Where did you get that belt? Armor Up Part 4

Belt of truth

Belt of truth

Continuing the Armor of God series, this week we’ll ‘buckle down’ and explore the belt of truth. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” (Ephesians 6:14).

Before unpacking the spiritual power of the belt, will you indulge me a minute? As I’ve thought about belts the past couple of days, I can’t get past something that drags me down: Sagging. For the love of Fruit of the Loom, WHY???????

sagging pants belt low

I look at this picture, see the belts desperately trying to keep those pants afloat and think, “Oh, you poor things. Did your arms get so tired you couldn’t hitch yer britches another 10 inches to your waist?”  Look, let’s set aside what I think the saggy, underwear-are-outerwear crowd communicates to the world. None of us can escape the fact that how we wear our clothes does communicate to the world.

Belting up in Paul’s World

In the time the apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians (AD 60-62), the belt of a Roman soldier was the main piece signifying he was set apart to his position.

In Rome, a man’s dress and his social cultural and political identity in Roman society were directly connected; the toga was both the prerogative and the iconic symbol of the Roman male citizen. What then, was the distinguishing dress of the Roman soldier? We know that in Apuleius’ time unarmoured soldiers usually wore a belted tunica, nailed sandals and a long, heavy cloak, fixed on the right shoulder with a fibula. Neither the tunica nor the cloak seem to have differed much from average well-off civilian clothing. The truly distinguishing factor of the military dress were the sandals (caligae ) and the military belt.1

Wearing the belt specific to his position distinguished a Roman soldier from people around him who—otherwise—wore similar clothing. This got me thinking…

Belting up in Our World

How does the ‘belt of truth’ distinguish modern-day Christians? Do we wear it because it’s fashionable, functional or foundational?

  • Fashionable: In our world, it seems increasingly unfashionable to be a Christian. The perception exists that Christians are intolerant (unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect persons of a different social group, especially members of a minority group).2 Tolerance is showing respect to those who differ; it does not, however, mean an acceptance of the values that create the differences. The best way we can walk toward loving unity in our world is by respecting all views while maintaining the values we hold. Too often, Christians—to be tolerant—wear a belt that is fashionable, but not one constructed of the material contained in God’s Word. Times change, but the truth of scripture doesn’t.
  • Functional: For those who feel their belt is constructed of truth and not of the latest trend in cultural thinking, what purpose does the belt serve? Is it whipped off to ward off those who don’t subscribe to Christian beliefs? Is it used to beat others with the truth? Remember, the belt of truth should distinguish Christians from those around them. If we recall Jesus’ greatest commandment, we’ll know that truth should always offered in love (Ephesians 4:15).Greatest Commandment Matthew 22.37-39
  • Foundational: By definition, foundational means “the basis or groundwork of anything”.3 When we believe that truth is contained in God’s Word, every area of our lives is affected. We’ll “stand firm” (Ephesians 6:14) against all the challenges of life because the foundation of what we choose is based on God’s ways. We’ll be loving and tolerant while “standing firm” on the values God’s Word contains.
Belting up in Your World

How is your belt?  Hopefully yours isn’t sagging! I pray that we Christians are mindful how, like Roman soldiers, our belt [of truth] distinguishes us from others around us. Further, my prayer is that God’s foundational truth is so attractive in how we live that others want to ask, “Where did you get that belt?”

 

1Hoss, Stephanie. Wearing the cloak dressing the soldier in Roman times. Edited by Marie-Louise Nosch. Vol. 10. Ancient Textile Series. Oxford (GB): Oxbow Books, 2012. Accessed April 20, 2017. https://www.academia.edu/212354/The_Roman_Military_Belt. Chapter 4: The Roman Military Belt.

2“Intolerance.” Dictionary.com. Accessed April 21, 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intolerance?s=t.

3Foundation.” Dictionary.com. Accessed April 21, 2017. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/foundational.

 

 

Mars—and other unsniffable thoughts

…I wonder what it smells like on Mars.

I’ve seen pictures of Mars, and, apparently, scientists have worked on ways to capture sounds from Mars. But short of me (a) hitching a ride to Mars and (b) developing the breathing system of a Martian, I’ll never know what it smells like on Mars.

In our day and age, we can transmit visual and audio representations of just about everything, but the technology that would allow smell to waft across a datascope is limited at best. To smell an object, we must be in the physical presence of it.

I was reading in Ephesians 5 this week and the idea of fragrance and presence tickled my senses.

…walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Through blogs, newspapers, magazines, books, YouTube, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other form of social media, people can send images and audio of who they perceive God to be. In the end, however, the only way to get the fullest sensual experience of God is to be in His presence. Only then can you “smell” the fragrant beauty of what He offers.

As I reflected on being in God’s presence during the week, two aspects bubbled up. First, as believers, we want to increasingly practice being in His presence. How do we do that? We do it by intentionally being aware that our God is in everything. It’s acknowledging Him first thing when we wake with something like, “Good morning, God, this is Your day. I am Your child – show me Your way.” Throughout the day, before we undertake anything, we ask Him for guidance—and I do mean ask Him about everything. Sound overwhelming?  Consider the alternative. You’d be doing those things in your own strength and wisdom instead of under the covering of your powerful and wise Father. Ever feel exhausted and/or depleted at the end of the day?  Oh.

The second facet of being in God’s presence circles back to the fragrance idea. When we’re hanging out with God throughout our day, we become an amazingly attractive representation of who God is to the people around us.  Just as the only way we can truly smell something is to physically be in its presence, the way we affect our world is a physical representation of God to those around us. We will either be attractive or we’ll be repellent. Check out this passage in 2 Corinthians:

I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume. 2 Corinthians 2:14

If we try to do things on our own (apart from God’s guidance) we can really stink and find ourselves in serious need of spiritual deodorant.  As we soak in God’s presence, however, we increasingly become more like Him by the way we look, act, talk…and “smell”.

What’s your favorite smell?  Mine would be the smell that emits from an oven baking up cookies, brownies, bread or any other kind of yumminess along those lines.  I’m praying that out of my time in God’s presence, my life-smell is as attracting and inviting as any sweet scent out there.

I Googled “What does it smell like on Mars?” In a nutshell, here’s what scientists think: It has a “slightly acrid, gassy smell of sulfur compounds, with a chalky, sweet overtone punching through.” THAT’S the type of smell folks who don’t spend time in God’s presence produce

How will you smell this week?

The “Achoo, Bless you” thing, because words matter.

It’s allergy season in Tennessee, and religion is getting a boost. Someone’s head explodes and you hear—what I call—the “Achoo, Bless You” chant. There are more “bless you’s” flying around now than in the off-season, so we have that going for us….or do we?

I’ll spare the history lesson on the origins of the “Achoo, Bless You”. But, is anyone tuning in? When I get “bless you’d”, I often want to say, “Do you mean it? You’re really blessing me? What blessing are you giving me?” Yes, yes, I know: I’m over-inflating the “bless you” thing, but it highlights something deeper.

We’ve lost understanding that words matter—every word.
As I listen to the casual way words are tossed around in our society, I’m often struck by the fact that we’ve lost this foundational truth: Words matter—every word. They are either a blessing or a curse – they bring life or they usher in death. Too often, I hear people calling each other names and then quickly following it up with, “Just kidding”. And don’t get me started on this one: Parents say, “Oh, she’s 4 going on 14.” AAAAGGGHHHH – let her be 4 or stop wondering why you have to put up with a teen’s mouth on a tiny tot. Parents label their children; spouses label each other as their behavior. “You are a liar. You are so lazy. You are disrespectful. You are selfish.” Words matter, and when labels are assigned, people sink—or rise—to the assignment.

We’ve lost understanding that words spoken cannot be unsaid.
Genesis 27 makes no sense in our modern world. If I told you that a guy cheated his brother out of getting a verbal “blessing” from his father, would it matter much? What’s the big deal? It’s only words. That dad could go back and tell everyone he made a mistake and transfer the words to the other guy. Call a do-over. But our way of seeing it underscores another thing we’ve lost: Once words are spoken, they cannot be unsaid. When anger rules our tongues and typing/texting fingers, we spew poison. A Verbal Poison Control Hotline doesn’t exist, and an antidote to undo the damage isn’t a phone call away. If the poison-source isn’t cleaned up, the slow-drip of verbal venom into another person’s soul will destroy their sense of self.

Do we understand there is a way to control our words?
How can we change? It’s not about our will power. It’s not about just saying “no” (more about that next week). It’s about knowing you are powerless to do better. How many times have you spewed and then sorry’d all over yourself? It’s exhausting and embarrassing. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can change poison into positivity. It starts by telling God what you need. You need His help over your words – and your heart. Sound too easy—too much like a cop-out? “I just tell God I need His help? That makes it sound like it’s all on Him to change who I am. “ Exactly.

Your part? Keep it simple: Make “space” for Him to do the work. Praying and asking God for help is one way to make this space. Instead of standing on your thoughts and ideas, you are opening up room for Him to give you His thinking and new deposits of faith. The more faith God deposits, the more you trust that He can do this good work of transforming poison into pathways to love.

Pause and pray. Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
My favorite verse in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 10:5. It’s my favorite because it has been the instruction from God that has helped transform me the most. “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. When I only speak words that Christ would approve, I will not speak poison. When I’m tempted to spew, I try to say God’s words instead of my own. Pause, pray and take the poison captive before it escapes. Let the Lord do the cleansing work. He’ll either give you the self-control to be silent or a productive, cleaned-up way to speak.

Words matter – Lord, I need you to help me choose words that bring life in situations where it’s easier to breathe fire. Help me to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. In this area of my life, I need You like breath, God. Thank You for loving and leading me. Amen.