Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

Ephesians 6:21-24

 

The next passage in Ephesians chapter 6 is the passage that tells us to put on all of God’s armor. I’m going to skip this one because it was the first passage I blogged on, more than a year and a half ago. If you would like to read it, the blog is titled, All of God’s Armor. Also, in case you don’t have time to go back and read it, I will be launching a new Podcast by the same title, Cathedral Made of People, that should debut in about a week, and The Armor of God will be my first topic.

So, this blog will finish up the book of Ephesians, and I want to look at Paul’s final greeting. In the first 2 verses of his final greeting Paul says, 21 To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.” Ephesians 6:21-22. Paul is sending this letter to the church at Ephesus with Tychicus, I call him Tych for short, and his main reason for sending him was to let this church group know how he was doing.

It is important for those of us who claim the name of Christ to keep tabs on each other, especially if it is someone we support. This is one reason I don’t understand Christians who won’t use social media. Yes, there is a lot of bad on social media, and in many ways, it was set up for evil intentions, but let’s take advantage of it. We need to join all the social media platforms and flood them with scripture, encouragement, and inspiration. Let’s take social media for Christ! Especially use memes, their algorithms can’t filter most of them out, they just show up as a picture. But, also use it to keep tabs on each other. Post how you are doing. Tweet when you have had the privilege of leading someone to the Lord. If you speak before a group live stream it, then post the video. Put up prayer requests, answered prayer, and victories. Let your “friends” and “followers” know what and how you are doing, and how they can best support you.

Nine years ago, God told me to write a book, so I did, which is now available on Amazon. While writing it I started realizing how much we need to use these platforms to get the word out. I am now working on 2 other books, I have this blog, I am on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and will be releasing a podcast in the next week or so. I spend all my spare time, and often create spare time, writing and trying to encourage others. So, join me! Sit down at your computer or relax on the couch with your smartphone and start spreading the gospel. Because, if you noticed, Paul didn’t just send Tych to tell them how he was doing, he sent him with a letter to let them know how he was doing and to instruct and encourage them.

Paul starts out verse 23 by saying, “Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters.” So, he starts out by wishing them peace. The word peace is used 362 times in the Bible. One of the names used to describe God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Shalom, which means The Lord is Peace. I did a series of blogs on the names of God over a year ago and you can go back and read this one if you would like, the title of it was, Names of God – Jehovah Shalom. The important thing is that the meaning of this name isn’t The Lord Brings Peace, or The Lord Gives Peace, the name means The Lord IS Peace. True peace only comes from God. Jesus said in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” The peace that we receive from Christ cannot be found in the world, it is true peace. God’s peace surpasses all human understanding, in fact, we read in Philippians 4:7, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? His peace will guard our hearts and minds. This is what we need. The peace that will protect us.

Guarding our hearts is essential in the Christian life. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The prophet Malachi tells men twice to guard our hearts to stay loyal to our wives in Malachi 2:15 and Malachi 2:16. And, as we saw in Philippians 4:7, God’s peace will guard our hearts. In fact, in the model prayer that Christ taught His disciples he said to pray, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13. When Christ told us to pray “don’t let us yield to temptation,” He was telling us to pray that God will, “guard our hearts.”

The next thing Paul says in the second half of verse 23 is, “and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness.” He says that God the Father and Jesus Christ will give us love with faithfulness. In the same way that God IS Peace, God IS Love. Look at 1 John 4:8 which tells us, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God can give us Love because He IS Love! But not just love, he says love with faith. How did he end 1 Corinthians 13? He said, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Paul ends this letter by saying, “May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 6:24. Do you remember how he began this letter? He said, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” Ephesians 1:2. Paul began and ended his letter with grace and peace. These are two things that are essential to the Christian life. We need Gods grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding as our foundation, then we will have a firm foundation to build on.

So, I say to you, may the Peace, Love, Faith, and Grace of God be with you this week, and may you serve God with all you have.

Slaves and Masters

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Slaves & Masters

Ephesians 6:5-9

 

Slavery is a touchy subject, so let me start by saying that this verse is not condoning slavery in any way, shape, or form. Paul is simply using something that is common to them as an illustration. And, the truth is that their slavery was not slavery as we know it. In fact, the word used in this verse is the Greek word, δοῦλος doûlos, (doo’-los) which means, “bondservant.” Slaves in that day were basically indentured slaves. They owed someone a debt and had to work for that person until it was paid off. Sometimes, once that “slave” was freed, they chose to stay on with the master because he was fair and kind. At this point, the master would put the slave’s earlobe against the door post and drive a stake through it, identifying them as his doulos, or voluntary servant for life. If you look throughout the New Testament you will see where Paul, Peter, James, and Jude identified themselves as a doulos for Jesus Christ. If you’d like to know more about this term, I wrote about it in one of my earlier blogs titled, Doulos.

So, now that we have the whole master/slave thing out of the way, what exactly is Paul saying here? Like I said earlier, Paul is just using something that they can relate with to get a point across. This “slave/master” relationship can carry over to our “employee/employer” relationship. Unless you are self-employed you have, at some point, complained about your employer, and possibly even if you are self-employed. I wish I wrote full time, but I do have a day job, I manage a retirement community. I started with them about 5 years ago. This is a large company with retirement communities all over the United States and Michelle and I started working there a few years after it had been bought by an investment group. For its first 35 years, it was a family run company, but they sold it when the owner needed to retire, himself. For the first two and a half years we worked there, it was run much like the owner ran it. There were 2 management couples per community who lived on site. Then, about two and a half years ago when the government started raising minimum wages, the company had to recoup those costs, so they went to a 3-manager model, fired one fourth of their community managers, moved us all off-site, and gave the workload that had been done by 4 managers, to 3 managers. Then, they fired half of their Regional Directors and gave some of the work they used to do to us General Managers. I’d like to say that I never had a bad thought, or said a bad word about them, but I’m human. Michelle wasn’t fired but was made Office Manager at a huge reduction in pay and, coupled with the costs of living off-site, we lost one-fourth of our income, literally overnight.

So, yes, I have been guilty of talking poorly about my earthly “master”, but the one thing I did right is I made a concerted effort to keep working for them as unto God. Look at Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” He doesn’t say to obey them if they treat you right, he says to serve them as you would serve Christ. He goes on in verse 6 to say, “Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.” Ouch! So, serve them like you would serve Christ whether they are watching or not. Why? Because Christ is always watching, plus it will show in your work. In today’s world, you not supposed to talk openly about Christ at work, but your boss will know if you are truly living for God and he will be watching. The pastor I grew up under, used to always say that your life may be the only Bible some people ever open. They are watching whether you know it or not.

Verse 7 tells us to, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ask yourself, “do I work enthusiastically?” “Does it look to others like I enjoy my job, or that it’s a chore?” In verse 8 he reminds us, “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” We will be rewarded if we don’t falter. We need to stay the course and endure to the end. Remember what Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Paul only gives one verse to the masters, he says, “Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” Ephesians 6:9. So, for those of us who are Christian bosses, we need to be fair and not threatening. We need to remember that we serve God, not man.

Don’t forget, those of us who are in a management position, we are servants and masters. We need to work for our master the way we would want those under us to work for us. We need to remember that our masters who are riding us for results are being ridden by their masters. So, if our master isn’t a Christian, and doesn’t act like one, we need to serve him as we would Christ that much more. And, if they ever ask you why you serve with such a good attitude, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” 1 Peter 3:15. Remember, you can’t get in trouble for sharing the gospel at work if you are simply answering a question that your boss asks. Just sayin’.

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Instructions to Children and Their Fathers

Ephesians 6:1-4

 

My father was a hard man. He was always a Marine at heart, even though he only served a couple of years in the reserves. He was demanding, loud, overbearing, and was never wrong. My dad loved to argue more than anyone I ever knew. For most of my life, including my adult years, I did not honor my father. I feared him as a child, hated him as an adolescent, and was apathetic toward him as an adult. Then one day I got the news that dad had brain cancer and only had one year to live, he was only 63 years old. I took my family down to see dad several times that year, even though we lived about a thousand miles away. During that last year of his life, I got a chance to get to know my dad. Sad to say, it took the brain tumor’s help, it softened his personality quite a bit. I got to hear about some of the struggles of his youth and some of the events that shaped his personality. In fact, it seemed that his lack of respect for his parents was partly what fueled his personality.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. It talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, as we saw last week, it talks about relationships between servants and masters, God and His Church, and many others. Today we are going to look at this relationship between children and their parents, as well as fathers and their children.

Paul starts Ephesians chapter 6 by saying in verse 1, “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do.” We often focus on the next verse, but let’s take a minute to look at this one. Why should children obey their parents? Because they belong to Jesus, and it’s just the right thing to do! When you truly belong to Jesus, you will want to do what is right. As Bob Jones Sr. used to say, “Do right until the stars fall.”

After telling us that it’s just the right thing to do, he reminds us that it was the first commandment given with a promise attached. And, he rewrites that promise in verse 3, “If you honor your father and mother, ‘things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.’” So, God told us from the beginning that, if we honor our parents, we’ll have a good, long life.

Take a minute to look at the 10 Commandments. Honor your father and mother is the fourth commandment. The first three commandments are all about honoring God, then honor your parents comes before don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet your neighbor’s wife, and don’t covet your neighbor’s stuff. Here’s the thing, if we honor God, and honor the parents He put over us, all these other things will fall into place.

In my day job, I employ several young people. Let me start out by saying that Millennials often get a bad rap and I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this, although many of them have earned that reputation. As a whole, they can be very demanding and quite self-centered and disrespectful, but I have to say that this doesn’t apply to all of them. I have a couple of teenage sisters who work for me and are a delight. They are extremely well mannered and very respectful to authority, and elders in general. So, what makes these two young ladies so pleasant, well in my observation I can only see one difference between them and the rest of the young people, their dad was career military, so I’m sure they were raised with some discipline.

Here’s the thing. Many people my age and a little younger were raised by parents who followed the advice of Dr. Spock and others who said that you shouldn’t spank your child, you should reason with them. These kids who were reasoned with by their parents have grown up to reason with their kids, and their kids have become entitled, demanding self-centered brats. These kids don’t honor their parents, they look at them as their friends, their equals, not their authority.

Now, look at verse 4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Notice it doesn’t say for kids to honor their father unless he provokes you to anger, this is a separate thing. I justified my attitude toward my dad for many years by this verse. I said that I didn’t have to honor him because he provoked me to anger, but that is not at all what this is saying, I was taking it out of context to justify what I wanted to do…sound familiar? Paul has told us to honor our parents, now he is warning fathers not to provoke his kids to anger, then he goes on to say to bring them up in Godly discipline and instruction. Disciplining and instructing are not provoking your kids, it’s teaching them to do right. The Bible never says, “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” it says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24. If you love your child, you will discipline them. If your toddler is trying to stick a fork into an electrical outlet, you will smack their hand, so they know not to do that.

Going back to my father, had I done the biblical thing and just honored him throughout my life I would have had a different view of him, and that could have changed his personality. My dad died at 64 years of age when I was only 39 and my boys were 12 and 16. Fortunately, my sons’ relationship with their grandfather was somewhat better. He would play pool with them and he taught them to shoot and use gun safety in his backyard shooting range. But, think how much better my life, as well as the lives of my kids,  could have been if I had just honored my dad.

Honor is not conditional. We are to honor our parents no matter what they do or how they treat us. If you are a Christian father, don’t provoke your kids, just lovingly discipline and instruct them in the ways of the Lord.

Be Thankful & Trust the Plan

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Give Thanks & Trust the Plan

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I wanted to interrupt our study of Ephesians to talk about giving thanks. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving is not turkey day. It’s not about the huge Thanksgiving dinner, even though I love a good Thanksgiving dinner…or any dinner for that matter. It’s not about the football, or the gathering of the family, or even the pilgrims. You see, none of these things are bad, I love food, and family time, and even football, not so much in the last couple of years, but Thanksgiving is a day that our government set aside to give thanks to God for what He has done for us. That’s right our government set aside a day to give thanks to God, so don’t let anyone tell you that this country was not created as a Christian Nation. In fact, just a side note…no charge, the first joint session of the U.S. government consisted of a five-minute speech by George Washington at the Federalist Hall in New York City, followed by all of them walking two blocks to the St. Paul’s Chapel where they prayed for their new country for the remainder of the night. Also, did you know that the first Bibles printed in this country, were printed by Congress to be used in our public schools? Just a little food for thought.

So, what does the Bible say about giving thanks? First, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Did you see that? It says to give thanks in all circumstances. So often we let our circumstances dictate our attitude, but God tells us to give thanks, no matter what is going on around you. Okay, how is this possible? How can we be thankful in every circumstance? Look at Hebrews 12:26-28, 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed so that only unshakable things will remain. 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our, God is a devouring fire.” See what it says? “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable”. No matter what happens on this earth, our Kingdom is unshakable! We can always be thankful because we abide in an unshakeable Kingdom. There’s an old song called, His Word Will Stand, and the lyrics say:

His Word will stand
His Word will stand
Though stars should fall
And mountains turn to sand
Though no man believes Him
Still, God will be true
His promise is sure
His love will endure
And forever His Word will stand.

God’s word will stand…always, even if no one believes it, He is unshakable, and His Kingdom is unshakable. This verse goes on to say that, since we have this unshakable Kingdom, we must be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. We throw around the word awesome a lot, but only God is truly awesome…only God is worthy of our awe. So, when we worship God and give thanks, we please Him, and that should be our ultimate goal in life. Let’s face it, pleasing God is why we are here, that’s why He created us.

Colossians 3:15 tells us, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” This passage is telling us how to live a new life in Christ. It tells us that, as different parts of one body…there’s that unity thing again, we must live in peace, and always give thanks…ALWAYS! The next few verses go on to tell us to let Christ’s message fill our lives. What is the message of Christ? The gospel, the good news. Notice it doesn’t say to read about the message of Christ, or to listen to a pastor preach about the message of Christ, it says we must let it fill our liver, verse 16, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” This verse goes on to say that we need to teach and counsel each other, as one body, and sing praises to God with thankful hearts. Then he ends this thought with verse 17 which says, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” So, if you are a follower of Christ, you are an ambassador, whether you know it or not. You represent your Lord to this world, so give thanks!

We can’t allow the things going on around us to dictate our feelings. Remember, no matter what is going on, God has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” Most of us know this verse, but have you ever read on? Look at the next 2 verses. Jeremiah 29:12-13 say, “12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Don’t just trust in His plan but seek him wholeheartedly! What does Matthew 7:7-8 say? “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Yes, be thankful because God’s got this, but what good is God’s plan if we don’t know what it is? God is not going to force you to do His plan, He wants us to seek after Him and keep on seeking. He wants you to desire to know His plan for your life more than anything. So, to live a happy life, be thankful and seek God’s plan!

Submit To One Another

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Submit To One Another

Ephesians 5:21-33

This is the problem with doing an expositional study, you can’t pick your topics…that means you even have to do the ones you don’t want to. Because of that, I’m going to cover a lot more ground in one blog than I usually do. Normally I only take 3 or 4 verses at a time, but if I did that today, this blog would have been called, “Wives Need to Submit to Their Husbands”. Somehow, I don’t think that would have gone over so well in today’s society, and if we look at it in context that’s, not what it is saying here. So, let’s do that, let’s take it in context but please read the entire blog before you make any judgment.

In order to look at it in context, we need to go back to the beginning…literally, the beginning! Look at Genesis 2:18 where God said, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.’” The KJV uses the word “help meet” here. The Hebrew word used in this verse is the word, `ezer {ay’-zer} which means help, succor, and succor means, “A person or thing that gives help, relief, aid, etc.” So, although we have all heard it from some pastors, the truth is that the wife was not created to be the husband’s servant. She was created to be his helper, to aid him in leading. Now, I feel like I need to stress that men were created to be the leaders, but not at the expense of the woman, even if you are just looking at it physiologically. My degree is in biology, specifically human anatomy, and physiology, and the male body and emotions were created to handle the physical and emotional strains of leading. But we’ll go into that more a little later.

Now, let’s get back to our passage. Paul starts out by saying, “And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In Ephesians 5:21. You see, a lot of “those pastors” like to leave this verse out and skip right to verse 22 that says, “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” But, the fact is that he begins by saying we all need to submit to each other, husbands to wives and wives to husbands. He goes on in verses 23 through 24 to remind us that God did place the husband as the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the Church. I have heard many Christians try to say that this doesn’t apply to us anymore, but the truth is, there is no scripture to back that up. Some try to say that it’s because we are no longer under the curse but there are a few holes in that thinking. First, although the man being the head of the home was part of the curse of Adam, it was also set up that way from creation. Second, the Bible never says we are no longer under the curse of Adam, it says we are no longer under the curse of the law…two totally different curses. Look at Galatians 3:13, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, thirdly, if this didn’t pertain to us today, then why would Paul have written it to the New Testament Church? I know I sound like a broken record, but we need to stop trying to interpret the Bible, so it matches what we want to hear. We need to take it literally, in context, and as a whole.

These two verses also go back to the fact that the husband and wife are one body, as God said back in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Because, in verses 23 and 24, when he tells us that the husband is head of the wife just like Christ is the head of the Church he is saying that, just like Christ is the head and the Church is the body, so, the husband is the head and the wife is the body…we are one flesh.

The next section, verses 25 through 30 are all addressing the man, that’s right, 3 verses for the women and 6 verses for the men, we need twice as much direction. Paul reminds us men to love our wives the way Christ loves the Church, “just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.” Notice it doesn’t say just that Christ died for the Church, it says that He gave Himself for her. You see, Christ didn’t just die for us, He gave everything for us. He left the splendor of Heaven and came to live as a pauper here on this broken earth for us. Yes, we should be willing to die for our wives, but we should be willing to do much more than that. With Christ as our example, we must live for and love our wives as He did the Church. And, why should we do this? To make our wives holy, that means set apart, and clean, and washed by God’s word…to lift up our wives, not to put them down.

As if that wasn’t enough, and knowing how self-centered we men can be, he hits us again. In verse 28 he says, “In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” That’s right love your wife as much as you love yourself…ouch! And then he ends the section to the men by reminding us that we are all part of the Body of Christ.

Now, I would like to go back to verse 21 which says we need to submit to each other. Because, next it says in verse 22, “For wives, this means…” and in verse 25 he says, “For husbands, this means…” So, do you see what it is saying? Submit to each other! For women, it means you need to let your husband lead by God’s authority. And, for men, this means you need to love your wives.

So, why do you think Paul focused on these two things? As I mentioned earlier, part of the curse of Adam was “Then he said to the woman, ‘I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain, you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.’” Genesis 3:16. By nature, women want to take control, but that isn’t how God intended it. Again, that doesn’t mean that men control everything, and women have no say in it. Women were given to us as our help meet. They are there to aid us in leading, but we men have to answer to God for how we lead our families. And, as for men, we don’t love naturally…not like women do. Most women love naturally, it’s like a second nature. You know, that motherly, nurturing instinct, but we men are pretty self-centered. We think that providing for the family is enough, but it isn’t. We need to step back and take a hard look at how we love our wives.

So, to sum it up, submit to each other, follow God’s plan, and love! It doesn’t get much easier than that, right?

Don’t Live Like Fools

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Don’t Live Like Fools

Ephesians 5:15-20

If you grew up in church, especially if you are around my age, you probably grew up singing a song in Sunday School that says, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see,” “be careful little mouth what you say,” and “be careful little feet where you go, because the Father up above is looking down in love.” Sometimes I think we need to go back to those children songs, their so simple and yet so profound.

Our passage today sums this all up. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Just be careful how you live, it’s that simple…Right? He says that we shouldn’t live like fools, instead we should live like the wise. Okay, the first question is, how do we get wisdom? James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” We quote this verse quite a bit, but sometimes we forget to go on from there. Verses 6-8 say, But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” So, yes, ask God, but you must have complete faith and trust in God alone. That means, don’t look for wisdom in Confucius, Plato, or Socrates, and don’t trust your own wisdom. We must remember that true wisdom only comes from God. We may ask God for wisdom, then wonder why He hasn’t given it to us. It’s because we keep trusting in our own wisdom or that of other humans, our loyalty is divided.

So, what are the attributes of true wisdom? James 3:17 tells us, 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.” God’s wisdom is Pure, Peace Loving, Gentle at all times, and always willing to yield to others, in other words, it’s not proud. If your wisdom can’t be described as all these things, it is not of God. But, did you see what else it says? Look at it, “It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds.” It’s not that wisdom brings about good deeds, it is the product of good deeds. Wisdom is produced by us asking God for it and doing good deeds.

So, if we want to live by the Spirit’s power, we first must live like the wise, not the foolish. But this passage goes on to say, 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If you hadn’t noticed, we are living in very evil days, but Paul tells us to look for opportunities and make the most of them.

And, how can we make the most of these opportunities? We need to stop being thoughtless and start understanding God’s plan. As we’ve seen many times before, God’s plan is for us to glorify Him…that’s all! And, here’s how we can glorify God:

Step 1: Don’t be a drunk! Why? It will ruin your life! I can’t begin to tell you how many lives I’ve seen ruined by alcoholism, even in my own family.

Step 2: Be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must empty ourselves of self and allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and rule in us.

Step 3: SING! Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. A study was recently released on the benefits of singing 10 minutes each day. It strengthens your immune system, it is a workout in itself and even strengthens your lungs, it improves your posture, it aids in regular sleep, it is a natural anti-depressant, it lowers stress levels, it improves mental alertness, it can widen your circle of friends, boost your confidence, broaden your communication skills, and increase your ability to appreciate other music. Sing out loud, but also make music in your heart to the Lord.

Step 4: And, most important. In the name of Jesus Christ, give thanks to God for EVERYTHING! Not just the good things…everything.

We all need to ask ourselves daily, am I living by the Spirit’s power? This word, power, is a word we talked about quite a while ago. The Greek word is dunamis, which is the word we derived our word dynamite from. It is an explosive power and an inherent power. It is a power that is inherent within us and only comes from God. In contrast, the word the Bible always uses when it talks about Satan’s power is exousia which means the ability or strength with which one is endued. It is a power that God has allowed Satan to have for a season.

So, pray every day that God will fill you with the Holy Spirit. In fact, pray to be filled to overflowing, so the Spirit will spill out on everyone you come in contact with. Don’t be drunk but allow the Spirit of God to rule in your life. Then sing…sing with joy in your heart to the Lord. If you are singing all day every day, whether out loud or to yourself, you will be filled with joy, you will be doing good deeds which will bring about God’s wisdom in your life, and you will be living in the power of the Spirit of God.

Figure Out What Pleases God

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Figure Out What Pleases God

Ephesians 5:10-14

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. As Christ followers, we were created for one purpose and one purpose only, to glorify God! Isaiah 43:7 tells us, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” This is why Paul says in Ephesians 5:10, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.” Because, this is our job, our only job. It’s like working on an assembly line. You have one job and one job only…don’t screw it up. If we are not pleasing God, we are not doing the one thing He has put us on this earth to do!

Paul started out chapter 5 of his letter to the Church at Ephesus by telling us to Imitate God because we are His dear children. He then goes on to implore us to stay away from all types of sin and to live as people of light. Now he is about to tell us what to do with that light. Look at verses 11-14, 11 Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. 12 It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. 13 But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’”

He starts out by telling us to take no part in the evil and dark deeds of this world, but he goes so much further than that. He says, instead of participating in them, we need to expose them. This is a huge problem with our society today. We are all so afraid of offending someone, that we just say nothing. In fact, we would rather stay blind to it, we have that, “ignorance is bliss” mentality. I am currently working on two more books. One is a follow-up to my first one, Cathedral Made of People, titled, One Church, One Body. The second book my wife and I are writing together, it is titled Life as We Knew It. This book accounts Michelle and my awakening to what is going on in the world today and starts exposing some of it. There is so much darkness in our world that we as Christ followers often would rather stay blind to. But, that’s not what God wants, He wants us to expose the darkness.

Look what God told the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:7-9, “Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.” Do you see what God said? If we don’t warn them, and they die in their sin, their blood is on our hands. Believe me, I know, no one wants to expose that darkness of this world, in fact, no one really wants to know about a lot of it, but as Christ followers, it is our duty to know about it and to shine God’s light on it.

You’re probably asking, as I was, how can I expose this darkness? First, if we are going to expose it, we must recognize it. We need to ask God to open our eyes to what is going on around us. Michelle and I had things happen to us all throughout our lives that should have opened our eyes, but it wasn’t until a recent development that we started connecting all the dots.

Once you have started recognizing the darkness you need to stay away from it and start exposing it. Last week we looked at Living as People of Light. If you are a Christ follower, you have that light within you, now it’s your job to let it out for the world to see.

The verses go on to say that the things these people are doing are so wicked that it is a shame to even talk about them. And, trust me, you would not believe the things that go on among our politicians and celebrities…deplorable things. I won’t get into them today, but be watching for my book, I will be exposing a lot of it. Our passage then says, that “But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them.” You can’t help but see things when they are well lit. Have you ever been out at night in a dimly lit place, then passed a mirror and thought, “I look pretty good tonight”? Only to get home and realize your zipper had been down all night. As I get older I notice it more. I need more light to see things better, but it’s true of all of us. That’s why makeup mirrors are lit, so you can really see what you are working with.

Paul ends this section by saying, “This is why it is said, ‘Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” Friends, we need to Wake Up! We can’t keep living with our heads in the sand! We must know what evil is in this world so we can stay away from it, but also so we can expose it. None of us wants to be responsible for people dying in their sin.

I’m not going to tell you that if you start exposing the evil of this world, everything will be fine. Jesus told us, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. Do you see that? We will have trials and sorrows on earth! In fact, Matthew 10:22 tells us that every nation will hate us, and we will be persecuted! But, I love how Jesus ended John 16:33, He told us to take heart, why? Because He has overcome the world!

If we start exposing the darkness of this world, we will be persecuted, but that’s okay because we serve the King of kings, the Lord of lords, The Great I AM!

Live as People of Light

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Live as People of Light!

Ephesians 5:6-9

At my day job, I have an employee who loves her job and loves Jesus. Every time this young lady is around, the room lights up. She always has a smile on her face and is a joy to be around. She’s one of those people who you can’t help but smile when they are around them. I also have an employee who does not love her job and, if she loves Jesus, it doesn’t show. She’s a Debbie Downer, every time she enters a room, it’s like a cloud overshadows everyone, she rarely smiles and even her posture tells everyone that she doesn’t want to be there. There’s an old song I love by DC Talk that says:

I want to be in the Light
As You are in the Light
I want to shine like the stars in the heavens
Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
Cause all I want is to be in the Light

We all know what Jesus said in Matthew 5:14-16, 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” We are that shining city on a hill! No one in their right mind would turn on a light and then cover it. If you turn on a light it is to light up the house, covering it would just be a waste of energy and senseless. Just like that lamp, we need to let our good works shine for the world to see. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works. James tells us that, if our faith is not backed by good works it is useless.

Today’s passage, Ephesians 5:6-9 tells us, Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So, live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.” Paul starts out by telling us not to be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins. So, what sins is he talking about? Those sins listed in the last few verses, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes. But, it isn’t limited to those sins. We all try to excuse our sin. We tell ourselves that it isn’t as bad as what that other person is doing, or it doesn’t affect anyone but me, but sin is sin whether it is sexual immorality or using foul language. If we give ear to those who try to excuse those sins, we will allow ourselves to fall into them ourselves. That’s why Paul tells us not to participate in the things these people do.

Sin has a way of creeping into our lives undetected. It starts by us listening to those people that say it’s okay to cuss because the Bible only says not to use the Lord’s name in vain. First of all, as we saw last week, the Bible has a lot to say about the words that come out of our mouths, but it goes so much farther than that. You see, once you give in to one sin, it becomes easier to give in to other sins. It’s like with drugs, people don’t just pick up a needle one day and say, I think I’ll try heroin. They start by smoking a little pot socially, then they think that maybe cocaine isn’t that bad. The next thing you know they are trying uppers and downers, then acid. Before they ever know what hit them, they are an addict. That’s how sin works. One day you are justifying your cussing, then you think it’s okay to lie as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else. The next thing you know, you are into porn or adultery or any number of other sins and justifying it all the way.

You see, the Devil is no dummy. He knows that if he planted a seed in your head to rob a bank you wouldn’t do it. But, if he tempted you with some little thing in a store that you want and can’t afford, then can get you to justify in your mind that this big store would never notice it, he’s got you.

Here’s the thing, if you are a Christ follower, Satan has lost you. In John 8:34-36 we read, 34 Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.’” We are free from the power of sin. Satan has no power over us. His only hope is to tempt us so that we will slip and ruin our testimony before the world. He can’t have us, but he can stop us from winning others.

Let’s look at the end of today’s passage. Paul said that at one time we were full of darkness but now we have light from the Lord. 1 John 1:5-7 tells us, This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” There is no darkness at all in God, so if we have the Spirit living within us, we have the light of the world within us.

Paul ends by saying that since we have the light of God within us, we need to live as people of the light! And, why should we do this? Because this light within us, the light of the world, only produces things that are good and right and true…nothing else. So, if what is coming out of you isn’t good and right and true, it is not coming from the light, we are allowing ourselves to be slaves to the darkness again. Just remember what Philippians 4:8-9 says, And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praiseKeep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” Let’s all make it our daily goal to fix our thoughts on these things and live as people of the light!

A Stern Warning

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Stern Warning

Paul just finished telling us to imitate God and now, in the next 3 verses, he is telling us what not to do. Ephesians 5:3-5 says, Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.”

Look at the sins he lists here and the order in which he lists them: Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Greed. Then, after he tells us that we have no business doing these things, he continues the list with Obscene Stories, Foolish Talk, and Coarse Jokes. There are a lot of Christians out there today who believe that it is okay to cuss and use foul language. They say the Bible never says not to cuss, it just says not to take the Lord’s name in vain. Well, those Christians have obviously not read much of the Bible.

In this passage, it lumps dirty stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes with sexual immorality, impurity, and greed so I would say it is pretty important. The Greek word used here that has been translated as foolish talk isn’t used anywhere else in the Bible in this form, but the root words are. The root word translated as foolish is the Greek word μωρός mōrós, mo-ros’, which means, “Foolish, equivalent to impious, godless.” According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. So, this word could be translated as foolish, disrespectful to God, or godless talk, that opens the playing field quite a bit.

There are verses all throughout the Bible that warn about the tongue. Jesus Himself talked a lot about it. Remember the story when the religious leaders were trying to trip Him up and asked why His disciples didn’t observe the tradition of washing the outside of their cup before drinking from it? Let’s look at the last part of Jesus’ answer in Matthew 15:16-20, 16 ‘Don’t you understand yet?’ Jesus asked. 17 ‘Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.’” Jesus told them straight up that what you put into your body doesn’t defile you. He is actually giving a little anatomy lesson here. You see, medically speaking, the digestive tract is outside the body. It is a hole that starts at your mouth and ends at your…well you get the picture. So, anything you eat is technically outside your body. Nutrients are absorbed into the body during the process of digestion, but the food itself is never inside the body. Therefore, what you put into your mouth could never defile you, it might make you sick, but it won’t defile you. Conversely, what comes out of your mouth can definitely defile you. I mean, look at the list, evil thoughts, murder, adultery, ALL sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. I know some are asking, how can I murder with my words? Well, what did Christ say about that? Look at Matthew 5:21-22, 21 ‘You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.’” In fact, we see this all throughout the Bible. What did John say in 1 John 3:15? 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” You see, what you say can and does defile you.

As Christ followers, we must watch what we say. The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11 Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12 The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” Notice he starts out by saying, “For the Scriptures say,” this is because Peter is quoting from Psalms 34:12-16. In both of these passages the Word of God tells us that if we want to live a long and prosperous life on this earth, we need to guard our tongues.

James also had a lot to say about watching your mouth, as my mom always said. Look at James 3:2-12, Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 11 Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? 12 Does a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.” He makes it pretty clear, doesn’t he?

The Pastor I grew up underused to always say something that sums this up so nicely. He would say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people will ever open.” The simple fact is, why do you use foul language? Is it because you don’t want your friends to think you are different? We are called to be a peculiar people in 1 Peter 2:9. That doesn’t mean we should be so weird that people don’t want anything to do with us, we can’t win them if they don’t want what we have, but we also can’t be conformed to this world, Romans 12:2.

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