers will change.  Both of these can be listed as success. 

3.  Problems Must First Be Personal 

Sometimes as leaders we must sell the problem before we can ever sell the solution.  Habits and routines do not change until the issue begins to hit close to home.  Maybe you're a Christian who can look back and see how grace did not seem so amazing until you realized just how much of a wretch you were. Maybe you were an addict who finally publicly admitted, "My name is_____ and I am_____."  There can only be a solution where there is first a problem.  Vision casting in a sterile, universal manner if rarely effective; But communicating the personal issues will continue to decide leaders, elect presidents, and graduate AA members.  Someone is going to change the world. The question is, will it be you? 

Influence Or Be Influenced

I have always believed that we are a product of our influences. How we influence others is sometimes intentional at other times not at all. Putting influence into perspective is challenging. Are you supposed to care who you influence and who influences you?? One thing is certain you are influencing others and you are being influenced by others. Surely there is a way to control this. To a degree at least. 

When I consider the idea and action of influence I look at the person of Jesus. He has done what no one could and has made every influential action to be that which will bring forth a positive outcome. Jesus didn't demand to have influence though. He was meek, ultra loving, and involved personally on those he influenced. 

When Christ was on the earth He had apostles and told them to make disciples also. Jesus knew that to influence the world you must first influence individuals one on one. He knew that while he was the way the truth and the life He had to involve others in making that message believable. Bottom line is this. Jesus wasn't a self proclaimed influence. Jesus diligently put in the time to walk and talk among his apostles (a small group of men) with love above all, as a means to reach all men. 

He told them to go and tell, baptize in His name when He himself could have used the powers of heaven and earth to make the world believe. Jesus was in the business of involving others in the gospel. Not just self proclaiming it. 

His example in such, is the single greatest influence any life can come under. Look around, focus on the people right in front of you, the people you see every day. No need to try to reach or influence everyone. The best way to reach everyone with positive influence is to just reach those in your immediate future. With love. No matter what agenda you're pushing, no matter how passionate you are, if you do to put in the time to just spend time with people and care for them, you will have no influence at all. 

It is interesting to note that Christ seemed to have no influence aside from God the Father. He was so busy trying to influence others positively that He didn't have time for others to influence him. Especially not negatively. Even satan tried to tempt Christ but Christ knew his mission. To love. Seek and save. Bring life more abundant. Etc. Likewise, If we focus on loving people, we allow little to no bad influences in our lives. 


I Hear Church Bells

Not too long ago, the bus was parked next to a church building in Texas.  In this small town, one of the church's attractions and advertising tools was the electronic church bell sitting atop their auditorium.  At half past the hour, a chime would sound, and on the hour, the bell would sound to signal which hour we had arrived upon.  That would have been OK, maybe like a grandfather clock,  but after playing the hourly number, it proceeded to play a verse and chorus of a hymn!  

No matter where you were on the property or in its vicinity, no matter what stage of sleep you happened to be in, you could not escape the chimes of time.  The first day I thought, "what an annoyance!" Why in the world would they park us here next to this siren of a church bell for an entire week?!  But by day three, God had opened my eyes to a few lessons that made it a little more tolerable.  

1.  Time Never Stops

I know what you're thinking...that fact just BLEW. YOUR. MIND. Right?!  While this captain obvious statement is rather general, the fact is so under-considered by the American culture.  This generation has been accused of constantly living in the moment, but I believe that to be false!  Today's moments are so consumed with snapping photos of ourselves and events so that we can look back, that often we fail to genuinely enjoy the moment we are in!  Each half hour as that bell would ring, I was reminded that even when I became idle, time continued on.  The bell became a sudden transport to the very moment I was in; a realization that my tomorrow hinged on my choices in this moment. 

2.  Success And Failure Are Measured By Moments

At first this was depressing.  I'll never forget sitting in my make-shift office, hearing that church-bell ring and wondering if there was a glitch in the program.  Hadn't I JUST heard that bell only a few moments ago?  Had a half hour REALLY passed already? A glance at my watch revealed a depressing truth...another half hour had passed and I had done NOTHING.  Have you ever made it to the end of the day and wondered where the time went?  Maybe as you sit here and realize it's OCTOBER and the year we just started a few days ago is weeks away from a close.  Dwelling on this fact can definitely drive one into depression, until you begin to reevaluate how you spend your time.  Set your goals and evaluate your productivity moment by moment.  If you fail in one half hour segment, your day is not a failure, for the next moment may hold great progress.  Both positive and negative momentum are products of a series of small, measurable moments. 

3.  Timing Is Everything

If you fail to consider this point, you may jump the gun on some good opportunities to wait.  While tomorrow is not promised, and you never truly know what a moment may bring does not give you an out not to plan.  My great-grandpa always said, "plan your work, and work your plan."  This principle applies to every single aspect of life.  In order for my moments, resulting in my day, to be successful, I must have a general direction for where I am headed, and the time it will take me to get there.  If the purpose of my day is ill-defined, I will arrive at my destination every time.  Some opportunities take planning and strategizing; therefore each moment doubles as a celebration of "now" and a deliberation of what is to come.  A moment too soon, or a second too late can ultimately change your entire future. 

  "Remember WHEN?"  "Remember THAT TIME?"  Time serves as the foundation and vehicle for every move of life.  It's more valuable than gold, yet freely given.  How have you spent yours?