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There Are Ample Opportunities To Be Thankful

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
(Ephesians 5:20 ESV)

When a child of God allows him/herself to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which we recently learned is God’s command for us, we will want to praise Him through song. We read about this yesterday. The second thing we will want to do is give thanks. When we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit we create within ourselves a thankful heart.

The overall context of this section of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is how a child of God should live differently than the evil world surrounding them. We are to be light that exposes darkness. When we complain we are being darkness. When we give thanks, even in the hard times, we are being light.

Notice that we are to give thanks always and for everything. Admittedly, this is not easy to do. There are bad things that happen in our lives and all over the world. But it would be wrong for a child of God to complain. We need to keep in mind that the things of earth are temporary. And, even more importantly, God can use whatever happens for good [Romans 8:28]. When we complain or lose heart we are showing a lack of faith in God.

This does not mean we should be Polyannas who ignore pain and destitution. This would not be helpful. But it does mean that our faith should be on display because, despite not always understanding the reason, we do understand the remedy. When we display confidence in God people will take notice and we can explain the reason for our hope [1 Peter 3:15].

I know too many people to simply hope in hope. Their motto is “believe”. But believe in what? The verb “believe” requires a direct object. We don’t believe for the sake of believing. That would be inane.

Rather we should put our hope in God. When we do we are able to give thanks even when things don’t go the way we’d like them to. When we have hope in God we can give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are opportunities for giving thanks to God all around us. Charles Spurgeon said “Every hour, yea, every moment has brought a favor upon its wings. Look downward and give thanks, for you are saved from hell; look on the right hand and give thanks, for you are enriched with gracious gifts; look on the left hand and give thanks, for you are shielded from deadly ills; look above you and give thanks, for heaven awaits you.”

Complaining is ubiquitous in our world, even more so since the introduction of the Internet and social media. Just like members of the Royal Family are expected to conduct themselves in a certain manner, so too are members of God’s family. When we complain like the world does we are being a very poor witness to those who so desperately need to see Jesus in their own darkness.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



Being A Child Of God Is Exciting So Sing!

addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
(Ephesians 5:19 ESV)

Yesterday we learned that it is God’s desire for His children to live lives that are directed by the Holy Spirit rather than by the sinful temptations that surround us. The result of that will be lives that are characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, and peace [Galatians 5:22].

Another result of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the desire to praise God. Praise can take many forms. In today’s verse we see that one way to praise God is through music. This includes singing and playing instruments (making melody).

When we sing and play music we are displaying enthusiasm for God. Sadly at some churches there is no excitement for God. Some churches don’t even sing (which is disobedience) and some that do do it in such a boring way that you get the impression that no one there has been saved. Praise should originate from our heart. It is not something that should be, or can be, manufactured.

Being a child of God is exciting! Those who have admitted their sinfulness and recognize their need to be forgiven have a tremendous future awaiting them in heaven [John 3:3]. Such people should be very thankful and full of praise for the God who saved them from an eternity surrounded by even more sin that we experience on this earth currently. This is a great reason to praise God with music.

Singing songs of praise has always been a part of God’s design. We see people singing to the Lord all throughout the Old Testament including Moses, Miriam, and Deborah [Exodus 15:1-21; Judges 5:1-31]. Not to mention all the psalms written by David and others that praise God [Psalm 9, 145, 150 et. al].

As I was studying for today’s blog post, I read one pastor who claimed that “Sing!” is the most oft-given command in the Bible. I haven’t confirmed this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true [Psalm 5:11, 95:1, 96:1-2, 149:1 et. al].

Its important to note that when we sing songs of praise to God we are not ministering to Him. God does not need our praise. Instead our songs are actually addressing one another. When we sing to God in the presence of other believers, we are encouraging each other and sharing our corporate excitement at being part of His eternal family.

In his classic book, Systematic Theology, Bible scholar Dr. Wayne Grudem ends every chapter with the lyrics from a Christian hymn. He explains why in the preface: “Theology is meant to be lived and prayed and sung… theology that is studied rightly will lead to… worship” (page 17). Additionally, for eleven years Dr. Grudem taught a class on Sundays at Scottsdale Bible Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. At the end of every class he would lead everyone in the singing of a hymn. The point being, when we get to know God for who He really is, the right response is to worship Him. Music is a great way to do that.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


How To Have What We Want Most Out Of Life

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
(Ephesians 5:18 ESV)

Yesterday we read that we (God’s children) should walk carefully through life, not wasting time on things that are sin, but instead making the most of our short time on earth. That theme continues today as we can see by the use of the word and.

In keeping with the idea that life should not be wasted, Paul gives a specific instruction: do not get drunk with wine. This warning would have resonated with the Ephesians because drunkenness of was often a part of worship of their gods.

Today people use alcohol as a means of escape the pressures of life. They erroneously think alcohol will uplift them. But alcohol is actually a depressant. It suppresses our self-control and judgment. Living like this is sin and is a waste of life. God wants us to be in control of our lives. That is why He commanded us yesterday to walk carefully through life.

As opposed to being filled with useless indulgences (debauchery), God commands His children to be filled with the Spirit. In the original Greek the verb “be filled” is an imperative (i.e. a command). But is also in the passive tense, indicating that we cannot manufacture communion with God as the ancient Ephesians were trying to do or as some modern-day denominations do.

Certainly when someone is saved God indwells that person then and there [Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 12:2; Galatians 3:2, et. al]. That is a one-time experience that is a result of our faith and God’s immediate forgiveness of our sin. But that is not what God is talking about here. God never commands us to be indwelt or sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is His job to do that.

However, after a person is saved (i.e. becomes a permanent member of God’s family) it is their responsibility to allow his/her life to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (as contrasted with being controlled by alcohol or other sin). The way we do that is by surrendering ourselves.

We cannot be filled with both our self and the Holy Spirit. We have to give up one to have the other [Galatians 5:16-17]. We do this by first recognizing that there is no sin that can fulfill us. Alcohol is not the answer. Neither are drugs, sex, money, fame, corporate success, or pornography. If these things fulfilled they would not be addictive. True fulfillment can only come from a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Once we are convinced of that we can empty our lives of such useless living and fill it with the Spirit. This is done by getting to know God better through His word (the Bible) so we can understand how He designed us to live [Romans 12:2]. We then surrender every aspect of our life to Him and allow Him to guide us according to that design.

Sin seems to bring fulfillment. But it does not deliver on its promises. That is why we have to keep going back for more. On the other hand, when we allow the Spirit to control us, we will have all the things we seeking in this life – love, joy, and peace [Galatians 5:22].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Make The Most of Your Life

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
(Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV)

The passages we’ve been studying over the past few days discuss how the life of a believer should not be the same as the life of a non-believer. Those of us who are God’s children through faith [John 1:12-13] should live differently.

It is our responsibility to make sure we don’t live as the darkness we used to be but as the light we now are. Living like the unsaved sinners we were is unwise. But God wants us to live wise lives. To do this we need to look carefully as we go through life. The Greek word translated “carefully” is βλεπο (pronounced: blep’-o). It means “to consider; to examine; to contemplate”. God instructs us to think before we act.

Too often we just rush into things without thinking through the consequences. We do this out of habit or because we don’t want to waste time. But in this verse God tells us that taking the time to contemplate our life will result in the best use of our time.

The word “time” here does not refer to chronological time. It refers to our life. God wants us to make the most of our life because the days are evil [1 John 5:19]. There is much activity in our world that is sin. It is certainly easy for one of God’s children to partake in the evil that is around them, especially if they do not take the time to carefully consider their choices.

To live wisely we need to understand what the will of the Lord is. We need to know what is pleasing to God. Having an affair may seem like fun. But that would not be pleasing to God. Berating someone who hurt you may seem like the right move. But that would not be pleasing to God. Looking at pornography might not seem that bad. But it would not be pleasing to God.

God does not wave magic wands over people to instantly change them into what they should be. If He did, He wouldn’t have to give us instructions as He does in today’s verses. It is our responsibility to understand His will by studying – not just reading – the Bible [Proverbs 2:6] and to practice the art of self-discipline [1 Timothy 4:7]. Going through life any other way is foolish.

God has given us life. That is a great gift. He does not want us using the short time we have in ways that harm us and other people. He wants us to live wisely – as an example to the evil world around us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Wake Up & Illuminate The World Around You

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 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 5:11-14 ESV)

Today’s verse is a quote by Paul. But the source of the quote is not known. It is possibly a saying from the early church and may have been derived from Isaiah 60:1.

Paul’s purpose in referencing these words is to call believers to stop living like the darkness they used to be. In our previous lifestyles we practiced sin, which results in spiritual death [Romans 6:23]. We are not to live that way any longer.

During sleep our central nervous system is mostly inactive and consciousness is suspended. When we are asleep we do not know we are asleep. Likewise, many children of God are still living like the unsaved world around them. They are living like sinners without realizing it. God wants those people to awake and arise. He wants them to become conscious again so that Christ will shine on them.

As we’ve been reading over the past few days, when a person becomes born-again they stop being darkness and become light. God calls on that person to live in such a way that their light exposes the deceitful practices of those around them. But its important to know where our light comes from. It does not come from us. It comes from Christ.

The moon does not radiate its own light. Rather it reflects light originating from the sun. Similarly, God’s children – born-again believers who have been forgiven of all their sins [John 1:12-13] – do not generate our own light. The light we bring to the world is nothing more than a reflection of the light that God is shining upon us. There is nothing inherently good within us that could be considered light [Romans 7:18]. Good can only come from God [James 1:17].

One tool a photographer might use is a reflector. A reflector is placed on the opposite of the subject from a light source (e.g. sun or flash) and bounces light back onto the subject to illuminate the side that is in darkness. Such reflectors are usually bright in color such as white or silver. But there are also black reflectors that are sometimes used to intentionally remove light from a subject as black, unlike white, does not reflect light.

There are many Christians who, despite being truly saved, are like the black reflector. They are not reflecting God’s light. In fact, they are adding darkness to the world by their lifestyle. This verse is calling on these people to wake up and become a white reflector and illuminate their world by shining God’s light on those around them.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Our Lifestyle Should Reveal Truth

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 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 5:11-14)

Over the past few days we’ve been reading how God wants His children to live as the light that we are. We were once darkness, as all people are. But now we are light. Because of this we are not to participate in the works of darkness, which serve no meaningful purpose (are unfruitful).

Rather we are to act as the light [Ephesians 5:8]. When we live this way we expose the works of darkness; we make visible the evilness and pointlessness of those deeds. Darkness hides. Light reveals.

God wants His children to reveal truth to the world around them by the way we live. He does not call on us to tell others of their sin with our words, although that sometimes is called for, because it is shameful to even speak of those things. It is by our lifestyle that we primarily expose the sin of those around us.

When we live according to God’s word people will notice because the things that God tells us to do and the things God tells us not to do are vastly different than the way the world lives.

There is a clear distinction between darkness and light; conditions at midnight are far different than conditions at noon. God wants His children to live like noon in a world that lives like midnight. Sadly, though, many Christians live like they are dusk – a combination of darkness and light. They are afraid of ridicule so they conform to the world to some degree or another. But such a mixed message does nothing to help our friends and family.

God has always used this technique to get people’s attention. When He brought Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land He commanded them to live in such a way as to stand out from their neighbors. He did not want to them to do the same things the nations around them were doing so that they (Israel) would be noticed and would therefore bring attention to God with the goal people being saved.

God calls on His children today to live differently for the very same reason. When we live differently from the world around us we expose their actions for what they are: sin that separates them from God. Therefore our lifestyle is helpful. It helps others recognize their own sin. It helps others come to know that there is a God. And, hopefully, it convinces others that God is a forgiving, loving, father who wants to be with them forever.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Characteristics of A Life Of Light

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)

Its interesting that those of us who are God’s children are light (as we learned yesterday), yet God still commands us to walk as children of light. Just because we are something doesn’t mean we act accordingly.

Recently Prince William and his wife, Kate, welcomed a new baby. That child is royalty. But that does not mean that he will always act in a way that is appropriate for a member of royalty to behave. As he grows up he will be tempted to do things that royalty does not do. He will have to be reminded at times to act in accordance with his status in life. The same is true for children of God.

God has changed us from being darkness to being light. We are light. There is no question about that [Matthew 5:13-16; Ephesians 5:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:5]. But we have to learn to live as light. The Christian life is one of surrendering our old selves and becoming our new selves [Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17]. It is an intentional process of forming new habits. And sometimes God has to remind us of this.

When we live as the light we demonstrate certain characteristics, called fruit in this verse and elsewhere in the Bible. Here we are told that God’s children should be characterized by being good, right, and true. These words are very interesting. They identify how we relate to others, God, and ourselves, respectively.

By looking at the original Greek text we can understand the meaning of each of these three words. The life of a good person makes a positive difference in the lives of others. They add value. Someone who is right has a positive relationship with God. Such a person is open with God and does not hide their sins, or fears, or anger from God. Finally, someone who is true is honest with him/herself. They don’t lie to themselves in an effort to convince themselves they are something they are not. Specifically, this verse refers to being honest with oneself about all the things God tells us, both the negative (we are sinners) and the positive (we are forgiven).

Living like this does not come naturally. When we were darkness we were defined by just the opposite behavior – the same as are those who are still darkness. Once we are saved God did not wave a magic wand over us so that we live as light all the time. We have to try to live this way by discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.

The Christian life is is a life marked by intentionality in which we purposely learn about God (through the Bible, prayer, sermons, etc) and then live our lives according to what we learn. This is the kind of life that pleases God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Darkness Is Bondage; Light Is Freedom

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)

Yesterday God warned His children not to engage in the same activities as those who are not His children. Only those who have been born-again by repenting of their sins and accepting Jesus’ death as necessary and complete for the payment of those sins are God’s children [John 1:12-13]. Everyone else is not. As we have been learning recently, those who are not God’s children make poor choices in life. Their lives are controlled by sin.

This is how God’s children used to be. At one time [we] were darkness, but now [we] are light. This is the reason (for) why we should not engage in these sinful practices any longer. We are no longer what we were.

Notice that God does not say we were in darkness and now are in light. He says we were darkness and are now light. This is very interesting.

If we stop to think about what it means to be darkness it isn’t pretty. Darkness is our enemy. It hides reality and increases the chance of harm. None of us would drive down an unlit street at night with our headlights off. We wouldn’t be able to tell where the road turns or what might be in front of us. Darkness is dangerous.

When people don’t know God they are darkness – they hide reality from the people around them and, hence, are dangerous. Such people are enemies of God [Colossians 1:21] and are also the enemies of mankind. This is why God has warned us not to become partners with them.

But when a person is born-again we become light. Light illuminates. Light is helpful. Light allows us to see reality and it keeps us from harm. What a contrast. People who don’t know God are harmful to the world. People who do know God are beneficial.

Sadly, the world thinks just the opposite. Governments and anti-Christian organizations believe that the Bible (i.e. Jesus) takes away freedom. False. Darkness is bondage. Light provides freedom. No one can look at world events over the past few decades and claim that, as we have removed Jesus from our lives, the world is getting better. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary.

When we remove Jesus we take away our freedom because we plunge ourselves into darkness. We take away our ability to see reality and as a result, make bad decisions based on faulty theories (e.g. global warming).

God is light [John 8:12; 1 John 1:5]. The only way a person can be light to others is to be in the Lord. Conversely, anyone who does not know God is darkness: dangerous and harmful to the world.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Using Our Lives To Influence Others

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:7-10 ESV)

Yesterday we read how we – those who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Christ – should not practice sexual impurity. We should instead, practice lives of righteousness to the best of our ability through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to people who don’t do this as “sons of disobedience”. This is the them referred to in today’s verse.

Because these people practice (i.e. make a habit of) disobeying God when it comes to sexual sin, we should not become partakers with them. The Greek word translated “partakers” is συμμετοχηοσ (pronounced: soom-met’-okh-os). This word means “to be involved with”. It was used to refer to the mutual participation in a civic or community endeavor. Those of us who are practicing lives of integrity should not partake in the same activities as those who are practicing sin.

The immediate context of Paul’s words regard sexual sin, but can certainly be applied in a broader sense. Often when we are around people who are not interested in obeying God there will be temptation to sin. Temptation, of course, is the first step to disobedience.

God warns us, therefore, not to get too close to people who do not belong to Him [2 Corinthians 6:14-18]. This does not mean that we can’t have any non-believing friends. Of course we should. God calls on us to reach people with His message of love and forgiveness. Our actions and words will demonstrate the love of God, but only if someone is around to observe and hear them.

We can’t do that if we isolate ourselves, as the Amish do. They separate themselves from society to keep themselves pure. But in so doing they have become a cultural oddity and have no impact for Christ on the lost world around them.

On the other hand, God’s children are to be in the world, but not of the world [John 17:14-19; Romans 8:12] (once again, prepositions are very important when studying the Bible). We are to have friends, neighbors, and coworkers to whom we can show Christ through what we do and say.

But we need to be careful. People who do not know God are practicing sin, even if they don’t realize it. They may pressure us – or we may pressure ourselves – into doing what they do. But this is just the opposite of what God commands. The lives of non-believers should not be influencing our behavior. Rather, our behavior should be influencing theirs.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


We Practice What We Believe

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
(Ephesians 5:5-6 ESV)

One of the drawbacks of studying just a verse or two of the Bible a day is we can forget the context within which each day’s words were written. As a result it is easy to apply incorrect meaning to a passage, such as today’s.

In this section of Paul’s letter he has been contrasting the behavioral characteristics of people who are God’s children and those who are not. Yesterday, we learned that people who are part of God’s family should not engage in inappropriate sexual conduct. That is what the world does. But God does not want His children to live like that. Paul continues to expand on that topic today.

Everyone who is sexually immoral, or impure, or covetous (in a sexual way; who idolizes sex) has no claim to God’s inheritance. Now, its safe to say that all human beings fall into this category more or less, even those of us who are God’s born-again children [John 1:12-13]. None of us live 100% pure lives. But God’s children have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven because our sins have been forgiven by God [Ephesians 1:11-12]. So Paul cannot be referring to us here.

Paul’s point is not that any sexual sin keeps a person out of heaven. Believers may fall into sexual sin or may carry sexual sin from their past, unsaved life, into their life as a believer. It happens. God does not condemn such a person. God condemns people who practice sin [1 John 3:7-8].

If you want to play a musical instrument you practice playing it. You intentionally try to become better at it. In the process, though, you will occasionally play bad notes. But your goal is to eliminate such mistakes.

Likewise, those who want to live according to God’s design will practice living that way. This does not mean they won’t mess up at times. Of course they will. But the fact that they are intentionally trying to live God’s way is proof they are saved and are on their way to heaven.

On the other hand, those who are deceived into thinking their behavior is not sin will incur God’s wrath. We are responsible for the information we receive and what we do with that information. We may receive false information – empty words – but the responsibility for knowing it is false rests with us. We can’t blame anyone else for our own deception.

Those who practice sin without regard for what God says will not be in heaven because they see nothing wrong with their behavior [Galatians 5:19-21]. They live in disobedience and don’t see a need to repent. The result is their sins are not forgiven and hence they will have to face judgement.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


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