(Ephesians 6:16)

JKBcircleIn a spiritual sense, YOU have an ENEMY that fires flaming missiles at you everyday! Your spiritual enemy wants to Discourage you, Discredit you, Defeat you, and Destroy you. The question is not, “do you have an enemy?” The real question is: “Do you have a shield?” Faith is a spiritual shield against the devil’s attacks. What would your life look like if you didn’t have faith?

Jim Cymbala put it this way, “What is faith? It is total dependence upon God that becomes supernatural in its working…Nothing else counts if faith is missing.

Ephesians. 6:10-17 is the most well known passage on spiritual warfare and spiritual armor found in the New Testament. Paul describes six pieces of the Roman soldier’s armor and insists we have it too, in a spiritual sense.

-Belt of truth
-Breastplate of righteousness
-Shoes of the Gospel of Peace
-Shield of faith
-Helmet of salvation
-Sword of the Spirit/Word of God

Why do we need armor to live for Christ? Someone once said (and many have since repeated), “The Christian life is not a playground – it’s a battleground!” As a result, to be forewarned is to be forearmed! A quick review of Paul’s teaching about the shield of faith teaches a simple, but important truth…


“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ep.6:16)

~Rick Warren commented on this and reminds us, “Put on the shield of faith….Trust God, no matter what you see, hear, or feel about the world around you. You need the certainty of God when you face the uncertainty of Satan’s fiery darts.” So, once I know I need to take up the shield of faith, how does it work? Here are 4 practical points to remember:

The shield of faith is…

a) pervasive (v.16)

The apostle said, “In ALL circumstances take up the shield of faith….” In other words you need faith everywhere, all the time, over every area of your life.

b) personal (v.16)

You are to “…TAKE UP the shield of faith…” You and I participate in the victory God has planned for us! We have to personally “take up” the shield of faith rather than passively wait for God to live the Christian life for us! He is sovereign, and He is Lord, but He calls us to action as He fulfills His plans for our lives!

c) protective (v.16)

You need to “take up the SHIELD of faith…” Why? You have an enemy who wants to take you out of the battle in disgrace. Faith defends against his deadly attacks! 

d) purifying (v.16)

” …with which you can EXTINGUISH ALL THE FLAMING DARTS…” Faith keeps you off the spiritual casualty list by keeping your life holy. Don’t go “up in flames” through the devil’s temptations. Beat the devil when you meet the devil!

Today’s Take Aways:

1) What you believe matters
2) Spiritual warfare is real and constant
3) Faith protects you from spiritual failure
4) Faith assures spiritual victory





Any Christian who has traveled to Israel knows the almost unexplainable sensation and mixture of wonder, expectancy, joy, spiritual longing, and the tinge of heartache, when first driving up the steep highway out of the desert, and catching the first glimpse of Jerusalem. It’s not unusual for Christians to weep. I’ve been privileged to enter Jerusalem many times, and the sight of the Holy City of God always stirs my emotions.

Why do Christians, from around the world, feel such a strange fascination with the ancient Jewish city? What is the unmistakeable feeling that, in some unexplainable sense, when we are in Jerusalem, we have come “home”?

Jerusalem holds a unique place in the hearts of Christians because so many significant New Testament events occurred there (in addition to the obvious importance it holds in our Old Testament heritage). We have spent our entire Christian lives studying the New Testament and Jerusalem figures prominently in some of the most important events in Scripture. Allow me to highlight a few.

1) Jesus the King (Mt.2:2)
When Jesus was an infant in Bethlehem, 4 miles from Jerusalem, an entourage of Magi entered Jerusalem enquiring about the one “born King of the Jews.” This is the first reference in the New Testament where Jesus is identified as King. Jesus is first called “King” in Jerusalem.

2) Jesus as a Child (Lk. 2:10-52)

In the only glimpse of Jesus as a child (other than the Nativity story, of His infancy) He is in the Temple at Jerusalem (Lk. 2:410-52)

3) Triumphal Entry (Mt. 21:1-11)
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the week before the cross, He was hailed as a King!

4) House of Prayer (Mt.21:13)
One of our Lord’s most passionate displays of anger flared in the Temple when God’s House was not used for worship! His declaration, that His House is to be a “house of prayer” was uttered in Jerusalem!

5) Lord’s Supper (Lk.22:7-19)
The last time you received Communion, did you recommit yourself to following Christ and holiness in life? The most famous meal in history- The Last Supper, which continued as a treasured spiritual tradition throughout the Christian Church for the last 2000 years, started in an upper room in Jerusalem!

6) Signs of the Times (Mt. 24)
If you have ever studied “End Time” prophecy, you spent a lot of time in Matthew 24 reading and considering the words of Jesus in ‘the Olivet Discourse.” The entire teaching took place in Jerusalem!

7) Gethsemane (Mt.26:36-46)
On the night Jesus surrendered His will completely to God’s redemptive plan, He was praying in a garden on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem.

8) Jesus Died for You (Jn.19)
The greatest event in human history- the payment for our sin upon the cross- the sacrificial death of Jesus -took place in Jerusalem, Israel.

9) He is ALIVE! (Lk. 24:1-49)
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ took place in Jerusalem! He is alive forevermore!

10) The Ascension (Ac.1:9)
The visible, bodily ascension of Jesus took place in Jerusalem!

11) The Holy Spirit Rushes In! (Ac. 2:1-12)
The mighty, world changing moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the praying church occurred at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem!

12) The First Sermon (Ac. 2: 14-38)
Millions of sermons have been preached in the last 2000 years, but the first sermon ever preached, by the Church of Jesus, took place in Jerusalem!

13) Introducing the Church! (Ac. 2:42-47)
The Church takes many forms today but the original blueprint was drawn by God. The Church was actually born in Jerusalem!

14) His Return (Ze. 14:4)
Jesus is coming again and when He does, He will stand upon the Mt of Olives. Jesus is coming back to Jerusalem!

So, isn’t it obvious why Christians love the Holy City? Jerusalem is the birthplace of Christianity. It is the cradle of our faith. Jerusalem is the Christian’s “heartland.” jerusalem_sunset

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! “May they be secure who love you! Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!” For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭122‬:‭6-9‬ ESV)







JKBcircleThe early 20th century Methodist pastor, Samuel Chadwick, once made the unique observation, “The greatest answer to prayer is more prayer.” If he was right, we must be entering a season of answered prayer as the national prayer movement increasingly gathers momentum.

The examples of the growing burden for prayer continue to develop all around us. For instance, a few months ago, pastor and author, Dr. Ronnie Floyd, called Southern Baptist pastors to join him in Dallas for 2 days of prayer for spiritual awakening. Pastors from several states called upon God and returned to their churches both refreshed and burdened for a fresh move of God. That meeting was followed by a second meeting in Atlanta where nearly twice the original number participated. These were not “Bible Conferences” or preaching events. They were times of humility as men, charged with spiritual leadership, wrestled with God in prayer.

In June, Dr. Floyd was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention and used his platform to call all Southern Baptists to prayer for the purpose of spiritual awakening. His leadership will no doubt drive the SBC into a more focused and intentional prayer strategy. More prayer meetings like the ones in Dallas and Atlanta are inevitable. (see Dr Floyd’s thoughts here- http://www.ronniefloyd.com/blog/7215/southern-baptist-convention/extraordinary-prayer-for-the-next-great-awakening-what-is-it-how-do-we-do-it/)

Later in June, Family Research Council, a lobbying organization for traditional marriage and pro-life issues in Washington DC, called for a Day of Prayer in Church services across America “for God to reshape our lives and renew our land.” (http://www.call2fall.com/basics) Obviously, the intent of this call to prayer bares a strong similarity to the emphasis currently gaining strength in the SBC.

In another notable example, Anne Graham Lotz issued a call to a national day of prayer on July 7. Following her own extended times of prayer she called Christians across the United States to join her for 7 hours of prayer and fasting for a national spiritual awakening “before it’s too late and judgement falls on our nation.” (http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2014/July/Anne-Graham-Lotz-Sounds-Alarm-Calls-for-Prayer/?exitmobile=true)

What is happening? Why are so many Christian leaders sensing the draw of God’s Spirit to call the Church to prayer? These few notable examples are only the tip of the iceberg, in a sense. For instance, in separate developments, pastors in Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana recently coordinated prayer meetings across those states, each praying for revival. (http://m.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=42972) The movement is bound to grow as pastors and leaders testify to the blessing of these events, and as answers from Heaven descend.

Here in Austin, a growing burden for spiritual awakening in our city has drawn pastors of many denominations to meet at least once a month for several hours of united prayer. One outgrowth of those pastoral prayer meetings has been the rise of significant city wide prayer events with up to a thousand people meeting together, praying for revival. These events are not about one church or one denomination. Rather, they are the manifestations of the Body of Christ crying out in one voice.

Why now? What is driving the rising tide of nearly spontaneous prayer meetings?
The Assemblies of God director of the Office of Prayer and Spiritual Care, John Maempa, believes one reason is the cultural revolution we are currently observing in the US. He recognizes the moral decline of the nation as the most conspicuous reason for the renewal of prayer meetings throughout America, among numerous denominations, (regardless of their lack of agreement on some doctrinal points). At least we can agree our nation is in spiritual trouble and the Church must join together in prayer.

In a similar way, like so many other churches, denominations, and para-church organizations, the revival ministry, One Cry, is likewise involving thousands of Christians, from many denominational backgrounds in America, to pray daily for revival and spiritual awakening, with an almost identical vision and passion noted in the other ministries previously mentioned. Clearly, in America, a ground swell of prayer is taking shape. (http://www.charismanews.com/us/33598-prayer-movements-building-stronghold-in-america)

Obviously, prayer meetings, and the thirst for revival, are not new, but in my years of ministry, I have never seen a greater consensus about the problems facing us, or the desire to find God’s solutions through prayer. This unity is consistent in the life of nearly every pastor I know. It is almost a given today, when pastors and Christian leaders meet together, we talk about the need for prayer and spiritual awakening for our churches and our nation. We know something is wrong, and as a culture we have moved beyond the point of human solutions (if, in fact, human solutions were ever an option in the first place). As a result, it is almost certain the movement of prayer meetings for revival will increase across the denominational spectrum.

We can expect God to answer our prayers because He has promised to do so (Jeremiah 33:3, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 7:7, etc.), and He has responded to the cries of His people for generations. In fact, it is our desperation-combined with genuine repentance, that seems to bend the heart of God near to His broken people.

prayer silhouetteThere will always be those who scoff and ridicule our motives and our efforts. Yet, if the hour is late, as so many fear it is, then we will put the cynic and the scoffer on our prayer list and we will press on in prayer. In the end, I would rather be ridiculed by the secularist and the sceptic than miss the opportunity to participate in what may be the last, best hope for genuine spiritual awakening in my lifetime.  So, if you want to pray for revival in Jesus’ name- I’m with you!








(Romans 8:28)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭28‬ ESV)

JKBcircleDo you believe in the goodness of God, even in the face of disappointment, pain, and personal tragedy? I’ve discovered faith in Christ makes the most sense when life makes the least sense! After all, no one would need reassurance that God works all things together for good, if everything was already good! No, we need the reminder that God is working for our good precisely because things aren’t always good- yet!


In order to receive the specific promise that God is working for our good, we need to focus on God’s character as revealed throughout Scripture. For instance, a believer must accept two biblical truths about God in order to grasp the truth of Romans 8:28.

a) God is good. It’s who He is. He isn’t against His people (see Romans 8:31). He isn’t looking for ways to hurt you (see Jeremiah 29:11).

My first pastorate was a country church in the tobacco fields of rural Kentucky. One of the most faithful men there was a recent convert and after fiery sermons he reminded me how much he “enjoyed” the messages because I “stepped on his toes.” He was a good man and I appreciated his friendship. He exemplifies, however, many believers I’ve known. He “felt” a greater connection to God when he felt most guilty! I understand conviction is absolutely necessary but we can move beyond condemnation (see Romans 8:1) to forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9), and abundant life (see John 10:10)! Why? Because God is good.

God wants what’s best for His children just as a loving dad or mom wants to bless their children. We desire good things for our kids and God is a far better parent than we are and He desires to do you good! Since He desires our ultimate good, we can approach Him without fear of condemnation.

b) As a follower of Christ you must also believe that God is all-powerful. As a result, if He promises to work all things together for good- He has the power to deliver! He is good and He does good and believers benefit from His goodness.

The Scripture does not teach that believers escape all trouble- far from it. Instead, we accept by faith that God is always doing His good work. For instance, John R. W. Stott recognized that God is working for our good and he once observed, “We do not always understand what God is doing, let alone welcome it. Nor are we told that He is at work for our comfort. But we know that in all things He is working toward our supreme good.”


We are surrounded by evil. People can be cruel to a degree that leaves most of us stunned. The sexual slavery of children, the global jihad, school shootings, the ruthlessness of the drug cartels, and the murderous rampages occurring in some American cities are only a few disturbing examples of our broken world (which continues to be a dangerous, painful place). In the face of these horrible realities it’s not unusual to hear someone ask, “How could a good God allow all of this?” Even people of faith are often staggered by the harshness and injustice of life. Yet we are called to believe.

As believers we are not immune to the brutal realities of pain and problems. We know these things did not originate with our good God. We know we have a demonic enemy who wants to destroy everything good. We know Jesus predicted the world will get more dangerous, rebellious, and faithless as we near the end of time (see Matthew 24:7-14). In fact, it is precisely what “we know” that makes the difference for us. What I mean is this- notice the first two words of Romans 8:28- “We know.” God has given to His church a knowledge no one else in the world has. We know God is working through the horrors of life to bring good into our lives. We anchor our faith to the certainty of God’s goodness even during the blistering storms of trouble!

God also challenges us to reject any worldview that might argue God lacks the power or willingness to involve Himself in our story. Romans 8:28 states God is working in all things- not some things, or a few things, or even most things- God is working in all things for your good. Therefore, in spite of sometimes unthinkable suffering, you will not be forgotten or abandoned. Through even your most painful moments, God is still at work to bring about something good. He is working in you right now! God is good and God does good.

Finally, God is bringing everything in your life- the good and the bad- to His workshop. He is causing all things to “work together”(v.28). In other words, God doesn’t overlook any of your life. The Greek word translated “works together” is “sunergeo” from which we get our English word “synergy.” Synergy is the force of multiple factors, within a system, combining to create an effect greater than the sum of the parts. Someday life will all make sense because God is bringing the apparently unrelated parts of your life- the good, the bad, the confusing, and even the unknown, together so it all “works together” for your good.

Sometimes life looks like a puzzle with too many pieces that don’t seem to fit. We can feel frustrated by unfulfilled desires- like pieces of the puzzle which should easily interlock but rarely if ever do. At other times, we can act in self destructive ways and become our own worst enemy, trying to force pieces of the puzzle of our lives into places they were not designed to fit and this unwise action can cause damage to the pieces or the puzzle itself. Still at other times, some fool just flips the table over- spilling our unfinished puzzle onto the floor into a jumbled mess of pieces. After being victimized by evil, or suffering through some intense tragedy, we can feel so demoralized we are tempted to give up. It’s unfortunately true, life can feel like that, but our faith speaks softly to our bruised hearts reminding us it is God- not us- who is ultimately responsible for bringing all the pieces of our lives together. And when He does, He is working for our good. Vintage_Puzzle_by_Fel1x

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you will not be able to avoid hardship, ridicule, persecution, and the ordinary daily difficulties of life. Life for the Christian can be full of love. It can be abundant, exciting, and deeply fulfilling- but life can be hard. It can seem completely unfair at times. There may be days when you won’t understand why things are the way they are. Yet as Christians we are assured God knows exactly what He is doing- and what He is doing is always good. Always.


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                                                              PRAYER AS FELLOWSHIP
                                                                        (Psalm 27:4)

JKBcircleImagine a great season of prayer- one in which you connect deeply with the presence of  God- yet, you ask for nothing. Or, rather, the ONLY thing you ask for IS the presence of God!

I have a good and growing collection of classic, (as well as  lesser known books) on the subject of prayer. The best books I’ve ever read- that is to say the most influential in my life -have been on prayer. I encourage every believer to read about prayer. (For this reason I am including a “recommended reading list” at the end of this Blog entry.)

Having said all of that, and intending in no way to diminish the importance of these books, I’ve noticed an absent subject in the discussion on prayer. We need to talk more about prayer as fellowship. Last week, in preparing to preach, I searched the table of contents for such a chapter in some of my favorite books and came up empty.

There are chapters on intercession, confession, praise, how long to spend in prayer, what posture to take in prayer, supplication, petition, warfare prayer, the mystery of unanswered prayer, great men and women of prayer, and the prayer life of Jesus. There are chapters on prayer and evangelism, prayer and fasting, group prayer, praying the Word, and praying for your pastor, but we need more on the subject of prayer as fellowship! In one sense, we readily acknowledge every great book on prayer is, in a general or larger sense about fellowship with God, but the time has come for us to insist more specifically on this subject. Without a focus on this primary subject, prayer may become a “got to” instead of a “get to” exercise!

What is meant by “prayer as fellowship“?

(Psalm 27:4)
At some point in King David’s life he was in life threatening trouble. While David was still a young man, the jealous, half crazed King Saul hunted David across the Judean desert intending to kill him. Decades later, when David was firmly established as King, his overly ambitious son Absolom pulled off a coup that forced David out of Jerusalem and into hiding while the armies of Absolom hunted him. Only the miraculous intervention of God saved David in both instances. During one of those terrible, vulnerable seasons, David wrote Psalm 27. In 14 brief verses he mentions opposing armies, enemies, and adversaries at least 10 times!

In spite of the dilemmas he faced, David’s desire was centered, not on claiming or reclaiming his throne, but instead, on “one thing.” The “one thing” he prayed for was a return to unhurried worship in the presence of God!

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4 ESV)

Notice how David hoped to spend the days of his life- “gazing upon the beauty of the Lord…” (v.4). Then he expressed a second, similar longing: “to inquire in His temple.” These phrases describe two aspects of prayer as fellowship. Both phrases focus on intimacy with God through praise and prayer. David sought the presence of God so he could enjoy fellowship with God.

Were there times when David prayed for other reasons? Of course! He interceded, confessed, praised, petitioned- David knew the power of prayer. He was one of greatest prayer warriors in Scripture! But in a clarifying moment, David desired to “gaze on the beauty of the Lord,” which suggests pure praise and loving fellowship. To “inquire” in the temple isn’t a way of suggesting how to ask from God, but instead to study God Himself. The word translated “inquire,” in the ESV, is from a Hebrew word rarely used in connection to God. It’s basic definition has to do with finding something lost. The use of the word in connection to God and prayer, however, seems to mean something akin to our word “investigate.” In other words, King David expressed a desire to “investigate” or “study” God. If that is the way the word is intended, as I believe it is, then the thought of the phrase is not about inquiring of God but inquiring about God! The equivalent New Testament thought is found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians when he said “I want to know Him….” (Ph.3:10). For King David, the deep longing of his heart was not for what God would give Him through prayer, but for fellowship with God through prayer!


Asking, confessing, thanking, praising, and interceding are all appropriate aspects of real prayer and we should exercise our privilege of prayer in all of these ways. But one thing I want to avoid in prayer is a “prayer life” that looks more like a mercantile exchange than an intimate fellowship. If we focus only on a kind of unspoken spiritual “scorecard” of answered prayers (as if prayer is only about receiving the results we seek in prayer), we have reduced prayer to less than it is. Jesus did instruct us to ask, and God does promise that if we call upon Him, we should expect Him to do “great and mighty things.” But if that is all prayer is to us, it might be like a husband returning from a work related trip and his wife’s first words to him being, “Did you bring me anything?”

After more than 35 years of prayer, I can testify that the  greatest “answer” to prayer I have ever received is the privilege of prayer itself. In prayer, we meet with God-nothing could be better than that. To put it another way, it isn’t the “presents” of God in prayer, but the “presence” of God in prayer that brings me back to prayer every day. In fact, I am going to slip away for some fellowship with God in prayer right now!

To expand on this theme, I have included a recommended prayer reading list, and the video of the Sunday message from Psalm 27:4.


prayer silhouette