Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Pondering Ephesians 5:3-14

This Week’s PassageBut among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed,because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater —has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:

“Wake up, O sleeper, 
    rise from the dead, 
and Christ will shine on you.”

So this is a longer passage than usual but I thought that the two paragraphs flowed together so I wanted to tackle them together. Still it is a lot to ponder.

As I reflect on this passage a few things stuck out to me…

1) We are God’s holy people – When we believed and were born again our unrighteousness was exchanged for Christ’s righteousness. We went from being sinners who would receive the wrath of God to being saints who would enjoy the presence of God. We became His holy ones – yes still prone to sin but now with a Savior who takes our sin away.

2) We live in a world of unholy people – Unless you live in a monastery you know this to be true. And this passage makes it clear. Every day we face sexual immorality, greed, obscenities, vulgar talk, etc. It is tough to live in an unholy world and not be tainted.

3) We enjoy dabbling in unholiness – It’s kind of like going to the ocean when their is a rip tide warning in effect. We know that we should not go in but that doesn’t stop us from playing in the shallow water. Every year I hear of people who drown because they got sucked into a rip tide – when they knew better than to flirt with danger. That’s what we do – we dabble, we flirt – not even aware of the danger that is waiting to suck the life right out of us.

Paul pleads with us in this passage to REMEMBER and REFLECT on what our life was like prior to Christ. It was darkness! And to REJOICE in the fact that now we are children of light. And to live as children of light. To stop playing with the darkness – experimenting with it to see how much we can get away with and still be okay with God – but instead to do EVERYTHING to find out what pleases the Lord.

So then, here is something to think about: How do you find out what pleases the Lord? Now that is a question worth pondering and worth the time it will take to do it.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:15-20

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (#4)

In chapter 3 of his book Carson discusses Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12…

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of his comments:

(Paul) prays that Christians might become worthy of all that it means to be a Christian, of all that it means to be a child of the living God, of all that it means to be worthy of the love that brought Jesus to the cross…. We are not strong enough or disciplined enough to take these steps ourselves. That is why Paul prays as he does. If the holy God is to count us “worthy of His calling”, we must ask Him for help. (p. 54)

The twofold goal of Paul’s prayer is this: that Christ might be glorified in us, and we in Him. So I must ask you, as i ask myself: When was the last time you prayed with this twofold goal clearly before your eyes, as your obsession, your ultimate concern? (p. 60)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the heart of all our praying must be a biblical vision. That vision embraces who God is, what he has done, who we are, where we are going, what we must value and cherish. That vision drives us toward increasing conformity with Jesus, toward lives lived in the light of eternity, toward hearty echoing of the church’s ongoing cry, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” That vision must shape our prayers, so that the things that most concern us in prayer are those that concern the heart of God. Then we will persevere in our praying, until we reach the goal God Himself has set for us. (p. 62)

Carson shares a great illustration at the end of this chapter that has many applications – one of which is why we must keep eternity ever in mind as we pray lest we lose sight of why we are praying…

In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.

At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Good stuff to think on… I’m just sayin’!

Pondering Ephesians 5:1-2

This Week’s PassageBe imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So the reason that Paul gives as to why we are to be imitators of God is because of how much  we are loved. This takes me back to Ephesians 3:18-19 where Paul is praying that we would be able to grasp just how much we are loved by God. So it would seem that the implications of fully grasping this fact are far reaching – not only will we be “filled to the measure of the fulness of God” but we also be able to imitate God. Probably these go hand in hand. The recurring theme then is the vital importance of “getting it”. Of getting it way down in the depths of our soul that we are inimitably loved  So how to we go from knowing that God loves us to KNOWING that God loves us. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Here are a few things that come to my mind….

Pray – This is what Paul was doing in Ephesians 3:18-19. He was praying for his friends that they would fully grasp the incredible depths of the love of Christ for them. And this is where I think we must begin. We must plead with God to enable us by His Spirit to “get it”. The quest to  KNOW the love of God begins on our face before the throne of God.

Ponder – By and large God’s people today are not a thinking people. We have become lazy and allowed our pastors or SS teachers or favorite bloggers or google search to do our thinking for us. We MUST beging to think deeply about things – and thinking on how God has loved us through the sacrificial death of His Son is a great place to start.

Practice – In other words, allow God to use you to “live a life of love” – to demonstrate the love of Christ in real and tangible ways to the people around you. The theory is this – the more we put into practice what we know about the love of Christ, the more God will expand our KNOWING. Give it a try. What have you got to lose.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:3-14

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (Part 3)

Prior to discussing Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1, Carson talks about the framework that Paul had in mind. Here are a few of his thoughts…

By and large our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately. p.41

If in our prayers we are to develop a mental framework analogous to Paul’s, we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them…. The specific elements in his thanksgiving show  the framework of values he brings to his intercession – and we urgently need to develop the same framework. p.44

Part of what Paul has in mind, as he prays, is this fundamental orientation to the end of the age, to the vindication of God’s people and to God’s retribution on the (ungodly)… If we do not aim for the new heaven and the new earth, many of our values and decisions in this world will be myopic, unworthy, tarnished, fundamentally wrong-headed. To put the matter bluntly: can biblical spirituality long survive where Christians are not oriented to the world to come? And in this context, can we expect to pray aright unless we are oriented to the world to come? p.50

My Comments: 1) As we observe signs of grace in other people and give God thanks for them it seems like it would be a good idea to let those people know how we see God at work in their lives – as a way of encouraging them.

2) There is an old expression that states, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” Clever and catchy cliché – the only problem is that these words are unbiblical. Our hope for the future ought to fuel not only our praying but also everything about the way that we live. It is because we have a future that makes our present joyfully bearable.

I’m just sayin’!

Pondering Ephesians 4:29-32

This Week’s Passage: 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So here are a few things that grab my attention as I ponder this passage:

Do not let… Get rid of… – We have a choice with how we use our words. And we need to be careful with what we let come out of our mouth. One of the things that angers me the  most is when I hear somebody say something hurtful to someone else. This happens a lot more than you might think. Watch what you say!

…according to their needs – This means that we need to understand what the other person’s needs are before we open our mouths. Do they need support, compassion, encouragement? Do they need a word of grace or a word of truth? Do they need hope? Or do they just need to know that someone cares? I think for me that more often than not I am guilty of speaking at people rather than to people and their needs.

Do not grieve… – I’m not sure that we understand that when we say hurtful things we are not just hurting someone we are hurting God – causing His Spirit to grieve. Perhaps if people were more aware of this they would be more careful with what they say.

One the things that I will always remember my pastor Don Chasteen saying is that “Hurting people hurt others.”  It would serve us well to remember this the next time that someone says something hurtful to us. Their words are more of an indictment of themselves than than of us – and it is an indication that they are hurting inside and desperately need us to show them compassion and forgiveness – in the same way that it has been shown to us. When we do this we incarnate the gospel and demonstrate the love of Christ to people in real and genuine ways.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:1-2

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (#2)

Here are a few lessons that Carson says he has learned from more mature believers: (pages 19-38)

1) Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray…. Wise planning will ensure that we devote ourselves to prayer often, even if for brief periods: it is better to pray often with brevity than rarely but at length. But the worst option is simply not to pray – and that will be the controlling pattern unless we plan to pray. If we intend to change our habits, we must start he

2) Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift

– Vocalize your prayers. Articulate them. The energy devoted to expressing your thoughts in words and sentences will order and discipline your mind, and help deter meandering.

– Pray over the Scriptures.Tie your praying to your Bible reading.

– Journal your prayers.If you are writing your prayers you are not day dreaming.

3) Develop a system for your prayer lists... It is difficult to pray faithfully for a large spread of people and concerns without developing prayer lists that help you remember them.

4) Pray until you pray…That is Puritan advice. If we do this we eventually come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in His love, to cherish His will. In the Western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers.

My Comments: All of these are things that I need to pay attention to. But probably especially #4. Which one do you most need to incorporate into your prayer life?

Pondering Ephesians 4:25-28

This Week’s Passage: 25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

The devil may be a lying snake but he is not stupid. He is smart enough to know better than to just barge in and try to wrestle control away from Jesus – who is dwelling in our hearts. He is crafty enough to patiently bide his time, waiting for the right opportunity to get a foot in the door. His strategy is not to tussle with Jesus, because he knows this would be a losing battle, but rather to entice us to relinquish control willingly. He does this with subtlety and cunning. He allows us to get used to the idea of him hanging around before he makes his major play. And then when he does make his move his postion is so entrenched that nothing short of a prolonged spiritual battle can get rid of him. In essence, when we give the devil a foothold to come in to our lives we are asking Jesus if He would leave.

Satan’s strategy has proven to be a very effective!

As I ponder this passage here are some of the questions that I am thinking about:

  • In what ways have I allowed the devil to gain a foothold in my life?
  • Have I grown so used to him being there so that I don’t even notice that he has infiltrated my life?
  • Do I want more of Jesus or do I want more of the devil and his playthings?
  • Am I willing to go to war in order to get rid of him?
  • Who are the people that I trust that know me well enough to help me identify satanic footholds?
Here is a quote you have probably heard:

“The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (often attributed to Edmund Burke)

So it would seem that doing nothing is not an option unless we want evil to triumph in our lives. Don’t let the evil one gain a foothold – and if he already has one DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 4:29-32

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (Part 1)

For the next # of weeks I will share some thoughts by D.A. Carson that come from his book A Call To Spiritual Reformation (subtitled: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers).

“The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs – and these are uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment.” (p. 15)

“One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do not know God, is prayer – spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer. Writing a century and a half ago, Robert Murray M’Cheyne declared, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” But we have ignored this truism.” (p.16)

“When was the last time we came away from a period of intercession feeling that, like Jacob or Moses, we had prevailed with God? How much of our praying is largely formulaic, liberally larded with cliches that remind us, uncomfortably, of the hypocrites Jesus excoriated?” (p.17)

“J.I.Packer writes “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face”. Can we profitably meet the other challenges that confront the Western church if prayer is ignored as much as it has been?” (p.17)

Hmmmm!

I’m just sayin’!

Always A Mets Fan!

So last night was a historic night  – especially if you are a long time Mets fan.

I adopted the Mets as my team back in 1967 when they were perennial cellar dwellers. I went to a ball game in Atlanta to see the Braves vs the Mets and came away a fan for life. Baseball was my sport. I played it whenever I could. I watched it whenever I could. Like many kids back in those days I knew champions and statistics of players who had died long before I was ever born. I WAS the kid on The Sandlot.

I struggled with the Mets through ’67 and ’68 and for a good part of ’69. And then the dog days of summer came along. The Mets were 9+ games out of first behind the Cubs  on August 14 and they got hot.  (This was the year of the infamous black cat at Wrigley Field during a game with the Mets). They roared to first place in their division, went on to sweep the Braves in the first ever League championship playoffs and then after losing game 1 of the World Series they won the next 4 to beat the powerful Baltimore Orioles (Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally…)

Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Ron Swoboda, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee, Bud Harrelson, Tug McGraw, Jerry Grote, Art Shamsky, Donn Clendenon, Al Weis. managed by Gil Hodges. Heroes. They were dubbed The Amazing Mets. It was a magical year. We saw a man walk on the moon in July and we saw a team go from next to last place to first place (in 1968 they finished 24 games in back of the St Louis Cardinals) to win a World Series.

The last 40 years have been interesting. 3 more World Series appearances: Losing to the Oakland A’s in ’73. Winning in miracle fashion against the BoSox in ’86. Losing to the Yankees in 2000. Several heart breaking years when they had things wrapped up and then just folded down the stretch. But through it all – always a fan.

Back to last night. Historic. The Mets organization started back in 1962. That makes 50 years. And NEVER in all 8,019 games (prior to last night) had anyone thrown a no-hitter. A couple of guys had come close. A bunch of guys threw them for other teams after leaving the Mets (most notably would be Nolan Ryan) but never for the Mets.

And last night it finally happened. Johan Santana. You can read about it HERE if you like. So I figured today was as good a day as any to chronicle a bit of my love affair with the Amazin’s. Here is a picture of some my Mets memorabilia. I brought it out just to relive my childhood, to bask in the celebration of a no-hitter, and to get ready for a playoff run this year. The boys are playing good ball. We’ll see if it lasts. Always a fan!

Pondering Ephesians 4:20-24

This Week’s Passage: 20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

The gospel is good news.

But I’m afraid that that one of the reasons that the church of the 21st century is in many ways shallow and anemic is because we neglected to share the bad news – or at least we have down played it so that the cross has become not much more than an iconic religious symbol rather than the means of our salvation.

Whatever happened to genuine repentance and to weeping over sin? Whatever  happened to an awe inspiring understanding of the holiness of God? Our evangelism has focused so much on “God loves you” that we forget that “God hates sin.” And even when we do talk about God hating sin we dilute the whole notion by saying “God hates the sin but he loves the sinner.” This is not altogether true. God hates sinners!

  • Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity,”
  • Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
  • Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
  • Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
  • Hosea 9:15, “All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

God hates sinners enough to pour His wrath out upon them and to condemn them to hell. But the paradox is that yes God does indeed love sinners. Jared Moore put it this way:

“If you only tell people, “God hates sin, but loves sinners” or “God is not mad at you.  He is mad about you” then you necessarily diminish the gospel and the awfulness of the cross of Christ.  And thus, you indirectly diminish the wonder, grace, and love proven through the cross.  Through the cross God saved people that He formerly hated; through the cross God hated His Son so that He could love sinners.  God looked at Christ with all His hatred toward sin and sinners, so that He could look on sinners with all His love for His Son. The cross: what a horribly wonderful salvation!”

Is this what you were taught? When you understand this then repentance not only makes sense but becomes necessary. And then we can rightly understand Paul when he says, “to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds;24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Think on these things lest you believe a cheap gospel!

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 4:25-28

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