THE PERFECT FOOTWEAR
“Buying a pair of boots in Las Vegas provides a moment to reflect on what kind of shoes we should be wearing as Christians and ministers of the Gospel.”
In Hawaiian culture, flip-flops or “slippers” are the preferred shoe and there are a lot of advantages to this model: Great air circulation, quick on-off for entering homes or water at the beach, and the complete suntan on the legs and feet.
However, wearing slippers or sandals has its drawbacks- your feet can get dirty. That’s why in Biblical times, the first thing done when entering a home was to have your feet washed. Remember there were donkeys, horses, goats, and sheep walking the streets then, with their dropping that were potential minefields.
A great reason to wash your feet before reclining down for a meal!
Another disadvantage to wearing slippers and sandals is that they are not too good in the mud- traction is very limited. Also, you can easily stub your toes on rocks, get stuck with kiawe thorns, and generally cut and injure your feet very easily.
For all these reasons, flip-flops are not the preferred shoe for life ministry.
13Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the readiness to preach the Good News of peace with God. Eph 6:15
There is a famous passage in Paul’s letter to his friends in Ephesus that gives a good description how we should be dressed for our lives as disciples of Jesus. There is the sturdy belt of truth, then the thick body armor of righteousness, and after that comes the shoes. The covering for the feet is very important, as this is what allows us to go where the King wants us to go, and to stand firm.
I have often thought about this passage as to what type of shoes we should be wearing for our lives and ministry in this world.
Let’s face it; when you are dealing with people, it’s easy to get your toes stepped on and get offended.
Often you find yourself on slippery moral grounds, and you don’t have the traction that you need to stand firm, and move ahead.
Ultimately, there is a lot of, (how can I say it politely?), dung that you find yourself wading through, and that is nasty stuff that can burn you, infect you, and cause you to smell like the barnyard you just walked through.
One of my favorite proverbs is 14:4
An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable.
It’s Biblical folks: Where there is productivity in the Kingdom, there will be a lot of manure to clean up.
Ask any small group leader, or youth pastor, or counselor, or anyone involved in personal ministry. We need a shoe that will protect our feet complete as we walk through our lives as servants of the King and ministers of the Gospel.
(You all should be really listening now, since you all fall into that category!)
Last month, we traveled to Las Vegas to attend the wedding of Laura’s brother Sheldon.
Las Vegas is know for many things, and one of them is a chain of stores that offers the world’s largest collection of western-wear (what cowboys and cowgirls dress up in!). Being that I spent three different periods of my life in Texas, along with a few years in the mountains of Colorado, I have an affinity for a comfortable Stetson, and an even more comfortable pair of boots. So, I was not surprised to find myself in the boot section of this large western-wear store.
I spent over an hour trying on boots. I wanted a pair with a little style, and a lot of function. I finally selected a brand that advertised itself as the “running shoe of boots especially designed for equestrians”. They were very reasonably priced, and the leather was soft and comfortable with design that was actually quite nice. But it wasn’t until I got them home and actually started to read the tags attached, that I realized that I had gotten something much more than I had anticipated.
Here is the actual copy from one of the tags attached to my new Ariat brand boots;
“ARIAT DURATREAD OUTSOLE”
Ariat’s specially formulated carbon rubber
Duratread outsole provides exceptional durability and flexibility
Last longer than traditional rubber outsoles;
Highly resistant to manure and acidic waste;
Superior traction and slip resistance;
Carbon rubber provides maximum energy absorption for increased comfort.
As I read this tag, and looked at these boots, I suddenly realized that I had purchase the perfect footwear for a Christian.
They were durable, for the long haul and they were comfortable enough for extended wear.
They are flexible enough to keep you from getting blisters.
And most importantly, they were highly resistant to manure (and other acidic comments) and
They would allow me to keep my traction better when things got slippery.
Along with that, the sturdy leather construction was perfect protection from snake bites, thorns, and sharp rocks.
We need a shoe that will protect us from injury and insults, and allow us to keep our footing during lengthy walks through our relationships here on Planet Earth.
This is the reality of working with other human beings- even those who are in the family of God. We often step on each other’s toes, especially when we are feeling pressured, or that our “territory” is being encroached upon.
We offend each other, often by accident, but sometimes intentionally. And Offense is one of satans’s main strategies to divide the Body of Christ.
19It’s harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars. Proverbs 18:19
Many times we say things are said that are simply not true, or are exaggerations. The most damaging are ridiculous speculations.
We put two and two together and come up with five.
We find ourselves ankle deep in barnyard muck and the smell and acidity start to affect even the most spiritually mature.
It is hard to wade through all this, yet we experience it all the time.
Without the proper footwear to protect yourself from these traps, you become dirty and smelly, with sores on your feet, which distract you and slow you down. Eventually you have to sit down and get cleaned up and healed. This is exactly what the enemy wants.
How do we clean off the manure that gets stuck to our shoes?
Consider the following conversation between Jesus and Peter recorded in Mathew 18:
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said* to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. “When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
“So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ 27“And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
“But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
“So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ “But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
“So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
“Then summoning him, his lord said* to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:21-35
It is natural in the course of life that others offend us. We may be wronged in business or mistreated by a friend. It may be verbal or physical abuse, or outright aggression. Damaging words may be spoken behind our back. Loved ones may abandon us in times of need. Whatever the cause, we often end up harboring ill feelings towards those who offend us.
And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are angry, for anger gives a might foothold to the devil Eph 4:26-27
The Bible is very clear that anger as an emotion is not sin. It is what we do with our anger that is the issue. Where the world would say that we have the right to hold on to an offense and not forgive, God says that for our own spiritual health, we must forgive those who wrong us. We must, otherwise we give satan an open door to attack and “torture” us.
In the outline for prayer that Jesus gave His disciples on Matthew 6, Jesus commands us to ask our Heavenly Father to
Give us our food for today, and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. Matthew 6:11-12
Jesus stresses the need for taking a daily inventory to ensure that we are not holding on to any offenses. He goes on to say that:
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15
There is something that connects our forgiveness with the grace that we receive from the Lord. Forgiving others is the mandatory first step in receiving our forgiveness from God.
There are few things that create problems and curses in the lives of disciples like unforgiveness. Ask any psychologist about the root of behavioral issues. Many point to the practice of holding on to offenses as the source of many emotional and health issues. That is why the writer of Hebrews wrote:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; Hebrews 12:15 NAS
The word used here for “bitterness,” is “pikria” which according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament translates as “resentment,” or “an incensed and angry attitude of mind to one’s neighbor”.
Bitterness is simply unfulfilled revenge. It is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person. Holding on to this emotion and not forgiving will result in severe consequences for the believer.
Jesus is very clear in Matthew 5:38-42 (“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’) that we do not have the right to revenge. On the contrary, according to the principles expressed in that passage of Scripture, we should be givers to those who offend us! What a revolutionary concept!
Consider the magnitude of our offenses toward God. Whoever we are, there has been some point in our lives where we have turned our back on God and walked away from His will for our lives. God has forgiven each of our sins toward Him. In light of that, is it reasonable for us to forgive others when they offend us?
Paul counseled his friends in Colossae:
12Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Col 3:12-13
Along with dealing with other humans, often we are our own worst enemy when it comes to effectiveness in our ministry. Our own emotions often cripple us and knock us off our feet.
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
We get caught up in our “feelings” about a situation and it becomes so personal that we are oblivious to what God would have us do.
Our pride is a huge factor in our willingness to do the right thing for the Kingdom and not necessarily us.
Getting wounded emotionally is also an open door to a spiritual attack.
There are times in our lives where we suffer hurts. It may have been a comment from a friend, a coach, or a teacher. Maybe it was rejection from a group, or betrayal from a loved one. Hurts go deep, and often our solution is to try to forget, or simply ignore them. Even though we have forgiven the offenders, sometimes the hurt we suffer becomes a festering wound.
Unhealed wounds can result in reactions that surprise us. Most of us have had the experience of bumping or brushing against a cut that appeared to be almost healed, and knocking off the scab. Pain is sudden, and the healing process is set back. Sometimes we realized that a special medication is needed to aid the healing process.
As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.” Psalm 41:4
“Rapha” is the Hebrew word used here for “heal”. In this context it has the meaning to promote the restoration of health, or to make fresh. It can also mean to no longer be salty or poisonous, or to repair and bring back to a prior, preferable condition.
God desires to heal our hurts and restore us. He wants us to give all areas of our“nephesh” to Him. David, who experience rejection and persecution on a national scale declared:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:1-3
A bite from a snake, a infection from a thorn, worm, or sharp rock can take a long time to heal and could be ultimately fatal.
I suffered once from a worm parasite that had buried itself under my big toenail. Fortunately I popped it out, like a pimple. Sometimes they get to your blood stream, and end up in the brain! As a result I don’t wear slippers on the Rio Coco. I wear my rubber boots.
A recent survey by a noted Bible school revealed that of all the graduates who in their 20’s and 30’s had chosen to serve in full time ministry, only 15% were still actively involved when they reached their 50’s. Why? Many never recovered from emotional wounds. They weren’t wearing the proper protective footwear for ministry.
There is another area of Life where “shoe design” is important. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, He replied:
“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Often our Priorities get confused and we find ourselves on slippery ground.
Through our life experiences and what we see in movies and on television, we form our own order of priorities. At the top of the list for many is pleasure, for others it is work.
When we become disciples of Christ, we place ourselves under His authority, and with that comes a new level of importance for things that were never on our list. The Bible gives us very specific principles when it comes to our priorities in this life.
Let’s look at a few of the many verses and extract some principles that will help us love God with our minds:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:1-2
Principle: God is number one! There is nothing that comes before Him.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Eph 2:10
Principle: God created us to do specific thing for the Kingdom (ministry)
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 2 Thess. 3:10-11
Principle: Men and women should work for their living expenses so that they will not be a burden on others.
In everything you do, I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man can’t do that so well. He has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. 1 Cor 7:32-34
Principle: A married man must place his wife above his ministry.
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5
Principle: We should be focused on the ministry that God has given us.
It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; Psalm 127:2-5
Principle: Our children are more important than our work.
From these and other passages of Scripture, we can see that Biblical Priorities are clear: God is always #1, Family #2, Ministry #3, Job #4, and recreation #5. We must recognize this list of priorities, and order our lives accordingly.
A temptation for many Christians is to place ministry above family.
We often get our first priority “Loving God” (Deut 6:5 and Exodus 20:3) with our third priority- our ministry to Him and for Him. As a result, we ignore our second priority,“Loving your Neighbor”(Lev. 19:18), especially those you share your bed and home with.
That results in disgruntled spouses and resentful children who are abandoned because of our focus on Ministry- because we think we are loving God by doing the work of the Kingdom at the expense of our relationships of those we have been entrusted with. Unfortunately many children of pastors and missionaries do not survive this feeling of abandonment. They leave the church disillusioned and it takes a lot of love to bring them back.
Moral Issues also put us on Slippery Ground. Do we have the traction on our shoes to keep us walking in the directions we should go when confronted by internet pornography, Ministry financial issues, or flirtatious individuals?
I like a shoe that gives me good traction on slippery surfaces. This is mandatory if I am to be successful in the life that God has called me to.
I also like a shoe that is durable, that I can wear for a long time.
Lack of endurance and discipline are often factors in our personal and ministry failures. We value our personal comfort too much, and we don’t develop the maturity to understand the big picture of what God is doing and persevere in our walk of faith.
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. And as Christ’s soldier, do not let yourself become tied up in the affairs of this life, for then you cannot satisfy the one who has enlisted you in his army. Follow the Lord’s rules for doing his work, just as an athlete either follows the rules or is disqualified and wins no prize.6Hardworking farmers are the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Think about what I am saying. The Lord will give you understanding in all these things. 2 Timothy 2:3-7
Suffering is not a word we talk about in our modern, First World Christian circles.
We expect comfort, peace, and emotional happiness. It’s as if it is our spiritual birthright when we get “born again”.
Discipline and hard work are often foreign concepts to children brought up in our materialistic, self-centered world. I grew up expecting to “have it all” or at least most of it. When becoming active warriors in the Kingdom, it takes a lot to get to the point of understanding that suffering, perseverance, and self-discipline are cardinal virtues in our service to the King.
That’s why we are to have shoes that will go the extra mile when we need to.
Finally, I am glad that my Ariat boots are “Flexible”.
We need to be flexible if we are going to be responsive to the directions that the Lord will take us in our personal lives as well as our ministry.
Rigid shoes produce blisters. Blisters force you to walk slower, and eventually it will cause you to sit down for a while until the sores heal.
Flexible shoes bend with the feet and the terrain, and allow you to make quick turns often.
One of my favorite proverbs is 16:9.
The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
We have our methods that are tried and true. We do everything the same way all the time. Sometimes this works, and other times it doesn’t. If you have more than one child you know what I mean.
Out “tried and true methods” eventually these become traditions, which have meaning for us, but have little significance to the generation following.
God is constantly doing new things. Jesus often spoke of the new wine and new wineskins. According to Luke 5:37 and Matthew 9:17,
37“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. 38“But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39“And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”
It is obvious that God loves the “old wine” as much as He does the “new”. Our challenge is to remain flexible enough to sense what God is doing, regardless of our plans, methods, and traditions.
The soldiers of the Roman legions wore a sandal-boot called Caligae.
The sandals were constructed from leather, usually covering the toes, and laced up the top center of the foot and onto the top of the ankle. Additionally, iron hobnails were hammered into the sole, serving three purposes:
to reinforce the caligae;
to provide the soldier with better traction;
to ‘weaponize’ the caligae (i.e. to allow the soldier to inflict damage by kicking with it) .
It was important to the Caesar that his soldiers would be able to fight the battles with protective footwear that was comfortable enough to walk 30 miles a day, and provide secure footing in mud and other slippery conditions.
Our King wants us walking through this world with our hearts, minds, and body protected so that our efforts would be focused on His agenda, doing things in His way.
Reading the label on my new boots allowed me to reflect on how I was going to
“shod (my) feet for the preparation of the Gospel of Peace. . . .”
My day to day decisions in how I walk out my relationship with God and those around me will determine my effectiveness in my life and the ministry that God had called me to.
Thank God for these flexible, durable, manure-resistant boots that provide a firm footing!