Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
My favorite of these specialty items was one by way of my good friend who has accompanied me to Sudan many times. I don't want to give away his identity but I can tell you we call him "Dandy Don." It seems that Dandy Don has developed a healthy respect, or fear, for poisonous snakes. Dandy Don especially had this healthy respect/fear for the black mamba. As often as I have had the opportunity I have tried to reinforce and even encourage this healthy respect/fear of the black mamba. In response to this, Dandy Don dedicated a fair amount of financial resource toward obtaining a pair of snake proof boots to wear to Sudan.
These boots were not from Wal-Mart. They were the best that money could buy. It was absolutely certified that the boots were constructed with fabric that could not be penetrated by the poisonous fangs of the black mamba. The boots were also designed for comfort. This was no easy task given that the top of the boots extended all the way up to the lower knee.
You can imagine the fun the team had with Dandy Don as we left Roanoke en route to Sudan. Several members of the team, and especially me, were merciless as we teased him about his boots. You might think we tired of this fun after 48 hours of travel into Sudan; however, we did not.
In an initial meeting with tribal elders and chiefs more opportunity for fun with Dandy Don emerged quite naturally. As the meeting closed, I addressed the chief asking him to observe and evaluate Dandy Don's boots. There were snickers in the group as Dandy Don stood to show off his new apparel. The chief took the task serious as he studied the boots in order to properly evaluate them. A verdict was reached and the chief in very diplomatic fashion told us, "I have never seen boots like these and I like them." It was clear to all who snickered that the chief had more to say. Dandy Don on the other hand, stood taller beaming with pride. The chief finished his evaluation saying, "but there is one problem: the mamba strikes you here (motioning to the chest) not here (motioning to Dandy Don's boots)." I am not sure the chief understood our culturally inappropriate laughter and rolling on the floor over his evaluation.
The Bible speaks of another protective covering that we are to wear. You probably know where I am going with this. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul gives instruction to the believers. He tells them, "put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." One piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. This breastplate is much more effective against a much craftier serpent than Dandy Don's boots.
I have been thinking lately about how often we charge forward with the right motivation and to the right places, but try to make our stand in and with our own righteousness. The breastplate of righteousness that Paul talks about is not ours, since we have none; but rather, the righteousness of Jesus, the One and Only, whose righteousness lights up the city of God. It is His righteousness that is our breastplate. Charging on to the battlefield without that protection is simply ludicrous.
His righteousness covers our heart. Fully realizing it is His righteousness in which we stand, we are protected from a proud heart and humility, the most effective of all spiritual weapons, can wield its effect. This breastplate forces us to move and act in His strength rather than face failure and destruction in our own efforts.
It is really a matter of shielding ourselves with relationship instead of religion. Religion looks to our own righteousness while a relationship rests in His. I have even had the thought that perhaps this is why so few really experience the rest that Jesus is and promises to be.