Wearing The Body Armor (Outdoor Service)
The Lonely Place is Not the Happy Place
It’s a love hate thing, it really is. We love being with others and yet we hate what can happen to us when we are with people.
None of us want to be alone. We don’t do being alone well. We were never meant to see ourselves as loners.
We are social creatures by nature and thus we love being with other people, either one-on-one or in groups.
This gathering here is a great example of what I am talking about. Doesn’t it feel great to be among friends and among people who are warm, friendly and welcoming?
Groups come in all shapes and sizes. This is a group gathering today as is your family, your circle of friends, and the neighbors next door or down the hall as are the colleagues at work, fellow students in the classroom or the group (fill-in-the-blank) that I hang with.
For some of us we love the hustle and bustle of big group gatherings and for others of us it’s more the intimate one-on-one with a close friend or two.
Regardless of the setting, we are social creatures meant to be among people.
In fact, if there is anyone that hears me this morning and is feeling alone, lonely or with no one near by, we invite you to join us.
Ours is an open ended group where the doors are always open and the porch light always on.
Yet having said that, be careful when you come in because we are not a perfect bunch. We can sometimes be prickly with sharp edges where people can get hurt or injured.
This is the rough and tumble of our family.
We don’t mean to be that way but we are not perfect and sometimes something can be said, a wrong look given, or an invitation not extended that can feel hurtful.
In fact, let me tell you that there is no perfect church on the planet. We are a group of people who come from various walks of life and are trying to work it out in close proximity with each other.
And for all the talk of love and forgiveness you will hear, sometimes the reality on the ground doesn’t match the rhetoric.
I told you this was a love/ hate thing. We love the fellowship and the feel of belonging but hate it when we get hurt by others.
When we do, the answer is not to recoil back into the shell or isolation because the lonely place is a terrible place.
So that is not the answer, since no one has ever been happy coiled back inside an empty shell.
The lonely place is not a happy place. It’s not the answer to when we get hurt.
Bubble Wrap for The Heart
So if not that, then what is the answer? The answer is bubble wrap! That’s right, bubble wrap! That’s how Paul finishes off his letter to the Ephesians. He talks about ‘bubble wrap’.
He doesn’t use those words. Bubble wrap didn’t get invented until 1957 (long after Paul walked the earth). But what you find in today’s passage is, for all intents and purposes, bubble wrap.
I’m not sure if you realize that the two guys who invented bubble wrap were Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavaness and that it was totally by accident that they invented bubble wrap.
What they did was sealed two shower curtains together creating a smattering of air bubbles, which they then tried to sell as wallpaper.
Needless to say, it didn’t sell until a couple of years later. Its use in protective packaging was discovered by IBM, and from then on it took off and has become this world-wide phenomenon we call bubble wrap.
We use bubble wrap all the time. Anytime you want to protect something you bubble wrap it, right?
A picture frame, glassware or anything fragile that can break easily, just bubble wrap it.
Of all the things that are fragile and can break easily none is more fragile than our heart.
How many songs have been written about a heart that breaks and about the thousand pieces of a broken heart needing to be picked up yet once again?
There is no way around it. You cannot have true community nor be in deep relationships without making your heart vulnerable. You are going to have your heart on your shirtsleeve.
You cannot be in the family of God, or in any other family for that matter, without opening up your heart.
The risk you take in opening your heart is that your heart can be broken.
Sharing our lives and opening up our hearts means taking on the risk of a broken heart. There is always the chance that someone will hurt you.
The answer is not to stay in isolation, because remember the lonely place is not a happy place. The answer is to bubble wrap your heart!
That is how Paul suggests the Ephesians would survive when things go south or sideways in the relationships they were in.
Remember that today’s passage from Eph. 6 is stated within the context of what was said immediately before the passage and also of the entire book.
The immediate context was within the primary relationships of spouses, parents, children, coworkers and students, teachers and bosses, and the many other close encounters of the family kind where things can go sideways.
The wider context of the book was how to get along within the family of God when things can go badly.
Within those contexts, and all others where you are in close proximity with others, bubble wrap your heart.
That’s what Paul means when he says: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph. 6:10). That’s his way of saying bubble wrap your heart.
Literally it means, “clothe yourself with strengths as one puts on garments.” Kenneth Wuest.
Layers and layers of clothing will have the same effect as bubble wrap. While we do the wrapping up (no one is going to do this for us; no one is going to wrap us up) it’s not our wrap we are using.
While we are to “be strong” or wrap yourself up, it’s to be in “the Lord and in his mighty strength” instead of our own strength, ability or wherewithal.
God provides the bubble wrap, but we are the ones who wrap ourselves in it. So what does God’s bubble wrap look like?
The Body Armor
Paul says it looks a lot like a riot police officer’s uniform made up of the things like a badge, nightstick, boots, bullet-proof vest and a helmet which Paul calls truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation.
Talk about a body armor. I love how The Message translates today’s passage. Have a listen:
“And that about (bubble J) wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.”
God’s bubble wrap consists of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation. Let’s have a quick look at these.
1. The Belt of Truth
The first one mentioned is truth. Be wrapped up in truth, honesty and integrity.
In fact, the idea is one of a belt in which everything gets tucked in so that when you walk or run you are not getting tripped up.
Let there be nothing about your life that can get you tripped up. No fakery, two sidedness or skeletons. Nothing that can come back to bite you. Everything about you is honest and truthful. You don’t have a secret life.
That’s the kind of honesty that will protect you when accusations and innuendos come your way.
You say: “I don’t have that kind of honesty, I do have secret things and skeletons.”
Remember what I said about whose bubble wrap this is? This is God’s truth and honesty.
If you give God your secrets, failures and sins, He will forgive you, wash them away and give you a single-minded heart so much so that you can say “That may have been me at one point but that’s not me anymore. I have nothing to hide. God has forgiven me everything.”
So come to God for the belt of truth. The second one is the breastplate of righteousness.
2. The Breastplate of Righteousness
Truthfulness and righteousness go hand in hand since both have to do with integrity.
They called the breastplate of righteousness the heart protector and even today security personnel the world over wear the bulletproof vest to protect vital organs.
Sometimes our legitimacy and very existence gets called into question. How good to know that we can stand on the uprightness and integrity of our character, not because we are impeccable, but because we hide behind the impeccability of Jesus.
He is our righteousness. He has covered all my sins and flaws. He gives me a right standing before God where it matters the most.
In the natural, I may well be exposed to every accusation but by coming to God I find that Jesus is my bulletproof vest of integrity.
3. Shoes Studded with the Gospel
With the belt and vest in place, I now put on the right kind of boots that give me grip when I need it the most.
There’s nothing like shoes with a great grip. Great for tight turns, quick turnaround’s, or just overall stability.
You’ve got to stay on your feet all the time. Don’t trip up and don’t lose your grip, especially when someone throws a curveball at you out of left field.
Who hasn’t been hit with a nasty surprise right out of the blue? In moments when caught off guard, how good to know you are still standing. Didn’t flinch, no flicker of doubt.
It’s the kind of thing old Abraham did when it was said of him: “He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Rom. 4:20, 21
Not blinking in the face of a nasty surprise is possible by having a good grip on the Gospel.
That’s why it says: “With your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Eph. 6:15
If we are not sure of the Gospel, not sure of what Jesus has done for us, not convinced that he has made us honest and given us integrity then we become susceptible to doubts, misgivings and fear as we get bowled over by life’s many curveballs.
There is an absolute rock solid steadiness that comes from embracing the Gospel of Jesus. It’s like wearing a great pair of hiking boots.
4. Shield of Faith
The next thing is the plastic shield: “Take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
I am sure you have seen these shields and how they can protect people, usually in times of severe social unrest such as rioting or looting.
A person can just hide behind them and in their day these things were more like the impenetrable body armor we see in Sci-Fi films than the plastic shields of today.
In fact, one poor soldier counted 220 darts sticking out of his armor when the dust settled, and that in the day of the fiery arrows.
Imagine all those arrows and not a single one burned the poor chap down.
220 arrows, can you imagine that? How many arrows have you taken? Have any of them hit a raw nerve inside you?
Have you ever been singed a little with cynicism? Ever end up smoldering away at the point where you’ve been hit? Ever seen someone go down in flames? Not a nice thing at all.
So let me ask you: Can’t let go of things? Is forgiveness a little hard? Hanging on to old wounds? Things festering away inside?
If so, then you need the shield of faith, my friend!
What is that, you say? It is that which not only deflects the arrows but extinguishes the fire that’s in them.
It’s the shield of faith with the optimum word being “faith”!
This is not a generic kind of faith that merely believes in God, but an active faith that gets pressed into every attack that comes my way and smothers the accusations and lies.
You can have that kind of a faith, friend. This won’t fall into your lap like manna from heaven, but is the result of God opening up the truths in the Bible in such a way that you can smell the counterfeit and the lie a mile away.
For every lie, accusation and negativity stands a shield of faith that will give you the truth with which to smother the lie.
The more you know the truth of God’s Word, the more you can raise up the shield of faith.
5. The Helmet of Salvation
So you have your shield, vest, boots and belt. The only thing missing is the helmet.
A soldier’s helmet is not a fashion statement or something that pretties up the soldier, but it’s meant to protect head and brain.
They say the greatest struggle is in your head and the battlefield is your brain. You rise or fall by the thoughts you think.
There is something about what someone says about you that can fester in your brain for years and years.
Someone says something amazing and it swells up your head; someone says something negative and hurtful and it deflates your head.
Words have a way of lingering on in our head and hence the need for the helmet of salvation.
Salvation speaks of having been saved and coming into a safe place, away from danger and all alarms.
This is a deep belief and conviction that I am saved, a child of God, with nothing separating me from the love of God and that I am one of God’s special children.
With that kind of deep conviction we become immune to the doubts, half-truths and wannabe’s of what once was.
That is our body armor and bubble wrap!
Come In and Pick Up Your Body Armor!
So come out of your cocoon and shell as you join us in our family here today.
Come in, not as a guest or an outsider, but as one of us. Come in, not as a foster child or adopted child, but as somebody born in.
Every one of us was born into God’s family as a child of God. You can be that today.
As you come in, be sure to pick up your bubble wrap so that in the rough and tumble of who we are you don’t get caught in the crossfire or by friendly fire but instead you grow and you thrive as you come into your destiny!
Come on in!
Here you can find several messages. Feel free to write your thoughts or questions in the comment section.