Archive for the category “Pondering Ephesians”

Pondering Ephesians 6:21-24

This Week’s Passage21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you. 23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

A few random thoughts about phrases in this passage…

Tychicus is mentioned 5 times in the New Testament (Acts 20:4Ephesians 6:21Colossians 4:72 Timothy 4:12Titus 3:12). Here he is referred to as a dear brother and faithful servant. As I ponder this it makes me wonder how my ministry colleagues refer to me.

He was being sent to the Ephesians to encourage them. Interesting! You would think that with Paul being in prison that he would be the one needing encouragement. Paul was not throwing a pity party for himself because of his circumstances. He was thinking about others and what they needed. This is a mark of humility. It is also the mark of a man who has been captured  not by the Romans but by the all sufficient love of Christ. He is able to look at the needs of others when most people would only be thinking of themselves.

I love the way that Paul finishes off this letter. It is a benediction of grace. Grace has certainly been a key word in this letter – especially chapter 2. Paul wants his readers never to forget that they are to live by grace, under grace, with grace.

“to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” – 2 questions spring to mind here:

1) What constitutes an undying love ? Paul is a man who’s life was radically transformed. He was a dead man walking who was made alive by the same power that raised Christ from the dead. He owed Christ everything and he did not take anything for granted. He never forgot what it was like to be “not saved.” And because of this his love for his Saviour was undying. I wonder, for those of us who have been Christians for a long time , or perhaps cannot even remember not being a Christian – do we know what it is like to be “not saved”. It might be worth pondering what our life would be like had we not been transformed by the grace of God.

2) What would make love  for Christ die? We can probably all think of people who at one time professed love for Christ but now are not anywhere to be found. How does that happen? Maybe the love was not genuine to begin with. Maybe they got sucked into loving the things of this world. Maybe they  were “disappointed by God.” Maybe they got hurt by someone in the church. Maybe they were disenchanted by the “hypocrisy” of Christians. Maybe no one demonstrated care and concern at a time when they were very needy. Is there anything that would make your love for Christ die? Do you love Him with an undying love? Do I?

***

So there you have it. If you have hung with me this year we have pondered the book of Ephesians in just over 8 months. Good stuff. I hope it has been as helpful to you as it has been to me. So what next? Here is what I am thinking. Right now I am pondering in the Psalms and posting on Wednesdays some of my reflections as they pertain to prayer. One of the disciplines I need to consistently add to my spiritual diet is that of reading great books. So on Fridays I will begin posting some things that strike me from a book I am just now beginning to read called The Transforming Power of the Gospel by Jerry Bridges. If you would like to read along with me you can get the book HERE.

Next Week: The Transforming Power of the Gospel – Chapter 1

Pondering Ephesians 6:18-20

This Week’s Passage18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains.Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

There are 2 things that struck me this week as I pondered:

1) Paul’s Prayer Request – Keep in mind that Paul is in jail. He did not ask that people would pray for his release; nor that they would pray for his health or safety; nor that he would even be content or find joy under the circumstances. Instead, he asked that people would pray that he would “fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

What a man asks prayer for reveals a lot about the man. Here Paul reveals a lot about himself. He is much more concerned that the gospel be declared than he is about what he is going through. This is not something I can say about myself.  I am way too self-centered and enjoy my creature comforts way too much. It is evident that Paul greatly valued the triumph of the gospel more than anything else whereas I greatly value my stuff and my health and my family more than even the gospel. Just being real here. If I have been transformed by the gospel should this still be the case? Do I just have a mild case of Christianity but have never experienced the full blown disease?

2) Why does Paul use the word “fearlessly”? He could have just as easily left that word out and his prayer request would have still been potent. But here are thoughts on why the gospel should not just be declared but be declared fearlessly.

a) Because by definition the gospel is GOOD NEWS. Sins are forgiven. Relationship with God is restored. The hope of heaven is secured. Why not declare this news fearlessly – it is the best news anyone could ever hope to hear.

b) Because the gospel transforms lives. It makes the dead alive. It gives hope to the hopeless. It gives freedom to those enslaved. If this is indeed true then people need to hear and I (we) need to do whatever it takes to help them hear.

I have watched over the last few months many people who’s lives have apparently been changed become fearless ambassadors. They have shared with whoever will listen the good news… about a product called Visalus. I have wondered that if I believed the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ even half as much as these folks believe in the life-changing power of Visalus how I would be effected and how would my life and ministry be changed.

Paul believed in the life changing power of the gospel – therefore he asked that his friends in Ephesus pray that he be able to declare it fearlessly.

These 3 verses have given me plenty to think about – still so much to ponder as I try to practice what I ponder. I hope these verses have made you think as well.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:21-24

Pondering Ephesians 6:14-18

This Week’s Passage:  14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

This passage reminds me of two things that I have a tendency to forget about. One which can be be very hazardous to my spiritual well being and the other that can, well, be very hazardous to my spiritual well being.

1) There is an evil one – Paul has made this clear throughout his letter as more than once he has referred to the devil and the forces of darkness. To Paul, Satan is not some hypothetical enemy or cartoonish bad guy. He is a very real, very dangerous, very formidable threat to believers and to the work of God. And Paul takes this threat very seriously – hence this impassioned plea to the Ephesians to armor up.

We would do well to take this threat equally as seriously. One of the great books that C.S. Lewis wrote is called The Screwtape Letters. Very worth the time it will take to read it. Lewis was aware that Christians did not pay much attention to the evil one so he wrote this book to make us think about the dangerous position this puts us in. It is a book of letters written from one of Satan’s underlings to a demon who is on the front lines of the enemy’s work. Here are a few quotes from the book to whet your appetite. (Keep in mind they are written from the devil’s perspective to a young demon who is trying to work his devilish charm on an unsuspecting human… hence Enemy = God)

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ’suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches… The search for a ’suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.”

“Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all – and more amusing.”

“Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”

“Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. ”

Never forget that we are at war with a dangerous unseen enemy who desires to destroy our witness, kill our intimacy with the Father and steal our joy. But there is a second this this passage alerts us to…

2) We must live “in the Spirit” – Just as we discount the existence of the devil we forget that the omnipotent Spirit of the living God dwells within us. Paul never forgot this. Throughout this letter he has referred to the Spirit and His work in the believers. Since I am in a quote mood today I will drop a few more on you – this time from Francis Chan’s book The Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

“We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God.”

“I believe that the Spirit is more obviously active in places where people are desperate for Him, humbled before Him, and not distracted by their pursuit of wealth or comforts.”

“The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you into the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be…”

“I don’t believe God wants me (or any of His children) to live in a way that makes sense from the world’s perspective, a way I know I can ‘manage’. I believe he is calling me – and all of us – to depend on him for living in a way that cannot be mimicked or forged. He wants us to walk in step with his Spirit rather than depend solely on the raw talent and knowledge he’s given us.”

Be on the lookout today for signs of the war raging around you – and make sure you are walking in step with the Spirit of God.

I’m just sayin! or perhaps in today’s case “They’re just sayin’!”

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:19-20

Pondering Ephesians 6:10-13

This Week’s Passage: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

As I ponder this passage there are three words that catch my attention:

1) “Finally ” v.10 – Paul has had a lot to say about a lof things in this epistle. In chapters 1-3 he talked theology. In chapters 4- 6 he talked praxis. As he brings things to a close and talks about the armor of God he helps the Ephesian believers (and us) to know what we are up against as we bring theology and praxis together. Finally, he says, don’t underestimate the fact that you are in a war. Finally, he says, don’t ever discount the fact that Satan is real. Finally, he says, don’t ever forget that the power of the living God dwells within you.

2) “when” v. 13 – Paul pleads with us to make sure we are armored so that “when the day of evil comes…” Not if, but when! We have a tendency to get lulled into a false sense of safety because the war we fight is an invisible war. We don’t see the flaming arrows of the evil one. We don’t see the forces of evil around us. So there is this question mark that we live with. “If”? Paul wants to make sure that there is no “if”. It is emphatically “when”. And more likely than not I would suggest that the “when” is NOW. The day of evil is upon us.

3) “stand” v. 13 – When Paul wrote this the church was very young. This is only about 30 years or so after the resurrection and the beginning of the church. Already Paul has watched friends fall by the spiritual wayside because they have become infatuated with the ways of the world and the lure of the evil one. He is crafty. He is a schemer. And his lies are shrouded in truth and his deceitfulness masked by beauty. He wants us to be aware of what the enemy is up to so that we too do not become a spiritual casualty. When all is said and done and the war is over he wants us still to be standing.

So he tells us what we need to do in order to stand. It would be wise for us to pay attention to what he says next. Ponder prayerfully.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:14-20

Pondering Ephesians 6:5-9

This Week’s Passage:  Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

We live in a quid pro quo society! I’ve always wanted to have an excuse to say that because it sounds smart. Quid pro quo – literally in Latin it means something for something. If you work hard you expect to get rewarded. If you study hard you hope get good grades. If you do something for someone they do something for you. If you  do enough for God you expect to be blessed. (Actually our society today is devolving into an entitlement society – something for nothing… but that  is for another discussion).

There are 2 things in this passage that I observe about work/reward:

1) Obedience brings blessing – this is a principle I see throughout Scripture. God does promise to reward His children for obedience. That reward may or may not be in this life but it will be in eternity. So we work hard on behalf of the Lord, doing what is right, because we know that we will reap the Lord’s reward. There is nothing wrong with that as a motivation. We just have to be careful that we do not equate reward from God as material blessings in this world because that may or may not happen. But when we maintain the perspective that the 70 or so years of this life is but a drop in the bucket to how long eternity is then it helps us to keep pressing on even when life on earth is difficult.

2) Being a hard worker is pleasing to God – God wants us to work hard. Not because we expect something in return but because it is the right thing to do. Often we are rewarded for hard work, but not always. Our motivation is not to be because we expect to get something  but because we are seeking to please God.

This is a lesson for me – I am as guilty as anyone about expectations for work done. I need to remember that it is the Lord God that I am serving in everything that I do. I want to be first and foremost a God-pleaser not a man pleaser because my reward will ultimately come from Him.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:10-13

Pondering Ephesians 6:1-4

This Week’s PassageChildren, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Because I am a dad my pondering is drawn to verse 4: “Fathers do not exasperate your children.” And as a youth pastor for many years I have seen a lot of exasperated kids. The gospel is the key to overcoming this. Going back to the previous passage at the end of chapter 5, I think that when husbands learn how to sacrificially love their wives then they will carry this love over to their kids. And when kids see sacrificial love being lived out in front of them then the exasperation factor is diminished. Not that it will go away – it is a part of kid’s job description to be exasperated – but at least it will not be in response to dear old dad.

It is not often that I share what someone else has said in my ponderings but I came across an article that has some very good very practical tips that will help dads and parents alike to keep from exasperating their children. The author says it better than I can. You can find the original post HERE.

EAGERLY, HUMBLY SUBMIT TO THE WORD OF GOD. When you sin in front of your children, confess it. When you assert your authority over them, your children should clearly see the authority that you are submitting to. Your submission to God is your qualification to teach them. Let them see it, and they will know that you aren’t a petty tyrant.

DON’T PIGEONHOLE YOUR CHILDREN. Seemingly harmless things like calling your children “the artistic one,” “the athletic one,” or “the loving one” can make your children feel like their value to you is tied up in one characteristic. It can further invite sibling rivalry and resentments. Moreover, sets you up to stop trying to learn about them, as you begin to interpret everything through that expectation and sets them up to think that that’s the only part of them you appreciate.

DISCIPLINE BIBLICALLY. When you discipline, make sure it has a biblical category. A godly parent can’t discipline for “being annoying,” “making a mess,” or “squirming.” Instead, look to correct disobeying, lying, or something that you can support with Scripture, Proverbs and Ephesians in particular. If there isn’t a biblical principle and name behind it, don’t discipline for it.

SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. Explain to your children in advance what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. Make sure they understand. This will greatly aid you in #3, as well as giving them the security of knowing what you want.

RECOGNIZE OBEDIENCE. Talk to your children when you aren’t correcting them. Talk about the things they do right. Tell them about specific things that you love about them. Let them know that you know them, that you think of them, and that you enjoy them.

LISTEN TO THE WHOLE STORY FIRST. With little kids you actually might have to take some time to get the story out. Don’t try to hustle past your children in an effort to quickly discipline them. The discipline is for their benefit, not yours. Make sure that they understand and that they know you are interacting with them.

HONOR YOUR SPOUSE IN FRONT OF THEM. Show love to each other in front of your children. Don’t be short, snarky, or snide with each other in their presence (or out of it for that matter). Children need to see Mom and Dad as one. Parents in fellowship with each other is one of the most basic elements for a secure home.

DON’T CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR TOWARD YOUR CHILDREN IN PUBLIC. Don’t correct them for things just because someone is watching. Security for a child means knowing that their parent is for them, and that when one of them corrects the child, it is for his or her benefit, and not so that others will think the parents have it all together.

DON’T TAKE YOUR CHILDREN’S SINS AS A PERSONAL INSULT. Never discipline with a break in fellowship. Don’t be “mad” at your children. Be anxious to have things reconciled.

FORGIVE. FOR REAL. If breaking the window has been forgiven, act like it. Forget it. Do not hold past incidents over your children, especially if you’ve told them you’ve forgiven them. Let it go all the way, every time, “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

Good stuff! I’m Just Sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:5-9

Pondering Ephesians 5:25-33

This Week’s Passage:  25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

As I pondered this passage this week I was reminded of a way that I should love my wife that I was already familiar with. And I observed a way of loving my wife that I had overlooked all these years. The power of pondering!

I should love my wife sacrificially – This is the way I was already familiar with. When I do premarital coaching this is what I talk about with couples. This does not mean, however, that I am good at practicing it. What I note is that it is imperative for the sake of my marriage that I think often and deeply on the cross. That I think intensely about the love that drove Christ to the cross. That I think thoroughly about why Christ had to go to the cross. That I think seriously about what the cross accomplished on my behalf. That I think about the profound sacrifice that Christ made to “save a wretch like me.” The better acquainted I am with Christ’s sacrificial love demonstrated so purposefully on the cross the better I will do at sacrificially loving my wife.

3 words come to mind that help me think about putting this into practice: 1) initiate – The husband is to be the initiator of sacrificial love as Christ was for His bride the church, 2) intentional – The sacrificial love of Christ had intentionality – to bridge the gap that existed between sinners and God. As husbands to our wives we are to love with intentionality – to bring our wives into deeper relationship with God, 3) incarnational – our sacrificial love is to be fleshed out in real and practical ways. It is to be more than just saying “I love you” – it is showing “I love you”… just s Christ did.

I should love my wife selfishly – Seriously, that’s what the text says. I had never really noticed this before or given it much thought. The one time the Bible calls us to be selfish is when it has to do with demonstrating love for our wife.  Go back and read verse 28. And then note in verse 31 the reminder that when we are married we are “one flesh” with our wives. And because we are one flesh the statement “I love me some me!” takes on a whole new meaning. Now, loving myself means that we selfishly (or perhaps selflessly) look after the needs of our wives – because by so doing we are looking after our own needs – and that is by nature what we do best. So it seems that when we understand what it really means to be one flesh with our wives then we can be as selfish as we want to – at least when it comes to showing love to our wife.

So here are my summary take home points from this passage. Look to the cross and love sacrificially. Understand the one flesh principle and love selfishly. They both make perfect sense in light of the gospel.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 6:1-4

Pondering Ephesians 5:21-24

This Week’s Passage21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Admittedly, in our culture, the word submit has a bad connotation – especially in our liberated women’s world where it is offensive to think that men can tell women what to do. Agreed. But the cultural understanding and the biblical understanding are two different things. My theory is this – if women understood what biblical submission really was then they they would joyfully embrace it.

My working definition for the word “submit” for many years has been this: A wife’s willing response to her husband’s sacrificial love. Verses 25-33 of this chapter (which we will ponder next week) outline the husband’s role in marriage. Primarily he is to be sacrificial lover of his wife. In other words he is to love her in such a way that her wants come before his; her needs come before his; her hopes come before his; her dreams come before his; her pleasure comes before his. Now this is the question that I always ask couples who come to me for premarital coaching: What woman would not want to be married to a man who sacrificially loves her like that. And what woman would not joyfully respond (submit) to her husband’s sacrificial love knowing that whatever decisions he makes on behalf of her and the family are with her best interests in mind, not his.

(The problem of course is that men do a lousy job (I am pointing 4 fingers at myself) of sacrificially loving their wives – to the point that they feel like they have to take matters into their own hands. And then things begin to get all out of whack because marriages don’t look like God intended for them to. We’ll look at this more next week.)

Now apply this definition of submission to our relationship with Christ where we are the bride and He is the husband. Why do we have such a hard time submitting ourselves to God and His Word? I think it all goes back to a shallow understanding of the sacrificial love that Christ demonstrated for us through His life and on the cross. I have written about this before. If we really grasped how “wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” then we would willingly and joyfully submit our lives  (our hopes, dreams, wants, needs) to Him. Husbands would be better husbands. Wives would be better wives. And the Church would be an attractive bride for all the world to see. So again I say… ponder this;

How deep the Father’s love is for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He would give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:25-33

Pondering Ephesians 5:17-20

This Week’s Passage17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 It is the word “filled” in verse 18 that I have been thinking on. It is a word that keeps popping up in the book of Ephesians. We saw it in 1:23, “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” We saw it in 3:19, “that you might be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.” We saw it (or a form of it) in 4:13, “…attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” And we see it here.
It is a word that for me automatically puts a picture in my mind and immediately prompts some questions that I really don’t want to have to answer:
1) To what degree am I filled with the Spirit? Is it even possible to be partially filled?
2) If I am not filled with the Spirit then what am I filled with?
3) How can I get unfilled with the unspirit like stuff and filled with the Spirit?
4) When I get filled do I stay that way or do I leak? And if so, why? And how do I keep from leaking?
Reminds me of a story I heard years ago…
A country church was having their annual revival meeting. On the first night the preacher preached a message about repentance and the need to return to the Lord. At the altar call, a man came down the aisle saying “Fill me Lord, fill me”.The next night the preacher challenged the congregation with the need to totally surrender their lives to Christ in complete obedience. Again the altar call was extended; like the night before the same man came down the aisle saying “Fill me Lord, fill me”.The third night of the revival preacher warned his congregation of the evils of sin and urged the congregation to live lives of holiness. Again at the invitation was made to give one’s life to Christ, the same man came up the aisle saying “Fill me Lord, fill me”. 

To which someone in the back of the church yelled; “Don’t do it Lord, He leaks!”

If the truth be told I believe that we all leak – so we need to continually be being filled with the Spirit. This is why I need to stay in the Word. This is why I need to come before the Father and pray. This is why I need to worship. This is why I need my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to be filled with the Spirit, filled to the measure of all the fullness of Christ. But if you see me leaking pray for me and help me plug the leaks.
I’m just sayin’!
Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:21-24

Pondering Ephesians 5:15-20

This Week’s Passage15 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. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I pondered this week I realize that I bit off more than I can chew. Verses 15-16 is about all i can handle because there is so much in those verses alone to think about. So next week will be a re-do of verses 17-20 for those who are pondering along with me.

The first thing I note is that I need to pay attention to context. Why does Paul say to “be very careful how you live”? It is because of what he said in verses 8-14 – “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the world.” We must remember that everywhere we go we incarnate the gospel. And all it takes is one act of NOT being careful and we give the gospel and God a bad taste in other people’s mouths. Not being careful is a major reason why the church of the living God has been labeled as nothing more than a club of hypocrites. Shame on us. There are things that we simply cannot do any longer once we pledge our allegiance to the Lord. Paul is not saying that we have a bunch of rules to keep. he played that religious game and it got him nowhere. Elsewhere he talks about the immense freedom that we have in the Lord. But it is a freedom not to do what we want but to do what is right and what will bring glory and fame to the name of Christ. When we live carefully and when we live wisely we understand that there are things that we cannot do and so we joyfully don’t do them.

But Paul also says there are things that we can do when we live carefully and wisely. We can “make the most of every opportunity.”. This means that we are to be an intentional people of action. I don’t know about you, but as I reflect on my days I recognize that there are a lot of missed and wasted opportunities. Paul reminds us that the days are evil. What does he mean? I think he wants us to remember that the evil one is on the attack. He is not being lazy when it comes to the business of subverting the work of the gospel by spreading lies and destroying the lives of believers. John 10:10 says that “he came to steal, kill, and destroy.” You don’t have to look very hard to see where he has had success. It is exactly because the days are evil that believers must make the most of the opportunities we are given. The evil one certainly is.

We are the instruments that God has chosen to use to spread the gospel and reach the nations. He did not ever say to his disciples, “Go into all the world…” and if that doesn’t work then we will go to Plan B. There is no Plan B. Therefore it behooves us to make the most of EVERY opportunity that comes our way.

“Father, would you open my eyes this week to all the opportunities that You put in front of me. And then fill me by Your Spirit with courage to act and with wisdom to respond in ways that that will bring You glory and advance the gospel.”

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 5:17-20

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