Doug Eaton

Christian, There is Blood on Your Armor

In all your conflicts, it never failed you. In all your injuries, it preserved your life even when your body failed because the kind of life it protects is similar to the battle in which it is engaged. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, and this armor never promised to keep your flesh and blood from failing. Instead, it guards your spiritual life, and that life is eternal. 

There is blood on your armor. It is bent, marred, and scarred with years of service, and your body is worn, tired, and giving way. Not too long ago, your armor was shiny and new. Still wet from the baptismal, you looked down the long and narrow path ahead of you, took your sword into your hand, and set out in service of your King. The vitality of youth and the excitement of future conquests drove you forward, but it did not take long to realize it was not exactly as you thought it would be, and your motivations faltered.
The strength of your youth began to fade long ago, and the battles did not go as planned. Often, you flinched as you failed to trust the armor when the fiery arrows flew toward you. The enemies you faced did not simply back down at your appearance. On the contrary, your peculiarity provoked them. Too often, you dropped your sword to blend in and avoid the battle. Other times you attempted to use weapons not sanctioned by your King. This misuse only exposed you further. Despite these failures, you felt your belt cinch up to secure your armor, and your sword always found its way back into your hand. You pressed on.
The external enemies were terrible enough, but what you did not expect were the internal ones, of which there were two types. Many attacks you faced did not come from without but from those appearing to wear similar armor as yours. These surprise attacks caught you off guard more than once, and the injuries were significant. It took time for the bones and bruises to mend. It even reopened some older wounds and knocked you off balance as you lost your footing. Your feet seemed unable to move forward, but suddenly they were equipped and prepared for the work, and you put one foot in front of the other.
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Weakness: Our Unlikely Ally

Jacob limped the rest of his life after wrestling with God at the Jabbock, and that limp signified the power of God for generations to come. Therefore, I will boast of my weaknesses because God makes no mistakes in His providences. Countless Christians speak life into the souls of hurting people because they, too, have struggled with weakness and, in those infirmities, have found God’s grace to be enough.

If you want to turn the world’s wisdom on its head completely, this is it. The Apostle Paul says he will boast about his weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). We do not boast of weaknesses; we hide them because they hold us back from being who we should be. They threaten our competence. They are faults and defects. Instead, we boast of accomplishments, skills, talents, and abilities, but biblical wisdom says this is backward.
Weaknesses, we all have them. From illnesses to physical handicaps. From weak minds to weak knees. Some have speech impediments, anxiety disorders, melancholy, and poverty. There is not a single believer who does not struggle with something, but when was the last time we celebrated them? When was the last time we looked at our vulnerabilities and said, “what a blessing! These things cause Christ’s light to shine in my life more than my strengths.”
We often fail to understand that our weaknesses are our unlikely allies because we forget our purpose in life. Or we, if we do know our calling, we forget how to fulfill it best. Our chief end in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (WSC). We bring glory to the Lord not by showing the world how strong we are but by showing them his strength.
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Misreading Providence for Personal Gain

Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God, and the rest would be added (Matthew 6:33). There are no exemptions to this. Even if life has you busy with your job, family, school, or other pressures, these things never exempt us from our duty (and pleasure) to seek God first. Instead of seeing these challenging providences as reasons to put ourselves first, we should view them as trials and tests God has given us to prove that the faith he has provided us has the power to overcome the world.

Matthew Henry once suggested we can sometimes neglect to obey God because we misinterpret trials and challenges as permission to shirk our responsibility when, instead, God allowed these hardships to test and exercise our courage and faith. Here is an example.
Imagine you are a pastor the Holy Spirit has called to preach the whole counsel of God. As you are expositing a book of scripture over several months, you come to a difficult passage that goes against the cultural zeitgeist. Not only does the culture not want you to speak the truth plainly, but some church elders also start to counsel you against it.
Your church and ministry have a large online following, and to preach these truths and post them in the usual outlets could lead to big tech taking away your platforms. This conflict with big tech could arise because this teaching of scripture violates their standards of conduct.
The church’s ministry is doing wonderful things, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. You begin to rationalize that it is better to bypass this passage or gloss over it because the benefits of doing so far outweigh the costs for your ministry.
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Celebrating Christmas with Jesus Himself

This spiritual stagnation causes Christmas to pass us by without spending time with our Savior, neglecting the very one we are celebrating. Many of us will enjoy the warmth and merriment of the holiday, yet even for us believers, our celebration will lack its spiritual significance because the joy of our salvation has grown dim. Perhaps we need to prepare our hearts for Christmas by following the example of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John. 

Too many of us celebrate the birth of Jesus while neglecting Christ himself. This negligence is because, though many of us would like to experience the joy of our salvation, our indulgence in worldliness cuts us off from it. We have lost the reason to celebrate. Many of us also desire the Lord to use us in significant ways, but we do not live lives suited for it, so we take up other pursuits. As we enter this Christmas season, our minds immediately go to the manger, but Luke starts the story by telling us of a man and woman stricken in years.
The lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth should instruct us (Luke 1:5-25). They were uncommon people. They may have appeared ordinary in the eyes of the world, but they stand out, even amongst the children of God. As children of God, we should follow their example. Luke tells us they were righteous before the Lord. They followed his word so closely they were blameless. Blameless does not mean they were sinless, but, as Matthew Henry points out, no one could accuse them of any open or scandalous sin. They lived in service to God. Like the rest of us, however, their lives were not perfect.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were also childless and had been praying for one for years. They knew, like arrows in the hands of a warrior, children are a blessing from the Lord, but they did not have any. Their quiver remained empty no matter how much they tried or how earnestly they desired one. Despite this disappointment, they trusted God and walked closely with him. Our discouragement should not drive us away from God but closer to him.
Being well advanced in years, they had pretty much given up hope of having a child. Until an angel appeared to Zechariah to tell him his prayer had been heard. This older couple was not only righteous and blameless; they were people of prayer.
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Chipping Away Our Confidence in Christ

When the good times come it is easy to lose sight of the importance of our foundation. The winds are not trying to knock us over, and the rains are not there to cause us to seek shelter, so we do not feel the need for solid footing. Often during these times when we do not feel as reliant upon God’s Word, we begin to pick and choose what we agree or disagree with in Scripture.

In the Christian life, there are times of rest and times of struggle, and what we do when the sun is shining will often determine how well we will fare when the rains fall and the winds blow. It is usually the pleasant times when self-confidence becomes exaggerated that many professing Christians tend to chip away at the rock upon which they stand.
Twenty years ago, I began dealing with a chronic illness. Though I now have it mostly under control, the first five years were the worst. The most debilitating of all the symptoms was anxiety. I quickly learned that my illness was affecting my nervous system and causing me to experience fear. Anxiety is fear looking for a cause. When it hit, I would feel like I was in great danger, so I would begin to look for the source of my vulnerability even though one did not exist. At some point, I would eventually start to examine my relationship with God.
During this time, I began to feel like God was against me. I began to wonder if I was unsaved, but all of these emotions contradicted the Word of God. It was here that I needed to learn to walk by faith, not by sight. Or, to put it another way, I needed to learn to walk by truth, not feelings. When my feelings contradicted the Word of God, it was my emotions that were lying, not the scriptures. The Bible is the rock upon which we stand. Jesus used the analogy of building our house on the rock. We are to trust it, even when it contradicts ourselves. We become much more aware of our need for a strong foundation during hard times.
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Golden Bowls Filled with Prayer

These bowls contain every prayer for a believer to be healed of cancer or other illnesses that was not granted. They hold every wordless groan offered in weakness that will not find its final resolution in this life. Finally, they contain all those petitions asking that death would be thwarted, but death still had its way. When the scroll is unrolled, and the bowls are presented in worship, it is as if the Lord is saying, “Your wait is over. I never forgot your prayers, and they are precious to me.”

Revelation gives us a fascinating picture of golden bowls filled with our prayers at the throne of God. What is this telling us? Why would our prayers be presented this way? Let us look at the basic biblical interpretation of this passage and then close with one point of speculation.
Our Heavenly Father knew no one in the Church other than John would see the Revelation; instead, we would read what John wrote. Therefore, there is great wisdom in what was revealed to John because they paint perfect word pictures.
In Revelation, after we see the scroll, which contains the end of evil and the glorious future of the saints, and the lamb who was slain and worthy to open it, the 24 elders surrounding the throne begin to worship. They do so with harps and golden bowls filled with incense which are the prayers of the saints (Revelation 5:8).
Understanding what this picture tells us requires us to consider both the gold and the incense. The golden bowls show us that our prayers are precious to the Lord. We do not store worthless items in golden bowls. We only keep what we cherish in such a valuable vessel. Even though we may feel our prayers are insignificant, the Lord treasures it when his children speak to him. He hears every word. The second thing we see is our prayers are like incense. There are several aspects to our prayers being like incense throughout scripture, but in this instance, the focus seems to be on the sweet-smelling aroma.
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Has the Internet Corrupted Our Moral Outrage?

We should not always be quick to dismiss each other. Instead, our comments should point out our concerns without jumping to the conclusion that the person on the other end of the keyboard needs to be abandoned because they are not infallible. Even if they remain stubborn in their error, we can agree to disagree if the difference is on secondary doctrinal issues. 

I recently had an experience that is common to all. After rushing to meet a self-imposed deadline, I hit publish on one of my articles, and I awoke the following day to an unpublished comment by someone who was literally shocked at the ambiguity of the article, its lack of biblical truth, and my dangerous practice. They then let me know that it may be time to unsubscribe.
I occasionally experience this kind of response from people who disdain Christianity, so I usually let the comments roll off my back, but this was different. Though I do not know the commenter, there was no indication that they held strange or heretical views. They seemed to be a fellow believer who valued the same things I value. On top of that, they made two critiques of my post, and both were valid.
The first critique was that I had made a controversial statement without backing it up with scripture. The second involved a misleading lack of clarity on my part, which I failed to see before I published the article. Using the commenter’s critiques, I made a couple of minor edits to my post to remove the sticking points.
Why do I bring this up? Because the internet, especially social media, has trained us to respond to things with moral outrage even before we know if moral outrage is warranted.
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The First Six Seals of Revelation

As Augustine once said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” Christian, do not be alarmed at wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6). The first six seals are the birth pangs of the blessings to come. Do not fear, precious child of God. No matter what happens in this life, there will be a glorious unfolding for you.

It started with the drama at the throne (Revelation 5). The scroll containing the inheritance of the children of God was sealed with seven seals, and no one could open it. No one, that was, until the slain Son of God appeared. Because he died and rose again, he is worthy. He had borne the wrath they deserved. Because of this, he is both just and the justifier of sinners (Romans 3:26). Those who trust in him escape the wrath to come and become co-heirs with Christ. He then began to open the seals one by one.
He breaks the first seal, and a conqueror appears on a white horse. He has a bow and a crown. He has authority and the means to fulfill God’s plan (Revelation 6:2). What great hope this is to a church that watched the world kill many of its members. They will not be conquered; they have a champion who will fight their battle.
Jesus removes the second seal, and there is a red horse, and its rider uses the wickedness of the wicked against themselves (Revelation 6:4). This seal is the first major blow against them. There is no honor among the wicked, and when their backs are against the wall, they strike out at whoever is closest to them. Like the armies of the Old Testament, amongst whose ranks God sowed confusion, he will cause them to pour out judgment on themselves. Christians who the enemies of God have brutalized will see those same enemies brutalize each other.
He opens the third seal, and there is a Black Horse. Its rider disrupts the economy. He makes the necessities of life scarce (Revelation 6:5-6).
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Recognizing the Curse in Our Work

In the frustrations of work, God is reminding us to look to him. He is saying, look to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are fleeting, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). He is where we will find the fulfillment and glory we seek, and eventually, Jesus will return for his children. At that moment, he will make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Last week was a rough work week. First, it was exhausting due to its long hours. Second, my health gave me some trouble, and third, I dropped one of the many balls I have been juggling on a project, and now I am cleaning up the pieces. None of these issues were that significant in and of themselves, but they piled up and weighed me down.
My emotional response is what I found to be the most interesting. I found myself under it all instead of on top of it. Once defeat set in, even the minor issues felt daunting. I expected my work to bring me fulfillment, but it offered me frustration.
What I was experiencing was the effect of the curse; the thorns and thistles that accompany every job and make the sweat pour from our brows (Genesis 3:17-19). It was nothing out of the ordinary in a fallen world, but I was reminded that life is not the way it should be, and the fruit of our labor is rarely produced with ease.
It is not only the world that is not as it should be; we, too, are fallen. It was not the curse alone I was dealing with last week.
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Together in a Hostile World

There are two main reasons we often neglect the church as believers. The first is that our hearts are elsewhere. We are not that interested in the cause of Christ because we are pursuing something else. We are not concerned about having fellow workers because we are not a fellow worker. The second reason we avoid the church is that it usually involves some people who are divisive and create obstacles. 

No matter how hostile the world may become towards Christians, the Lord always has fellow believers available to us for support. We were never meant to stand alone, and we should be available to encourage other believers as well.
The apostle Paul faced countless persecutions as a Christian. From stonings to beatings to imprisonment, all of this was part of his experience as a minister in a world hostile to Christ. He even wrote some of his epistles while in chains, but he never failed to close his letters with greetings to his friends and fellow workers.
As he closes the letter to the Romans, he greets Prisca and Aquila, who risked their necks for him (Romans 16:3). He always had fellow prisoners and fellow workers. Though Paul was often alone, he was never alone, and neither are we. At this moment, we are surrounded by fellow believers. If we do not realize it, it is because we are not as involved in the local church as we should be.
There are two main reasons we often neglect the church as believers. The first is that our hearts are elsewhere. We are not that interested in the cause of Christ because we are pursuing something else. We are not concerned about having fellow workers because we are not a fellow worker.
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