Saturday, November 19, 2016

arise and shine

I just finished reading through Ephesians and found many wonderful nuggets of wisdom and important aspects of living for God. The writer, the Apostle Paul, poured into this letter much advice and directives for those in the church at Ephesus. He answered some questions that many of us still have today. How does God expect us to live this life? How are we to live as Christians?  One thing that really stood out to me was contained in chapter 5 of Ephesians. This is an important detail that I found Paul expressing. We are to live wisely. 

Ephesians 5:14-17  
14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

How do we live wisely?  By understanding what the Lord's will is. The Message Bible states verse 17 as:  Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.  This is a grand and serious challenge.  We, as Christians, often take the stance that we are doing good as long as we pray a little, read a bit of the Bible, attend church regularly and give once in a while to those in need. These are all good things, but are we living in a manner that is wise and careful. Do we make the most of every opportunity? Do we understand that evil is around us and ready to take advantage of every opportunity that we do not take?  Do we realize that it is foolish to not understand the will of the Lord?  There is a rule of opposites in the statement in verses 15 and 17. Unwise is the opposite of wise and foolish is the opposite of knowing God's will. 

How do we understand what the Lord's will is so we do not live foolishly?  I guess that comes down to the careful and wise part.  We would be wise to pursue the heart of God. We would be wise to pursue a deeper relationship and understanding of God. We would be wise to spend more time in prayer and in study of God and His Word. We would be wise to put God first. We would be wise to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. 
(Matthew 6:33) When do this, He takes care of us and adds to us the things we need for daily living. He meets our needs and provides for us.  

In Luke chapter 12: 35-37, Jesus advised his disciples to be watchful.
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.  

We need to be ever watchful, if we are going to be obedient and ready to act when we hear God's voice. We need to be listening and ready to act when He speaks.  This scripture context is about the coming of the Bridegroom, or the return of Christ for His Church, but the principle can apply to our daily preparedness to do the work God has prepared for us. His will is that we are ready to act and be His body: arms to love, hearts to care, mouths to speak, feet to walk and do. Have we made time to be in tune with Him before we even walk out the door so we can hear His voice, His spiritual unction to act?  Do we hear him say, "Pray for that person."  or "Give them what the need."   We need to be 'dressed and ready" to act when he speaks. That is His will. When He asks us to do something, we need to hear Him and act upon His directive so we can accomplish what He wills.  
1 John 2:20 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 
We can know truth when we follow the anointing and leading of the Spirit of God. We can find Him and know His will.  We must be ever watchful and awake to the Spirit of God that dwells in us.  We must not be complacent in Spiritual matters.  
We have read and quoted "Pray without ceasing." (I Thessalonians 5:17) many times. We have a knowledge of the Word and a knowledge of what needs to be done, but we aren't always careful to do it.  I think about many things in our lives that we know need to be done, but are often easily put aside and ignored until it becomes relevant. How many kids hear their parents tell them to do something but keep playing or doing their own thing until the parents make it very important to accomplish the chore or job given by getting louder or taking away privileges?  The threat of punishment or loss of privileges makes accomplishing the chore of utmost importance.  I can think of several things around my house right now, that I have put off or haven't done but know I need to get done.  Those jobs will become really important before long when they demand attention.  I don't want to be a follower of Christ who waits and ignores the small things that God is asking of me.  I don't want to miss out on opportunities to be used of God, because my agenda was too important or I was too busy with my own ideas to hear His voice until He has to make it so loud we have no choice to listen.  I do not want to give evil a chance to take away my opportunity to let Christ shine.  

If we are careful and wise in the way we live by understanding His will, we will be ready to accomplish many things for the Kingdom of God. We will be ready to speak, ready to act, ready to love those we come across. We will be the hands and feet of Christ to this world around us.  We will respond more to voice and the Spirit promptings that will cause us to act to change the little things around us and eventually make the big difference that the Church is supposed to make. Each part of the Body would be listening and acting and living in wisdom. This would make the difference to the world. This would be accomplishing the great things of God in this world. This would be a different church all together. 
We can understand the parable of the talents in Luke 19 that when we are faithful in the small things, we can be given more opportunities to be faithful in bigger things. 

So  this scripture that began with “Wake up, sleeper,  rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” makes a lot more sense. The people of God needs to awaken and rise.  We need to be dressed and ready to do His will.  Christ will shine on us when we are ready to go and do His will. We need and understanding of His will so we are not living foolishly and in an unwise manner.  Take advantage of every opportunity that will allow Christ to shine. 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

finding strength

I always find encouragement when I read Psalms. There are so many verses that speak to being human, being in need of a Savior, and in need of hope. I find there are verses that speak to my soul, to my heart and lift me up when I need strength, hope, faith, and endurance. I am always amazed that I can turn to Psalms, start reading and find God speaking to me, to my concerns, and to my heart.
Psalm 18 has always been one of my favorite, especially when life seems to want to overtake and overwhelm me. I can find strength and hope in knowing the Lord is my strength. He will uphold me and carry me through.

Psalm 18:1-2

I love you, Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

David was human just as we all are. He faced real troubles and real emotions. He endured many struggles and consequences of his own faults. He was still the apple of God's eye. God loved him, blessed him and strengthened him. David was able to find strength in the Lord.  In 1 Samuel 30:6, when he felt alone and abandoned by everyone around him, He strengthened himself in the Lord.  Many times, I feel like that is why Psalms exists. We can read these beautiful words to find the strength God has for us to remain faithful and strong. He does not leave us alone. He is always there. We can find Him in His Word, when no one else is there.  

God promises us in His word that he will strengthen us and lift us up. We need to trust Him in His promise.
Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

We can find strength in God's word, We can find hope.  All we need is to turn to Him, turn to His word and allow Him to perform His work in us. He will provide the strength we need to endure. 

Then, we can say, just as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.