Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ephesians 4:29

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.
God has given us words and language. This speech that was given to us has been affected by the fall of man. Now our speech can be "unwholesome" which can also be translated as corrupt or bad. As a child of God, who is walking in His way, we are to put that corrupt speech off and put on speech that is edifying, building up.

In an age that is filled with sarcasm and blunt humor, it is almost expected that we are to be thick-skinned. Even amongst those in the house of God, that element of our culture has infiltrated into our brains so much that I have even known people that believed that to be a good Christian, you should be able to take a joke.

This is not God's way.

Maybe in this day and age we need to be thick-skinned, but we should never require someone else to have that need for thick skin when they are around us. Our words should be constantly building others up. Just like those first creative words that brought all things into existence, we should follow after our Father, the Father of words and speech, and let our words build up and be creative, instead of destructive.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ephesians 4:28

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.
When are you no longer a thief? Is it when you simply stop stealing? No. It is when you begin working, and working so much, or in such a way, that you can actually begin to help others.

You don't have to hold a gun up to be a thief. You can "milk the clock" while you are at work. You can bring home that package of pens or printer paper without permission. There are many ways that thievery goes on, on a daily basis, even amongst those in the house of God.

When you are renewed in your mind, and you begin to think of things in God's way, change will happen. As you think of work with a Biblical mindset, the stealing will be put off. Once you have put off the stealing, you will begin to work for new motivations, not just to add to yourself more stuff.

So many Americans that actually do have a good work ethic, will work for themselves. They work hard to get that bigger house, to get that boat, to get that vacation to Europe, to get more and more stuff. These are wrong reasons to work. We know that we need to provide for our families, but our excesses shouldn't simply be about us, it should be with a generous attitude, looking for ways to help others.

What is your view of work? Are you squandering off of others and not working? Are you selfishly working hard to get more stuff? Or are you working in such a way as Christ would have you to work?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Ephesians 4:27

and do not give the devil a foothold.
If you do not deal with your sinful anger in a Biblical way, then you can rest assured that the devil will get a foothold into your heart and mind.

The devil here is the word that means, false accuser or slanderer. Sinful anger can play just such a role in your life, it can deceive you and trick you. The longer you allow it in your life, the more it can twist your thinking.

[Personal Note:] As I am writing this, I am being reminded of all sorts of times in my life that I held onto anger, and in my 20/20 hindsight, I can see how the devil did receive that foothold. I don't know why I never saw this connection before, this connection between anger and self-deception. When you get angry, and don't deal with it in a proper way, you become more and more focused on whatever it is that has made you angry. In the end, you have completely forgotten the greatest command of God, to Love Him and to Love Others.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

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Daily Bible Reading

Ephesians 4:26

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,

The biggest thing that I would like to point out here is that this verse does not say that all anger is sin. You can get angry, yet not sin. This is important. There are many who battle anger by trying to never get angry. The key is to determine what we do with the anger, we can get angry, but not sin.

To tackle sinful anger, it simply cannot be done in one short blog post, but let me try to outline the path of change. The Put Off is fairly simple, we need to put off sinful anger. It says it right there, In your anger... don't sin. The Put On is a little more hidden here, but I believe that it is still here, in the next part of the verse. To "not let the sun go down" you are going to have to deal with the problem. Jay Adams, in a booklet on anger, says that anger is energy to solve problems, and I believe that there is a lot of truth to that. We need to deal with the issue, today if possible.

Just a couple of other thoughts: Dealing with anger doesn't always mean that you are to go to the person. Many times it does mean that, in fact on some issues, we are commanded to go to the person. Consider Matthew 18:15-20. Using wisdom and discernment, there are some times that it is good to deal with it within yourself. In other words, sometimes the offense is better to overlook, consider Proverbs 19:11.

Don't let the sun go down again until you have dealt with your anger.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ephesians 4:25

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Remember, this passage is talking about True Change. When does a liar stop being a liar? When does an alcoholic stop being an alcoholic. When does the adulterer stop being an adulterer? These are the questions that need to be answered. Modern psychology will tell an alcoholic that he will always be an alcoholic. They tell him it is a disease that he has, but with the true changing of the Spirit of God, you can be made free from the laws of sin and death.

Here is the first example of the Put Off, Be Renewed, Put On, method of change. In this example we are dealing with a liar. You are to put off falsehood and you are to put on speaking the truth. Notice that the middle step is left out. I believe that the reason for this is because it is an assumption at this point. That middle step can only be accomplished if you are a true child of God. If you are, then the Spirit of God is at work within you, constantly renewing your mind.

But the passage does give a helpful little thought to establish that renewed mind. It tells us a reason why we shouldn't lie. We are members of one body. Now, we could get into all sorts of discussion about exactly what this means and is referring to. Think though, it would be damaging to the body if the brain told the knee to keep moving when the knee was feeling pain. If the brain said, "you'll be OK, keep going." There could be trouble. Or what if the knee said that it was OK when it really wasn't, the damage for the knee could be made worse or the knee could end up damaging the whole body if it were to give out in a bad circumstance. The point is that one part of the body lying to another part of the body just shouldn't happen.

When does the liar stop being a liar? Is it when he stops telling lies? No. It is when he becomes a speaker of the truth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ephesians 4:24

and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Here is step #3 on the way to true change. There will be a few examples here in the next few verses, but I want to make sure that the steps are understood.

The first step is to Put Off. When we see some action or attitude in our lives that is sinful, and not in place with who we now are in Christ, we need to put it off. Eliminate it. So many people stop here. They believe that the way to Christianity on this earth is by not doing anything bad. This way to righteous living will so often lead to failure or stagnation. People will either try this and try this and continue to fail or they will succeed in a few areas and become content with that. True change requires more.

The second step is the skipped step for many. The step is to Be Renewed in the spirit of your minds. The NIV tells us to "be made new." The idea that can't be overlooked is that true change emanates from a changed heart.

The third step is to Put On. Once we have dealt with the sin in our hearts, that lead us to those wrong actions or attitudes, we need to put on a new behavior. We need to replace.

This process should become a daily process. Or at least as often as you sin... Which is, I am sure, if you are anything like me, a regular occurrence.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ephesians 4:23

to be made new in the attitude of your minds;

Here is the second step to true change.

The first step was highlighted in the last verse. The step was to put off the old self. The old self is dominated by those sinful desires, those desires to go against God's way of life, God's way of doing things.

This step is the one that gets missed many times. We know that if the first step is to put off, then the next step is probably going to be to put on, but this middle step cannot be ignored. In order for this process to work, the area of our mind must be handled. The mind (or the heart) is the source of all that we do. If you try to adjust the outward, and let your mind do whatever it wants, eventually that will come out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ephesians 4:22

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;

This is one of those verses that could be broken into more than one day. There is so much truth here that it is difficult to absorb it all. And it is practical truth, truth that you can use on a Monday morning or a Saturday night. Consider what it is saying.

First, if you are a child of God, as this passage is addressed to, there is an old self. There exists an old you, and you are to put it off, get rid of it. As we can see in other passages, this is a daily process, sometimes a moment by moment process. Even though salvation is a once and done process, this is not. The old self must be chipped away at constantly.

The difficult thing is that the old self is linked with those deceitful desires. These are those desires that tell you that you "must have it!" Sometimes these are those desires that are letting you know that you won't feel better until you get what you want. These are those lustful desires that can never be satisfied, yet are always telling you that if you give it, it will be so fulfilling. It is very difficult to put off that old self when it is telling you these lies.

But that is the old way, the old manner of life. You are a new creature. Christ is showing you a better way to live, through His Word.

Today, if there is a conflict between what you want and what God says, choose God. Chuck the old self.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ephesians 4:21

Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.
The way of Christ is a way that is marked with truth. I am not talking about figurative truth or truth for me, I am talking about real solid truth.

Truth is absolute. Common sense will tell you that. Any child can figure this one out. You don't need to go out and figure out what your own truth is, you need to be a seeker of truth. Truth about existence, truth about eternity, truth about how to live, truth about how to have joy... Be a seeker of truth.

If you believe in Christ, then you are a believer in the Truth, and your seeking should all flow to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but don't stop with the truth that He came to make a way to God. Seek also His truth about how to live on this earth, how to exist with other human beings, how to bring up your family, how to deal with depression, how to love your enemies and others that have hurt you, how to forgive, how to deal with addictions, how to handle your past, how to control your anger, and so on...

You came to Him in truth, now it is time to live in His truth.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ephesians 4:20

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way.
The way to Christ is very different than the way of the world. All of us who are in Christ could attest to that, but this passage is speaking of a more fundamental difference, something more rudimentary than most might be thinking of right now.

The way of the world was just described as being "darkened in understanding" and "futile thinking" which results in a sensual, lustful lifestyle. The way to Christ is not like this. It is a way that is marked by truth and light and it leads to true pleasure instead of the temporary fulfillments of the flesh.

You might be thinking that you know this already and that you have heard this before, but consider that Paul is writing to Christians here. We usually think about this stuff when we are telling the lost about Christ. We paint this glorious picture of what life in Christ is all about, but then we don't even live in it. Paul is saying this to the Church, because they (and possibly we) have fallen back into this way of living. I am not talking about going out committing some big heinous sins, I am talking about how we live and make decisions.

A life that is marked by darkened understanding begins with a lack of communication with God. I am speaking specifically of not reading your Bible and not praying. So many Christians don't "really" do this. This lack of communication will lead to that lustful lifestyle. It won't always manifest itself in some sexual sins, sometimes it just means that you get angry more often when your life is disrupted or it could be that you will gossip when you get new information because it is enjoyable to share all of that junk.

When you begin to examine your life, ask yourself if you are in the way of Christ.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ephesians 4:19

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
When a person is given over to futile thinking, the result is to lose sensitivity. In the King James, losing all sensitivity is translated as "to be past feeling" and the New American Standard translates it as, "to become callous." I believe that the reason for this is because the person who thinks in this way begins to turn inward. Seeking truth within themselves and to focus on how they feel about everything.

The word could also be translated as "beyond pain" so they have stopped feeling the trauma that sin has caused in this world which has resulted in death and pain and suffering. They have also stopped feeling the pricks of the Holy Spirit, so to seek new feeling they begin to indulge in what they believe will bring them joy. Whatever they lust for, they go for. And the lust keeps building, going into new areas all of the time.

Even though this is clearly describing one who is lost, if you are a Christian, you also need to be aware of futile thinking. Even though Christ will perform His work in us, I believe that we can slow that work down when our mind is not right. It will lead us into bouts with worldliness and lust.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ephesians 4:18

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

It is vitally important, with a verse like this, to make sure that we do not just begin ranting and raving about how ignorant the world is and how they have hardened their hearts. If you really read this verse, it should draw up within you thoughts of compassion and sadness. These people have a darkened understanding. In other words, they do not comprehend that they are missing out on the life of God.

When Jesus looked on the multitudes of people, the Bible says that he was "moved with compassion", because the people were like "sheep without a shepherd." With a true Biblical worldview, we must see with eyes of compassion.

The truth of the Bible doesn't empower us to go around saying, "we're better than you!" It should help us see that we aren't any better than anyone else, and that we are in desperate need of one who is better, one who is perfect... We are in desperate need of Jesus!

Our darkened understanding, our ignorance, may have come from the hardening of our own hearts, but the freedom from this doesn't emanate from us. There is not a one of us who was able to haul ourselves up and choose the right thing. We are a work of His.

So when you read a passage like this, pray that the Holy Spirit will move you to compassion and don't forget to thank the Father for rescuing you from that blinded life.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ephesians 4:17

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.
We live in a world that assumes that it has cornered the market on thinking. Christians are portrayed in the media as stupid or silly. Usually even when a Christian is portrayed in a positive manner, they are almost lifted up for their ability to live by this great blind faith. Which sounds nice until you really stop to think about it. I would say that the reason I have faith is not because I am walking blind, but because Christ has opened my eyes.

According to this verse, the ones who are living with a futility of thinking, is not the Christian crowd, but the Gentiles. A Gentile commonly is considered one who is not a Jew, but to understand it, the way they would have understood it in its context, consider a Gentile as one who does not have a Judeo-Christian Worldview.

Paul is telling us here that we should no longer think as people who do not view the world through the correct lens. When you have the truth, you should view the world through that truth. Paul is insisting on it because he knows where futile thinking can lead.

In our media, the ones who are painted as the most enlightened people are the people that believe that there is no absolute truth. "You have to find out what is right for you..." Many times it is the person who has accepted his friends homosexual lifestyle who is painted as the one who has received higher truth. The kid who abandons his parents authority is portrayed as wiser than his parents in the world's media. We get to behold a sentimental moment of truth when the girl realizes that the best thing to do for herself is to get the abortion. And we applaud on Oprah when the wife who has toiled for her children and her husband finally goes out and does something for herself.

I could go on.

Have you abandoned futile thinking? Have you run to God's word for real truth. If you have not come to God yet, do it. You will not find His truth to be shallow. You will not find contradictions in His teachings. You will not come up wanting for more when you delve into Him.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Psalm 50:22

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.
To offer thank offerings is to offer thanks or praise. It is to bring glory and honor to God. This is the essence of the role of man, to glorify God. I believe that this is what this verse is saying: The way of salvation is to Glorify God.

If you go back through this entire passage, you will see that there were people who were offering sacrifices to God, but they were worthless to Him. God is seeking worshippers who will worship in spirit and in truth. He is not seeking people who simply are doing their duty. The duties must be from the heart. The duty itself is worthless, it is only when it is done in true worship that God is pleased and salvation is present.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Psalm 50:22

Consider this, you who forget God,
or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue:
There are two things that I would like to say about this verse.

The first is this, I feel lately like I am surrounded by people who forget God. I am not talking about the typical thing that you might read on a blog about the media and modern day America... No, I am talking about in my own back door. People who I once thought would never be forgetful of God, now they are throwing their lot in and going down the wrong path. It is both frustrating and depressing. We expect the world to forget God, but when those who are close do this, it just seems so much different.

The second thing that I would like to say is that I also seem to forget God. I don't like to admit this, but it is true. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, why was he just stating how frustrated he is about others doing this, when he himself does the same thing? Good Question.

I believe that we all have times in our lives when we forget God. The most righteous of us will still fall (Prov.24:16), but with the righteous our fallings are always accompanied by a rising. We are His workmanship.

The real point that I want to make here is this: So many of us who are striving toward God often jump to our failures. Every time that we read scripture we jump to that, and that is not an altogether bad thing to do. It is important to point scripture to our own hearts. But I believe that it essential that we do not skip the first point that I made. There are people who for get God and do not seem to even care. They justify their behaviors and expect us to do the same thing. Once again, I am not talking about the nameless crowds of people, I am talking about those who are close to us, who we have helped, who we have encouraged; then they turn and forget God.

We must not forget our own hearts and our own sinfulness, but lets not forget that there are verses like these. They are not directed at the person who is the struggling Christian, they are directed at the person who has made their life about forgetting God.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Psalm 50:21

These things you have done and I kept silent;
you thought I was altogether like you.
But I will rebuke you
and accuse you to your face.
This verse is why I chose this passage.

Let me give you an example... You are in school, you need an answer to number 27 on your quiz. Your friend doesn't have their test covered up as well as they should. You know that it is wrong to cheat, but you chance it. You get the answer and nothing happens. You were sweating it though, you had never cheated before. You were antsy, nervous, afraid, and feeling guilty... but all of that eventually passes when the wrath of God doesn't come down on you.

So... you do it again. And again, and again, and again. Before you know it, you are a full fledged cheater. You are cheating all of the time.

As a generation that has grown up in a Christian environment, there are many of us who begin sinful lifestyles this way. There are adults, who grew up in a Christian home that begin taking steps away from God, and when nothing happens, they go full force.

Just don't be mistaken about God's character. Some people mistake God's silence for a great many things. They might think that it is lack of care, or some even think that it is His approval. They begin to think that God is like them... But He is not. It is very clear here that His silence does not mean that He has changed His mind about sin.

This is a great verse for Biblical Counselor's use. So often we meet people who are in this boat of thinking the wrong way about God. They have made decisions about Him, not based on scripture, but based on their own observations of life. They assumed that God's silences meant something because if they were God, that is what their silence would have meant. God is not like us though. Sure, we were created in His image, but that image has since become marred.

God's silence is nothing else but His grace and His patience. We need to see it for what it really is. He gives so much time for repentance, but don't wait, the time is short.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Psalm 50:20

You speak continually against your brother
and slander your own mother's son.
This particular issue has almost become a non-issue here in the modern world. To speak against someone, whether to their face, or behind their back, is almost a continual daily occurrence.

I couldn't even begin to list the number of times that I have heard, or I myself have participated in, speaking against a boss. I mean really. Bosses are such easy targets sometimes. And what about co-workers? How many times have you had a co-worker that you have spoken out against them.

Sometimes in a disagreement between someone, you might immediately go out and start trying to see who is on your side. So you go from person to person, maligning that particular co-worker's name in the process of trying to get others to feel the same way about them as you do.

I had a boss one time that really just rubbed me the wrong way. And once he actually made a decision that was just plain unfair. Truly it was. So, in my quest to acquire a "multitude of counselors" and to get as much advice as I could, I began to tell everyone about it. Of course each person that I told, I spoke to them as if in confidence. I made it sound to them as if they were the only one I was talking to about the situation. I can still remember when I realized how many people that I had actually been talking to. When I realized that I was guilty of a verse like this.

God gave us our words, our language, to be used to build others up. That is what we should be doing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Psalm 50:19

You use your mouth for evil
and harness your tongue to deceit.
Lying is normally the second stage booster to a sinful lifestyle.

A person starts off with some sinful action. Possibly like the last verse, they have thrown in their lot with thieves or adulterers. There is hope yet to not be carried away in this lifestyle, but when the actions begin to be covered up with lies, things begin to decline quickly. Lying nearly always proliferates the life of someone who is wrapped up in a sinful lifestyle.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Psalm 50:18

When you see a thief, you join with him;
you throw in your lot with adulterers.
Here is one of the true tests of your stance: are you standing with the righteous or with the wicked. There are only two places to stand. You must be with one or the other. There is no fence to straddle.

Lest you think that I am being judgmental, I would like to share on a more personal note.

When I was a teenager, I would have thought that I was a pretty good kid. I would have thought that I was standing amongst the righteous. There were signs though, of my true intents because the heart will reveal itself sooner or later.

In high school I would have thrown my lot in with the thieves. When the other kids were cheating, sure enough, I was too. There were other things as well, but I wasn't all that bad. The key that I am getting across is that the only thing that was limiting me was availability. You see, anytime a sin came available, I threw in my lot with it. I was trying to judge my spiritual state by what I was doing, but the only reason I wasn't that bad is because I hadn't had opportunity.

When I got older and the temptations got bigger and I threw my lot in... Then I knew what a great sinner I was. My heart had been revealed for what it really was. It had been revealing itself all along, I was just not wise enough to see it.

When opportunity arises, where do you throw your lot?