Who do You Want ME to Be? Becoming a Prisoner for God…

Who do You want ME to be?  A question we should all ask God everyday…

“ 1As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

— Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

Paul wrote these words from prison, so if anyone knew what being a prisoner was all about, Paul would definitely be the guy.  “As a prisoner for the Lord…” began Paul…what did he mean?  What does it mean to be a prisoner for the Lord?  What is Paul getting at when he begins this paragraph?

Lets look at it for a minute…Paul, a man who knew what it was to persecute the church, who had put people in prison for claiming the name of Christ; was now, himself, suffering the same fate as many he had put away…imprisoned for the carrying the name of Christ.  But as he accepted this, he wrote to the church at Ephesus, “then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” What is that call?

Paul had written before that the call on a Christian’s life was one of mimicking the life of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

— Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

By looking back to Psalm 139 where we see David claim to be fearfully and wonderfully made, and also note, ”You knit me together in my mother’s womb…”; we realize that God knew each one of us before the world knew us, therefore we are all part of the group of the known, we are ALL predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and therefore called.  What is the likeness of Christ?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!”

— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

Jesus took the role of a servant…the same role we are called to, service.

Paul was explaining that we should all live a life worthy of the call, a life that would cause others to take notice of a difference…a life that is similar to that of Christ Jesus himself.  Paul then goes on to tell four ways that life can be achieved:  Humility, Gentleness, Patience and Bearing one another’s burdens.

Paul states that we should be humble, not proud…the life of a servant is one of humility.  To serve others, they must come first in our life…not second to us.  If we consider ourselves to be better than another, we will never serve them, because we don’t feel they are worthy of that…but Christ humbled himself to wash the apostles feet…shouldn’t we practice that same humility when it comes to others?  Shouldn’t we lower ourselves to the level where we can be most effective in touching someone’s life?  Humility is putting yourself last.

Along with this humility we are to have is Gentleness.  What Paul is stating is that we much approach each other with a gentle spirit…do not look for a fight, look to stop the war; don’t go into a conversation expecting confrontation…go in expecting reconciliation, expecting peace.  Be kind, practicing the golden rule – do unto others. Serve others, give without expecting in return, be kind, be gentle, be Jesus to the world.

Third, we are to be patient…which is one of the hardest things for a person to do, especially when they feel they have been wronged.  People have trouble with patience, because being patient means looking past faults…looking past disagreements…looking for the good in another, so that we don’t react in a way that is detrimental to our relationship with them…in a way that can ruin even the best of friendships.

And Last…bearing one another’s burdens.  When we band together as a group of Christians, no one can pull us down…no one can take the joy that comes in seeing someone we love come through a tough time in their life, only to enjoy the fruits of their sufferings.  Paul told the Ephesian Church that they needed to bear with each other, because no one can do it alone.

Paul then states that all four of these must be unified within the Christian so that the full work of the church can be completed.  You must find a way to take these four principles and apply them as a unified group to your life…it’s the only way a prisoner for the Lord can survive.

Not only do we need to unify these principles, but we also need to unify as a body of Christ…we are all called to the same purpose…we are all called to be Christ to the world.  Too many times these days the Church is only out for what they can do for themselves…the members are loyal, but their view of the church is the four walls they enter every Sunday morning…for us as Christians to change the world…we have to unify peacefully and work toward the same cause.

What are you doing today?  Are you loyal to the call on your life?  Are you willing to unify with the church as a whole in bringing the name of Christ to the world?  Or are you content sitting back and missing the blessings that will come your way when you choose to live in the way Paul did…in unity with his brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul explains it in further detail over the next few verses…

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

— Ephesians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Seven “one’s” to show us that it is all about becoming ONE in unity.  Become one with the Church today, become unified for the cause of Christ…become one prisoner who is devoted to joining with other prisoners to serve the ONE who thought we were worthy enough to die for us…ask God who He wants you to be.

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Today

I came across a short writing from Wayne Eads that left me completely overwhelmed by the beauty of what God does for us.  It is a writing that helped me to understand even more so how he takes care of each of us.

“There are two days in every week about which we should not worry, two days which should be kept free from fear and apprehension.

One of these days is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares, its faults and blunders, its aches and pains. Yesterday has passed forever beyond our control. All the money in the world cannot bring back Yesterday. We cannot undo a single act we performed; we cannot erase a single word we said—Yesterday is gone……

“The other day we should not worry about is TOMORROW with its possible adversities, its burdens, its large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow’s sun will rise, either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise. Until it does, we have no stake in Tomorrow, for it is yet unborn….

“This leaves only one day—TODAY! Anybody can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the burdens of those two awful eternities—YESTERDAY and TOMORROW—that we break down.

“It is not the experience of today that drives people mad; it is remorse or bitterness for something which happened Yesterday and the dread of what Tomorrow may bring.”

This left me thinking about how we get so wrapped up in what has happened in our lives, or in many cases, what we think will happen.  Matthew 6:34 tells us this way “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)”

Let’s focus on today and leave those other two days where they lie. We cannot change what has happened to us in the days that are gone, and we have no control over what will happen to us tomorrow.  I encourage each of us today to take today as it comes, do not let the past determine how your day will go; in the same way, do not let your anxiety over tomorrow keep you from experiencing the blessings that God has for you today.  Let today be today! Let today be a day of blessing and happiness.  Let today come and go, and in the morning, experience another TODAY!

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

The Oregon Trail

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I must say that the one game that I can remember playing as I grew up was the Oregon Trail. I can remember spending countless hours playing in an effort to make my way up the trail and hopefully reach the end.

One thing that I remember best is that you start with a full family, working your way up the trail trying to find ways to stay healthy and happy while attempting to make it to the end before tragedy struck and before the winter came.

This game popped into my head this week as I thought of our lives as Christians in Today’s world.

We are all on a journey to reach a goal of happiness and health, while seeking to find purpose in our lives. As I begin to think about it, I realized the game was very similar to our lives in that as you play, you are always stronger as a family, not individually. There are always helps available along the way, but we are always left with choices to make that may or may not mean loss of supplies or even life.

I began to think about it more, and I realized that our lives begin as a journey, but our journey begins when we realize our need for Christ as a member of our traveling party. As you make your way up the trail there will be rivers to cross, enemies to face, and sickness to overcome, but with Christ traveling alongside us we have all we will need.

Christ will help us make it across the river, he will overcome our enemies, and we have no need to worry about illness because Christ offers the ultimate healing. We have all we need in Him, if we realize that all He needs from us is full commitment to the journey.

Like the game, there may be some in the group who will pass before the journey is over, but the hope and promise that we have is that for those who were traveling with the Lord, they have simply gone on ahead and will meet us when the Journey is over.

Trust the Lord today, seek him, and allow him to lead you along the trail today as you strive to make your way home to be with Him for eternity. Allow Jesus to travel the trail with you today and see what happens when you face trials along the way.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Faith that Heals

“For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.” – Matthew 9:21-22 (NKJV)

These two verses have been a focus of my studies lately, trying to get a grip on exactly what we can learn from this woman and her actions…and as the scene has played over and over in my mind, one realization I have come to is that two things happened here that can show us some great things about the God we serve.

First, the woman knew that if she could just get close enough to touch his garment she could find healing. She just wanted to find peace and comfort from 12 years of sickness, so she decided that she needed to be near Jesus.  She knew that just being in His presence would help…and we all feel that way, whether we know it or not.  How do I know this? Because we begin to pray when the going gets tough…whether we truly believe it will work or not, we give it a shot, right?

But that being said, the second thing that we see may show us why our prayers seem to go unanswered…Jesus answered her and told her to, “Be of good cheer…your faith has made you well.”  He didn’t say to her that he was glad she was able to touch him, he told her that her faith had made her well…HER FAITH is what brought her to his presence in the first place…and when there, she put action to it and realized that she could be healed if in his presence and by faith…she believed it would happen and it did.  She went away and was well from that point forward.

Do you have the faith that heals? Are you struggling through life in such a way that you may say a prayer, but may not believe in its power?

We must have the faith to approach his presence with a desire to simply touch his garment…to be healed by his power because we know he’s the great healer….We must seek his presence in our lives and know healing will come…because after all, it was her faith that made her well, and it will be your faith that will heal you in your time of trouble and need.

God has given us His Spirit and His Word to be that presence in our lives today, we must submit to His authority in our lives, seek the cleansing He offers, and allow Him to do what is needed.  He has given us the promise never to leave us nor forsake us, and he has given us each other for encouragement and support.  Approach Him with faith today!

Signs of the Times

I’ve spent a lot of time studying lately on scripture that leads us up to the return of Christ…and something interesting that I came across recently got my attention…

In Matthew 24 we see Jesus answer his disciples when they ask what the signs of the end of the age will be, and Jesus lays out a number of things…but I find a few things interesting here that I wanted to share this week.

Verses 4-14 show us a very vivid answer to the question of what we can expect to happen…but he opens the statement with two very key instructions: 1-Pay attention that you are not deceived and 2-Do not be troubled or alarmed.

Why would Jesus instruct his disciples to pay attention about the deceptions that may happen around them? Why would he tell them not to be alarmed? Because, deception will pull you away from where you are supposed to be…almost like smoke and mirrors of the enemy to keep your attention away from what is really going on around you.  When you are alarmed and surprised by the things happening around you, you have a tendency to find yourself trying to fix what is happening….but Jesus says, these things must happen.

This leads me past the “beginning of sorrows” into the meat of what Jesus is saying…the troubles we see and hear about have to happen before the end…but in verse 10 we can see exactly where we may be…I found this verse intriguing given the climate around us in the world today…

“There will be many who are offended, many will betray one another, and many will hate one another.”

We need to stop joining in the battle of the offended, stop being surprised by what is going on around us, and start loving as Christ loved, knowing that the world will turn to their own ways…but a couple verses later we see the promise for those in Christ.

“He who endures to the end, he is the one that will be saved.” – Matthew 24:13

Endure to the end, and stop being distracted and alarmed by what is happening around you today….Jesus told us it would happen and that we would see things happen, but encouraged us to endure to the end…Stay strong and love one another, do not be deceived and do not be troubled.

What are We Standing For?

All this talk about standing for the anthem got me thinking about the circumstances surrounding it and what we truly need to be thinking about today…and I’m here to tell you….I’m not so sure that it’s the flag or whether we stand or sit that we should be paying attention to.

In fact, while I do believe that we should respect the country we are in as Jesus told those who asked about taxes, to “Rend Caesar what is Caesar’s”, but he also added that we should give to God what is His also.  That means we owe God our lives…we are His, created in His Image…we bear HIS likeness, just like the coin bore the likeness of Caesar.

However, here is what we are missing while this is going on around us…that division has always been around…we have always been told that, “if we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.” While that may be true in some cases, I think that we are choosing to stand for the wrong things. Christians, why are we not standing for the WORD OF GOD? If we showed half the passion for the scripture that we have shown for the flag or for social issues this country would be a different place than it is.  If we stand for God’s Word, we will see love take precedence over hate…we would see unity rather than division…we would see things in a much happier and better light.

We have gotten so wrapped up in the idea of battle, that we have forgotten that Jesus has already fought and won the battle…but instead, we feel that we need to fight it…we feel we need to “guess” what Jesus would say today because, “Times are different…it’s just not the same today as it was then culturally.” We don’t need to guess anything….it is high time we realize this today: GOD’S WORD is the same yesterday, today, and forever….it is timeless…it is boundless…it is His bond to His people.

I challenge you to stop the hate…stop the bickering….stop the arguments…who cares if someone doesn’t agree with you…is it the Christlike attitude to attack personally or fight back in a way that destroys your witness? NO! It is our duty to be the example…why is the country in a battle today like we have never seen? Because the Church is fighting the same battles…don’t believe me? Which Version of the Bible to you use? Is there a fight about it? Are you in the midst of a church split because someone got upset with someone else?

I challenge each of us to look at the circumstances surrounding our lives…are you living in bitterness toward someone because they don’t share your opinion? Are you constantly upset because something didn’t go your way? It doesn’t matter what side of an issue you’re on, it is something that we have seen for decades in this country…we are broken…

Love like Jesus loved, who didn’t come to divide, but unite…through love. The greatest division ever recorded on earth was caused by sin, but Jesus came to unite us back to God through his blood…so let’s let the blood of Jesus continue to work today! Show love to one another today and stop with the hateful speech and bickering that only feeds division…because we are dividing the church and pushing people away from Jesus rather than winning them to Him…What are you standing for?

Puzzling Times

Life is one big puzzle sometimes, and the problem that we have as Christians is our inability to see the big picture.

The best example I can think of for this is a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of pieces that may look the same, they may even be shaped similarly, but there are no two pieces that are fully alike.

In the same way, there are no two Christians that are exactly the same. A puzzle will only fit together one way; in the same way, Christians are shaped and shaded to piece together according to the picture that is on the box. The difference between a puzzle and God’s children is that we don’t see the big picture. We can only see the pieces that are around us.

Too many times we as Christians want to assume we know how the final picture is supposed to look. We try to fit in where we don’t belong, and at times try to force ourselves into the spaces that are not reserved for us. God wants to work our puzzle. He wants to place us where we fit. He wants to show us the right place to fit in. It is up to us to allow God to place us where we belong.

There are many times in life where we try and take the reigns; where we try too hard to fit into a space where we were never slated to be. These are the times that we feel depressed, discouraged and torn apart by the world around us. It is in these times where we cry out for help; where we allow God to pick us up out of the wrong, and place us in the right direction.

We differ, however, from the puzzle in that we have the freedom to move and look for our space. A puzzle will lay there until you pick up the piece and look for the space in which it fits. God does not try to fit us in to His puzzle; He tries to show us the direction of our space. It is up to us to head in that direction.

God is showing us the right way to go. Why do we as Christians try to avoid it? We are selfish. We tend to think we know best what is right for our lives…this is where we as Christians forget how we arrived where we are.

This is the reason many churches seem to sit dormant. The pieces that have been placed are trying to force themselves into spaces that are reserved for others. The only true way for us to successfully piece the puzzle together is to become fully accepting of the plan that is laid out by God.

We have to allow God to place us where we fit. We have to stop holding on to the things that are tying us down to a spot that is not reserved for us. Allow God to place you in your proper spot; surrender to the plans He has for your life, and let go of the baggage, let go of the world. Cling to God…let Him work this puzzle; after all, He’s the one with the box to look at.