Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Lesson 6 - Are You Ready for Battle?

We are in a battle daily against Satan and we need to be prepared to fight. I don’t think most of us see ourselves as warriors, but we are. We need to put our armor on daily. God gives us the tools to fight the battle, but we have to access those tools and willingly put on the armor.

Please read Ephesians 6:10-20.

When Paul was writing this he was imprisoned and being guarded by a Roman solider. So, as he writes these verses he has a visual object lesson standing in front of him.

Let’s look at v. 11, we are told to put on the armor of God so we can take a stand. Look at how many times stand is mentioned in this group of verses.

When you think of the word stand, what do you think?

Looking at v. 12, do you often think your struggles are against humans or earthly situations? Does is change your perspective at all to see your struggle is against Satan? If it does change your perspective, how does it?

Verse 15 begins describing the armor. The first mentioned is the belt of truth buckled around your waist. I don’t know if you know this, but Roman soldiers wore something that looked like a dress. I know that is weird, just remember any old movies you have seen. When they had the buckle around their waist they were keeping “the dress” out of their way to fight. It had to be strong. What does that mean for us? We are to have absolute truth surrounding our waist. In this world, truth is not absolute and depends on how you define truth. We have to stand (there is that word again) for truth when the world says otherwise. Also, we have to know the truth in order to stand for it. This means studying God’s word to know the truth.

What area in your life right now do you need to stand for truth?

The second piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. The breastplate would protect vital organ in the upper body. This righteousness is not about Christ righteousness that is imputed to us it is about moral righteousness and the transformation that accompanies saving faith in Christ. We are looking at our witness to others. Do we do what we say, do we practice what we preach. A commitment to always do the right thing in every situation provides powerful armor against the temptation to gain personal advantage by cutting moral corners.

Are you showing others in your life Christ righteousness? Do they see you are different on Monday not just Sunday?

The third piece of armor or equipment is footwear and that we are reading to spread the peace of the gospel. Roman soldiers wore heavy sandals with thick leather soles. Also, they would wrap around their calf. They were to protect their feet on long marches. Often they were fitted with nails to provide secure footing in the midst of hand to hand combat.

What does that mean to us? This verse has been interpreted two ways. One is to be ready to go and share the gospel. That would fit with the Great Commission in Matthew. The second one is that the gospel readies believers for a Christian walk in the world. We have that inner peace when we are involved in conflict and opposition. The most important point is readiness. Are we ready at a moments notice to obey God’s commands? Are we ready to share the gospel?
Also, the nail image of the soldier’s reminds me of standing firm in what we believe and not backing down? Are there times when you have backed down or decided not to say something that needed to be said?

The fourth piece of armor is the shield. The shield was for heavy infantry. The shield was oblong in shape, four by 2 ½ feet. The soldier would crouch behind it or hold it over his head to protect for flaming arrows. How does the devil aim flaming arrows at us? He takes advantage of every negative life situation to hurl flaming arrows of doubt at us. He wants us to question God’s goodness, God’s power, and God’s love. The devil attacks us most when we are fatigued. He throws arrows of discouragement when we think we are being ineffective as Christians, when Christian brothers or sisters disappoint us. We need to use our shield to trust the God who saved us and that his love for us is never failing.

What flaming arrows is the devil sending your way right now?

The fifth piece of armor is the helmet to protect our head. The helmet of salvation is affirming our salvation, living with the assurance and confidence that we are saved. No matter how severe the battle becomes we have no fear, because we know we are in God’s family. We know how the story ends. We know we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

The last piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit. This is the Bible, God’s word. The sword Paul is describing is a short sword and it is used as an offensive and defensive weapon. We need to know and love God’s word. Paul would probably be appalled at the lack of sincerity modern day Christians take God’s word. We say God’s word so much that is loses its meaning. All scripture is God breathed. God wrote it and gave it to men inspired by him and the Holy Spirit. I often like to think of it as God’s love letter to us. Do you remember how powerful Christ was when he quoted Scripture against Satan? God’s word is extremely powerful and we need to use it as a weapon against Satan.

Why do you think there is no armor for our backs? We need to fight Satan head on. I like to think God has our back and our front for that matter. In some ways Satan is not a coward. He is waiting to pounce on us like a lion. So, it is a full frontal attack.

One thing I cannot stress enough is visually, mentally, and emotionally putting on the armor of God every day. On your way to work, see yourself putting on the various pieces of armor. Satan loves it when we neglect putting on the armor of God, because it makes us so vulnerable. God gives us the armor it is our responsibility to put it on.

Share your thoughts about this lesson and some of the ways you answered the questions.

Lesson 5 - Are You Putting On New Clothes Each Day?

Are you putting on new clothes each day? No, I didn’t just give your permission to go shopping ever day for new clothes. We wish!!! Are you putting on your new clothes of righteousness as a new creature in Christ?

Read with me Ephesians 4:20-32.

Paul talks in these earlier verses of putting on our new selves in Christ. Have you worked really hard in the yard or exercised and you are really sweaty? You can’t wait to get a shower and get some clean clothes on.

Our old life is like that before we meet Christ. We have sin and darkness. When we become a Christian we are new in Christ and we put on Christ righteousness every day. The Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit is in us and we are to be intentional to live out Christ righteousness.

So, how are we intentional about wearing our new clothing and not leaving it in the back of the closet?

We have to choose to obey the Holy Spirit that is within us and allow
Christ to direct our lives.

When we wake up in the morning we can yield our day and our will
to God’s leading.

Are you thoughts of how God would have you handle a situation
or are they the world’s view?

Are you dying to self and seeking God’s will for every part of your life
or do you want your will.

When we look at the rest of the verses in this chapter Paul list even more examples of how we should live as new creatures in Christ.

Read through verses 25-33 and list all the characteristics of new
creatures in Christ.

What on that list is personally the hardest for you to do?

Who in your life right now to you need to be kind and compassionate
to even though you don’t feel like it?

What can you do each day to put on your new clothes? What reminder
can you give yourself?

Are you reading God’s instruction manual, the Bible, to see how God’s
wisdom for every area of our lives?

In reading these scriptures, what spoke most to you?

As always, if you feel comfortable, please share your answers to the questions or any other comments you may have.

Lesson 4 - I Choose Joy

How would you define joy? Joy is very different from happiness. Let’s look at a Biblical definition of joy. Joy is defined as the happy state that results from knowing and serving God. The words joy, joyous, and rejoicing are found over 200 times in the Bible. How can we choose joy? I have to share a funny story with you. I had been convicted that I purposely need to choose joy in any and all situations. I can choose to rejoice in who God is and what he has done. So, the very next morning after I decided to choose joy, my son comes in my room and says I threw up last night in my bed and didn’t know it. I go to his room and the throw up is not just in his bed, but in a huge pile on the floor. Absolutely disgusting! Now you may ask how my son could sleep through throwing up, I have no idea. I think a tornado could strike our house and he would still be sleeping. So, as I’m cleaning this up and trying not to throw up myself, I keep saying to myself I choose joy and this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. My kids looked at me like I was nuts and I began laughing. Once committed to choosing joy, God gave me a good test to see if I was serious. This story isn’t about me or my son, but allowing God to be actively involved in every area of our lives. Let’s look at some interesting scripture about joy.

Read Psalm 118:22-24.

Since I was a young child, I have sung the chorus, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Absolutely, love the song to this day.
I never really understood the origins of the song. If you look at v. 22 – the stone the builders rejected become the capstone. This is referring to Jesus and his death. Jesus is the cornerstone and he was being rejected. Now, the very next verse is about rejoicing about the day. Do you realize my sister in Christ that the rejoicing is about the day Christ will be crucified? When I discovered the true meaning of this verse, it totally changed my perspective on the verse and song.

How have you understood this verse in the past?

How does your perspective change when you hear the context of the
verse and how it deals with Christ’s crucifixion?

Read John 16:20-22.

There are several things that stand out to me in these verses. One is that before the disciples great joy there was grief and sorrow. Sometimes we have to experience grief to know true joy. Not always, but the joy is sometimes sweeter.
Secondly, we can relate to the pangs of childbirth and the joy of seeing your child being born. We know that a difficult childbirth is worth it when you see your precious child. Also, if you have adopted a child, you know the difficulty of waiting to make sure the adoption is final and the whole process can be difficult.

Thirdly, verse 22 spoke volumes to me. No one will take away your joy. What do you think that means? Joy comes from God and our walk with him. Once, we have asked Jesus into our heart our joy comes from our salvation and forgiveness of sins. No one can take away the joy of our salvation.

Even though the Bible says no one can take away our joy. Is someone
or something stealing your joy?

If so, how can you reclaim your joy?

If you are willing to share, has there been a deep sorrow in your life
that has made the joy that much sweeter?

Joy is not happiness. Happiness to me is a momentary feeling. I felt happy when I had a good day or a good time with my family, etc. Joy is much more deep and abiding. You can have joy even in the darkest moments. I would say it is similar to peace. One commentary I read said, “Joy in the Christian life is in direct proportion as believers walk with the Lord.”

I entitled this lesson, “I Choose Joy”. Sometimes joy has to be a willful commitment or choice. Lord, I’m choosing to rejoice in you, because of what you done. Joy is an act of praise. When we think of all the things God has done for us, how can we not rejoice!! Praising God is the best antidote for depression and anxiety. When we recount our blessings we experience a renewing of our faith and trust in whom God is and what he has done.

One final verse to look up, Philippians 4:4.

If you notice this verse does not say sometimes or when you feel like it. Another commentary I read stated this, “The joy of Christian is not based on agreeable
circumstances, instead it is based on their relationship to God.” I can rejoice, because of who God is, not who I am or what is going on in my life.

What area in your life right now could you choose to rejoice in?

How would you define the difference between happiness and joy? Which
do you want in your life?

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Can I encourage all of us to choose joy, not because of who we are, but because of the God we serve.

Lesson 3 - When God is Silent is He really working in my life?

I think the hardest times in our lives are when it feels God is silent. We see no visible work in our life. We feel like our prayers our bouncing off the ceiling. We may feel God is working in everyone’s life but our own. We fall at his feet and want relief. Is God still working in those times? You bet he is and there is so much evidence in Scripture to prove that point.

In a particularly difficult time in my life, when it seemed God was not working, I wrote in my journal after a prayer time these words that God spoke to me, “The road will be long, but I will prevail. You will need to be patient and trust me.” Those were difficult words to hear and difficult words to live out, but God was faithful and he did prevail. I have often heard people say after going through a difficult time they would not trade the experience for an easier time due to how close they became to God. I always found that statement a little difficult to hear and believe. You can count me in now. I would not trade my difficult times for the precious time I had diving into God’s word and seeing his promises and claiming them. I would look forward to my time with God and what he had to show me in his Word. God would show me time and time again that the promises in the Bible were for me as well and I clung to them and to him.

Ultimately, I think God wants us to give it all to him and trust him even when it seems he is silent.

Let’s look to the Scripture and look at one example of many in the Bible when God was silent, yet still working. I would love to do a whole Bible Study series on this one issue, because the Bible is full of examples.

Read the entire book of Ruth, it only has four chapters.

Answer the following questions:

Look in Ruth 1:1-4, list all the changes that occurred to Ruth and Naomi in
a 10 year period. What do you think their stress level was?

Read the famous verse, used in wedding ceremonies, Ruth 1:16. Let’s
look at it with a different eye. What do you see about Ruth and her faith?
From her experience so far, how do you think she viewed God?

As you read Ruth, list the times when Ruth and Naomi had no one to
depend on, but God.

If you were Ruth or Naomi, what would you be feeling when you had lost
your husband? Would you feel God is silent?

God is mentioned indirectly in Ruth, yet list how God is working behind
the scenes of this story.

There is so much more we could see and look for in Ruth. Ruth and Naomi were in abject poverty, gleaning wheat from the edges of the field. Was God there in their distress? Yes. Did he provide? Yes, even more than they could imagine.
Were they faithful even during God’s silence? Yes. What a lesson for us to learn.
We can be faithful, in spite of not hearing or seeing God work.

My concern, especially for women, is we are so emotional (a good thing) and in touch with our feelings. Often we may not “feel” God is working in our lives, but we have to trust that he is working whether we feel it or not. Faith is a fact not a feeling. We can have faith in God whether we “feel” like we want to or not. Faith is a volitional commitment.

We can learn from Ruth’s very young faith, remember she wasn’t even a Jew, but a Gentile, that God will take care of us, provide for us, and protect us. Ruth, being a young widow was in a very vulnerable position in a country that was not her home. She had so many reasons to feel uncomfortable on so many different levels and so many reasons not to trust. Yet, she chose to trust even when she could not see the outcome.

Answer the following questions and please share them with the Discussion Board:

What one or more than one thing can you learn from Ruth’s story that
applies to you directly?

Can you share a time that God seemed silent in your life, but he was
working mightily behind the scenes?

Do you have a hard time with feelings getting in the way when it
comes to faith?

What encouragement could you give to a friend or a woman here
about when God is silent in their lives?

5. Anything else you would like to share?

Lesson 2 - Is God Really in Control?

There are so many verses in the Bible that tell us God is in control and he is sovereign. God knew you would be doing this online Bible Study before the world began. He knew what feelings you would be having right now. If we really take time to think about this it truly can blow our minds. Truthfully, I don’t think our feeble human minds can wrap around this idea. We will try.

Many times I get emails from women stating they wished they could stay home and don’t want to be working. I know that must be hard and frustrating. I would like to reassure you whatever tough time you are experiencing right now does not come as a surprise to God. He is in control of your life.

Let’s look at some scriptures to support the above statements:

Isaiah 46:9-10

What does that verse say to you?

Does this verse give you comfort?

The part that stands out to me is “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” If God wants something to happen, it will happen. Nothing can stand in his way. Even my own sin cannot thwart God’s plan. We find many examples in the Bible where people tried to take matters into their own hands, but God’s plan still worked. Think of Sarah. She thought there was no way she could become pregnant and so she had Hagar have a baby for her, but that was not God’s plan. Eventually, Sarah did become pregnant and had Isaac. God’s plan happened, in spite of Sarah’s “help”.

Read Jeremiah 29:11

This has been my life verse recently. My life verse changes from time to time.
When you read this verse, I will ask you to put your name in the you spot.

How does that read to you, when you place in your name?

Also, I want you to notice in this verse the focus is on what God is going to do in my life, not what I’m going to do.

Who is making the plans? Who is prospering? Who is giving hope?

God is doing all of that. Oh dear sister, in Christ if we could ever consistently realize it is about what God is doing in our lives and not us, we would be so much happier. See when I realize God is control and he is the one who is implementing the plan I know it will not fail. God keeps his promises, I don’t. God is always faithful, I’m not.

Read Psalm 139

I love this Psalm, it is so personal. David is crying out to God. David also clearly realizes in this Psalm who is in control of his life.

Which verses stand out for you in this chapter?

Why do they stand out?

There are so many verses that I truly love in this chapter. One that gives me pause is verse 16. “All the days were ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God knew the day I would be born and the day I will die. He also knows about all the days in between.

Often when we get in difficult times, we get so stuck in the here and now. Often people have given me the advice to look from 1,000 feet above. You will hear astronauts talk about when they are in space and see the earth; they see no specific countries, just the outline of countries. Earth looks as one planet, but oh the strife on earth. Sometimes we need to step away from a situation and get a birds eye view or higher. It helps us think about how this is situation is fitting God’s plan. It helps us not make impulsive decisions that can be wrong.

Let’s look at one more verse, there are so many.

Romans 8:28

This is one of the verses in the Bible that has been misused through the centuries. Often, after a tragic death that cannot be explained someone will use this verse and say it was God’s will for someone to die. That could not be more untrue. There is still evil in this world and God still gave us freedom to make our own decisions.

What this verse does mean is God can use all things for his glory and purpose. God can use the most tragic situation still for his glory. Unfortunately, we live in an area where it seems at least one teen and often many teens die each year in car accidents. The situation is so unbelievably tragic for everyone involved. Yet,
after these accidents you will see teens who thought they were invincible and they would come to Jesus when they were old, begin realizing life is short. Often, you will see many teens coming to Christ or renew their faith after a tragic accident. So, even in tragedy God can work.

Now, I know some of you may have been raised in abusive homes or had a tragic experience. You maybe saying did God want that to happen to me, did he allow that to happen to me?

No, an emphatic No. God is angry at the abuser and the abuse. God shows compassion to the abused and hurt. Can God even use abuse for his glory? Yes, one can learn even through tragedies that God is our ultimate Father and he loves us, even if our earthly families do not. We can bear testimony to how God has helped us through difficult situations.

Please do not hear me for one moment minimizing abuse. Abuse is painful and leaves lasting scars. God is the ultimate physician and he can work to lovingly repair all of those hurts and scars. He can still use the most awful times in our life for his glory.

Often, I see God’s sovereignty after I am through a situation and looking back. I can see God’s fingerprints all over the situation, but when I was in the middle of it I could not. That is why trusting God is a commitment by faith and not feeling. Often, I do not “feel” God is working, but I have to trust he is in control of my life.

Discussion Questions to answer on the forum:

Do you really believe God is control of your life?

Are you willing to share a time when you thought God was not in control,
but you looked back and saw God’s hand.

What Bible verse or passage spoke to you the most?

When is it hardest for you to trust that God is in control?

Feel free to share any other comments you may have or if you disagree
with anything I said?

Lesson 1 - Your Identity In Christ

One of the things I think as Christian women, or really just women, is we often see or think about ourselves differently every day. Sometimes we look in the mirror and like who we see and sometimes we don’t like that woman. Our self-esteem can also fluctuate with our monthly cycle. Also, I would say Satan also wants us to put ourselves down as well.

I would like to encourage us to begin to see our identity in Christ and not in the usual way we define ourselves. Even the name of this site, Christian Working Mom is a way of identifying ourselves. We are a special group (personally I think extraordinary) of women set apart by the fact that we are Christians and working Moms. We need to truly focus on what it means to be a Christian and who we are in Christ. I think if we were to meditate everyday on our identity in Christ we would be different women. We would love that face we see in the mirror; no matter what size we are this week.

Let’s look at what the Bible says about our Identity in Christ:

I want to break this into three parts:

I am accepted in Christ.

Read the following verses and write down how they show you are accepted in Christ.

John 1:12

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Ephesians 1:3-8

Colossians 2:9-10

I am secure in Christ.

Read the following verses and what do they mean to you.

Romans 8:1-2

Romans 8:28

Philippians 1:6
1 John 5:18

I am significant in Christ.

Read the following verses as they were written to you specifically. Replace the you in the verse with your name. How does that sound different?

John 15:16

1 Corinthians 3:16

Ephesians 2:6

Ephesians 3:12

Philippians 4:13

When I allow myself to dwell on my identity in Christ I am overwhelmed and moved to tears. First, of all I am chosen. God before the world began chose me, little Kimberly Chastain, to be his child. How honored and special that makes me feel and humble as well. God the Father knew me and loved me before the world began. Colossians 2:9-10 says I’m complete in Christ. Complete meaning I don’t need anyone or anything else. Christ is sufficient. I really need to soak that in. What does that have to say about many self-help programs? In Christ, I am complete and I’m becoming more and more like him each day till I go home to be with him.

Security in Christ means more and more each day due to this scary world we live in. I love Romans 8:1-2, there is no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus. The world can condemn me or hurt me, but in Christ I am loved no matter what. I am safe in Him no matter what the world throws at me. Also, that God will work out his plan in my life even in the most difficult circumstances. I have to trust that he is in control and knows what is best for me.

The last point about my identity in Christ is I am significant. The world tries to tell me I’m just a number, but God says otherwise. God has chosen me to be a witness to the world and shine his image through me. Does God need me to work out his plan? No! Does he choose to use many anyway? Yes!! Wow, that God would use you and me to fulfill and carry out his plan for others. Sinners such as us. What does that say about who you are in Christ? Christ loves me and wants to use me to reach others for him and show his light. He will give me strength to do all things. God just doesn’t use me, he give me all the strength I need to do his Will.

I praise God for him choosing me and loving me no matter what. The God of the universe is pursuing me and wants me to spend time with him. He wants to love and protect me. When God loves me that much I have to realize I am wonderfully and fearfully made. Not because of who I am, but because of whose I am. I am special and you are too in the deepest of meanings and terms.

Here are some questions to consider for discussion and post your answers or other comments on the discussion board.

What does the world say about my identity?

What does God say about who I am?

What verse or verses spoke to you the most or you read them again with
a fresh eye?

What is hardest point for you to believe or accept about your identity in

What could you do to remind yourself and others about your and their
identity in Christ?

Any other comments you would like to share.