Stories from the Cleft-11: “Forewarned and Forearmed? Or On the Battlefield with Boxers On?”

Welcome to the eleventh course of Stories from the Cleft at The Training Table—set to serve and help sustain all those who are “running the good race” (1 Corinthians 9:26; 2 Timothy 4:7).

Please check out where we’ve been along the journey at The Training Table Archives section of Feast of the Heart. Be sure to recall the Bible passage from Exodus 33:12-23; 34:29-35 where the story of Moses and “the cleft in the rock” can be found.

Dressed… For a Killer Challenge and Mountainous Fun!
On a Colorado Bluebird Day in January, my long-time mountain running partner Skip and I arrived at the base of Snowmass Mountain just before sunrise. The temperature was 50° below zero. The hoarfrostwas a beautiful 3 to 5 inches in height—and like running through tiny china teacups in our snowshoes!

Our day’s goal was to run from the Snowmass Ski Area to the base of Aspen Mountain—via each ski mountain between Snowmass and Aspen. The ascents and descents of Snowmass, Buttermilk, Highlands, and Aspen Mountain would take into account approximately 30 miles and a combined loss and gain of elevation of 19,000’ or so.

From the top of the head to the tip of the toe, Skip and I were dressed, equipped, “armed”, as it were, for the challenge. NOTHING WAS LEFT TO CHANCE: lightweight running shoes and snowshoes, graphite ski poles, close-cell foam running shoe covers, all wool socks, synthetic long underwear (with strategic wind cover), running tights, lightweight wool t-shirt, medium weight zip-front t-neck, light weight Gortex shell with pit zips for ventilation, Norse ear covers, silk balaclava, light weight cross country ski hat, light weight fingered gloves with heavier mitten cover, nose-mouth covering to warm the air (and prevent throat or lung frostnip), high UV protection sunglasses, sunscreen (for whatever skin was showing), bladders for an energy and fluid replacement drink that delivered the maximum amount of glucose to the muscle site, and fanny pack for carefully-selected, easily disgested, fast and slow burning carbohydrates.

Forewarned about the weather conditions, the nature and conditions of the run, the route, and the places on each ski mountain where aid could be relied upon, Skip and I were forearmed by being in the best physical condition to do the run, having all the gear needed to pull it off, and the spirit of camaraderie, the challenge, and joy in the day… to succeed! And that is what we did. Running down Aspen Mountain nearly 7 hours after the start was one of the most exhilarating events we had ever experienced.

ForeWARNED and ForeARMED? Being Sure We’re EQUIPPED for Seeing God’s Glory!
In our day, even though we’re provided with many unfortunate examples of going into battle without knowing either the enemy OR the ally, the Christian is repeatedly forewarned SO THAT we are also forearmed!

As participants, and not spectators, we should know well the ways and wiles of the WORLD, the FLESH, and the DEVIL—as depicted here by an illustration from my book. If we are not aware, engaged, and equipped, we will face defeat in many realms and in many forms.

Now, we might not feel particularly “defeated”, “engaged in a battle”, or at the very least exhausted yet exhilarated at the end of each day’s tussles with the dark side. If that’s the case, it might be a good time to gauge the sorts of battles we’re choosing to be engaged in… or not. It might be that we’re just going along for the ride while steering clear of every battlefield engagement. It just might be that we’re choosing what’s most comfortable as opposed to being “more than conquerors” (Romans 8: 31-39).

Unfortunately, as measured by many indicators, even we in the church… those “running the good race” but perhaps hobbled in some ways… do not understand how the WORLD’s ways have been so thoroughly intertwined with the children of God’s ways. How we can be blind to our own and old SELVES as having a story that needs to be well known and experienced redemptively. In addition, how, having long ago pitched the supernatural or “antiquated ideas” in favor of the here-and-now and “more enlightened ideas”, we often don’t believe SATAN is alive, mortally wounded, but all too well.

Combined, we can easily ignore all the many warning signs about reality as offered by God, and then be ill-armed… ill-equipped… to be in the battle of all time! Today, in the daily barrage of images of soldiers being on the battlefield, fully attired and equipped for battle, would it not be strange to see a soldier with nothing on but his boxers?

Nevertheless, beloved of God, that’s exactly how we can look to God and our adversary—if we’ve not faithfully, intentionally, and thankfully donned the armor God has so mercifully, strategically, and victoriously laid out for us to wear every day! Not simply when we choose to.

On the Battlefield with Boxers On?
Every child of God (RE: the born-again Christian—John 3: 1-8; Romans 6:23; Galatians 2:20) who would “wake up, get out of bed, and drag a comb across his head” (“Day in the Life”, Beatles) should do nothing else… before he or she dons “THE AMOUR OF GOD”!

Because the Christian’s enemies are superhuman spiritual forces, we cannot rely on mere human resources but must take up and put on a whole armor of God. So that we can withstand the attacks and stand firm as soldiers in a battle line holding fast against the enemy’s charge—which can take on a wide array of forms.

The armor is a spiritual resource given to us in Christ namely truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God. We must be intentional and explicit with these armaments given to us at conversion though, like any soldier, we must become familiar and facile with them as we mature in our faith—or choose to face the enemy in diapers… or boxers… or even partially-armed with only the shield and not the sword… the helmet but no sandals… none of which will prove as effective as the whole armor.

The armor are aspects of God’s and the Messiah’s own character and work… GIVEN TO US!

As soldiers of God—including the ragtag, oftentimes AWOL, boxer-clad, author of this missive, yours truly—this is not our daily habit. Rather, we can be very forgetful about what we’re marching into each day: a battlefield more body-ridden and bloody than all wars or atrocities committed against mankind… combined… tenfold!

“The time for half measures and talk is over!” (Maximus, Gladiator—one of my all-time favs)

Choose The Day: What’s It Going to Be, the Armor or the Boxers?
Ever since our son Teddy was a young lad, we’ve had a large-scale, laminated poster taped to his closet door, “The Armor of God”. Overtly and covertly—by image, the written word, or instruction—Teddy has had the benefit of seeing the image of what any Christian man or woman should look like as soon as they leave their bedroom each morning.

“GOT ARMOR?” GOD LEAVES NOTHING CHANCE! Some resources:  Rev Timothy Keller. Real Armor of God—from content to accoutrements for the battle. NOW YOU CAN EVEN HAVE A SHORT SWORD IN OUR UMBRELLA STAND!

As hokey or just plain easy as it might sound (actually doing it is another thing), please consider buying the poster offered at LifeWay for you and/or your children’s bedroom, dressing room, mud room, closet, bathroom, family room, or kitchen fridge door—okay, mom might not go for that one.

If you’re blessed by God to do so, buy 50 of them, and make sure anyone in your life God calls you to bless has one—as a gift from God through you. A son? Daughter? Confirmand? Nephew? Neighbor? Graduate? Pastor? Mentee? Teacher? Born-again birthday gift? Discipleship class? Yourself?

Get into the Bible each morning. In doing so, occasionally read again how each piece of armor Paul describes has been carefully modeled in the day of one of the most effective armies in history (the Romans), and imbued with what Jesus Christ graciously orders us to do in the battle of the spiritual realms—and the every day battles His army of angels and disciples must face.

Christ has been victorious, but the battle still rages, until He returns bloodied for wrath to take His soldiers home:

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice, he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS ” (Revelation 9:11-16—emphasis added).

Forewarned is forearmed! Battle-ready, bathed in grace, beset with compassion… the victories are sweet,

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