Armor Up!

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Ephesians 6:

10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of his might.

11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

As I was reading these verses in Ephesians about the armor of God last night, they triggered a lot of thoughts for me. I love the imagery of the Armor of God. I designed the felt set above in 2013 after I was in charge of girls’ camp for the youth in our church. We decided to go with the theme Stand Wearing the Armor of God. It was such an incredible experience to study and prepare with the youth leaders who were helping me. Each part of this armor can do so much to protect us in our spiritual battles. And each piece must be intentionally added.

I want to share with you some of the analogies I have thought of as I have studied these verses. There may be other interpretations, this is just one what I have come up with.

Helmet of Salvation: God can help protect us from the enemy as we choose to particular about what information and images we choose to allow into our minds.  When we watch, read and listen to only uplifting things, we are putting on the helmet of salvation.

The Breastplate of Righteousness: This piece of armor protects our hearts. As we follow God’s commandments and stay strong to the standards He has helped us create for ourselves, we have the ability to determine what we will allow to control our hearts. We can choose to steer clear of distractions and temptations that would destroy our peace and happiness, when we put on the breastplate of righteousness.

Shoes of the Gospel of Peace: We put on these shoes as we study about the life of Christ and truly learn about our Savior, who He is, what He stands for, and how deeply He loves us. As this knowledge becomes a part of us, we will have a desire to follow in His path. We will be able to make better choices for our lives that bring us peace and joy. And we will have a desire to share these truths with others.

The Belt of Truth: In this day and age where morality is questioned at every turn, it is even more important for us to make a stand with God on what is right and what is wrong. He has given us the sacred power of procreation, the power to create life and many people in the world do not value this as the gift that it is, they use and abuse it for their own pleasure with no thought of the consequences and hurt they are causing. As we girt our loins with the belt of truth we are showing that we truly value virtue and will protect it at all costs.

Shield of Faith: We take up this sword as we search, ponder, and study the word of God. The more immersed we become in the Gospel and the teachings of Christ the more faith we develop in the knowledge that God lives and that He loves us. We will understand better the sacrifice made by our Savior Jesus Christ, that He truly loves us and chose to die for us, that we might live again – both physically and spiritually. As we intentionally seek to grow in faith, we fill find special ways unique to us that will give more power to our shield at the times when we need it most.

Sword of the Spirit (the word of God): God speaks to us in many ways through songs, scriptures, and whispers to our hearts. Learning to hear and act upon this takes practice. As the only defensive piece of armor, it is especially important that we take up and use this sword. We become more adept at using it as we seek to understand how the Spirit speaks to us personally. As we practice by following promptings and inspirations as they come, we will get better and better and hearing and receiving from the Spirit.

The armor is not always convenient or comfortable, it is not meant to be… it is created for our protection. A soldier during the time of Paul would not have gone even one day leaving his armor behind, because he knew that one day without it could be his last. And anytime we choose to go about without putting it on, we are in danger of spiritual harm. I have learned in my own life how important it is to daily, intentionally put on each piece of this armor. And then… pray. This final and pivotal act is vital to our spiritual strength and protection. I love a line in a book by Francine Rivers… the elderly woman in the book is advising her husband to pray because “you can’t face the enemy in your spiritual underwear.” As much as getting dressed is a daily habit for us, so should be taking the time to arm ourselves with the protective gear the Lord has provided for us. Armor up!!

Soul Searching Question: What have you done to armor up today?

Song: Spiritual Warfare – The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Armor

Gratitude Challenge Day 2: Vocalized Appreciation

I believe most of us notice and appreciate the things other people do for us, but sometimes we are not very good at voicing our thankfulness. Some of us did not grow up in families where this was a common practice and either it just doesn’t come to mind or it makes us very uncomfortable to do so. Today’s challenge is about being mindful of these times and pushing past this discomfort. Think of a time you did something for someone else and they did thank you. How did it make you feel? We are divinely wired to have an increase in happiness not only when we are recognized for helping, but also when we recognize sacrifices made on our behalf. It may be uncomfortable at first to do something we are not used to doing, but I promise if you focus on the feeling you have after the voiced appreciation, it will get easier each time you do it. Give it a try today!

As we work on changing the neuropathways of I mind I want to share “The Coin Theory” with you. I was taught this theory a few years ago when I was going through a particularly hard time and the negative in my life was almost crushing. The counselor I was working with at the time shared it with me and I think of it often… If I were to give you a coin and ask you to look at the heads and tails of it at the same time, could you? No. Of course not. You have to choose which side you will focus on. Just because you focus on the heads side of the coin does not make the tails side disappear. It is still there. You are just choosing to dismiss it. The same would go for the other side of a coin. We have the same choice throughout each day of our life. There is both positive and negative that will happen each day. We can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. Just because we choose to focus on the positive does not mean the negative is not there. It simply means we are dismissing it and not giving it power over us.

Colossians 3:

15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Song: Thank You for Everything by Jason Gray

Today’s Challenge:

Day 2 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Gratitude Challenge Day 1: Intentional Appreciation

Thank you so much for joining me for our Gratitude Challenge. I’m so excited about this week! I am looking forward to sharing some things I have learned with you as well as feeling the lift that I know comes from focusing on gratitude. (Please forgive any typos I may have in these memes I created. My brain is pretty tired this morning.)

(See challenge at end of post.)

Today I want to focus on Intentional Appreciation. Our brains are such amazing things! They really do find what we are looking for, whether that is positive or negative. And if we don’t like the way we have been feeling or habits we have created our brains are capable of being retrained. We can literally change the neuropathways of our brains. These little pathways are like ruts that have been created through a field as we walk the same path over an over again. When we intentionally focus on new things, better things, we create a new pathway and eventually the old pathway will grow over and the new more positive thoughts will be as natural as the old negative ones were. So I challenge you today to be mindful of when you are thinking negatively and stop yourself in your tracks and think about something you are grateful for. Notice even the small blessings in your life, the things you typically take for granted. See if you can go the whole day without allowing a negative thought to last longer than a couple seconds before you recognize it and squash it.

Our Savior loves us so much and truly desires for us to be happy and to appreciate the many things He has blessed with. Many times in the scriptures Christ tells us to be of good cheer. I know that He desires our happiness. Not only is it something He wants for us, but we also best show our love for Him as we show gratitude for all that we have been blessed with. Neuropathways

Colossians 4:

2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving

Song: Gratitude by Elevation Worship

Today’s challenge:

Day 1 Challenge Video by Oléa:

21 Day Walk with Christ Final Steps

Thank you so much for joining me on this walk with Christ as we prepared for this beautiful Easter day. I am so grateful for the many stories of Christ that we have in the Holy scriptures thanks to those who were faithful to record these experiences. I am so grateful for the power these stories add to my life as I take time to read and ponder on them. I am so grateful for the tools that we have been given to draw closer to our Savior, to build a personal relationship with Him. I am so blessed by an increased understanding of who Jesus is and of His nature, which grows each time I read the stories in the Gospels. I am most humbled by the knowledge that Jesus Christ loves me personally and yearns for a relationship with me. He has that same desire for each of us. He will gather us in His arms if we will allow it!

Song:

Come Unto Christ

Talk:

According To the Desire of our Hearts

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/10/according-to-the-desire-of-our-hearts?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

What will you do to continue your personal walk with Christ?

Note: A Special thank you to the many talented and inspired artists whose incredible works of art, music, or words added so much depth and beauty to this walk. No infringement of copyright was intended and I hope they will know how much the sharing of their gifts and talents contributed to our last 21 days.

Day 9: He Cleanses and Reclaims Holy Places

John 2:

13 ¶ And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Matthew 21:

13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

I never really understood or fully appreciated this story until I understood how the temple in Jerusalem was set up.  The inner part of the temple was only entered by the priests.  Then there was a court outside of that where the Israelite men could go.  The next court was for Israelite men and women.  And the outer court, or the court of the gentiles, was a place where anyone could go to worship.  It was the only place in the temple where those who were not Israelites could go to pray and commune with God. No wonder Christ was so upset that the marketplace and corrupt practices had taken over the space.  His temple was supposed to be a place for ALL God’s children to go to connect with Him.

As I contemplated these places of worship and how important they were to Christ, so much that He would act boldly to retake them, I thought about how the scriptures tell us that we are each a temple of God.  I thought about how there is always a fight between good and evil for our souls.  Satan would love for us as a temple of God to become corrupt and unwilling to be sanctified by the Lord. I know that I sometimes allow the dirt of the world to creep into parts of me that make me feel unholy and unclean.  These things can cause me to be distracted from my relationship with God.  They can keep me from being able to connect with Him and commune with Him, just as the moneychangers and animal sales did for the people in the court of the gentiles.  But just like Christ came in and cleansed the temple removing these distractions, He can and wants to do the same thing for us in our lives.  As we intentionally and conscientiously put on the Armor of God we are inviting Him into our own personal temple and asking for His help in keeping it clean and holy and reclaiming those parts we may have momentarily lost.

Song:

Grace Wins Every Time

Article:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/jesus-cleanses-temple/

Talk:

Be Strong in the Lord

https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2004/07/be-strong-in-the-lord

Decisions For Which I’ve Been Grateful by Clayton M. Christensen

I learned so much from this talk, especially on the topic of real intent. After listening to it a few years ago I was able to look back on my life and recognize the truth of what He was saying. God does want to answer or prayers and share great knowledge with us but He first wants to see that we really do intend to do something with the answers, that we aren’t just asking out of mere curiosity. The most profound answers and insights I have gotten in my life were during times I really needed them! Times I desperately plead for them! Times I intended to use them to take the next step in my life! God knows our hearts and our intentions matter to Him!

https://video.byui.edu/media/Clayton+M.+Christensen+%22Decisions+For+Which+I%27ve+Been+Grateful%22/0_tdb0a80p/14336742