Armor of God: Gearing Up for Team Jesus

Come on!
Huddle up!
Get empowered by the Lord and His mighty strength!

Put on the same uniform all of God’s people need to wear
to stand firm against the opposing team.

Team Huddle Before the Game — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis (altered)

We’re not fighting against human adversaries.
We’re wrestling with rulers, powers,
and a world of darkness
aiming to advance against heaven!

And so we need to put on the full armor of God
to resist all ills and stand our ground.
Here’s how:

Fasten truth around your waist,
so you won’t get caught off-guard
or punched in the gut by lies and fake news.

Let righteousness be your breastplate,
so you’ll know in your heart you’ve done nothing wrong.

Slide your feet into the Gospel of Peace,
so you’ll come from the right place
to the right place –
a place of peace
and the good news place where you’re always headed.

No matter what happens, cover yourself
with your shield of faith, ready to protect you
from everything awful that’s thrown.

Salvation will be your helmet!
For God has you covered
and has given you His Word,
which is also your sword to use in the Spirit.

And pray in the Spirit!
Pray at all times in all ways for all of God’s people.

Amen.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018 prayer-a-phrased Ephesians 6:10-18 using these translations and more found on Bible Gateway.

10 tips for sermons that keep everyone awake

Sermons aren’t meant to be lullabies or long songs that drone on and on, lulling people to sleep! The idea of a weekly message is not to offer advice or tell people what to do but to show the relevance of God’s Word as you work and pray for a Christian faith community of Christ-like love.

If you’re the priest or pastor of a liturgical church or one that offers Eucharist or communion every week, you probably have only five or ten minutes at most to deliver your homily or message. If, however, your church service allows more time, you might consider adding another hymn or Bible reading and confine your talk to fifteen minutes or less (yes, preferably, less!)

Regardless of the worship format used, these tips will help you get to the point, be concise, and encourage Christlike lives and actions.

1.Pray! Ask God to give you insight.

2.Study the appropriate readings from the 3-year scripture-reading cycle (Year A, B, or C) used by many churches to encourage Christians from all over the world to read, study, and pray the same scriptures at the same time. Notice which Bible verse or passage speaks to you the clearest.

3. Focus on the single theme or primary topic in your chosen verse(s).

4. Read commentaries and the footnotes in a variety of study Bibles to see what God has given others to bring light to that portion of scripture.

5. List every point you can think of that’s related to your theme or topic.

6. Arrange key points in order of importance to your congregation or particular audience and its needs.

7. Get everyone’s attention with an unusual fact, a question they might have, or a startling statement. For instance, if I say: “This morning I swept the dead bodies off my deck,” you might wonder about that true statement! The “bodies” were the belly-up frogs and snakes the young hawks dropped out of the nest above us, but who knows? Maybe that would lead to a sermon on how we might not like to look at death, but we can rejoice in God’s Word of eternal life in Christ.

8. Keep it simple. Stay on track. The longer the message lasts, the more restless people will become and more likely the sermon will be to wander.

9. Apply God’s Word to everyday situations and concerns. Use Bible people, Bible stories, or contemporary examples to build faith, encourage relevant action, and aim toward a Christian lifestyle.

10. Emphasize your three main points. Use numbers, First…, Second…, Third.… Or repeat a catchy sentence as a refrain to help people remember God’s message to you and them long after they’ve gone home.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

words and The Word

Christian poets, writers, pastors, and other communicators for Christ have much in common. As ministers of words and The Word, we need:

Something to say
The ability to say it well
Credibility

Regularly reading the Bible gives us much to talk or write about, and practice helps us to do that well, but if we also have credibility, people pay attention. They begin to trust our ability to handle God’s Word and their concerns rightly. They might even become more open to God’s Word and work in their lives.

Without credibility, however, people will not believe us. They might expect to be entertained but won’t necessarily take us seriously.

To increase credibility:

Check the facts: Do you plan to write or talk about something you’re so familiar with that you see no need to research or verify scripture? Verify anyway! A Bible concordance, Bible atlas, or dictionary will help, but even more important is researching relevant scriptures on your topic and keeping them in context. Reading those same verses in more than one translation not only ensures getting the facts straight, but increases the opportunity of receiving those God-given insights that come with prayer and meditation on God’s Word.

Find your voice: Do you take on a tone that sounds like you think a minister or poet or writer should sound, or do you sound just like yourself? God made you as you are and gifted you with a personality unique to you. Reading a word-for-word translation of the Bible will show this in action. Compare, for example, the voice of King David in the Psalms with the prophetic voice of Jeremiah. Or, compare the Gospel and letters of John with the long, complex sentences written by Paul. In each of these instances, the Holy Spirit guided the writer or poet, and yet each book sounded like the individual.

Let the love flow: God has no favorites! And, as Christians, we can afford to be generous and gracious! We’re to love one another as we love ourselves. That becomes easier as we realize God is with us, God is in us. Then we can accept ourselves as God-loved and more readily notice that God-love in others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God, thank You for Your Word that shows us how to live and speak and write in a manner that’s credible, kind, and pleasing to You. Help us to believe and accept Your Word to us as we communicate Your love and truth to others in Jesus’ Name.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2018