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Ephesians 4:17-5:1-21

In Ephesians, Paul asks others, “to put off your old self…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  The Reformation Study Bible by R. C. Sproul explains, “Paul outlines six concrete ways that Christians ‘put off’ their old lives and ‘put on’ life in Christ: they must turn from lying to telling the truth…from uncontrolled anger to self-control…from stealing to useful labor…from harmful to helpful speech…from bitterness to  love…and from unrestrained sexual desires to a thankful acknowledgement of God’s good gifts.”  If you want Sproul’s summary simplified, here you go:

OLD→NEW

Lying Truth

Uncontrolled Anger  Self-Control

Stealing  Useful Labor

Harmful Speech  Helpful Speech

Bitterness  Love

Unrestrained Sexual Desires  Thankful Acknowledgement of God’s Gifts

 

Paul’s words, “to put off your old self,” reminds me of a Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs scene of Flint having thrown himself away in a trash can.  In a sense, he was throwing away his old self, the one who lied to Sam and spoke mean words to her.  When his dad showed up with Flint’s white flowing lab coat, it was a pivotal point where in essence, Flint put on his new self and repaired his relationship with Sam.  He also risked his life to stop the worldwide food storm.  Flint’s new self won over his old self.  Can others do that too?  Absolutely.

 

 

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Genesis 8:15-17, Exodus 20:1-23, 1 Kings 19:11-20

While spending time in God’s Word lately, I’ve become increasingly curious about His voice.  Moses, Noah and Elijah all heard God’s voice.  God chose to speak at a period in time when people couldn’t obtain an audio recording, so we can try to imagine what He sounded like.  But we don’t have to solely rely on our imagination.

In 1 Kings, when God spoke to Elijah on a mountain, He spoke in, “a gentle whisper.”  A whisper isn’t hard to imagine.

In Genesis, one thing God spoke to Noah was, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.”  How do you think a voice actor/actress would read what He said?  They might first notice that it’s an imperative sentence ending with a period.  They might try to deliver the line with a deep, partially conversational voice.

After the 10 Commandments were given In Exodus 20, the shaking Israelites witnessed a trumpet sound, accompanied by thunder, lightning and a dark, smoking mountain.  They said, “…do not have God speak to us or we will die.”  God followed up by saying to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this:  ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven:”  I think that Moses and the Israelites possibly heard God’s maximum communication.

We know that God can communicate in a booming way, conversational way, or in a whisper.  When I get to Heaven, I hope God will recreate those historical and dramatic moments.

 

2 Corinthians 10:5b, Matthew 19:26

How many thoughts do we have each day?  Kevin Pokorny’s post on linkedin.com says, “According to research by Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University, a human being has approximately 60,000 thoughts per day.”

In 2 Corinthians 10:5b, Paul says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  We need to imprison every thought in a “laser cage” (my daughter’s term).  Once the thought is in that laser cage, we can quickly analyze it and decide if it aligns with Jesus’ line of thought.  If the thought isn’t against Jesus, we can deactivate the laser and release the thought from the cage.

I realize that if Dr. Luskin’s thought research is correct, Paul’s words equate to a tall order.  But nothing is impossible with God.  God can help us aggressively attack individual thoughts in superhero style.

Hebrews 13:5

One day earlier this month, we were experiencing a morning thunderstorm.  I checked my phone and the weather app showed “partly cloudy” with an icon of a white cloud accompanied by the sun peeking from behind it.  At first I laughed at the contrast of what the phone said the weather was like and the actual intensity of the weather outside our windows.  Then, I thought that the weather app wasn’t really wrong.  True, we could just see 100% cloud cover, heavy rain, lightning flashes and hear thunder, but behind all of that, we knew the sun was there.  So it is with God.  We can know that in our storms, God is there.

Acts 16:25-26, 20:7-12

Do you sometimes stay up until midnight?  Paul did on more than one occasion.

In Acts 16:25-26, Paul and Silas were in prison and were singing and praying around midnight.  Then, God provided a miracle.  He made an earthquake that forced the doors of the prison to open.  Everyone’s chains “came loose.”

In Acts 20:7-12, since Paul couldn’t stay long in Troas, and planned to leave in the morning, he preached “until midnight.” One man, Eutychus, got really sleepy, fell asleep and then fell to his death out of a window.  With God’s power, Paul brought him back to life and went on preaching.

Many lessons can be learned from Paul’s life.  One lesson is that miracles can happen at midnight.  If we seek a miracle, let’s not rule out midnight.

James 1:2-8, Acts 16:22-34, 1 Thessalonians 5:18

During suppertime, my family and I listen to an audio book.  We just got through listening to The Long Winter.  The Ingalls family endured blizzard after blizzard.  After one of the blizzards, it had snowed so much, that when Laura looked out her upstairs bedroom window, snow had reached that level and she could see horses walking by on the new very snowy road.  During some blizzards, Pa would play his fiddle as the family sang.

In January of 2014, Cedar Rapids, Iowa was enduring winter.  One day that month, there was a big, chilly wind gust.  After that blast of frigid air, I heard a chickadee singing.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beat up, put in prison and the stocks.  While in prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns at around midnight.  Their joy in the midst of trial must have pleased God, because he provided an earthquake that made “the prison doors…open, and everybody’s chains came loose.”

Are you going through a storm in your life?  If so, it’s time to start singing.

 

Exodus 20:1-21

While out doing errands last Saturday, I pulled in a left turn lane to stop at a stoplight.  As I waited there, I watched someone run a red light.  Maybe that person thought the yellow light would be longer.  Or, it could be that they were in a hurry and decided to run it.

What if someone thought, “I don’t need to stop at a stoplight.  That’s stupid.”  If they followed through with that thought, they may get away with it, but over time, odds are they’ll eventually face a wreck.

We know that if certain laws are broken, police can get involved.  If someone runs a red light, speeds excessively, etc., their safety and the safety of others is compromised, so cop cars are expected.

God has laws too, like the Ten Commandments.  His loving laws make life better.

Acts 13:42-44, 1 Corinthians 9:24

I’m fascinated by Billy Graham’s righteous ministry and recently read, Thoughts and Reflections on Billy Graham’s Life Principles.”  Here’s a quote from singer George Beverly Shea regarding a 1947 Charlotte event.  It was Billy Graham’s very first service.  George said, “This young man has great faith.  He’s asked the people to come forward.  They are singing, and he’s got his eyes closed, his hands folded; and he’s quiet now…He just quietly waited and prayed as the hymn was being sung, and they came in great numbers.

God used Billy Graham to draw many people.  We also know that God greatly used Paul and Barnabas.  Acts 13:44 says, “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.”

Even though Paul, Barnabas, and Billy Graham aren’t with us on Earth, they left behind mighty ministries fueled by God.  In the Billy Graham book, James H. Landes said, “Billy believes in the local church.  He realizes that when he’s gone, the local church is that part of the body of Christ that must continue to edify and minister to those who are redeemed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We’re the church.  We probably won’t reach as many people as Billy Graham or Paul, but we can at least take the extended baton and, as Paul conveyed, do our best in the race, striving for “the prize.”

Psalm 84:11-12

On a very rainy day earlier this month, I took our white, fluffy dog outside.  I held a large, black umbrella over him, but he didn’t seem to notice.  I followed him as he wandered around. He got a little wet, mostly on the fur near the top of his nose, which stuck out just beyond the perimeter of the umbrella.  He doesn’t like being wet and didn’t look happy, so when I got him inside and toweled him off, he was his happy self again.

Imagine God putting a shield of protection over the children of God, kind of like an umbrella.  We may whine about getting a little wet from the problems that come, but we don’t realize God’s actually keeping us from a downpour of problems.  God is our shield.

 

Philippians 4:6

One day last month, the kids and I were getting ready to go on a walk.  We were in our carport when I heard what sounded like a small bird’s wings fluttering fast above me.  I then looked up and saw a large dragonfly!  It was caught in the netting we use to discourage roosting.  The drab-looking dragonfly tried repeatedly to fly forward with its 3 1/2″(?) wingspan through a 1″ x 1″ wire square.  We love dragonflies, so I reached for a broom and gently moved the netting, revealing a way out.  After a short while, it realized freedom was actually behind it.  It buzzed out, went behind me for a moment, and then it was gone.  We like to think it was thankful.

That dragonfly had just one idea to solve a problem.  It only tried forward force to escape the netting.  But haven’t we all tried to pound a square peg into a round hole at times in our lives?

Whatever problems we may have or will have, God can help in ways we wouldn’t expect.  Philippians 4:6 says that no matter what problems we face, we need to pray with a thankful heart to God, presenting our requests.  God doesn’t want us to worry.

 

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