Righteousness our armor

The more I step into my prayer closet and grab a hold of the Armor of God, equipping my kids’ piece by piece for the battle of life, the further intrigued I am with Ephesians 6,

Why is righteousness being described as a breastplate?
What is this breastplate of righteousness protecting us from?

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:11-17 NIV

In verse 14 Righteousness is described as a Breastplate. The breastplate is an important piece of protection, made of heavy leather with metal disks. The soldiers would dampen their breastplates with water to protect themselves from the fiery arrows that were shot by the enemy soldiers.

When we think of men and women in battle today, we often visualize them wearing a bulletproof vest. That’s how our modern day Breastplate protects the soldier’s vital organs. This Breastplate that God has provided for us to put on is for safeguarding our heart. We should never enter a war zone without our bulletproof vest in place, but there are times we step into this world leaving our protection on the bedroom dresser. Proverbs explain just how important it is to protect your heart,

“Above all else guard your heart; for out of it are the issues of life”
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

I had a young friend in Beijing that kept his breastplate of righteousness in place constantly. One Mother’s Day, he went to the flower market to purchase a bouquet of roses for his Mom. After buying the roses the son hoppeds back into the car and traveled to a few more destinations. Then suddenly the young man realized that he had walked out of the market without paying the vendor. He insisted that they return to the market to make things right. The driver didn’t share his ideals he said that,

“The mistake was the vendor, you’re in the clear, you don’t have to pay for the roses.”

Because the young man’s breastplate was in place, his automatic response was one of righteousness, he insisted that they turn the car around and go back to the vendor. A few months later the driver gave his life to Jesus. The final deciding factor, the breastplate of righteousness worn by a young man who insisted on paying for his mother’s roses.

His choice to do the right thing not only kept his breastplate in place so his driver could see the glory of God, but it also better protects him from future temptations of the heart. Every time we make a right choice, it guards our heart against temptation. We experience the blessing of right relationship with God and become more aware of the negative consequences of sin. Our armor is fortified against that area of sin when we resist the devil.

What a relief to know that it’s called the Armor of God and not the Armor of self. If I stood against the enemy with a breastplate of my own righteousness, it would be nothing more than rotting leather and rusty tin. We are reminded in Romans,

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Romans 3:22 NIV

We are not wearing self-righteousness, we are wearing the righteousness given to us by believing in Christ. That’s a righteousness of humility, constantly aware that we are nothing without our Savior’s righteousness. It’s because of his great love that we naturally live out a sanctified, righteous life.

edited by Lydia King

Repentance Revisited

My requests hit heaven at rapid-fire speed, leaving little time for God to reply back. My many lists and strategic scriptures have filled my time to the edges, leaving little margin for self-examination and needed repentance. I filled my prayer board with the deafening prayer needs, which drowned out the still quiet voice of God. I have become a prayer warrior that is so focused on shooting down the enemy that my ears aren’t tuning inwards towards the voice of my Commander and Chief.

Weeks have passed by with me standing at my prayer board petitioning, worshiping and declaring God’s goodness over friends and family. It has recently dawned on me that I can come before God with lots gusto and confidence and completely forget about the need for repentance. It’s startling how capable I am as a prayer warrior for the kingdom, yet I forget that I am also a human in need of repentance. Ouch… it hurts to type those words.

Some time back, a dear friend had attended the Brownsville Revival in Florida. I was curious about the Revival and sitting in a coffee shop with him was my chance to get a first-hand report on the experience. I asked him, “What was it like when you entered the Auditorium?” His reply surprised me, “I felt unclean, I could do nothing but fall to the floor and cry out to God in repentance.”

I had known this man for most of my life; Unclean would have been the last word I would have ever used to describe him, yet that was his reaction when entering the Revival, when entering the Presence of God.

Dr. CL Culpepper shares a similar reaction during the Shan Dong Revival of China (http://www.allabouthim.org):

“In the early 20’s I felt that we were up against an impossible situation, but we had some older missionaries that knew how to pray. As we began to pray the Lord seemed to lay on our hearts for a deeper hunger for the Lord, Himself. So, we prayed more and we prayed for 4 years and as a result of this praying we go under deep conviction for sin. The deeper we got under conviction of sin we had to make restitution and make things right with each other, take out all the sin in our hearts. There are things in many of our hearts that we didn’t know was there, they are just covered up with the rubbish. So we had to dig out all of the rubbish and pray and continue to pray.”

Revival is characterized by the supernatural power of God, bringing deliverance and healing to the attendees. But it’s also characterized by a strong conviction of sin sweeping across the people.  A desire to dig out all of the rubbish within ones heart.

When God shows up, His priority is repentance and healing. We see this illustrated throughout the gospels; Jesus came to save and to heal.

I realized that if I want effective prayers, a fresh empowerment then I had to come regularly before God with humility and repentance. Recently, I added to my prayer board a garbage can. My hope is that this paper garbage can will daily remind me to dig out the rubbish within my heart. It holds slips of paper where I’ve written down my rubbish of habits, attitudes, issues that I need to repent of. The can is filling up!

“Lord, I repent of my pride, remove it from my life.”

“Lord, I repent of my self-sufficiency, keep my trust in You.”

“Lord, I repent of strife, make me a Peacemaker.”

In Luke 11 Jesus patterns for us how we should pray. He instructs us to have a heart of repentance “Forgive us our sins” Repentance is essential for us to have a relationship with God and effective prayers.

Lord, May we each live by truth, and walk in the light, seeing plainly the areas of our life that we need to repent of. Everything that we do is done within your sight.

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:21

Edited by Lydia King

Undaunted

A bit too public, awkward, and reject-able, it’s the kind of opportunity that I tend to skip.

My sister-in-law Lori came to visit us in Beijing. We were in full-throttle tourist mode and in much need of a rest at a nearby coffee shop. While enjoying our drinks, she started up a conversation with a lady sitting alone and chatted a bit. As I was picking up our empty cups and heading for the exit, the corner of my eye caught my sister-in-law walking up to the stranger, “Can I pray with you?” she asked and with a response of appreciation from the lady she precedes to pray for her, while surrounded by crowding patrons. I can’t remember what issue the lady faced, but the courage of my sister-in-law has never left me.

It’s a prayer God takes special delight in, a prayer for a stranger, a prayer that extends outside the walls of the church and inside the world of the needy. He looked down, knowing Lori’s inner struggle, and that despite the awkwardness, she prayed. I think God listens and answers the prayers that require courage.

A couple of years back I found myself in the Pediatric ICU unit of the Children’s Hospital in Beijing. The pastors and wives joined one of our young couples for a stretch of 2 1/2 weeks sitting on the concrete floor of the waiting room. I remember my first time entering the bleak waiting room lined with worried parents. My focus that day was on our one couple, whose daughter was in the ICU. But unlike the pastor’s wife, the worried mother’s focus went beyond her own daughter. Despite not being able to speak the language of the other parents, she reached out to one mother whose’s tears turned to sobs. The mother scooted over to her and pulled out a photo of her little baby girl she then motioned to the double doors that lead to ICU. The Chinese mother in turned pulled out a picture and did the same. Then the expat Mom placed her palm hand on the other mother’s hand and began to pray for her. Despite the challenges of language, the message of love was clear.

I tossed and turned for most of the night, thinking about the Christian mother and her selfless, courageous prayer. I entered the waiting room with only two people in my mind our two parents, but this Christian mother despite her pain chose to extended love and prayers to others. Laying in bed that night, I told myself that each day that I sat on the cold floor of the waiting room, I was going to look at each parent’s face and find someone to bring the warmth of Christ’s love to. The pain-filled mother had set the tone for all future visits.

The following morning I armed myself with a Chinese New Testament and an Illustrated Chinese Dictionary. Each day I would get to know a new mother, open up my visual dictionary to the chapter on the human body, they would point to the organ that was their child’s issue. Then I explained that I was a Christian and offer to pray for her child. In two and a half weeks, not one mother turned down the offer to bring their child before our Great Physician.
Last week in a department store I was looking at herbal essential oils. At that time a lady approached me, while as I was examining a bottle of Lavender Oil,

“I heard that one helps you sleep well, is that true?” She asked.

“Yeah, I think you are right. Do you have problems sleeping? Is it digestion, restless leg syndrome?”

“No, it’s my son’s cancer.”

Ugh! It wasn’t the reply I was looking for inside of a busy department store. My response gave her nothing, “Oh, I am sorry to hear that.” I wish I had prayed a simple prayer, nothing long or elaborate, just “Jesus heal this son. Amen.” But it was another day without courage, and I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had prayed the awkward, courageous prayer in the world of the needy?

Throughout the New Testament most prayers for others were done outside the temple, in the world of the needy. The disciples responded to the needs of others whether on a bustling street or at the temple gate they often stopped and prayed.

“A cripple man was begging at the temple gate, and he asked Peter and John for money. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk” Acts 3:6-8 NIV

(Written by Cyndi Davis, Edited by Lydia King)

Meeting Ministry

How each of us meet ministry can affect the way we view ourselves as a Pastor’s wife. Some of us felt a strong calling as a child and knew the ministry was where you were headed since childhood. Many of us felt so drawn to the ministry that we spent tens of thousands of dollars enrolling in a Bible school. Others of us were settled in our careers, then one day our husband walks into the house announcing a change of plans. Suddenly you are carrying a title that you never imagine wearing. Then there are those who just fell in love with a guy headed for the ministry. I fall in the last category.

Prior to becoming a Pastor’s wife, I didn’t weigh out the pro’s and con’s. I never sat down with another Pastor’s wife to investigate what my future life would be like. All I knew was that I was starry-eyed in love with Jon and he was working on becoming a minister.

Our first assignment was a wonderful church, A senior Pastor that taught us a good work ethic and a congregation that was full of love and patience for their new Youth Pastors. Each church following were great experiences as well. For the most part, I have good memories that linger in my mind of the people that we served.

Despite my love for ministry, I spent over two decades struggling with the crazy notion that I snuck into the ministry while God wasn’t looking. This mindset not only hampered my ministry in my homeland but continued to slow me down overseas. Still today, when someone asks me how I was called into Missionary service, I usually respond by lifting my left hand and pointing to my wedding ring. My simple reply was “God called my husband and I packed the luggage!” Not understanding God’s favor to me to be a Pastor’s wife, left me feeling unequipped and reluctant to reach out to others. Lately, I have been wondering, was it even possible for me to hear God’s calling for missionary work when my mind was veiled with a deception about sneaking into the ministry. The lie of being a non-called pastor’s wife kept me from being able to hear God in the first place. I am so thankful for the sweet determination of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to our hearts. I now know deep inside this was the life that God had wanted for me all along and I love it!

Ladies, we all meet ministry in different ways and our Father wants us to know how pleased He is to call you a Pastor’s wife. This week give the Holy Spirit some personal time, allow His voice to reassure you of His pleasure with you in the ministry. When we find assurance of our calling we’ll be able to walk in a new confidence and minister to His Church more effectively.
Please, don’t let decades slip by until you realize just how happy God is to call you a daughter and a Pastor’s wife.

Picky Faith

Australian Pastor, Benny Ho, came to Beijing to give us an all-day workshop on the topic of “Spiritual Gifts.” The morning of his workshop, as I was praying for the event, or should I say complaining about the event, I prayed;

“Lord, I don’t even know what my spiritual gift is? Here I am the pastor’s wife and I am clueless as to what my spiritual gift is!”

The Lord’s reply came swiftly and cut to the bone,

“That’s because you’re too picky”

The words stung. God was right, when it came to the gifts of the Holy Spirit I was picky. I appreciated some gifts of the Holy Spirit, but other gifts I preferred to avoid. I excused it mentally with thoughts like,

“I don’t exercise that gift, because it’s really doesn’t fit my personality.”

That morning, standing in my living room, I realized for most of my life, I had been limiting the work of the Holy Spirit. I believed in the Holy Spirit, talked about the Holy Spirit, but had placed him in a glass box of my own construction. The Holy Spirit was a welcome active part of my spirituality, but I had my preconceived limits. I had put boundaries on the Spirit of God. I know that sounds ridiculous. But I had basically told God how he could work in my life and what was out of bounds.

The truth is, there were aspects of the Holy Spirit at work that just seemed too demonstrative for me. It was OK for others, just not for me. I carried an invisible “not welcome” sign around my neck. After that rebuke from the Lord, standing alone in my home, I stretched my arms to the ceiling, tilted my chin heavenward and confessed,

“Lord, it’s true, I have been picky. Forgive me for being embarrassed about how some of your gifts operate. I want everything you have for me. I say yes to all. No boundaries, no more boxes, no more shying away.”

Paul tells the Corinthian church,

“There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit distributes them.” 1 Corinthians 12:4

He reminds me that there is a variety of gifts and that it is the Holy Spirit that gives the gift. That means that my job is to love all the gifts and be willing to walk in whatever gift the Holy Spirit desires to give to me. Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 12:17 to be happy with our gifts.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”

Paul must have had people in the church that were a little picky like me, wanting specific gifts but not others. Paul explains, to be a healthy spiritual body, the body needs all the gifts in operation. To me, that means each of us should stand before the Lord and pray;

“Lord, you determine how you want to work in my life. Holy Spirit, take your liberty with me. I say yes to any gift you want me to have. I will no longer shy away, even if it means you want me to have a demonstrative gift.“

Paul states clearly to the Corinthians, that no matter how much theology and experience we have gained, our dependency needs to be on the work of the Holy Spirit.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirits’s power” 1 Corinthians 2:4 NIV

When Paul preached the Spirit’s power was displayed. Although he was a well-educated man, what he strived for was not excellence in speech but the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. The Spirit’s power may have looked different depending upon the need, but it seems Paul was open to each and every demonstration of the Spirit, that Jesus might be glorified.
I want to be anchored in this verse (1Corinthians 2:4). I want to feel it tug at me when I drift into my own self-dependency. I long for the Spirit’s power and gifts. And I will not be picky!

Hedged My Prayers

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” Luke 9:1,2

It was another Sunday standing down front, ready to pray for those in need following the morning service. One young woman came forward sharing her battle with recurring nightmares. A familiar story, I recognized it as a demonic attack. I prayed a short prayer, praying in Jesus name that the intruder would leave her home, and gave her some helpful tips on how to stay free. Afterwards she thanked me, but my stomach sunk realizing that my little 3 minute prayer was not the answer that she needed for complete victory.

I went home that day and shared with my husband, “I am sick of my prayers doing so little.” “Things are going to change.” That determination set me on a journey. A journey involving repentance and greater discipline. The enemy would no longer have the upper hand concerning my prayer life. That was four years ago and I have met many milestones along the way as the Lord continues to lead me towards effectual prayer. The first milestone on my journey was a bit unusual, a personal exercise to stretch my faith.

I found myself for years, when faced with a difficult prayer need, that I would hedge my prayers. It’s a bit like hedging a bet, it gives you a way out if the miraculous does not come. While praying for a cancer patient, I would pray for their physical healing, but I would surround the healing prayer with smaller, less-faith required prayers. I would tack on prayers for God to be their Prince of Peace, for God to be with the family, for God to be their provider. There was nothing wrong with my smaller prayers and they were scriptural, but I used them as a way of guarding my pride. I struggled to see God answering the bigger request, so I would add on smaller prayers that I could believe God for. The inner challenge was clear, I was to stop hedging my prayers and extend faith for the bigger requests.

In prayer, I want to know that God hears my little voice, and longs to respond no matter how challenging the prayer. I now can pray without hedging my prayers with smaller requests, just incase the “big one” does not get answered. I am trusting God for bigger things. Trusting Him to hear and answer my prayers, no matter how impossible the answer might seem. Pride no longer stops me from praying publicly for the difficult things. It is my responsibility to obey, to believe, and leave the rest to God. I am now free to pray for healing, for lost love ones, for deliverance.

Now, when someone wants me to pray for physical healing, I pray for physical healing. I can ask God for the impossible without the need to cushion my prayers with additional requests that may require less faith.

Jesus sent out the twelve disciples in Luke 9 to heal the sick. In the following chapter He sends out the Seventy-Two with the same command to heal the sick (Luke 10:9). Every time Jesus sent His workers into the world it was with this command to heal the sick. I believe that means it’s a command for me as well. I long to be a woman, anointed, empowered, and full of faith believing God for the impossible.

Connecting with People

“who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,”
Psalm 103:4 NIV

Whether attending a weekend conference or talking to a businessman at a community gathering, do you ever feel like a fish out of water? Wondering how in the world will you be able to connect with people that are so different than yourself. Attending varying social environments, I often arrive with the same fear, “What in the world am I going to say? How in the world will I be able to carry on conversations with these guests that are so different than me?”

As Pastor’s wives, it’s important that we connect with people from all walks of life, whether the person is a diplomat or a plumber. I think of Paul when he wrote,

“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
1 Co. 9:22 NIV

When Paul was connecting with others, he took his mind off of himself and tried his best to connect with people at their level. His goal was to be the bridge that would connect them to Christ.

When God picked me to be a pastor’s wife, he chose a country girl from a small town in Oregon. When I was 19, I went for my MRS degree instead of finishing college. Serving the Lord in Asia, where higher education is held in high esteem can feel intimidating. The questions I dreaded more than the plague was “Where did you go to school?” or “What was your major?” This fear got in the way of talking with people. I had to come to grips with the truth that behind every degree and position was a person that needed Jesus. Their lives become broken and hurt just like everyone else and it’s my words from the Lord that can bring hope. When arriving at an event I strive to get my mind off of myself and begin to connect with people at their level, whether the person is a beggar on the street or an ambassador in a ballroom.

John Maxwell and Les Parrot wrote a book together that I have read repeatedly, “25 Ways to win with People” Here is a couple of excerpts that have helped me when connecting with people:

Practice the 30-second rule
People everywhere needs a good word. When most people meet others, they search for ways to make themselves look good. The key to the 30-second rule is to reverse this practice. When you make contact with people instead of focusing on yourself, search for ways to make them look good within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. Everyday when I meet with people, I pause and think of something I can say to encourage them.” John Maxwell.

Meeting a lady from Kenya, I might compliment her country’s tea, A man from New Zealand I might share how one of my Dad’s fondest memories was a trip to the countryside of New Zealand. If I meet a successful business man I might compliment him on the quality of a product. There are times that my compliment may be simply about a cute purse or pair of shoes. Whatever you use to compliment, make your goal to get your mind off of yourself and onto building up the person you are talking with.

Compliment others in front of other people
“The most fundamental and straight forward way of winning with people is to give them a compliment. If you want to make others to feel like a million bucks you’ve got to master this elementary skill. And it’s essential that you learn to give your compliments in front of others, as well as one on one. Why? Because that private compliment turned public instantly and dramatically increases in value.” John Maxwell

Later in the book John shares that, “The meaning of the word Affirm, is to make Firm.” When we speak meaningful compliments we are affirming them, helping make firm the good that we see in another person. Isn’t this who we want to be, women that see good in others and calls it out, strengthens that quality, firming up that character trait in them.

Applying a few simple habits can be the secret to us being confident and ready to meet people and care for their needs. My all time favorite John Maxwell quote,

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”

Taking a look at the above tips, they all have one thing in common, it’s not about us, it’s about them. Psalms 103:4 says that when we are saved we are crowned with love and compassion. When someone wears a crown, others take notice and are drawn to that person. When we make our goal to have love and compassion for a new acquaintance, they will naturally be drawn towards us and take note of our kindness.

A simple illustration in a book my Tim Elmore called “Habitudes.” He shared, when we are in a social setting we have one of two choices, We can be a hostess or a guest. A hostess is active, they walk around the room tuning in to who might be standing in a corner all alone. A good hostess will walk over and strike up a conversation, they will invite others into the conversation and make helpful introductions. A hostess’ goal is that every person at her event is comfortable and enjoying themselves.

While a guest takes a more passive role sitting on the couch waiting for the hors d’oeuvre and asking for refills of his favorite drink. As a guest you leave the event having had a good time, As a hostess we leave the event with fulfillment. The hostess spent the evening connecting people, making them more comfortable and making firm the good in their guests with words of affirmation.

Ladies, we are thrown into all kinds of settings and events. The three things that have helped me most are: forgetting about myself, connecting with people and waiting for Holy Spirit lead opportunities.