Be Careful How You Walk

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

My lower back has caused me problems for well over ten years.  When I was younger it would just flare up every now and then and remind me of my mortality.  I know this is cliché, but ever since I turned forty I’ve had a constant ache that won’t go away.  Somedays are better than others but every morning I’m immediately reminded of my weakness.

Saturday I worked all day in the yard clearing part of our property and cleaning out the flower beds in the front of the house.  I spent about eight or nine hours bending over swinging a machete, shoveling old mulch and pulling out plants and weeds.  I also loaded 47 bags of mulch (30 pounds each) in and out of the car and into the flower beds.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been in pretty severe pain since Sunday.  Just about any movement hurts and I almost pass out when I try to bend over and put on my socks.

Now my movements are very deliberate.  If I drop something I don’t just bend over and pick it up, I position myself properly, making sure there is something sturdy around in case I need to pull myself back up.  Then I bend at the knees, focusing on keeping my back straight the entire way down and back up.  If I’m sitting at my desk and I need something just out of arms reach, I don’t just stretch and reach.  I make sure to roll the chair closer so I can keep my back straight and avoid leaning forward.  When walking up or down stairs my focus is on each step, being sure to keep my foot in the center to avoid slipping or jarring.  Anytime I get in a hurry and fail to pay attention I have an instant reminder in the form of sharp pain in my lower back that will take my breath away.

The letter to the Ephesians focuses a great deal on our “walk”.  Chapter two verse two refers to our former walk, focused on sin according to the course of this world.  In verse ten, Paul tells us that we are His workmanship, created for good works so that we can walk in them.  In chapter four verse one, Paul implores us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling and goes on to describe the characteristics of that walk.  In verse seventeen, we are told to no longer walk like the Gentiles, darkened, ignorant, callous and focused on sensuality, greed, and impurity.  Chapter five verse two encourages us to walk in love just like Jesus and verse eight tells us to walk as children of Light.  And sort of like a summary, verse fifteen tells us to be careful how we walk, making the most of our time, understanding the will of the Lord.

God has gone to great lengths to teach us how to walk.  He has described what a life dedicated to Christ looks like and He has provided encouragement as we leave behind our life of sin and rebellion and start walking with Him.  He has also, in His great wisdom, provided painful reminders when we take a wrong step, head down the wrong path, or try to revert back to walking with the world.  The consequences of sin should provide those sharp and pointed reminders that we are not in line with the will of God.

Our job is to be careful, to be watchful, to be observant in our walk.  Who do we surround ourselves with in this life and what kind of influence do they have on us?  What do we fill our minds with and is it leading us closer to God or farther away?  What are we pursuing?  How do we spend our time?  What are our priorities?

When we get up every morning and start our day, what deliberate steps do we take to ensure we are walking with God?  Do we direct our paths or do we allow the world around us to push us along in whatever direction it happens to be heading at the moment?  Are we living life at such a rapid pace that we fail to consider the consequences of the decisions we make and the path we are taking?

Slow down.

Walk with a purpose.

Disappointment

Disappointment is inevitable in a sin-cursed world.  Disappointment is all around each of us in our own lives or in the lives of others.  Why is this so?  Why is there such a thing as a “sin-cursed world” and is the disappointment in it necessary?

We see how this all came to be as a result of Adam and Eve rebelling against God and sinned, there were consequences.

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:16-19; NKJV).

And it is not just man and woman that is affected but creation in its entirety.

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:19-22; NKJV).

 Sorrow.  Pain and Suffering.  Sweat or Tears.  Physical Death.  These are the results of sin.  These all certainly sound disappointing if you don’t understand the why of them.  But in understanding the why we know that all of this is intended to drive us to God and His Son.

In doing so, we live today in the context of eternity and we understand that what is going on here is but a moment and the disappointment of this life does not measure up to the tremendous eternal rest and gain in Heaven.

But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”  (Hebrews 11:16; NKJV)

God is in His country which is Heaven.  Heaven is the country to which those who believe and obey the Gospel of Jesus go. We get to see His face!  What we will not see is deception, lies, temptation, sin, suffering, or death.  These things do not exist there!

In knowing this, we can then bring encouragement into the lives around us as they might be experiencing disappointment in this world.  We can demonstrate the great hope we have in Jesus and in our expectant Heavenly home.  We can live in such a way that clearly articulates “there is no disappointment in Heaven” and “I sure would like to help you get there”!

This will shine a light into someone’s life and if they let you help will lighten their load as they go.

The Calling and The Walk

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,”  Ephesians 4:1

I’ve been listening to a series of lessons by Andy Cantrell on the letter to the Ephesians.  I’ve provided the link below if you’d like to take a listen.  Among other things, Andy did a tremendous job in identifying and simplifying the structure of the letter.  I believe that if you can get an overall picture of a book it allows you to understand, and apply, the more specific instruction in a powerful way.

Andy looked at chapter four verse one as the pivot point in the letter.  Paul implores the Christians to “walk…worthy of the calling.”  Chapters one through three describes the “calling” and chapters four through six describe the walk.

When you think about the “calling” of the Christian, what do you think of?  Do you think of our behavior, our language, our attitude?  Do you think of being kind and generous and loving?  Maybe you think of the things we are not to do, avoiding sinful behavior.  That is how I used to think but in reality I was thinking of the walk.  Paul implores us to walk worthy of the calling, meaning the walk and the calling are two different things.  The calling is the “why” behind our walk.  In other words, our behavior, our language, our attitudes, avoiding sin is because we have been called.

So how does Paul describe our calling?  Well, we’d have to discuss all the amazing things in Ephesians chapters one through three and we don’t have time for that in this short article.  I’d like us to consider one of the recurring themes or phrases from the first three chapters.

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  1:6

“to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”  1:12

“who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” 1:14

In addition, notice how often God’s glory is referenced.

“the Father of glory” 1:17

“according to the riches of His glory” 3:16

“to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” 3:21

One of the essential attributes of our calling is God’s glory.  The Greek word for glory (doksa) literally means “what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth.”  The mercy and grace and kindness and love that God has lavished upon us should result in praising God’s glory.  The planning and execution of our redemption should result in praising God’s glory.  Our entire purpose is to generate praise of His glory.

So why do I walk a certain way?  Why is my behavior and language and attitude different than the world around me?  Why are my relationships with my wife and kids and co-workers and neighbors different?  Why should I try to live up to a certain standard, trying to understand what pleases God?  Because I’ve been called to bring praise to the glory of God.

This understanding of my purpose, of my calling changes things.  All that I do in my walk is not about me.  It is not about being better than those around me.  It is not about avoiding eternal punishment or securing my place in heaven.  My walk is about God’s glory and when I conduct myself in a worthy manner I will help generate praise to God.

As we get up and get ready to go out and face the world this morning, let us consider what our walk says about our Father in heaven.  Do our lives praise the glory of God?

http://www.casonlanechurch.org/sermons?title=&y=0&se=0&sv=0&sp=80

Psalm 90

I encourage you to read Psalm 90 today. The text is below at the end of this post. What I see in this Psalm, this prayer of Moses, is a contemplation on the eternal nature of God in contrast to the fleeting life of a human being. We are but dust, like grass, and we soon fly away. God, however, is from everlasting to everlasting. For us 70-80 years is a long time, but 1,000 years is like “yesterday when it is past” to God.

Since this is a prayer of Moses, Moses makes certain requests of God. Take note of what he is asking God.

Show us goodness in our lives, not just the bad things. We know that God’s wrath is real, and light of His holiness exposes our secret sins. Moses asks for God to show us not only His wrath and justice but also His goodness in our lives. He also requests for God to “establish” the work of his hands. Help us accomplish our plans and purposes and dreams. I like the specific request in verse 15 for God to “make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.”

He wants God to help him “number” his days, so that he would gain a heart of wisdom. Lord, help us appreciate how fleeting life is, and to cherish every moment we have here on the planet. I have talked to several men and women in my age group recently, and I’m hearing the same things. You have kids growing up, graduating, going to college, thinking of finding a spouse, etc. On the other hand your parents are aging, and you are seeking to help them in that stage of their lives. But then you are seeing your own life really racing by. You begin to see what those older folks told you decades ago about how life just blows right by you, while you were thinking at the time, “Yeah, yeah, I know….” Well, life does really just scream right passed you like an Indy car. So, Moses as an old man is keenly aware of how fast life goes by, and he shows us the wisdom of asking God to help us cherish each day, each moment.

 

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psa 90:1-17)

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

What was it you disputed among yourselves?

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”
(Mark 9:33-37)

The apostles couldn’t hide anything from Jesus. Along the road on the way to Capernaum, they were arguing over who the greatest was among them. Jesus was not close enough to hear, or at least they thought. Once they get to the city and go into the house, Jesus asks them about it. I wonder if they blushed and really got embarrassed. Probably so. They were found out.

Can you imagine how foolish they felt arguing about this topic when the Lord, the Messiah and the Son of God is standing with them? Jesus humbled them by taking a child and setting him in the middle of the apostles. Look at him, look at this child, this is where greatness is in the kingdom of heaven.

Now we bring this to 2018, and think about the fact that we are no different than the twelve apostles when it comes to bragging and fussing over who is the best, brightest and greatest. We have better ways to do it, too. The Internet, social media, phones, etc. all give us great opportunities to display our “greatness.” Beware, though, and be reminded of what Jesus said, what makes someone great in Jesus’ eyes is 180 degrees in the opposite direction from what the world says is great.

There is a time for self-promotion in the workplace. There is a time to showcase your work, skill and ideas, but keep in mind about what Jesus said in this passage. You can get so caught up in that “one-up-man-ship” that you lose sight of what greatness really is. Many times your work will speak for itself (Proverbs 22:29). As an example, God exalted Joseph in the presence of Potiphar, Joseph’s character and work was his testimony.

Take a good look at a little child today, maybe your son or daughter or grandchild, and remember that’s where the greatness is in Jesus’ eyes.

Moving in Two Directions

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:7-8)

In this passage we see the Lord and the Devil moving in two different directions. The Devil is fleeing and and Lord is drawing near. This explains why the Devil flees, because God is coming!

We see all the Devil is doing in this world, and what he has done in our own lives, and he can be pretty scary. He is described in Scripture as the adversary, the prince of the power of the darkness, the enemy, the accuser of our brethren, a dragon, a serpent, a lion, the god of this age, the evil one, the father of lies, a murderer, the tempter, and the ruler of this world (Matthew 4:3; 13:38-39; John 8:44; 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9-10).

When I think of a lion, a ruler, a god, and a dragon, the thought of those beings fleeing anything is foreign to me. But when the Lord is coming, that great dragon and roaring lion runs away! The Devil is powerful, he has brought the whole world under his influence (1 John 5:19), but He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

If you submit to God, resist the devil, and draw near to God, the Lord promised two things: He would come near, and the Devil would run away. That’s a promise. God doesn’t lie. Sometimes we get too caught up in the power of the Devil and forget how much more mighty the Lord Jesus is.

He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
(1 John 3:8)

Wise Words Have Sharp Points

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
(Ecclesiastes 12:9-12)

We are about to wrap up our study of the book of Ecclesiastes in our congregation. At the end of the book, Solomon speaks of wise words.

Here a few quick thoughts from this passage:

These wise words come from One Shepherd. I would assume that Solomon is talking about the Lord here as the source of these wise words. If someone is sharing sound wisdom and truth with you, that truth did not originate from the person counseling you.

The “Preacher” had to take great care and time in knowing, preparing and delivering these wise words. He “weighed,” “studied,” “arranged,” “sought out” these words of wisdom from God with “great care.” Solomon, like Timothy, was diligent to be approved by God because he handled God’s word with the utmost reverence (2 Tim. 2:15). When we are seeking to teach and advise others, we must show the same thoughtful care.

Wise words have sharp points. They are “goads,” which I believe is a sharp implement used to prod oxen on while plowing. Being prodded with a sharp pointed tool is not pleasant, but it moves the ox in the direction he needs to go. God’s word is called a sharp two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), and those points hurt at times, but they are moving us in God’s direction. They are also sharp points in that they are well-driven nails. Nails are used to fasten things together to provide stability. Again, those sharp points from God’s word may hurt at times, but they are setting our feet on stable, solid ground.

Beware of anything beyond these. Beware…a strong warning to watch out for something dangerous and harmful. Watch out for advice and the words of worldly wisdom that go past what God has already given you.

James’ Words for the Rich and Powerful

Today’s words come from the book of James, and the focus is those who have power and possessions. There are some blunt words and clear warnings given by James to those with the funds and the status.

Read these words of wisdom and reflect on what God has to say to those of us in positions of authority. What is God saying to us when we have the blessings of material goods in our lives? Authority and money are great tools and wonderful blessings that can be used for God’s glory; they don’t have to be used like most people use them (abuse them).

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
(James 1:9-11)

The rich man must remember that all those “pursuits” will fade away. Use them, enjoy them and share them, but remember they are all going to perish.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
(James 2:5-7)

Being affluent doesn’t mean anything to God when it comes to salvation. In fact many times it gets in the way, because the rich often are too proud and self-sufficient to see a need for salvation. We may be rich in funds, but we must become poor in spirit.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(James 2:13-17)

One of the very reasons we work and get wages is to have funds to help others in need (Ephesians 4:28). If you have this world’s goods, remember to look around for those who are lacking those goods, and share your blessings with them. Don’t do it out of guilt, do it out of gratitude. Show your faith by how you use your cash.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17)

Plans and life itself all change in a millisecond. James bluntly calls us arrogant when we make all our plans without regard for God, His will, or the brevity of life.  Are you doing the Lord’s will today? Tomorrow may not arrive.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6)

Finally, God pays attention and knows very well who is being oppressed and abused. Those who use authority, status and money to hurt other people will be judged by a holy and just God. If the workers cannot cry out to their bosses for mercy, they can certainly cry out to God for mercy and He will hear them. Use your power, status and money to be a protector and provider of others. You know it shouldn’t have taken unions, lawsuits and riots to force businesses to do the right thing for the workers. If those who are running businesses and managing employees would honor God and read James, then they would naturally work to create a safe working environment and pay fair wages.

Wake Up O Sleeper

But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
(Ephesians 5:13-14)

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
(Romans 13:11-14)

Sometimes its just hard to wake up. We’re groggy, stiff, not fully aware, and shuffling across the floor to the bathroom. Certainly not ready to have coherent conversations, and certainly not ready to be at peak job performance! After a shower and a “few” cups of coffee, then we begin to feel human again.

Here are three occasions where Paul tells the Christian to “wake up.” They all are connected to living holy lives. As you can see in these Scriptures he talks about waking up from the dead, waking up from a drunken stupor, and waking up by turning on the light.

The first picture is of a Christian zombie, he is alive but dead. Dead in sinful works. Dead to righteousness. He’s walking around, and he makes the claim to be a Christian but the life of God is not in heart.

The second image is of a drunken man stumbling around. The alcohol has taken over his brain, and his motor skills and brain power are completely taken away.

The third image is of waking up and turning on the light. I imagine that most people don’t sleep with the lights glaring in their faces. Usually people sleep at night, and its dark. Paul compares the darkness to living in sensuality and wickedness. We have to turn the lights on through the word of God and expose the darkness. It’s not to be nighttime for the Christian, we are to be living in the light of Christ in the daytime, living holy lives and making pure choices.

For us, Paul says, it’s time to wake up!

  1. Wake up and let Christ shine on us. Come to Him in prayer and ask Him to shine His light upon you. Shine on our darkness, Lord. Bring your light into our hearts (2 Cor. 4:6).
  2. Wake up to the company you are keeping. Paul said, “Bad company ruins good morals.” Part of waking up spiritually is deciding to choose new friends and influences.
  3. Wake up to the environment you are choosing to live in. Wake up to the provisions you are making for the flesh. If you are tempted to drink, stay away from bars, your drinking buddies and the liquor aisle. If you are tempted to lust and commit sexual sin, you will have to create a different environment that helps encourage purity, not sensuality.
  4. Wake up to the fact that time is precious and limited. “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” “You know the time,” Paul said. I love this. It’s just like when you go in to your son or daughter’s room and ask, “Do you know what time it is? You’re late, you need to get up and get going!” When that has happened to us, we might get that adrenaline rush along with panic and rush around to get out the door to work or school (or church). We know what time it is and we are laser focused! That same has to be for the Christian, we have to constantly be reminded “what time it is.” We must seek with God’s help and with the help of our godly friends to keep that sense of urgency. Time is of the essence.