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.

Experience Jesus and Pass It On

1“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and [a]be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’  4 “Hear, O Israel: [b]The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deuteronomy 6:1-9; NKJV)

What do we teach our children with how we live, or what we say, or what we choose not to say or do?  It matters!  In the above verses, God is calling us to love Him with our whole being.  Jesus had similar words when he answered about which commandment was the greatest.  Jesus said…“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Jesus also said, if we were going to love Him, we needed to follow His commandments (John 14:15) which is not different than what is being taught in Deuteronomy.

So what do we teach our children and do we understand those lessons first come to us to learn and share?  We learn about and teach our children the Nature of God…that is He is True and Living.  We learn about and teach our children the Character of God…that He is Love.  We learn about and teach our children the Will of God…that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to save us…that our God is concerned about our good.

We learn about our God by “knowing” Him.  That isn’t a word that describes being able to pick Him out of a line up, knowing some facts, or remembering some stories.  That word, “knowing”, means “to experience”.  That definition implies that it is an on-going, everyday activity with Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

To “know” Him is to love Him.

To love Him is to obey Him.

That is a lifelong endeavor and in our knowing God we share our experience of Him with our children and they can then also know Him.  What a great connection and what a great Person to ensure our children know.

Take some time today and really consider if you are “experiencing Jesus” today.  With that in mind, think of ways you might better teach your children about Him…to introduce Him into their experience.  I encourage you to find ways to help the children in your life to Know God, Love God, and Obey God.

Now that is an experience of a lifetime!

Spreading the Good News at Home

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:19-20)

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

There’s a lot to ponder on when it comes to this text, as there is any time Jesus said anything. What I want to focus on for today is that Jesus asked this man to go home and tell the good news. Talk about how good God is. Speak of His mercy. Jesus charged him to use his formerly demon-possessed tongue to express the things God had done for him.

Go home and do this. He didn’t say go to a strange location, talk about this to people you’ve never met. Instead, He said go home and tell this to your friends.

That leaves me thinking, and I hope you are thinking about it too, what kinds of things are we talking about at home? What kinds of conversations are we having with our wives and kids?

Often we talk about telling the good news to the world and talking to others at work, at school, and in the community about Jesus. But are we spreading the good news at home? Do we talk like thankful people at home?

You see, Peter’s speech betrayed him. He claimed not to be a friend of Jesus, but his thick Galilean accent betrayed him (Luke 22:59; Matthew 26:73). In the same way, we can claim to be followers of Jesus, but the way we talk at home may tell a completely different story.

Is there “faith talk” at home? Are we constantly talking about the problems, the business, and the negativity that we fail to focus our thoughts and speech on all the good things God has done for us? Are we remembering to say good things about God out loud to our wives and kids?

Jesus told this man to go home and do this. Didn’t Jesus do the same?

saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
(Hebrews 2:12)

Isn’t Jesus asking us to do the same?

The living, the living, he thanks you, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children your faithfulness.
(Isaiah 38:19)

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

Do you have good news to tell at home? Do our wives hear us as God’s men telling the good news? Are we thankful men, grateful for life and God’s blessings? Do our wives see thankfulness on our faces and do they hear God’s praises coming from our tongues?

Go home and tell the good news.

Do Not Grow Weary of Doing Good

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Paul encourages us to not grow weary of doing good. That tells me it is very possible and likely that at some point in my walk with Jesus I’m going to grow weary of doing good. It happens. It happened to the best of the best in Scripture (Elijah, Jeremiah, Paul, Moses, etc.).

Here are some thoughts for why we sometimes grow weary in doing good.

  1. We lose sight of the mission. It may be that we become results oriented, instead of service oriented. For example, we get frustrated because people are not “doing” what we are teaching / influencing them to do. But our job is not on the results end, it is on the planting and watering end. It is God’s job to give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:7).
  2. We feel like we are the only ones doing right. Following God may leave us at times feeling lonely, thinking we’re the only ones who “get it.” Elijah thought that, but God showed him there were 7,000 others. Rest assured that you are not the only person on earth who “gets it.”
  3. We take our focus off God’s glory and begin to direct attention to ourselves. This was Moses’ problem, even though it was temporary (Numbers 20). Moses blew a gasket, and I can understand why when you look at the Israelites’ behavior and attitudes. But for a brief moment, Moses took the glory from God and directed it to himself, and for it he paid dearly. One of the reasons we grow weary in doing good is because we make too much of it about ourselves and not about God. It ain’t about you.
  4. We take on too much. Sometimes, we are trying to do too much by ourselves. We begin to rely on our own strength instead of God’s. And instead of spreading the responsibilities and delegating the work to the body of Christ, we begin to think one body part can do it all. That is not good for you or others. That can get us tired and weary in a hurry! We are to bear one another’s burdens, that means we type-A personalities have to learn to rely on the strength of others (Galatians 6:2).

Remember, Paul said we will “reap if we do not lost heart and give up.” God is there with us. His strength holds us up and renews us. The body of Christ is around us to work side by side in His service.

Do Good

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10; NKJV)

 We are empowered to be a change agent for good in all of our relationships. We stand firm on the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope of our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. We have a peace that surpasses all understanding in the tranquility of right relationship with the Great I Am. We are free to love others how He has loved us and God will be at work.

The great spiritual battle rages on around us and I pray we will become stronger in it rather than bitter or beaten down. We will be hurt and tired for sure. We will are all at risk of becoming defeated or bitter even when we feel like our hearts and spirit are at their strongest. Yet we have a choice to not allow the devil even an inch, put on the whole armor of God, and allow the love of God to prevail in our choices.

We focus on the steadfastness of the Lord and not the fickle or hurtful people in our lives.

We choose to see His smiling face rather than the downtrodden or frowning faces we encounter.

We concentrate on the majesty of our God and not the messes we find ourselves or those we care about sinking in.

We love people from a position of strength in our loving, abiding relationship with the Lord.

We are the first to forgive and we forgive often and we sow mercy and grace.

We work to find common ground with those in conflict, reminding ourselves of the relationship we have or desire in Christ…that God wants us all in the Book of Life.

We die to ourselves (Galatians 2:20) and in doing so we die to other people’s criticism AND praise and focus only on the glory of God and its revelation in our relationships in love.

No matter the situation, we cannot sow evil and produce good, sow discord and produce unity, sow lies and produce truth, sow sin and produce holiness. Those around us might not understand this and have no interest in seeing it. But if we do good…if we sow repentance, compassion, love…we can trust that the increase belongs to the Lord (1 Cor 3:7) and He is working.

Remember the Golden Rule.

“…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12; NKJV)

Look for the Golden Result. People might just surprise you and return to you what you have given to them. Do good, be different, be a light, be the reason people ask “why do you behave that way”, be ready to tell them your story about Jesus, and trust God!

Sowing and Reaping: Simple, Difficult, Complex

Let’s continue our discussion from yesterday regarding “choices” and “consequences”. We are in control of our choices and we understand that our actions (based on those choices) have consequences. Wrong actions have negative consequences and right actions have positive consequences. This is biblical pattern and the foundation of the discussion in Galatians 6:6-10.

I have to sow to reap.

“The lazy man will not plow because of winter; He will beg during harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4; NKJV); Matt 25

I will reap the same kind as I sowed.

“He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow, and the rod of his anger will fail.” (Proverbs 22:8; NKJV); Job 4:8

I will reap more than I sow.

“They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” (Hosea 8:7; NKJV); Mark 10:29-30

 I will reap in proportion to what I sow.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38; NKJV); 2 Corinthians 9:6

I will reap in a different season than when I sow.

“Be patient…the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.” (James 5:7; NKJV); Matt 5:12

These principles are simple and easy to understand and we know that we are to sow Godly choices, thoughts, and behaviors in order to reap everlasting life. If we sow to the flesh, we will reap corruption and a whole lot of trouble. This is where it can become difficult…in the application.

 We are all living a lifetime of mistakes and so we don’t always sow what we should and find ourselves in trouble. This could be a momentary lapse in judgement or a prolonged choice to seek after pleasures, activities, or interests that are contrary to what God has called us to. Application of this principle is where the rubber meets the road and we don’t always get it right.

This becomes even more complex if we consider the fact we are not living in a bubble and we live each day in the context of our relationships. It is bad enough we hurt ourselves with our bad choices and negative consequences, but we also are in danger of hurting those closest to us. Further, even if we are right where we are supposed to be and making good choices; it might be that those who we have the most interaction with or care about the most are making (or have made) bad choices and their consequences/circumstances impact our lives negatively.

What if someone sows anger into their life and our relationship…do we get to be angry back? What if someone sows judgment, do we get to withhold mercy? No, we don’t. And I am not talking about tolerating sinful behavior, we cannot do that. What I am talking about is not allowing the consequences of that behavior to change how we see our God, His blessings, His peace, or the freedom He provides to love like He loves. If we hold firm and stay close to Him, we will have the reassurance, love, joy, etc. we need regardless of how the consequences of others impacts us. Further, if we are able to reflect the fruit of the Spirit, even if someone is full of the fruit of the flesh, we are right where God wants to us to be in order to be an influence for good. It doesn’t always feel good and it isn’t always easy, but if we are sowing love…we will reap love either today or in eternity. We control our choices…not the choices of others or the consequences associated with those choices. Choose God.

God has chosen us and He has given us a leadership role to fill at home and in the relationships we share with the women in our lives.  Some of us might be the only Godly man some women know and we certainly are the most important to our wives, daughters, and sisters in Christ.  He chose us, He has chosen to redeem us and He has left us here so that we will be blessing to those in our lives.  He is working and He will work for us and with us for the benefit of everyone…He doesn’t want anyone to end up anywhere other than at home with Him.

Abhor What Is Evil

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

It really is a simple concept, isn’t it?  Abhor, detest, or hate evil.  Cling to, adhere to, or cleave to what is good.  Who gets to define evil and good?  It has always been and will always be God.  God, the creator of all things, established good and evil from the beginning and ever since man has been confusing the two.

Why is that?  What motivates us to pervert such a simple concept?  Why do we, “call evil good, and good evil…substitute darkness for light and light for darkness?”  (Isaiah 5:20)

I submit to you that the main reason is shame.  Psychologists and therapists make very good livings trying to help people overcome their shame.  The alcohol and prescription drug industries are fueled by people intent on medicating their shame.  We will do everything we can to avoid shame.

Shame is the product of violating a set of standards that people and society holds.  We manipulate those standards, change laws, redefine marriage, and crucify morality to avoid shame.  We get so wrapped up in marginalizing sin to overcome shame that we fail to see it as a gift from God.  “Guilt is the fact of men doing wrong.  Shame is the God-given response to that fact.” – Andy Cantrell

Even though our culture is in a free fall and godly principles are openly mocked, it doesn’t change the fact that right is right and wrong is wrong.  We deceive ourselves as Christians if we think this is just a problem in the world.  The church faces the same challenge and is slowly being conformed to the world’s way of thinking.  God’s standards are being eroded in the body of Christ and too often we don’t even notice.

Brothers, we can do better…we must do better.

  • We must do better in the things we meditate on.
  • We must do better in the movies we watch.
  • We must do better in the language we use.
  • We must do better in how we treat each other.
  • We must do better in the clothes we wear.
  • We must do better in the priorities we set for our families.
  • We must do better.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24

Jesus lived in a broken world, among sinful people, and was crucified by evil men yet He never compromised His Father’s standards.  We must reach for that same standard, following in His footsteps, being driven by deep appreciation and profound gratitude for our Lord’s sacrifice.

No knowledge of good or evil

And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it (Deuteronomy 1:39).

Little children have no knowledge of good or evil. Sometimes a person would come up to Anna or me when we were holding one of our little babies, and they would ask, “Is he a good baby?” What does that mean? I know what is intended is whether or not a baby sleeps through the night and doesn’t scream his head off. So, if a child has trouble sleeping through the night, does that make him a “bad” baby?

The above passage is referencing the time when the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before inheriting the Promised Land of Canaan. This phrase about children is tucked into the discussion of the parents being punished for their sins. I want you to take note that the children did not have any sins for which they were being punished. Little kids are incapable of sin. What a baby does is neither bad nor good, a baby is a baby. It is neither keeping rules nor breaking them. They, as Moses said, “have no knowledge of good or evil” (please also see Isaiah 7:15-16 and Romans 9:11).

No knowledge of good or evil

If that is the case, why do some argue that babies are “born in sin”?

Children do not inherit the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:20). Cain, Abel and Seth did not inherit the sins of Adam. There are a couple of passages that people may twist and misunderstand (2 Peter 3:16) to say that we are born in sin, but the plain Biblical teaching is that we are born innocent and without any knowledge of good or evil. That of course changes as we grow and learn more about our world. We then all choose the wrong pathway and lose our innocence. But we did not start out this way.

See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

Sin spreads to all mankind, not by birth, but by the choices of each individual (Romans 5:12). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). “All” there does not include babies. Babies cannot choose good or evil, so they by definition cannot be sinners.

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Be infants in evil. Think about that statement, men. Paul is teaching us to become like infants when it comes to evil, but to be unlike children in our maturity level. May this guide our choices in what we put into our minds, what we dwell upon, and the words we say today.