Hopefully today Pop-pop will be moving in to stay with us for a little while as he recuperates from his knee replacement surgery. I am looking forward to his arrival and having him here with us. I know Dad’s family are trying their best to help him recover well, with the least amount of pain and in a manner that will get him back to full health as quickly as possible. Lots of texts and emails have been exchanged and everyone has tried the best they can to visit him while he was in the hospital. They and honoring and loving their father in all of these things and set a great example.
Today, I want to just say you all do that too and I want to give a word of thanks for that from Dad and I. It makes a difference. From birth up, you have no doubt, heard the verse I reference today from Ephesians. I am not sure if you remember, but there was a song about “children obey your parents” on one of the Steve Green cd’s that we played when you were kids. Dad and I tried very hard to teach you obedience- but it has always been your choice. Paul instructs this obedience and honoring of parents, and he reminds us that there is a benefit. It will “go well with you” if and when you do. I believe it does go pretty well between all of us, and this is a big piece of that.
When we ask you to do something, you do it. You may not always want to or even agree with us, but you do it. Whether it is a small request, like to empty the trash, or a much larger one like not attending a certain event or spending your money in a certain way, you listen, and obey if we are firm on it. It is our prayer that now, as you are becoming adults, this obedience to authority would transfer to fully obeying your heavenly father. Dad and I can already see fruits of this in all of your lives, and we could not be more thankful.
So, while these devotions usually are more action oriented on seeing what God is teaching us from his Word, today, I just wanted to send out a thanks. Thank you for respecting and honoring dad and I in this way. Thank you for continuing your walk with the Lord in this manner. We will continue to pray that you will be blessed because of this throughout your entire lives!
PS: If you would like a little “flashback” to your childhood, just click the link below for the Steve Green YouTube video of “Children obey your parents”. Trust me- you will be sure to smile when you hear it! 🙂
LINK: Steve Green: Children obey your parents
Imagine if our builders had hidden a “treasure” stash of gold and cash in one of the houses in this neighborhood. Let’s say they put it down in the basement in a far away corner and left it there for the owners of the house to find. Now, imagine we were the owners of that house and time passed. As it did, our roof needed replacing, the appliances had all broken and dad lost his job. Imagine that money still in the basement, but when we went down, we never turned on a light to see what was in that corner of the basement, so the stash was never found and the improvements were never made. We instead, remained in poverty and disrepair. What a shame that would be.
I think my heart may be a lot like that house. I suspect yours may be too. Pauls seems to think so, because he prays in Ephesians that the “light” of our hearts would be turned on to see the riches that are already ours. This insinuates the lights currently are NOT on. He prays that the eyes of our heart would be flooded with light so we can know the hope we are called to, the riches that are our inheritance and the power available to us as believers.
Paul’s point is that if we could ever truly comprehend all that we have been given through our salvation in Christ, we would see the amazing hope we have. As children of God, our inheritance is so far more valuable than any money could ever be, but we don’t see it.
How excited are you about heaven? How excited are you about the riches that are yours? Honestly? Does it cross your mind? If someone told you when you turn 25, you will receive 1 billion dollars, wouldn’t you think about that daily? When times were rough, you might think “but once I make it to 25, I will get that money.” THAT is the way we need to think about and realize our inheritance. Christ has given us an inheritance! The truth I know for me is, I am not as excited as I think Paul is alluding to here. I need this prayer for myself-that the eyes of my heart would be enlightened, that the flood lights would come on in the basement of my heart to see the amazing incredible inheritance I have been given. Feel free to pray Paul’s prayer for me, and maybe you want to pray it for yourself as well. The more we genuinely realize our inheritance, the more hope, joy and power we will have each and every day here on earth AND the more we will want to share it with others too!
A few weeks ago, Uncle Jack came down to visit so I could fix something that was wrong with his phone. Unfortunately, it was during all of the construction. Red Lion Rd. had all those cones up and was reconfigured AND the railroad crossing on Route 7 was closed with a detour around it. He could not find his way here with all the construction, cones and detours. He was forcibly sidetracked down many other roads. His goal was to come to our house-but he almost gave up.
This happens in life in more areas than just driving. It also happens in our spiritual life. Sometimes the “sidetracking” is something God put in our path to train us or change our direction, but unfortunately, there can also be people who are “detours” that keep us from where we are going or from “running the race” well as Paul puts it. The things God puts in our path are for our own good and unavoidable. The people in our life and that lead us away from God and into sin are not good. In fact, Paul tells us they keep us from running a good race. They keep us from obeying the truth. Today’s verse is in a larger section where Paul is giving the Galatian believers instructions to stop being distracted from what they know to be truth by those around them who are feeding them lies, making them still do all the things prescribed in the law and taking away their freedom in Christ. He is giving us the same instruction. Stop listening and obeying those who are detracting us from our walk with the Lord. Stop letting them slow us down in our race to become Christlike and to be approved on that day. Stop letting them persuade us from obeying the truth.
Who are those people in our lives? It will be different for you than me., but Paul gives us a list later on to help us identify them. He tells us what the results will be, if we are being detoured or “cut off”. Those who encourage us OR do NOT discourage us from practicing sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry or witchcraft (think horoscopes in our day), hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition (“follow your dream no matter what” mentality), dissensions, factions (exclusive “squads”), envy, drunkenness, and orgies are those people. (Gal. 5:19-20) Anyone who pushes us to these sins or to disobey God is someone who is slowing us down in our race. Just like the detours nearly stopped Uncle Jack from reaching our house, people in our lives who lead us into sin and disobedience are cutting us off. We need to run to win-and run at all costs, casting anything and everything out of our path that cuts us off from reaching our goal.
Dad graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary after he completed his 4-year college degree in business. At seminary, he completed another 4 years of study, earning a Masters of Theology (THM) in 3 ½ years. It is a VERY hard program that includes learning Greek and Hebrew among other things. Most people don’t know this. He never mentions it. What he does do is use the gifts and incredible knowledge God gave him in this area for the good of our family and the good of others to God’s glory. Compare Dad to Muhammed Ali, one of the greatest boxers ever, who was known for announcing “I am the greatest” on many occasions. People make choices as to whether to boast about themselves or not.
Muhammed Ali commended himself publicly and had a lot of people pat him on the back and confirm how great he was. Not too many people come up to dad and pat him on the back telling him how great he is. But dad will one day get a great commendation, and it is the commendation that will count in the end. It is a commendation from God for using the gifts and talents God gave him in the best way possible to further God’s kingdom. In fact, you 3 are evidence of this. He has used his time, money, and theological training to train you in the Lord and provide for you as a godly father.
2 Corinthians tells us that it is not the person who commends himself that matters-but the one who God commends. In the Philips translation, he puts it: It is not self-commendation that matters, it is winning the approval of God.
We live in a world where at this point, you are actually encouraged to commend yourself. You are to post the awards you have received. Put a bumper sticker on your car if your kids make the honor roll. Point to yourself in your athletic game if you make a great play and make sure that everyone claps for you because you are so great. This is not the way of a believer. This is the clear opposite to what God encourages us to do. He tells us “not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant.” (Matt. 20:26). Proverbs reminds us that we should let another praise us, and not our own mouth. (Prov. 27:2)
While it is very tempting to tell others how great we are, we instead, would be far better off, making sure we live by God’s standards of approval. Our lives should be filled with God-pleasing activities. We should be in the habit of making decisions based on the question: Does God approve of this? We can assess how we are doing in this area by our use of the word “I” in our conversations with others? If we use it a lot, it could be evidence that we are in the habit of commending ourselves. All the likes, stars, hearts, follows, and audience clapping will not count for anything in the final day, no matter who we are. God approves of us through the “filter” of the blood of Christ, and that is the only approval that will ever matter!
Have you ever purposefully tripped someone? I hope not. I have seen brothers and sisters trip each other and I have seen kids in school do it as a joke. I have never found it funny, and doubt the person who stumbles does either. Causing someone to stumble is mean and a form of bullying. Paul tells us today, that it also will discredit our “ministry” if we cause others to stumble spiritually. Have we ever considered that? Have we ever considered how our life might cause another person to stumble spiritually?
Paul says in 2 Corinthians that he and his fellow believers put no stumbling block in anyone’s path so their ministry would not be discredited. What exactly would those blocks be? I believe those “blocks” that could trip others up would include unkindness, impatience, living or acting “impurely”, not being above reproach and more. How did I come up with these? Because they are opposites of what Paul says in his next few verses.
Reading further, Paul tells us what things “commend” or give proof of the fact we are servants of God. Verses 4-10 include enduring troubles, hardships, remaining pure, being understanding, patient, kind and more. These are indications to others that we truly are servants of Christ. We prove we are what we say we are. When we choose to do the opposite of these things, we can be causing others to stumble.
As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ. In fact, Dad has been teaching about this in Sunday School recently. An ambassadors is a representative from a “foreign” country who shows what their country is like. We should be showing others Christ through our life to those around us. As God’s ambassadors our lives should give daily evidence and proof that we are from Him and serve Him. We should be kind with every single person we interact with whether they are kind or not, because that is what Christ did. We should be patient in line, when driving, and with friends. Jesus was. We should not be reading, listening to, watching, paying for, or taking part in any impure thing because Christ would not. Our lives should not include anything that might cause others to stumble spiritually. God’s kingdom does not include bullies who trip others causing them to stumble on this earth, and it won’t in eternity either.
We often burn candles in our house. They look pretty and give off a nice scent or aroma. If someone walks in the house and the candle is burning, that will be the first thing they smell when they walk in. I am certain that is the picture Paul is trying to describe to us in 2 Cor. today.
Paul’s description of what we as believers are to be to our world is very easy to understand. He says we, believers, are to God the aroma of Christ. Let’s stop there; just like a pumpkin spice candle is the “aroma” of pumpkin spice on my counter, we are being told we are the “aroma” of Christ. God desires to use us in this way. When I smell pumpkin spice, I think of pumpkins and the smell of a pumpkin spice coffee. In the same way, we, God’s children, are to be the aroma of Christ. When someone encounters us, it should immediately remind them of Christ or an attribute of His.
Paul tells us who our audience for this “aroma” is as well: those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Those around us. This is our neighbors. This is the lady at the cash register in the dollar store and the drive through cashier at Taco Bell. Its the person next to your locker if they are not a believer or the neighbor in the apartment next to you. It might be your co-worker or the mailman you see everyday. It is those people who are around us every single day.
Given Paul’s description of what we are to be, you and I have to ask ourselves, are we living up to his description? When I interacted with the pool people today, did they get a glimpse of Christ? When you switched classes today-did you hold your tongue from commenting negatively about a teacher to your friend? When you walked in to work today, did you say something encouraging? When we are out walking and see friends, do we genuinely listen when they answer the question “how are you” and then offer to genuinely pray for them if they are going through a difficult time? Are people reminded of Christ today when they encounter us? Are we living up to Paul’s description of being the aroma of Christ where we are right now? What if yours is the only aroma of Christ they someone may ever get and without it, they will perish? Consider at least one unbeliever you or I encountered today and think through if we represented Christ well in that interaction or if perhaps, we could do a better job “burning brightly” for Him! Let’s pray we would all be that pleasant aroma of Christ for all those around us each and every day!
Aaron has to wear a uniform every day to school and will continue to do so until he graduates next year. Jordan, Miriam and Rain no longer wear theirs. They no longer have to, and I certainly have not seen any of them choosing to wear it. The thing is, if they wanted to wear their Red Lion uniforms now, they certainly could. It makes me laugh just thinking about it though. I doubt anyone ever chooses to wear them again, and I doubt Aaron will once he finishes at RLCA.
This is slightly like what Paul is talking about in Romans when he speaks of law in Romans 7:6. Paul says we were once bound to sin by the law but have been released from that bondage. So, it is like being released from having to wear the school uniform. Once you graduate, you are done with it. You no longer have to wear it. We have new, better “clothes” to put on. It is the Spirit that lives in us now. Paul says the thing inside of us that drew us to sin have been replaced by the Spirit in us. The Spirit in us gives us the strength, knowledge and wisdom to not choose sin. But the choice is ours. Just like you could choose to still wear the uniform, we can still choose to sin. The outcome? Well, if we choose sin-it will be death. It always eventually leads to earthly and eternal bad consequences. If we choose living by the Spirit, through the blood of Christ and his atonement for us-it will be life. It will be good fruit in this life, things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control AND it will be eternal life in the hereafter.
What does this mean practically? How do you choose not to “wear” sin? When we choose not to pass on a crude joke-we are not putting on our sin “uniform”. When we take time in solitude with God’s Word daily, we are putting on the clothing of the Spirit. When we regularly and willingly tithe to church, we have chosen to leave the uniform in our closet.
Sometimes we actually need this reminder. The “uniform” of sin will unfortunately always be in our “closet” while on this earth. What we need to remember is we are no longer required to wear it. We do NOT have to put it on any more, because we have been released from that and have MUCH better “clothes” to wear now!
The first time I ordered from Amazon Fresh, they were out of Pillsbury pie crust, and substituted an organic brand. This was actually a great substitution and they gave me the item for free. That was a good exchange for me-but usually, it does not work out that way. Usually the exchange ends up with something not as good. That is the type of exchange Paul is referring to in Romans chapter 1.
Paul starts out in Romans describing men who suppress the truth of God. They make a conscious decision to not believe in God, and then, by default, exchange worshiping and serving the Creator for worshiping and serving created things. In the more tribal communities, this takes the form of nature worship like trees, animals or the sun. These people make offerings to these different gods. In more developed nations, people suppress the truth of God, and worship things like money, success, status or health. How does this happen? It is all about what Paul says: they have exchanged the truth for a lie. Do you believe this? Do you think Paul is right? Have you seen this exchange or ever experienced it yourself?
What exactly is the lie exchanged? They are numerous lies that Satan lures people with. The lie that this life is all there is-so there will be no judgment of right or wrong. The lie that wealth, beauty, success or health will bring ultimate joy. Ask those who have sought these things if that is true. Was Steve Jobs able to escape facing judgment once he died? Could his money buy him a cure for his cancer? Does Eminem seem like a happy, fulfilled person to you?
You and I both know that Paul is right. The question is-how can we avoid believing the lies. They are thrust at us daily. You will be tempted by these lies today. The three of you are working hard in your studies so you can get a good job after you graduate. How do you define a “good” job? Is it a job that pays a ton of money, or a job where you can use your gifts for the good of others and for God’s kingdom? Dad and I are not immune to the lies either-whether it is a promotion dad might be offered, or a job I could take to bring in “just a little more money”- the temptation from that lie is there. Even as people who have chosen to worship the Creator himself, we would be wise to realize the lies are out there for us too. It is up to us whether we will choose to believe them or not, and that choice, will determine if whether we worship and serve our Creator or just created things.
Miriam is a server for Texas Roadhouse in the summers. This means, when a family goes to eat there, she takes their orders, brings the food out to them when it is ready, gets their drinks and brings them anything else they need. If a customer wants something, they only have to ask her and she, as their server, will get it for them.
The concept of “serving” someone is not a difficult concept, until we mix it in with the bigger concept of “serving God.” We may say we desire to serve God, but what does that really mean?
Paul claims he serves God today in Acts 27:23. If his statement from Acts is true, then we should be able to look at his life and see what it means to serve God. When Paul became a believer, he switched Masters. He stopped serving himself and started serving Jesus, his new Lord, instead. He stopped doing the things only he desired. he stopped persecuting Christians, and instead, started to spread the truth about Jesus to anyone he could. He was willing to be ridiculed, outcast and even beaten for his words and actions by the people whom he would have called his friends just a few weeks prior. He made new friends who had the same interest in following Christ as Lord and Savior and hung out with them. They studied the word of God, discussed it to see how their lives compared to what they understood God was calling them to do. They corrected one another if they thought someone was not serving “right”, like when Peter needed to be corrected about how Gentiles were saved. He went on trips with his Christian friends. He earned money working hard at the job as a tentmaker, so that he could reach more people and tell them about Jesus. I would guess prior to being a Christian, Paul’s time and money would have been spent in a different way. It changed because his master changed.
When we say Jesus is our Lord and Master, we too, will serve God. The way we spend our time and money will be different than if we are our own master. Can you think of a way that serving Jesus as your master changed the way you spent your time or money today? Is there any other area that calling Jesus our Lord and choosing to serve him has changed any of your decisions today? Think about it and see if you can find a friend to talk to about it. We all make hundreds of decisions daily and whether we know it or not, every decision we make displays who we have decided is the master of our life and who we will serve.
This summer I get to go to the Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference with some ladies from church. It is June 14-16th. I can choose which speakers I would like to hear based on what they will be speaking about. For instance, Don Carson’s talk is on “Teaching the Bible as One Book.” The title tells me what he will be speaking about.
If I told you that Paul was one of the speakers and he was speaking on the gospel or about faith in Jesus Christ what do you think he would talk about? He would talk about Jesus resurrection, how Jesus was the Messiah promised from the Old Testament or maybe even how Jesus was the final passover lamb for all sins, right? Sometimes, that is what he talked about. In today’s Scripture though, that is not what he spoke about. Today, in Acts, we read about Paul coming before a governor and when he spoke “about faith in Christ Jesus”, he “discoursed” on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come. It is not exactly the main subject I would expect him to talk about to the governor. Not only wasn’t it what I was expecting, but the governor’s response is also different than I would expect: We are told he was afraid. He was scared, but not scared enough to stop meeting with Paul. Not scared enough to stop listening.
This portion of Paul’s life can remind us to just speak truth. The response of the listener is not our responsibility. Felix was apparently familiar with “the Way”, which was what they called Christianity sometimes in that day. He continued after this encounter, to send for Paul because he and his wife wanted to talk to him more about Jesus. They had questions, so Paul answered whatever questions they had.
If I asked you today to go out and “share the Gospel” or “tell someone about faith in Christ”, would it be easy for you? Maybe, speaking about our “faith in Christ” is not always the formal, practiced speech that we think of when we are challenged to “share the gospel”. I know I have an inherent fear of trying to “share the gospel” with a stranger. But, if a stranger or friend asked me to answer some questions about Jesus Christ I am pretty sure I could do that. What about you?
Paul reminds us today that sharing or speaking “about faith in Christ Jesus” may mean just giving someone our time and attention, answering their questions, and helping them in whatever specific way God leads us. I am certain we could all do this well. There will be no governors calling us today to answer questions, but there may be a person at Starbucks waiting on you who sees you attend a Christian college called Liberty. Maybe the person checking your membership at Planet Fitness will see your RLCA shirt and ask what you like about the school. Perhaps a co-worker will ask what you do on Sundays and why. Those questions are a good start to further conversation. Who knows, maybe it will turn in to you and I telling someone about Jesus in the most unexpected place and way. Look for that opportunity, and count on God to give you the “talking points” as needed, just like He did for Paul.