A Pledge To Liberty

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By: J.L. Boruff

”For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the diving providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Ending of the Declaration of Independence

Fifty-six men took up a quill and put their names to a document that would surely place their lives, their families lives in danger. Each man was as varied in his life as the next, lawyers, merchants, farmers, jurists, and doctors. Some were highly educated, some had studied abroad, some were self taught, some had only a basic education. Some were wealthy, some very much so, others were of meager means. They mostly enjoyed the security being a subject of the British Crown could bring, but their hearts yearned for something more… liberty. To this end, they drafted one of the most famous documents in history. A declaration of freedom, of independence, a declaration that declared they would be the be the masters of their own life.

On July 2, Thomas Jefferson and the other four men of the committee appointed to the idea of colonial independence introduced a 1,300 word document expressing the cause of freedom. It would take two days to vote and make a few edits, so finally, on July 4th it was finalized and approved. Copies were then made and in August the signers would finally put quill to paper.

While the first section of the declaration is the most known, the ending carried with it a promise to each man standing there that day. They mutually pledged to give their lives, their fortunes, and most importantly their sacred honor. They could not know at the time how costly that pledge would be.

Nine of those men would die during the war. Twelve would have their homes ransacked and burned. Two had their sons captured, two lost their sons serving in the Revolution. Several lost wives, a few their entire families, with one losing all thirteen of his children. Two had wives endure brutal captivity, dying soon after from their ordeal. All would be sought out and driven from their homes, victims of continual manhunts. Seventeen would lose everything they owned. Some spent their entire fortunes equipping and feeding volunteers or on medical supplies to treat them. A few were captured themselves by the British, and with their names being known were subjected to terrible inflections, with one dying soon after his release.

Yet not one would defect or went back on the pledge they had made. One man, with a note in his hand offering the release of his son if he would simply pledge loyalty to the British Crown, looked up with tears in his eyes and responded with a resolute NO. 6,800 Americans died fighting for freedom in battle, another 17,000 would die of disease, an additional 6,100 were wounded. Freedom doesn’t come cheaply.

In the United States, we enjoy the freedoms these men envisioned as unalienable rights given by nature’s God all those years ago. How often do we take what they sacrificed so much for for granted? Each and every Sunday that we gather to worship, without fear or dread of being discovered as we are guaranteed the right to assemble, the right to worship in the 1st Amendment in the Constitution.

Freedom isn’t free, it comes with cost, it comes with hardship and pain. Not only in this natural world, but in the spiritual as well. The gulf of sin that separated fallen man and our Holy Righteous God was full of grief and despair. Chains of bondage, yokes of strife were lain upon each of us, and under its weight we struggled. Then came Jesus.

The Lord, looking out over the balcony of space, looking through the expanse of time and saw you, He saw me, our fathers, our children, all collapsing under the burned of sin. And He was moved with compassion, moved by mercy, by a great love we can truly never understand. And He knew that we could not reach out, across the great gulf of wickedness and reach Him, so He reached out unto us.

He came to earth, denigrated Himself to the folly of man, lived as we lived, felt what we felt, subjected Himself to pain, torment, and death in order to offer hope to you and me. The blood He shed on the cross still flows to this day, it still heals, it still saves, it still makes us new in His eyes, frees us from the shackles of sin and shame. The Blood gives liberty to all who are baptized in Jesus Name.

And to you, my brother and sister, it is new every morning. Every morning when Satan and the world renew their attacks against our minds, our hearts, our homes, there is mercy, grace, and strength to make it through. As the old song says, it reaches the highest mountain and flows to the lowest valleys, it will NEVER LOSE its Power! As the day of our Lord’s return approaches we can be sure of two things, the devils unrelenting attack and of the Power of the Blood of The Lamb! And the latter is always enough to overcome the former.

We are in a desperate battle against the forces of evil, reaching out the lost and dying in bondage of sin and strife. We fight everyday to reach a soul bound for hell. It can be weary at times, spiritually and mentally draining, but it is a fight worth fighting! It is His Will that none should perish, it’s our mandate to His Will.

On July 2, 1863, men once again fought over the cause of freedom. This time it was an army of men out to set others free. The Civil War began as a war over states rights, but morphed into a higher cause, the issue of slavery. And so, the Army of the Potomac found itself in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania fighting against the Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain found himself and his 20th Maine Regiment on the extreme left of the Union line, on a hill called Little Round Top.

386 men, weary from rushing to the battlefield under an unbearably hot summer sun stood and watched as down the line the battle erupted. Colonel Chamberlain had been given the order he was not to withdraw from his position as it was the last in line and the army would be placed in jeopardy. What he could not have know at the time was that had the army been defeated that day, there was no army between the enemy and Washington D.C. The war may have been forced to end with the South becoming a separate county and the slaves therein still in chains.

Hold to the last, he was told, and as a professor of rhetoric he thought the last what? Last man? Last bullet? Last breath? Soon, the sounds of the battle raging reached him and his men, as brigade after brigade tried to envelop them up the steep hill. One and a half hours later, with ammunition exhausted and many dead or dying he was faced with an almost impossible choice. He could stay but couldn’t shoot and be overwhelmed, or he could retreat, saving those still alive under his command but endangering thousands of other soldiers down the line. As he pondering, the enemy again began making their way up the steep slope littered with dead.

Finally, a solution came to his mind and drawing his sword bellowed out “Fix Bayonets!”. As soldiers looking on in amazement he quickly gave order to the captains, lieutenants, and sergeants to ready the men to charge. Exhausted, the men stood, fixed bayonets to their empty rifles, formed a line and with a shout charged down the hill. One regiment, scarcely 200 men ran downhill towards at least four enemy regiments.

The charge, famous now, broke the back of the attack, the enemy units already weary from the multiple attempts to climb the hill lost heart at the sight of the charging men in blue and broke. The 20th men, with no ammunition, many wounded, ended the attack. The next day the Union army won a victory and two years later, won the war, ending the scourge of slavery in this nation. They won the freedom of millions in chains and bondage. Over 600,000 causalities were injured in the Civil War, freedom never comes cheap.

The battle is never easy, the fighting hard, and we all carry a scar of wounds received in this war of freedom. There will be days when it seems Heaven is millions of miles away, that you are alone, and you are surrounded. But as Job describes: ”Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him. On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him. But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:8-10, KJV). Keep up the fight, I pray you today, wield sword and shield against the tormentor of your soul knowing that ”… The Lord, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8, KJV)

The Lord Himself is with us, has gone before us into battle, He will always reign victorious, so we have no need to fear or fret. If God be for us, who can be against us? Now is the time, to set the line in the sand, to stand and declare the cause of freedom, to stand with your brother and sister, shoulder to shoulder and fight, with one mind and one accord, to seek and save every person we can reach.

As the Founders signed their name to that document, they could have never imagined the hardship they would face in the cause of freedom, and yet when each found themselves in desperate situations, their honor kept the promise made on that day, they found the strength to go on, as freedom to them was worth the fight. It is still worth fighting for, for ourselves and for others. The struggles the saints of God endure are worth it when we bring the news of Jesus to others, breaking the bonds of sin and setting them free.

The cause of freedom, the idea of liberty, was found to be worth sacrificing for, worth dying for, how much more so is spiritual freedom? Liberty of the mind from depression and anxiety? Freedom from guilt and shame? Is the struggle of being a light unto the world still worth your life, your fortunes, your honor? I say yea.

And so, as we celebrate this season, this month of July that we rejoice at those that thought the cause of freedom worth fighting for, I pledge to you, my fellow soldiers of the Cross, my life, my fortune, and my most sacred honor.

Stand Fast In The Faith

1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (KJV)

Ringing in the new year brings with it, for most of America, the making of New Year’s Resolutions. They are as various and different as the people who make them, ranging from learning a new skill to losing weight to being more open-minded. And yet, as the days of January go by, these resolutions begin to fall by the wayside. That gym membership gets utilized less and less often, the self-teaching book on guitar playing gathers dust on the coffee table before being shuffled off to the bottom shelf of the home office bookcase.

Studies have shown that consistently, year after year, 88 percent of those that set out on January 1 will fail in some or all of the resolutions they made. Most last just a couple of weeks, some make it to the end of the month, few might make it past three months, and precious fewer actually stick with the resolution or goal to its completion. The most popular of these resolutions are the venerable goal of losing weight, often tied in with exercise more. Gyms across the country actually incorporate this into their business plan and marketing strategy, cheap memberships automatically deducted from accounts aren’t enough to cause cancellation and that would be gym goer doesn’t feel bad about not using it. Savvy garage sale shoppers know to shop for home gym equipment around March or April, as the treadmill that was purchased with the idea of getting in shape for the 5k now finds more use as additional space to hang clothes.

For Christians, most make resolutions to “read the Bible more”, “pray more”, “go to church more”. And yet, as the busyness of life rears its head, those things too fall by the wayside. A day of Bible reading missed here and there until the only time it is opened is at church, when you remember to bring it. The getting up early to pray starts well, until a late night of binge-watching a tv show or browsing social media leads to sleeping in. Add the stress of work, family, and life, now you stay in bed until the very last minute. Soon, prayer is something rushed through at dinner time or the few times you are actually early enough to church. Church attendance always goes up at the beginning of the year; however, it quickly tapers off around the time the local schools start spring break.

Before you know it, the year has passed, and you find yourself making the same resolutions for the next year. Armed with plenty of excuses for the failures of this year’s resolutions, you vow to try again, if you can even remember what resolutions you started the year with. Why? Why are human beings seemingly so bound by this cycle of promising beginnings only to fail year after year? Often the cause is that the goals that are set are too unobtainable, or too vague, or the realistic amount of effort sets in and discourages the person without the right mindset and the pursuit is abandoned.

For those that actually succeed in following through with their resolution, they typically have one thing in common, goal setting. They take their resolution and define it with more detail and have a plan or path forward to attaining that goal. Instead of the generic and vague “lose weight”, they will set a goal of losing one pound a week. “Read more” get defined into 1-3 books a month along with a list of books they wish to read for the year. Adding a serving or two of veggies to each meal makes the resolution of “eating healthier” much easier to accomplish when you have a clear plan in place to help achieve it.

Again, for the Christians, success is found in similar ways, “read the Bible more” gets defined into a daily reading chart with a set number of verses to read, or topical studies, chronological reading, as long as you have set specific attainable goals you will find success comes easier. For those wishing to pray more, one plan is setting the alarm clock five minutes early, then ten, then fifteen, and so on until a designated prayer time has been reached. Specific prayer patterns such as Praying Through The Tabernacle or The Lord’s Prayer give people defined steps to guide them through the prayer process instead of aimlessly wandering.

For this year, I’ve foregone the process of specific resolutions and have determined to simply be resolute. Resolute in my walk with God, and with all the avenues my relationship with Him affects the relationships I have with others around me like with my wife, my children, my Sunday School department, etc. Resolute is defined as admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering. You often hear sports coaches talk about focusing on the fundamentals. Long before you get to flashy trick plays or difficult maneuvers, there must be a development of the basics, dribbling the ball, passing, catching, shooting, tackling, the list goes on. The team that has the best handle on these basic principles of the sport most regularly find themselves the victors at the end of the contest, the losing coach often mentioning the need to focus on the fundamentals.

And so, in determining to be a resolute Apostolic, I want to practice the fundamentals, fine tune and hone the basics that can frequently be overlooked in the daily life of Christians. I don’t want daily prayers that are me bombarding God with my requests, I want to communicate with Him, speak but also pause to listen. I want a burning desire to read the Bible, not just to check the box on my BREAD chart, but to glean from His Word. Not only that, but I want to consume the Word of God, feeding the spiritual man as much as my physical man. And I want to have the will to routinely push the plate away not just for some number on a scale but for lives to be changed.

Let the morning sun catch me on my knees in prayer, let my children hear daddy talking with Jesus. Let my wife rest assured her husband is the priest and spiritual leader of our home. Let my journals fill and ink pens empty as I comb through the Old and New Testaments with vigor and excitement. Don’t let there be an offering plate catch my wallet empty or a traveling evangelist leave our church worrying about gas money. Let the students in the Sunday School class feel the lesson come to life, well-thought-out and studied. Let the words I put to paper come alive and cause the reader to pause and think, stirring up something within. Let my coworkers whisper about the zeal for God that has taken hold of me. Let me be easily identified as Apostolic.

The Apostle Paul attributed faith as our shield in battle. The shields in Paul’s time were constructed of wood overlain with leather and secured with metal bands. Now faith is twofold, there is our Faith in God, and our Faith of God. Faith in God, in His Power, in His Might, His Mercy, His Provision is the wooden bulk of the shield designed for absorbing the blows of an enemy’s hammer and stopping the fiery dart of the wicked. Our Faith of God, this Apostolic Faith is our identity, it defines who we are, who I am. The Romans often painted their unit insignia on their shields. This was so in the confusion of the ebb and flow of battle, they could look around and see where their fellow soldiers were, regroup, and continue the fight because a cohesive force fighting together is more effective. The leather was treated with a flame retardant oil because every solider knew that a shield set alight in battle became a weak spot. The shield protected not only the solider wielding it but the man to his left and to his right, and a discarded shield left men vulnerable to the attacks of their foe.

Let us determine, that in this new year, we cling to our shield as never before. As the day of Jesus’s return gets ever closer, the more relentless our enemy becomes. Now is not the time to loosen the grip, or let go of the standard that identifies us as blood bought children of God. Now more than ever is the time to be resolute, unwavering on the battlefield. We must hold the line, stand fast, unchanging, unapologetic Pentecostal proudly waving His Banner and shouting His Praises for all to see and hear. Now is the time to bombard Heaven with effectual fervent prayers with daily crucified flesh, saying not my will but Thine be done. Now is the time to ensure the life we live clearly identifies us as Apostolic, Oneness Pentecostals. I want my shield to protect not only myself but my brother or sister standing next to me. To be slack in this could not only cause injury to me but a fellow solider of God, God forbid.

So, this year, let my desire be to practice the fundamentals, and to practice resolutely, so that as Paul tells the Ephesians, having done all, stand. I don’t want this to be a checked box accomplishment to post on social media, I want to be fundamental changed, my prayer life, my knowledge of His Word, my faith to be firmly planted on the Rock. I want my roots to run deep, so I can face the trials I know are coming with the calm assurance of one who has spent time talking to Jesus. Standing fast doesn’t mean not taking steps forward, taking new territory, but to refuse to change or abandon one’s beliefs and opinions. Standing fast with the faith, unwavering in the things of God, the things that make me an Apostolic Pentecostal is my desire, my resolution for 2022. I have set daily, weekly, monthly goals to keep myself accountable to this course of action. Goals of prayer, of reading, teaching, writing about the greatness of my God. I encourage you to do the same.

Above All, The Shield of Faith

By: J.L.Boruff

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (Ephesians 6:16, KJV)

Paul instructs us to take on the whole armor of God, the whole armor, not just a piece here or piece there. No piece is unnecessary, optional, or to be disregarded in favor of another. This armor is of God, given by God, it is by His Word, His Power, His Righteousness that enables us to do as Paul implores in verse 13, to stand.

This armor, the sections that make it up no doubt modeled after the dominating military power of the day, the Roman Army, is intended for an up close and personal confrontation with the enemy.

The first piece, the Belt of Truth, is the center point of which the remaining articles anchor upon. So it is fitting that the first piece Paul ascribes to his spiritual armor is Truth. The enemy that we fight is the father of lies, so therefore the basis of our fight against him must be truth!

Without Truth, no man’s shoulders would be able to bear the weight of righteousness. By wrapping ourselves in His Word, knowing it, living it, and loving it, the weight of the burden of the Righteousness of God transfers from an unbearable load we couldn’t hope to bear into the protection of mercy and grace of Jesus.

The belt had three major functions. Firstly, it held the solider’s breastplate tight to his chest. Secondly, it transferred the weight from his shoulders to his hips, freeing his arms to speedily draw the sword and shield, and increasing the range of motion to be able to wield and maneuver his weapons to meet his foe. Lastly, the belt held the sword fast in its scabbard along his waist as he moved about his day, close by should the need of drawing it arise.

Moving up from the belt is the breastplate of righteousness, its function to protect the major organs of the body, the heart, the lungs. The Righteousness of God, which we must put on as a covering protects our hearts from the sword thrusts of the enemy. It protects the breath of God that spurns us in battle, if we can’t breathe, we can’t fight.

Moving down to the feet, we are to put on the shoes of the Gospel of Peace. It’s tough to walk through this world without Peace. Rugged shoes enabled the solider to keep his eyes on the enemy in front, not looking at the ground for sharp rocks, caltrops, sharpened sticks designed to injure and slow the pace of marching soldiers. With peace we can step on things that may be uncomfortable but our feet remain undamaged. We can march into battle, taking the Gospel throughout the world, tearing down the devil’s strongholds being assured that Jesus came, He lived, He died, and He rose again for you and for me. A prepared and resolved heart that adheres to the gospel accepts peace, peace with God, with others, and with ourselves.

The first offensive component, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. There is little like it on a battlefield, a well sharpened sword and a soldier who knows how to wield it. Nothing will pierce evil and sin like a sword in the hands of seasoned saint that has spent time in the Word. It’s not enough to just know the Bible. Knowing but not following makes you a historian, not a warrior. The devil knows the Word so how much more so should we know, and practice what it says.

To protect the head, the mind, we have the helmet of Salvation. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth Thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV). By keeping the promises of God we can allow all the worry and cares of life melt away, and focus instead on the battle. Knowing we have a covenant with the Most High God that gives us the victory allows the distractions of this world to fade away.

Prayer, daily prayer is the act of donning this armor. Faith, righteousness, salvation only comes through effectual fervent prayer. The one thing that ties it all together – faith. Righteousness, salvation, peace, the Spirit, all protect the body with faith stands out in front. Paul says above all, or in other words, in front of all, even most important of all.

Why faith Paul? Why was faith assigned the position of the shield of the Christian warrior?

The Roman shield, which was in no doubt what was in Paul’s mind as he penned the letter to the church in Ephesus, was three and half to four feet tall and up to two and half feet wide. The Scutum was rectangular and semi-cylindrical in shape, and made up of three parts: the wood core; outer metal and leather edging; wrapped in a leather skin with a center boss, also metal. It was designed to afford the maximum protection while still being maneuverable during battle. It would be behind this shield that the Empire would be formed, the Roman Legions laying waste to the armies of the then known world.

Well trained Roman legions would form what was called a testudo, Latin for turtle, or a form of what we call now a shield wall. This shield wall, with interlocked shields encompassing all sides and overhead was the equivalent of a tank today. Men in the front rows locked their shields together as they advanced, the ranks behind raising their shields over head forming a nigh impenetrable “shell” that prevented arrows, javelins, and spears from coming through.

The only tactic found capable of defeating this moving fortress of men, wood, and metal would be having your heavy calvary smash into sections of the formation and hope to wound or incapacitate enough soldiers to render the “shell” ineffective to ranks of archers and javelin throwers. It also meant heavy casualties for the calvary units and if faced with more than one testudo formation the calvary was often overwhelmed and consumed by the Romans before enough damage had been dealt to them.

These Roman units would paint their shields with a special and easily recognized unit insignia so that in the heat of battle a separated soldier could still identify and then rejoin his unit. They would soak the wood in water and apply a special flame retardant oil to the leather because they knew a shield set alight in the midst of battle became the weak spot, for if a soldier discarded his shield he exposed not only himself, but the man to his left and right. Holes in the line became the focal point of arrows and javelins, the target for the calvary troop to focus the next charge.

Before every battle, the seasoned soldier would look to the condition of his armament. Checking the condition of the leather strapping of the breastplate, the belt, and helmet. He would grind and polish the edge of his sword, honing it for easier thrusts and slices. He throughly checked the condition of his leather shoes, the metal rivets holding the soles on and the leather bindings. Finally, when all of that was prepared, he turned his attention to his shield.

So I ask again, why faith Paul? Why was faith put out in front of all others? Why is it the only thing capable of quenching all the fiery darts of the wicked?

It is by faith we are saved, it is by faith that we walk, it is our faith that identifies us. Apostolic faith is two fold: the faith we have in God; and the faith of God. We have faith in God, trusting in His promises, in His Word. Proverbs tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart, not to lean unto our own understanding, if we acknowledge Him then He would direct our path. That makes up the bulk of our shields, the hefty wooden sections that absorb the impact of the darts flung by the wicked.

Then we have the faith of God, our Apostolic faith, our identifier, which is the painted outer leather skin. It defines us, it makes us who we are, it also gives us great Power in Him. Isaiah speaks of when the enemy floods in, the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standardagainst him. That standard identifies us as a peculiar people.

Faith impacts the effectiveness of all other pieces of armor, it can enhance and strengthen or dull and weaken. Weak faith isn’t effective in a fight, its an untreated shield of soft wood and cracked leather that crumbles into pieces at first contact with the enemy, leaving its bearer defenseless, exposed, and easily wounded. But a warrior whose grip is firm and true upon his shield, one that is persuaded in His Word, His Mercy, His Glory, His Power, His Might, woe be unto the poor devil who encounters him.

”But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6, KJV.

When the enemy comes against you, the first thing that comes under attack is your faith. He knows that if he can get you to drop your faith, your grip on the assurance of God, of the marker that identifies you as one of His, then his arrows of doubt, fear, and worry have a chance to hit and wound you. Spear thrusts of alcohol, drugs, pornography, and other addictions might sink into your flesh. He knows that if you drop your faith, then there’s a brother or sister next to you that vulnerable as well.

Righteousness and salvation can protect your heart and mind but wounds can still occur. Righteousness is only effective as long as your faith in Jesus is firm. Faith that has weakened enough even allows doubt and disillusionment to creep into the mind, to point of even doubting one’s salvation.

Notice the wording of Paul in Ephesians 6:16 ”taking the shield of faith”, it implies an action. We must determine to daily take up our faith, to daily decide that we WILL live for Jesus, that He has saved, that He will save. Daily we hoist our shields, unleash our swords from their scabbards and assault the gates of hell.

Our enemy knows his only chance to survive an onslaught of holy Apostolic men and women is to lie, place seeds of doubt, hurt, or offense in their minds and get them to lower or drop their shield. He is all too aware that a determined church full of faith and willing to use it means utter defeat for him. And so he begins, signaling to demon arrows to notch and loose arrows at us.

The fiery arrow arcs through the air, its pointed head whispering “ You don’t really believe all that holiness nonsense do you?”

Another is pulled from the quiver, notched, pulled back and loosed “You really think He’s forgiven you again, after messing up again?”

Arrow after arrow, spear after spear, “You can’t, you’re weak, you’re lost, you won’t be healed, you won’t be delivered, that lost loved one won’t be saved, you have no ministry, you can’t preach, you can’t teach, you can’t win the lost…”

But in response, we lift our shields and say:

”They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength… they shall run and not be weary…”

Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed for I am thy God, I will strengthen thee, yea will I help thee, yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”

”My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness…”

“…And whatsoever thou bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven…”

”O give thanks unto the Lord for His mercy endureth for ever…”

”I was young and now am old but I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken nor His seed begging bread…”

But my God shall supply ALL your needs according to His power and riches in Glory in Christ Jesus.”

Sorry devil but “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Before the Roman armies made their way across the world the ancient city state of Sparta had a powerful army. They were unlike the other Greek city states in their military prowess, their tactics, their training was all a cut above. At the age of 7 boys would begin one of the toughest and rigorous military training regimes of the ancient world. From the time they stepped foot into the training compound they were handed the various weapons to learn and train with. They were introduced to the sword and shield, and to the tactics to use them effectively. Why were young boys expected to learn so young? They would serve the army from age 20 to 60 and the military leaders knew that by introducing the weapons of warfare early they would be mere extensions of the hands of fierce warriors they would become.

By the time of their first taste of battle, with chaos swirling all around them, the grip of sword and shield were a familiar presence to them. They had became accustomed to the weight of the armor, the clang of blade against blade, the sounds of men wounded, dying. Their grip on the shield was of the upmost importance as locking shields with the man to the left and right was the basis of all Spartan Phalanx formation movements.

As the soldiers marched off to battle, Spartan mothers would meet the troops, each mother handing her son his shield. As she felt the weight transfer from her hands to his, she would look him in the eye and say “With it, or on it.” It meant to either come home in victory carrying your shield, or be brought back laid upon it, giving your life for the defense of Sparta. To break and run, to throw away your shield was the upmost act of cowardice and any man that ran to save himself was no longer considered worthy to be called a Spartan. Mothers refused to recognize soldiers who had fled battlefields as their sons.

We must start with our children early. We must teach them in Sunday school, teach them that there is one God, His name is Jesus, that He loved us so greatly that He came, lived, died for our sins. We must teach that He rose again, with victory over death that we might have life in Him forevermore. They need to know of His Word, of His Works, of His mercy and grace. They need to hold the shield and how to raise it alongside their sword.

We can’t wait until they get to the youth group, the young adult class and hope the youth leader is cool enough to impress them. They need to know this Apostolic faith is worth living for, worth fighting for, and worth dying for. They need us to live it, to know that it is worth picking up every day and that is works. That by living the way we do gives us power, it gives us victory. We must live it and teach it “With it, or on It”.

Generations of Apostolic have carried the shield into battle. It has been wielded through many trials and tribulations. It has carried them through every battle. And it still works today, quenching every fiery dart of the wicked flings at us. By soaking our faith in the living water of Jesus Christ and the renewed anointing of the Spirit we have the victory. We only need to hold onto our faith.

Out of David’s mighty men, only a few are mentioned by name. The captains of David’s army were renown for one thing, and it wasn’t their ability with a sword or spear, but with their shield. These men knew the value of holding onto their shield, protecting themselves and the men around them.

That should be the goal of every Apostolic out there. That they are know to hold onto faith. That when the battle was hot, when the arrows were flying through the air, they were holding onto faith. That when the enemy came against them they gripped their shields tighter and continued the fight.

We must hold onto faith. Above all, hold onto faith.

It was by faith that:

Noah built an ark having never seen a rain drop and saved his family

Abraham led his son up a mountain side to sacrifice him on his way to becoming the father of many nations

Moses chose the suffering of his people over the riches of Egypt and brought God’s people out of their bondage.

David put off the king’s armor and slung a stone into the head of a giant

kept a praying Daniel from the mouth of the lion

prevented Shadrach, Mescach, and Abednego from bending their knee to the king’s image and met them in a fiery furnace as the 4th man in the fire delivered them.

allowed Elijah to face 450 priests of Baal on a mountainside, called down fire from heaven and turned the peoples hearts back to God.

a woman with an issue of blood touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole.

Peter stepped out of the boat to walk where no other man has walked before.

Caused blind Bartamayus to call out to Jesus and have his sight restored.

Faith, Apostolic faith, will bring you through life’s worst storms, trials, and battles. Hold onto faith and win the victory.

A Tale of Two Betrayers

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It’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of those men that fateful night. What led them to the decision they made? The heaviness of heart knowing you just betrayed your friend, your teacher. Peter, only hours before, declaring that he would follow Jesus to prison, unto death, instead denied even knowing him to the crowd around the fire. Judas, having sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, struggles to come to grips with what he has done.

Two men, similar in some ways, vastly different in others. Each had seen the signs and wonders Jesus wrought throughout His ministry. They had been there when He opened the eyes of the blind, raised the dead, and fed 5,000 with two fish and five loaves. They had seen Him walk on the water, Peter himself even stepping out onto the sea to walk to Jesus. They had been given power to cast out demons, tread upon scorpions. And yet, now the Master is in chains, beaten, whipped, mocked, condemned to die on a cross, and they’ve betrayed him. The weight is unbearable for one, and he takes his life, unable to bear the burden of his transgression. The other, becomes the rock upon whom He would build His Church, standing up in Acts 2:38 declaring to all the path to salvation.

So what was so different between Judas Iscariot and Peter? Why is Judas remembered and reviled throughout history as the betrayer? Judas, once a popular name is rarely given to children, while Peter remains one of the most popular. Judas is synonymous with betrayal, along with Brutus and Benedict Arnold. Why isn’t Peter held in such a light? While his denial is often taught around the Easter season, most think of Peter as the one who stepped out of the boat, one of Jesus’s closest disciples. What was different that led to such different outcomes for these two men? In a word, faith.

Judas, despite witnessing the miracles and having heard the lord speak found in his heart he did not believe Jesus was who He said he was. Even at the table, when each disciple was asking Jesus if it was he who would betray Him notice the contrast between Judas and other the 11. The other disciples ask “Lord, is it I.” Judas asked “Master, is it I?” Master, or teacher, is a stark difference from Lord.

The seed of betrayal was planted after he was rebuked by Jesus after Judas became angry with the woman who broke the precious ointment over Jesus’ feet. Some believe Judas thought Jesus to be a revolutionary, who would come and overthrow the Roman government, the signs and wonders He did a display of power to gather support to start the revolution. Judas became bitter and angry when he realized Jesus was preparing to die, not to lead an attack on the Roman oppressors. He resented that Jesus was going into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and not at the head of an army. Judas couldn’t see that Jesus planned to overthrow death and hell itself through His death.

Whatever the motive that Judas may have had for following Jesus, it diverged from his fellow disciples and put Judas on the path of infamy. As Jesus is accused and sentenced to die, Judas cannot find it in himself to believe on Him. He returns to the priests in an attempt to rid himself of the immense burden of betrayal, flinging the silver onto the floor of the temple. However, the most Judas could think of Jesus was simply as an innocent man. In Matthew 27:3-4, he seeks absolution from his fellow man, instead of the One who was preparing to die for him. Unable to find the consolation he needs in the words and minds of man, he goes and takes his life.

Then, there’s Peter. His betrayal isn’t born out of hate, greed, or disappointment, but fear. But does that lessen the weight of the words Peter spoke around the fire that night? Going so far as to curse and deny any knowledge of the One he had been so close with.

Peter would be the one to answer Jesus’s question, “Whom do you say I am?” While the other disciples timidly present the opinions of others, Peter declares “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Unlike Judas, Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah. Faith caused Peter to step out of the boat to walk upon the water. It was because of his faith that Jesus called him blessed and the rock His church would be built upon.

Faith was the difference that helped Peter overcome his burden of betrayal. I can imagine Peter, sitting on the edge of his boat, weeping broken heartedly, the horrible sound of that third crow haunting his thoughts. His mind constantly going back to that table where he declares his loyalty to Jesus, then switching back to those horrible words around the fire, “I do not know the man.” Could it have been Peter himself considered the same path Judas took to escape his guilt?

Then, in the quiet of the night, the waves hitting the sides of his fishing boat, the words of Jesus come floating to him…

Peter, Satan has desired to sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you.

Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah, upon this rock I will build my church.

“Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter can almost feel the hand of the Master again, pulling him to the surface of the water that had caused him to take his eyes off Jesus.

It was faith, against the insurmountable weight of betrayal that kept him till the morning.

The dawn comes three days later: Judas lays dead, but Peter is running. Running to the tomb to see for himself what Mary had reported. John slightly ahead, pauses at the sight of the stone that once sealed the tomb laying to the side. Peter doesn’t stop, moving past John and into the the tomb. His heart, already beating from running quickens even more at the sight of the grave clothes, no longer containing his Lord, folded neatly on the rock where He was lain. The turmoil going on in his mind, daring to hope that He had indeed rose again, and questioning whether the risen Savior would even speak to him. Did he dare believe that Jesus could possibly forgive him?

To clear his mind, Peter falls back on the one thing he knows he can do. Mending nets, long set to the side to answer the call of Jesus to become fishers of men, allows Peter to lose himself in thought. Gathering some of his brethren, he heads out fishing. They fish all night but catch nothing. Finally as the morning sun begins to rise over the horizon the tired men head for the shore.

As they get close, they see a man standing on the beach, the man questions them about their catch. Peter admits they return empty handed. He feels like there is something familiar about this man but he cannot place him. The man asks them to let down the net, one more time. Peter and the other disciples oblige the man’s request, there was little to lose. Suddenly the ropes go taut, the boat begins to sway in the water as the weight of net and its contents begin to pull at the boat.

This is the clincher for Peter, only one man could do that, Peter has seen Him do it before. So as the disciples begin to haul the net, laden with enough fish it could break, Peter jumps ship and heads for land, he must get to the Lord. As Jesus breaks bread with them once more, He asks “Peter, do you love me?” Peter, weeping, replies that he does. Jesus asks again, and Peter assured him he loves Him. One more time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, Peter recognizing the significance of the three questions, answered with tears in his eyes, remorse in his heart that yes he loves Him.

Peter, finally finding the forgiveness he had thought he might never find takes his place as the leader of the disciples. He is there in the upper room as the Holy Ghost sweeps through the room and sets on each of them like a fire. He stands up boldly at the Day of Pentecost to declare for all to hear that they must repent, be baptized in Jesus name, receive the Holy Ghost to be saved.

Peter is at the forefront of the new church, becoming what Jesus said he would be, the rock upon which His church was be built, upon which it still stands.

The Road From Desolation to Restoration

The story of a Prodigal Son, The Angry Brother, and a Loving Father

And he said, a certain man had two sonsLuke 15:11

The Prodigal

A young man, with tatters for clothes, dirty, unkempt and disheveled, staggers down the long dusty road. He stumbles along, head down, unable to look fellow travelers in the eye. His stride is uneven, his steps uncertain, as if hesitant to reach his destination. His feet know the way, it’s a road he’s traveled before, with his father’s sheep on the way to the temple. As he rounds a bend he sees a man coming toward him, causing him to pause. While still a ways off, he recognizes the familiar form of the person running towards him… His father, his mind drifts back to the last time he saw him, it seems like a lifetime ago…

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” Luke 15:12 KJV.

This statement definitely grabbed the attention of Jesus’s audience. For a son to ask his father for his inheritance was akin to telling the father to drop dead. Only with the death of the father could the son receive his inheritance. You can hear the murmuring and grumbling of the crowd, as the people talked among themselves about how they would handle such a shocking request. Not only did the son’s request go against societal norms, but so did the father’s granting it. It would have fallen on the older son to rebuke his brother, but the father spares both and divides his living.

Now, he didn’t just write out a check made payable to his son. No, lands were divided, animals, barns, servants, goods, all that the father owned was divided up between his two sons. The son then sold everything, land that had passed through the generations of his family, sheep, goats, prized possessions. This would have put all that heard His parable up in arms over such an egregious action. The murmuring grows louder as the parable goes on.

Next, the young man spends all he has on riotous living. As his money is running out, a famine strikes the land to which he’s traveled to squander his inheritance. Finally, starving and finding no friend to take him in, signs on to a pig farmer as a servant, tending to the pigs. Now the Jews are really appalled, pigs- an unclean animal- what a low and debased position this prodigal finds himself in. Many nod approvingly, serves him right, they say.

And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” Luke 15:16 KJV

Fain, or with pleasure or gladly, filled his belly… That’s hunger, to have been glad to throw himself amongst the pigs down at the trough and eat. A Jewish boy, who had been taught between clean and unclean animals now struggles with the idea of eating alongside them. This is the lowest point for him, alone in his desolation.

And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s house have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17 KJV

As he sinks to his knees at the trough, the sounds of the pigs snorting, rooting, squealing all around him, it comes to him. All the times he watched alongside his father as the servants cast bread out to the field to the birds. His father’s servants always had enough, and he, he always had more than he needed, at his father’s house. He looks around, at his circumstances and realizes, the only chance he has at survival, to live, is at his father’s house.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and no more worth to be called thy son: make me a one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19 KJV

And so with that determination, he struggles to his feet, leaving the pigs to their slop. Accepting that no one would accept him as a son, his only option is to ask to be a servant. He sets his feet toward his father’s house. Thus his journey to restoration had begun.

The Father

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

The father, having heard of the famine in the land in which his son journeyed, spends large portions of his day watching the roads that come from that direction. Many a night the sun sets with the father’s eyes still on the horizon searching. When he travels to markets, selling goods and livestock, his mind is preoccupied with his missing boy. Out in the field gathering the harvest, the servants note the number of times that he pauses his work to look up and out over the expanse of his land, in search of his child.

Finally, as the heat of the day rises off the ground causing the road and those traveling on it to distort and misshapen, he catches a glimpse of a man staggering along the roadside a long way off. At first he thinks his old eyes are simply playing tricks on him, his mind and the heat deceiving him into seeing what he wants to see. Then the glimpse becomes clearer, and he recognizes the figure coming towards him. He leaps off his porch with a shout, past his bewildered servants, old tired legs rejuvenated carry him down the long dusty road to his son, whom he’s been waiting on for so long.

This part of Jesus’s parable would have those listening scratching their heads. A father running? Running to the son who had done those horrible things to him? Having compassion? Jesus was attempting to get them to view God with a little less formality, to see Him as a close, personal, fatherly Lord. This was not a relationship with the LORD that the Jews would be comfortable with. In the whole of the Old Testament, God as a Father is only mentioned three times, the New Testament- over 50. Jesus wanted them to know Him, personally, intimately. The Jews rarely spoke the name of God in daily life. Yahweh was used only in synagogue worship or reading of the scriptures. In it’s place they used Adonai, or That Name. While it’s important to treat the name of God with the upmost respect, the Jews had made the saying of His name in certain respects almost a religion unto itself. Jesus wanted to change that. When He taught the disciples to pray, how did He start? Our Father, who art in Heaven…

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand; and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found…” Luke 15:21-23 KJV

The first action of the Father isn’t a reprimand or rebuke, it was to restore his son to his station. A robe, ring, and shoes to signify him as a son, not a servant. Being a son meant that he once again had his inheritance. The father, quietly re-purchased the fields, the animals, the servants that the son had so reckless sold away. Now, he made them available to him once more.

The Angry Brother

Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing… And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.” Luke 15:25,28 KJV

The elder son, the “good” son, having endured the shame his younger brother had brought to the family is angry, not only at his brother, but also with his father. He feels upset that the years of loyal toil and work he’s put in isn’t appreciated. He’s mad that the father so readily accepted his brother back into the family. No penalty, no working off the debt, no punishment. He doesn’t refer to his brother as his brother, instead saying “thy son”.

Again, the patient father hears his sons griefs and pleads with him to come in. He lets him know that he knows the work the elder has put forward and the reward of his inheritance. He reminds him that his son is also the eldest’s brother, and that he was feared dead, and now is found again.

Sin will take you farther than you want to go… Sin will leave you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you far more than you want to paySin Will Take You Farther, The Catherdals, 1995

To those who see the prodigal come through the back doors of the church, put away the sword. Don’t give them the cold shoulder or long looks down the nose. Meet them as the Father would, with grace and mercy. Rejoice with them as they are brought back to the family, don’t expect them to “earn it”. For your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost, and is found. Take your cue from the loving, patient, merciful Father.

To the prodigals of today, come home. The Father is waiting. Waiting to restore unto you all the things you laid aside. There will be no stern admonishment, no guilt, only mercy, grace, and love. He’s willing, He’s waiting to restore you as His son or daughter again. The things you gave away, gave up or gave up on, He wants to restore unto you. The road to your restoration can begin with a step, step in the direction of a loving and patient Father. He is ready to meet you with open arms of love and embrace you as His son. He’ll remove the tattered remnants of the mess of your life and place around your shoulder a robe of righteousness. A ring, signifying you as a child of the King, and shoes, to help walk through life with grace.

He Knows My Name

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But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 KJV)

I met my college roommate on moving day. He told me his name, I gave him mine. We had little in common, save both being from Indiana. He wore aviator sunglasses all the time, even inside and was always on his phone. One day, trying in vain to get his attention, I yelled out, “Hey Hollywood!”. The nickname stuck, and soon all of us living in dorm 4, 5, and 6 called him Hollywood, his real name forgotten.

Hollywood’s main love in life was his 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. It was his main topic of conversation, if he wasn’t in class or in bed, he was in the “Evo”. One day, Hollywood decided it was a good idea to race his beloved “Evo” down I75. Unfortunately for him, he was pulled over traveling around 120 mph. To make matters worse, he was pulled over in a construction zone, double the fine. The officer told him, “Basically, I’m writing this ticket for 240 in a 55. That’s reckless endangerment, which is a trip to the county jail and your car is being impounded.”

I was his one phone call, which I ignored because the school had a very strict cell phone policy and I was in class. Two hours later, I finally checked my voicemail to hear the frantic pleading of my roommate begging me to come get him out of jail. In his pleading he neglected to mention what jail and how much it would cost to get him out. So I broke out the yellow pages (before Google was available on phones) and called the first jail that came up. I told the receptionist I needed information pertaining to getting my roommate released.

“Ok sir, can I have his name please?” she asked.

“Of course, it’s Hollyw… oh uh, may I call you back?” I had totally forgotten his real name.

I asked my roommates, they didn’t have a clue. The guys next door, they didn’t know either. Twelve guys, not a one knew his real name. Finally, I dug through his backpack until I found a paper that his name written at the corner. I called back, gave her his name and got the information that we needed to get him released.

Brian, aka Hollywood, having sat in jail for over four hours, was so joyful to be free from that place that he forgave the people who had lived with him for months and yet didn’t know his name.

When I was bound and needed to be set free, there was someone who knew my name and He set me free. Even before time began, He knew me, He knew my name, and that He would die in my place so that I could live. When sin and death were all I knew, He knew me and loved me.

The very God who spoke the universe into existence has passed my name through His lips. He knows more than my name. The Bible says He even knows the hairs on my head. How amazing ,that the Creator of the universe knows me personally, intimately. He knows my struggles, my pain, my past, my problems and He gives me grace to overcome each and every one. He chooses to remember my sin no more, and presents me with mercy renewed every morning.

Jesus desires to know us and for us to know Him. A personal walk with the Savior, a close, daily encounter with our redeemer. He knows all about us anyway, and yet at times we keep him at arms length, treating our relationship with him with a cool professionalism, only calling on Him when in trouble. We develop this business-esque relationship, treating the One who sticks closer than any brother with an employee/supervisor or student/principal attitude, or treat Him like AAA, we only call in an emergency.

How much more closer would He have us walk? To truly know Him, to meet with Him daily in prayer and talk with Him throughout the day as we would our spouse, a dear friend, or family member. As we walk closer with Him, He revels more and more of Himself to us. The more we walk with Him, the more glimpses we get of His Glory. While we can never truly know Him in all His ways, the problems of life get small the more we know of Him and His goodness.

I want to desire to know Him, personally, deeply, intimately. I want the relationship I have with God to be a well traveled two way street. I want to seek Him early in the morning, because having a little talk with Jesus will make it right, the things I encounter throughout the day won’t seem as big or feel as heavy if I’ve spent some time whose throne is the heavens. The more I allow Him into all aspects of my life and allow Him to have His will in them, the less I have to worry about the eleventh hour prayers to Him to correct something I should have placed in His hands to begin with. I want to talk to Him at midday, just to keep Him at the forefront of my life, to let Him guide and direct me. A conversation with the Master to close out my day, to lay the days burdens down, offer up praise, seek His protection over my family, my home.

My biggest fault, or at least one of them, is this innate desire to do it myself, refuse all help or advice until I’ve exhausted my own ideas, resources, and strength before begrudgingly accepting the help that was offered, when if I had accepted it earlier on, I would have saved myself and others time, money, headaches and frustrations. Slowly, I’m learning to let go, and let God. To trust in His plan and know He has me in His hands. One challenge I’ve set for myself in the coming year is to increase the flow of conversation with Him, to take one more step closer to the Lord, and to let Him lead me down the path He would have me walk.

I know that whatever I face in life, it’s possible to make through, because God knows, He knows what I’m going through, what I feel, and He’s provided the way, I just have to trust in Him.

He knows my name. He knows Jared Boruff, and all that name entails. And still loves me.

The King’s Judgement

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There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy… “(James 4:12, KJV).

I’m drug before the Throne, chained, tattered, and dirty. The accuser stands before me, Sin and Flesh hold me by my chains, each with a list of the sins and wrongs I’ve committed, ashamedly, the lists are quite long.

High above the court sits the King, in His Glory, glimmering white with Righteousness. He sits on a Throne of Holiness, the gavel of Justice sits in His hand. I await the King’s Judgement.

“Oh Lord,” the accuser begins, “Here we have a sinner, his wrongs many, his sins great. He is blemished and broken, with no hope of changing. What is the penalty of sin?”

“You know well the price of sin and wrong Satan.” The King of Kings responds. He looks at me, “The wages of sin is death.”

I bow my head, tears flowing down my face. My life of sin and wrong, my choices made solely to appease my flesh are weigh upon me, seemingly heavier with each passing moment.

“My Lord,” My voice barely audible, although He seems to have no trouble hearing me. “I am a sinner, a life full of wrong turns and choices. I’m sorry, I can only ask mercy, though I know I don’t deserve it.”

“Haha, mercy? You think He should show you mercy? How many times have you done wrong, sinned, or did whatever you wanted with no thought towards it’s consequences?” Satan turns towards me. “You deserve to die, that is what you’ve earned with your life.”

“Enough!” His voice booms across the court, silencing Satan. Flesh, Sin, and Satan all tremble and take a step back. He looks at me, with love and compassion. He stands up, He takes off His robe of Heavenly power and authority, and pulls out a robe of humanity. He steps down off the Throne of Righteousness and walks towards me.

He removes the chains from my neck, lifting the burden off my back, and places them around his neck. “The King’s judgment is death, justice demands blood be shed.” He turns to Death, “and so I will take his place.”

I watch horrified as He is led to a whipping post, where He is beaten and flogged. “This is for your healing” His voice speaks to me.

I follow as He is taken to a hill and witness the King of Kings lay Himself upon a cross, a cross that was made for me. He is nailed to it, and raised up for all to see. The Holy and Righteous One, nailed to the cross meant for me.

“This is so you can live forever, free from sin and strife, free from the worry of death.”

“But, why You? You are perfect, You never sinned.” I ask Him as He hangs there, His blood running down the cross.

“Exactly, only a spotless sacrifice can take your place.” He replies.

“I’m not worthy, I can never begin repay the mercy you’ve given me. Why would You give Your life for mine?”

“Because I love you.” And with those words He dies.

Silently Death drops my judgement to the ground, turns and walks away, Sin follows, with Satan trailing behind. I walk over where the parchment that carried my sentence lays and pick it up. As I hold it up, blood drips of His body and splatters on across the page.

Where it reads “Sentence: Death” the blood covers with “Paid in Full“, the lists of sin and wrong was now blank, my past erased by the blood. My mind could not comprehend what kind of love He had for me to lay down His life so I might live.

As I stand in the shadow of the cross, for the first time I feel free, my burdens lifted, the chains that had me bound were gone. I looked down at my clothes, once tattered and worn, now white without spot or wrinkle.

I was spared the King’s Judgment because of His mercy. His love took what I deserved and through His mercy gave me life, in place of death. I could walk freely in newness of life, my sin covered under His blood.

Refined by Fire

A guest post by my wonderful wife and best friend.

Refine- Remove impurities or unwanted elements from a substance.

I read a story once about a woman who was watching silver being refined. The silversmith explained to her that he had to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where it was the hottest to remove the impurities. Refining silver is a delicate process because if left a moment too long it will burn up. She then asked, how do you know when is enough? He replied, oh, that is easy, I see myself in it.

The question every Christian should ask themselves is is He easily seen through us? Are we easily refined? We are most like him when we are refined. We are being purified by our Heavenly Father, the Refiner. What a thought.

It’s in the middle of the fire as the story above stated where we see Him most clearly. Those valleys, those times where we think He’s the farthest from us. In all actuality, He is there and very much present, I just believe He’s letting us figure it out for ourselves. After all I don’t believe He’s a God of, “ I told you So’s”.

Often times when we’re being refined, we are also being corrected. That’s sometimes a tough pill to swallow.

Purge me God. Purify my thoughts and heart. Refine me like the silver until You are clearly seen in the evidence of my life.

Living Outside the Chains

The chains that bind us, that hold us back from our potential, do they really have the hold on us that our enemy tells us they do?

Are you free? Free in Spirit? Can you move freely about unencumbered by the burdens of your past? Past wrongs, past hurts, past sins? Or are you living in the confines of your shortcomings? Does your sin keep you chained? Do you feel you can only go so far and then it yanks you back to where the borders it defines for you? Does it make you heel under the haunting shadow of failure?

A missionary from Africa once spoke to me about a village he visited. On its outskirts there was a large elephant tied with a small rope to a stake in the ground. The villagers told him that it was taken as a baby, and tied it to the stake. The elephant would pull against the rope, straining hard to break free from its bondage, but it couldn’t. Eventually the elephant gave up, and as it grew no longer tested the bonds that kept it in captivity. It accepted that it couldn’t be free from the rope. So there were large circle in the ground where the elephant tramped about in its daily walk, just on the limits of the outstretched rope.

That elephant, once grown could have easily pulled the stake from the ground, or broken the rope that prevented him from living the life God ordained an elephant to live. And yet, in its mind, the rope was too strong, the bondage insurmountable, the hope of freedom a distant memory. The past failures defined the limits of life in the present. It accepted that the small circle was all the life it had.

Have your past failures convinced you that freedom isn’t an option? Has it gotten you to accept the limitations of how far you can go? Of what you can and can’t do? Have you accepted the small space those chains allow you to move in?

Jesus came to earth to set the captives free. He came, He lived, He died, and He rose again so that sin could no longer hold us captive. He freed us from the shackles of the past, the yoke of bondage and offered freedom in place of failure.

He came that we might have life, and not just life but life more abundantly. It’s His Will that we move freely through that life, unshackled and unfettered. No chain or tether can withstand the mercy of God. Our sins He remembers no more, the Bible says, and so we are freed from the past, free from the bondage and oppression of sin.

Repentance and baptism in Jesus name breaks the hold that sin and wrong have in our life. When we go down in the water of that baptismal tank and the blood He shed on the cross washes us white as snow, the shackles that bound us are broken. Whom the Son has set free is free indeed!

It’s then up to us to move beyond the life of bondage, to step into the freedom He died for. The scripture says to walk in the newness of life, that means we are to move beyond where we were when He found us. God called each of us to go into the world, proclaiming the Name that is above every name, the only name that can set others free, the name of Jesus.

But we aren’t perfect, we don’t get it right 100% of the time. We fall, we mess up, and we miss the mark. But the failures and shortcomings can’t define us, the number of times we’ve fallen can’t be the number that matters. It’s the number of times you get back up, dust yourself off and try again that matters. “Rejoice not against me, oh my enemy, for when I fall I SHALL arise” (Micah 7:8)

Our minds are often our worst enemy, constantly reminding us of the mistakes, the failures. It says “You can’t do that, you’ll just mess it up again, you can’t live that, you’ll just fail again.” And when we allow that mentality to have sway, we once again find ourselves living in a limited world, prisoner to our own thoughts. We pick up the chains we were once freed from and place them around our necks once more.

We stop striving to do the work of God, and become content or complacent in living far smaller than God would have us live. We fall into the routines and habits of life, accepting as the elephant did that we couldn’t be more, that we couldn’t be different, that we couldn’t live in liberty.

And yet, all it takes is to take a step beyond what we’ve accepted as the limit of our life. To determine that we won’t live in the shadow of the past wrongs and step out. The self-imposes chains will fall, the fear of failure fades as the strength of the Almighty gives us the confidence and courage to move forward the freedom He wants in your life. All it takes is the faith to make one step.

We must never accept the limitations that our flesh will try to place on us. “I could never preach, I’ve done too many bad things” – Paul was a murderer, He persecuted the early church. But once Jesus stepped in, he did amazing things for God, a preacher, a missionary to the Gentiles, and as a teacher. His books make up a good portion of the New Testament.

“I could never be a leader in my church, I’ve messed up too many times”. The rock upon which Jesus said He would build His church denied that he knew him in His last hours of life. And yet Peter stood on the day of Pentecost to proclaim what those gathered must do to be saved.

“I can never move past all my wrongs”, my Bible says, “I can do ALL things through Christ, who strengtheneth me” (Phillipians 4:13, KJV). We’ve all sinned and come short, no one sin measured heavier than another.

And so it has to be a mindset, a spiritual mindset, that we are more that what our flesh tells us we are. Through Christ, His mercy, His strength we move past the limitations we’ve perceived to be our life’s boundary. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

Let that be our prayer each day, I AM persuaded. Even when I fall, I AM persuaded. Lord, I’ve messed up again, but I Am persuaded. I am persuaded that You have more for me and there’s more for me to do for You. That Your Will is for me to live outside of the chains of yesterday, and in the freedom of today and in the joy of tomorrow.

Purposefully Placed

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What you are is God’s gift to you; what you do with yourself is your gift to God – Danish Proverb

Ever wonder about your purpose in life? The impact you make? Do you ever feel like you could do more with your life or more for God if you could change some of your life’s circumstances. Honest moment: I’ve actually had this conversation with Him during prayer: “You know, I could bless the church and a lot of missionaries if the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstake van pulled into my driveway.” That’s often our complaint, isn’t it? I could make a bigger and better impact on others if only I had more. More money, more talent, more friends, more opportunities, more exposure for my blog…

I’m reminded of lesson I learned long ago while listening to one of the big impacts on my life, Adventures in Odyssey. I heard the story of the stone cutter.

He was a simple man, who lived his life on the mountainside, chiseling away at stone after stone, taking what he quarried into the village below. One day, on the way to the market he passed a wealthy merchants house. He marveled at the luxury of the house, the important visitors coming and going. He became envious and wished he could be like that merchant.

When he woke the next day, to his amazement, his wish had come true, he now lived in a luxurious house, he had wealth and power like he never dreamed. He was for once the one envied and even detested by those less wealthy than himself. Then one day a prince passed by, carried above the crowd in an ornate chair by his servants. Everyone, regardless of wealth had to bow as the prince passed by. Recognizing the prince had more power than him, he wished he could be as powerful as the prince.

And again, the next morning when he awoke, he found himself in a palace, and now he was the one carried about by servants. The envy was clear in the eyes of the people he passed by. He was feared and hated by all those who were forced to bow as he was carried by them. As the day wore on, the hot sun began to drain all his enjoyment out of the spectacle of the bowing masses. He became hot and uncomfortable, and was forced to admit that with all his power he was less than the sun. He made another wish.

The next morning, he rose across the eastern sky, shining brightly down across the land. His rays fell across rich and poor alike, all cursed his heat as their crops withered and died, made labor and travel unbearable, and burnt the skin of those who could not avoid his gaze. Suddenly, a black cloud moved in front of him, blocking the powerful heat from the scorched ground and those moving about. Confronted with yet another whose power overtook his own, he wished to become the cloud.

Heavy rains fell, washing away the burnt crops destroyed the day before. The road the princes travelled washed out. The market was flooded. Those below sought refuge from the deluge, with clinched fists they voiced their anger into the stormy sky. Then, a large gust blew him away from his drenched victims. He was at the mercy of the wind, buffeted to and fro by it’s billows. He made his wish.

Heavy wind damaged the princely palace, ripped the roof off the rich merchant’s home, and flattened the houses of laborers and the poor. Trees, gardens, and fences fell as he swept across the landscape. As he moved he heard the angry shouts and curses from those below him. Then suddenly he ran into something he could not move. A towering rock rose from the ground, his hollowing wind was ineffectual, no matter how he raged, the rock would not move. Once more forced to admit of a more powerful being, he wished to be the rock.

As the rock, he was now the most powerful of all, he thought. The sun could warm him, but not burn him. The rain couldn’t wash him away. The wind could blow across his face but not change him. But then he began to feel himself change, and parts of him falling away. He heard a noise, a familiar noise, the sound of a hammer striking a chisel, so he looked down.

And saw a stone cutter.

God, who is all knowing, who has a perfect plan, placed you in a specific place, with a specific role, for a specific purpose, for a specific time. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts I have toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end. We each have role and a purpose for the harvest.

We can’t all be millionaires and, honestly, would we really use that wealth to better the Kingdom? First a house, then the car, then a vacation (I deserve this Lord, I’ve worked so hard…) All the while, God has provided each of us the tools to make a difference in our own way (in His Will).

Galatians 6:4-5 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Some get a hammer and chisel, some a voice or instrument, others a pen or keyboard. We each have the ability to affect the lives of those around us, hopefully in Godly way.

So instead of pining about how more effective we would be if God just gave us the money, a different talent, or a larger platform, we should put our effort into doing what we can with what we already have. You may not be the biggest tither in your church but can you teach a Bible study? You may not be able to sing but can you open a door with a smile as a visitor steps into your church?

One additional thing I take from that story is that every new step in power the stone cutter made, he only made negative impacts on the lives of those he encountered. No matter what we are doing for God or just going about our day we need to make sure we leave a positive impression on those we come in contact with. It’s hard to tell others about the joy of the Lord with a sour expression on our face. Or of His goodness when we’re griping and complaining with the preceding breath.

If God has called you to be a stone cutter, strive to be the best stone cutter you can be. Do your work, do it joyfully, do it wisely and watch God give the increase. Like in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, I want to hear my Lord say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”