Friday, December 30, 2016

redeem the time

Something I've been thinking on, mulling over, and processing through is the concept that time is finite. We are not promised tomorrow, and every second is one second closer to our last breath. I'm not trying to be morbid here, but think about it. Whatever I am doing right now is bringing me one step closer to my final moments. The clock is ticking, yet I so often live as if it's infinite. I think it goes on forever, but it doesn't. We have a time limit.

I was reading in Ephesians this morning, and this verse (5:15-16) really stuck out to me: "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." As I read through the passage a couple of times, I noticed that redeeming the time you are given is in direct correlation to being wise. 

The Greek word for 'circumspectly' is akribōs, which means "exactly, accurately, diligently". We are called to walk diligently, exactly as Jesus has prescribed us to walk. The Greek word for 'redeeming' is exagorazō. Webster's 1828 dictionary defines the word redeem as "to purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage." Think about that. Do we realize that time has been taken captive by the enemy and by this world, and that he has twisted our minds to think that we have an endless supply of it? We don't, but we are called to redeem time. Take it back and use it for the glory of God.  The definition that Blue Letter Bible gives is something I really love: "to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well doing are, as it were, the purchase money by which we make the time our own".  Let me read that again: making wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good.  For bringing glory to Jesus Christ in every moment of every day. In every thought, action, word.  If you think about the enormity of this calling...it's impossible without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in your life! Which is why this is so beautiful.

Jesus redeemed the time. He used His minutes, hours, and days to pour into others, to spend time with the Father, to encourage His disciples. He was not a self-focused man in the least. He lived indwelled by the Holy Spirit and everything He did was an outflow of that. There was 100% dependency on the Father for His strength, His wisdom, His power...and He lived it. There was nothing in Him that was wasted. Not even His time.

Paul says that we are to do this because the days are evil. Look around and it doesn't take long to realize that he's spot on in his assessment. We are called to be the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matt. 5:14). We are called to be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16). Redeeming our time is direct linked to wisdom, and there is no greater testimony to the world than living as our Savior did. Everything we do is based on time. Time is the construct for our lives. Wether we live all out for Jesus or for ourselves in dependent on how we spend our time. Wether we spend time in the Word of God or not is based upon how we spend those precious minutes. If people are approached with the Gospel of Christ is dependent upon how we use time...do you see it?

We don't have much time left, brothers and sisters. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. What are we doing today to further the Kingdom of God in our lives and in others? How are you spending your time? It's not about if something is bad or not, it's about maximum usage of the resources given to us. Walk diligently and exactly. Allow the Holy Spirit to move in and through you. Redeem the time, because the days are evil.

Monday, December 26, 2016

the greatest of these

It was snowing outside, there was no one else up except for my parents, and my dad's Christmas piano album was playing. It was already a beautiful Christmas morning, and I was excited to see what the day had in store for us.  I had my Bible open in front of me, ready to dig into God's Word...and I felt pressure. The pressure wasn't from anyone but myself. It was this: to receive as much intellectual knowledge as I could so I could say I gained something from my study. It hit me as I started reading through the passage in Ephesians 1. I thought, "I am only doing this right now to know Greek words and how they relate to each other," and I closed my Bible. For real,  I'm being serious. Something in that moment – the picturesque Pinterest Bible-study-in-the-morning-with-tea moment – changed. I realized the motivation, I saw the hypocrisy, and though I had started out with the intent to get to know the Author, I missed it. I got caught up in academics. Or maybe it was that I was so bogged down with it all that I never took the time to actually read through the text. The story of love written to me was lost in the definitions of words and verb tenses and although the Lord has, by those means, spoken things to me  which are profound and incredible, I had lost sight of it. Funny how easy it is to do that, to lose sight, huh?

I put down my Bible. I took a long, deep breath. I stopped, and I examined my heart. The One who knows it all gently pried away at that hidden root of academic pride that I've carried for so long, and He pointed my gaze to something far greater. He reminded me, in that moment, of a friend and teacher of mine who has studied for days and weeks and years, yet doesn't get so caught up in academics that he fails to achieve his goal...my friend knows Jesus. & he's tight with Jesus. & it's not about academics with him. That's what I missed yesterday morning. I lost sight of my goal: to know [ginōsko] Jesus Christ. To win Him like He has won me. That's the goal, friends. So I prayed. It might've been out loud, I don't remember. But I came to Jesus and I asked Him to forgive me and to realign my motives and priorities. Which He was faithful to do. Because the next chunk of time was precious indeed. & it was rich and it was like Jesus was right there next to me with His cup of coffee, showing me the life of love He lived through the Word I studied. It was beautiful. I simply read through the passage and it came alive. I can't explain it...but it was to know Jesus. & that happened.

In sharing all of this, I really do want to share with you some of the things Jesus showed me. It's nothing new, of course, and goes along pretty seamlessly with the post before this one, but it's something that's been hitting me hard lately. & I mean hitting me h a r d. For real. In Ephesians 1:9-14, Paul says this, 

"...having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth – in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in who also, having believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." 

Every single word in this passage spells l o v e. I've never realized that this entire chapter is about this central, core attribute of God. It's the core of who He is, and these verses make that come alive so much. I mean, really. Look at the first verse: He made known the mystery of His will (Christ in us, the hope of Glory!) because of the good pleasure that He purposed in Himself! These are key words, guys, and they mean the world. Do we not see that our redemption, our sanctification, our rescuing...it's all His pleasure? His delight? His choice? The word predestined means to be chosen beforehand. You know when you're working on a project, the teacher says to pick somebody, and even before she says that you've picked the person you want to work with? That's this kind of choosing. There is nothing so great as the love of God towards man...and it was His choice. Then Paul goes on to say that all of this that happens and will happen to us as His Body is to the praise of His glory! Is there no greater reward than to know that your life gave glory to the Lord? I pray mine does...but it strikes me that I can never hope to glorify my Father in Heaven unless He first purchased me...I am His possession, and there is no taking me back from hiding in Him. I so desire to hide in the shadow of His wings and abide in Him. There is no greater manifestation of love than Jesus.

God is love. That's a fact, and we all know this truth. Yet we lose sight of it, the impact of it wears off, and there is nothing quite so beautiful as knowing that the condescension and birth of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, was all birthed out of love. Can you imagine God Almighty (and think about this for a second) having to have His diaper changed? Having to learn how to walk? Having to be shown by His adopted father how to sand wood, or build buildings, or create with His hands a trinket, knowing that He breathed LIFE into existence? Can you imagine your God, the maker of the stars, being beaten? Having blood drip slowly down His face as His name is mocked by hundreds of angry onlookers? His body, a pulp by the time His crucifiers were through with Him, hanging lifeless from two beams of wood? This is the great condescension, and I cannot comprehend it. There is nothing so incredible as that truth! & yet – He did not do any of that because He was bound to His word, or to His character, or because He had created this Master Plan Messiah Test to pass in order to prove who He was. He did every one of those and lived a stinkin' perfect life on top of it, filled with the Spirit of God and walking in the newness of Life...He did every single thing out of love for you, and for me. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...let us allow that to sink in. Jesus, make my life an offering. One who does not only have sins forget but lives in victory over them! Jesus...You're so good! & You want to know us.

Will we let Him? Will we love?


Saturday, December 17, 2016

his choice.

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Ephesians 1:4-6

The beginning of this passage flows out of Paul talking about our spiritual blessings in Jesus, the Blessed One. He says “just as”, indicating that this is directly correlated to the statement before. Paul says that Jesus chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. This concept of “choosing” is a neat one. The idea is that you are not the last one thought of by God and so He reluctantly agrees to choose you. No, this is the idea that you are the first one that comes to His mind, and that He says, “That one!” The Greek word is eklegomai, which means “to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self”. This is the same word used in John 15:16 when Jesus tells His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

This word choice makes so much sense when you look at what follows it.  He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. If, when you see the words ‘foundation of the world’, you think of creation, you’re not wrong. But an even more precise meaning for the word katabolē is this: “the injection or depositing of the virile semen in the womb, of the seed of plants and animals, a founding (laying down a foundation)”. Think with me for a minute about family. You know how sometimes a couple will get pregnant on accident and then react? They didn’t choose this baby, but now they have to handle something they didn’t plan. However, when a couple wants to have a child (aka they choose it) there are actions of love that bring forth the conception of a baby. When the baby is born, it is born because 1) it was chosen, and 2) it was born out of love. 

Jesus chose us before the conception of the world! Isn’t this such a beautiful picture of the love of God toward us? We did not choose Him, He chose us. “For God so loved…” Verse five clarifies it more. He predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself. What is it to predestine? The Greek word for it is proorizō, and it means “to predetermine, decide beforehand, (in the NT) God decreeing from eternity, to foreordain, appoint beforehand”. This is definitely a choice on God’s part. He wanted to adopt us as sons. To take us in as His own. To love us as He loves His own Son. Paul goes on, “According to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” This predestinating, this choosing, this adoption, is His will (which, by the way, means “what one wishes or has determined shall be done, will, choice, inclination, desire, pleasure”). It is something He takes pleasure in. This is what leads to His degradation to earth, His ultimate sacrifice for restored relationship. This “good pleasure” literally means “will, choice, kindly intent, delight, pleasure, satisfaction, desire”. This [our adoption, our sonship, our intimacy with Him] brings Him pleasure! What in the world?! My mind is actually blowing fuses right now. THIS IS MAJOR! This is not only the foundation for the world, but for our existence.

Why? Let’s backtrack to 1:4 really quickly, since I sort of skipped it. He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. That we should be is a result of the first half of the verse. He chose us –why? So that we should be (which means we should literally exist in this state) holy and without blame before Him. Holy: set apart, consecrated, pure. Without blame: without blemish, as a sacrifice without spot or blemish, morally: without blemish, faultless. I think it’s so interesting that ‘without blame’ refers to a sacrifice. It reminds me of Romans 8:29, which says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” What was Jesus? The ultimate sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” 

In my mind (and since I probably haven’t done too well at communicating all that is within me regarding this passage) I have a flowchart of the order of events contained in this passage.

  1. Jesus chose us [l o v e]
  2. Jesus predestined us to adoption as sons
  3. The foundation of the world was laid
  4. Man, the glory of Jesus’ creation, rebelled against Him and severed themselves from intimacy with Him
  5. Jesus [out of love] came down, became as one of us, and was crucified in our place
  6. He rose and ascended, making a way for relationship to be restored!
  7. Jesus poured out His Spirit upon the sons of God (those who put their faith in Him) and restored that Father/Son, Groom/Bride relationship. He lives in us and gives us power to
  8. Walk as He walks, talks like He talks, live as He lives

Do you not see love in this?! That is a beautiful picture to me. It’s amazing that even in only three verses, the essence of the Gospel is revealed: restoration. It’s love at the core. It’s who He is, revealed: God is love. There is one last thing I would want to mention, and this is something that I have had to daily reckon and apply to my life (trust me, I’m still and probably always will need refreshers on this!).  Paul says two things in this passage: Jesus chose us in Him, and He predestined us to the adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself. The definition of the word ‘by’ is pretty simple, but the more I study Ephesians (or any other passage), the more I see this word, and the more I praise the Lord for what He has done. By literally means “by the means of”. It’s simple. But it’s revolutionary. Because He can do all this for me, choosing me and setting me apart and having wondrous plans of making me like Him, but if I don’t grab ahold of Jesus Christ I will never be able to live in the reality of that. In Him. Am I in Christ today? Am I found in the One who did the work on my behalf? Am I truly realizing that the only way I can be counted as a true son of God is by the means of the shed blood of Jesus? I am nothing without Him! I can’t dare think about being part of the family of God without the restoring work of Jesus on the cross! Get in Him. Find out what life in the family of God looks like.  That is what I want to leave you with. 

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

grace, peace, & blessings.

For those of you who don’t know (and I realize I never actually did give a life update like I promised…oops) I recently attended a discipleship training school in Windsor, CO called Ellerslie (affectionately referred to now as EDT – Ellerslie Discipleship Training). It was about twelve weeks long on campus, and now I am in the process of completing the program at home, which is 8-weeks. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and everything there – the teaching, the environment, the staff, the student body – encouraged me to go so much deeper with Jesus than I was before. It was such a rich time of soaking in the Word of God and becoming equipped with tools to more effectively live a victorious life in Christ and I’d encourage anyone I know to go through it themselves. It was awesome. Anywayyyyyyyys. As part of the 8-week program at home, I am studying the book of Ephesians. I should probably be a lot further into the book than I already am (whoops) but there’s so much to be found in each verse and I can’t help but see Jesus everywhere I look! I’m trying to put into words some of the thoughts that I have had as I’ve studied, so I decided to share some of my ramblings. Do forgive me – this is me trying to organize my thoughts, so if it doesn’t make sense…well. We all have something we need to grow in. ;) Okay, enough of my rambling (see, I told you!). 

Ephesians 1:1-3
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…”

I love that Paul starts this letter to the church of Ephesus with reminding them of their position. “Hey!” he says lovingly, “You are faithful, yes…but you are faithful in Christ! This is your position, church!” Immediately following this, he prays grace and peace over them.

Grace (charis in Greek) - good will, loving-kindness, favor, of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues

&

Peace (eirene in Greek) - a state of national tranquility, exemption from the rage and havoc of war, peace between individuals, security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (of Christianity) the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing rom God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is

Grace and peace come from the Lord. The origin of grace and peace is Jesus. True grace, power, unction, steadfastness, and peace come from the heavenly places, in which Christ is seated. These are found in Christ. Paul just affirmed that the Ephesians were in Christ, and now he says that since you are in Christ, the grace and peace that come from Christ is yours! What a beautiful promise to grab ahold of.

In verse three, Paul uses the word “bless” in three different ways. He states that God is blessed, God has blessed, and the blessings we receive are specifically spiritual. What I find beautiful about this (and I haven’t studied this verse out near as much I would like to!) is that the Lord doesn’t give us temporal blessings (ie health, prosperity, etc), but spiritual ones. The thing is this: earthly “blessings” will fail us, or run out, or divide us (“why does she have money and I don’t?”, etc.), but our Father, as He is described in this context, blesses us with those things that will never run out, that will never fail, that will never let us down. These blessings are grace, peace, eternal life – think about that one for a bit – and ultimately, Christ in us, the hope of glory. 

[ Insert for my personal pleasure ;) :: the verb “has blessed us” in Ephesians 1:3 is in the active aorist tense. While that probably means nothing to you people who find no joy in grammar (unlike myself), I find it beautiful. In English we have three tenses (past, present, future), while in Greek there are four (though please correct me if I’m wrong…I’ve only been half-studying Greek on BLB for a few months :). The aorist tense is typically translated as our past tense, but really the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future. It just is. Which is stunning for me to realize that the verb “blessed” that Paul uses in this context is saying, roughly, that this wasn’t just a one time blessing, but that this act of blessing that the Father does to His children is a continual action. Yes, He did it once, but He continues to do it. ]

When I think about our Father blessing us with spiritual blessings, I can’t help but thank Him for it, because I know that He only gives good gifts. In James 1:17 it says that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Back in Luke 11, Jesus tells His disciples, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” This is our Father. We are His children. 

Just like we have access to the grace of God and the peace that passes all understanding if we are in Christ, we have been given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (this was literally translated as heaven) in Christ. I find it beautiful that these things are available to us in Christ, because I know that in my own life I cannot whip up any grace or peace of my own, nor can I live under the blessing of Heaven in my own strength. God is blessed, God has blessed us, and God has given all spiritual blessings to those who are in Christ. It is a blessing to receive blessings from the Blessed One, but you are only blessed if you are in the Blessed. This reminds me of the fact that all throughout Scripture we have nothing of ourselves, unless we are in Christ. We are not righteous, He is. We are not holy, He is. We are not loving, He is. We are not blessed, He is. But when we find ourselves seated in Him in the heavenly places we are also recipients of the outflow of His nature, just like everything else. It all comes down to the question: what’s your position? 



(For my fellow Ellerslie classmates who just finished this past semester alongside me, your answer should be “In Christ!”)



Saturday, December 3, 2016

living.

What is living?

It’s a good question. It’s one that I’ve had to think about the past few days and week. It’s a question that determines the existence of every soul on this planet. It’s a critical question. 

What is the proof of living? Often we look at life in regards to happy we will be, in regards to our personal comfort, or wether it’s full of adventure. Is living a rush of adrenaline through my body, a flutter of emotion in my chest, laughter, or tears? Can one live without things? What is living?

We look at life through the lens of ourselves. We are very selfish in our approach to life. It’s so focused on us, and our version of “living” is dependent upon our emotions and how we feel. Is this living? No. Absolutely not. I’ve been thinking about this concept of life, and about what life truly is about. 

Jesus says in John 17:3, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”  John says in 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son [Jesus] has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” There seems to be a common theme in these two verses: life comes from knowing Jesus. But is this knowing of God an intellectual head knowledge? The Greek word for know in John 17:3 is one of my favorite words ever:

Ginōskō: to learn to know, come to know, to become acquainted with, to know, etc.

This word indicates an intimate knowing. A personal, husband/wife kind of knowing. Not just facts, but a relational knowing. This is what knowing Jesus is supposed to be. Not just knowing who Jesus was and is, or what He did 2,000 years at such-and-such time at whatever place, but a best-friend kind of knowing. This is eternal life. 

So, knowing Jesus. It’s supposed to be up, close, and personal, but how do I achieve this intimacy? The beautiful thing about this relationship is that it is facilitated by the Holy Spirit…Jesus. The very Spirit of Life (Rev 11:11) has entered into us and is working to make us like Jesus. He guides us into Truth and tells us of things to come (Jn 16:13). One of the most amazing things about the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer is that He is constantly refining and getting rid of flesh, for no flesh can glory in His presence (1 Cor 1:29). He is making us like Him so that we can know (ginōskō) Him! 

Romans 8:13 says, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  In order to live by the Spirit, which encourages us to know Jesus, we must put to death the flesh. Wait…in order to live, I must die?  Yes. And this is the realization that I’ve come to in the past few weeks. I’ve known the truths throughout Scripture about denying myself and taking up my cross to follow Jesus (Mark 8:34)…but am I living that way? In Luke 14:33 Jesus says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has to follow me cannot be My disciple.” 



Living – true living – means death. Life means denying yourself. Taking up an instrument of torture, a cross, to follow the Man who died upon it (I’m preaching to the choir here). Yet the beautiful thing about this Life is that you don’t stay dead. Yes, you die, but there is life far greater than anything that I could conceive found in the Spirit of God, in Christ Jesus. The greatest thing about following Jesus is that in knowing Him everything else comes. The adventure comes, the emotions of His great love towards me are manifested, the joy of the Lord is realized. Yet I do not follow Him to gain these things…I follow Him to know Him. He is life.

Philippians 3:10-11 puts it this way, and this is the cry of my heart right now: “That I may know [ginōskō] Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

What is living? 

Living is knowing Jesus.