Category Archives: Victorious Living

Throwback Wednesday: Remember to Press In!

Throwback Wednesday: Press In

Welcome to Throwback Wednesday

We close June with Throwback Wednesday.  It is an occasion to look back and rediscover truths that we may have forgotten.  In reading this WordBytes, I was challenged to place its insights in the context of today’s realities.

I’m sure many of you, like myself, are fatigued by the continual bombardments of bad news, emerging crisis in our nation, and the challenges to make sense of a world that seems to have lost its way.  Regardless of the circumstances and events of the day, I invite you to “press in”.  Press into God and feel His presence which will help us continue with hope and renewed energy.

I have always shared with friends and family, that God has purposed our lives for times such as this.  Our resiliency and our ability to move forward need to be connected with the power, presence, and promise of God.  He will not leave us nor forsake us.  We need only “press in!

“You will find me when you seek Me.”  Jeremiah 29:13

We have explored on many occasions the biblical truth that God is in and among us—continually, without interruption, 7 by 24.  We experience God through our personal fellowship with Him and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

However, there may be times when we don’t “feel” God.  We feel estranged from Him, alone, and unable to hear His voice.  Be assured, this is a common experience for believers.  The resolution for this spiritual occurrence, however, is not to curb our prayer life or cease in reading His Word.  During those times, it is imperative that we “press in.”

Disturbing Quietness

There are seasons in my life when it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice.  I’m not talking about unanswered prayer but times of “disturbing quietness” when l must strain to hear Him—if I hear Him at all.

As I shared this experience, I found other believers had been through similar seasons of silence.  Interestingly, we all described it as a period when we “didn’t hear His voice.”  

In Search of an Answer

When I first experienced this quietness, I began to the search my heart for sins I might have committed yet failed to confess.  It was the sin of Adam that separated him from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden.  Later Adam and Eve would experience the physical death of their body—the final separation from the world God had created for them.  I asked God to forgive me of my sins, yet I still felt disconnected from my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

My next effort was to examine my devotion time with Him.  I would increase my time of reading His Word.  Psalm 119 became my “song book” as I sought to hear His voice.

    • I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v. 16)
    • I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. (v. 26)
    • Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (v. 151)
    • May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. (v. 169)

I would rise early to pray—leaving more time to “listen” and less to speak.  I would “draw near” with a sincere heart with expectations that He would do likewise (James 4:8; Heb. 10:22).  I would dedicate my day to praise and worship.  If God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3), He will surely respond to me as I emptied myself to Him.  Yet with all the modifications to my devotional time, I couldn’t hear Him.  After many days of silence, I finally experienced a breakthrough.

Learning to Press in

In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge shared his insight into my situation.

Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throne room. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out.  And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy, and anything less drives us crazy on the inside. It is at those times that we need to press into God like you never have in your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment. 

God’s periods of quietness were an invitation to draw closer to Him—to “press in.”  More than proximity, He desires to establish an intimate friendship with us that is walked out through the course of our everyday lives. He is not looking for a segment of our day nor a day of the week.  He desires unbroken communion with us.

So on those occasions when it appears that “you can’t hear God”, press in!  Be of good courage for He is ever near (Ps. 73:28).  Press in!  Eagerly and unabashedly pursue Him, the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Press in!

SELAH:  Read Psalm 63:1-8.  Write in your journal the ways that David “pressed in” to God during his time in the wilderness.  Read the text again using a different translation or paraphrase.  Then ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to “press in”.     

In the Presence of God

 

“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.”

Psalm 139:7-8 (NRS)

Unseen influences

Our life consists of more than “flesh and blood”.  It includes our assumptions, beliefs and behaviors that regulate our personal preferences and pursuits.  These can be “of the world” or “of God.”

These assumptions, beliefs and behaviors eventually influence the choices we make daily and are ultimately reflected in our life style.

It is important that God’s influence is evident in our lives.  This begins by our acknowledging His glorious presence.  In Psalm 139 David shares the effect such knowledge can have in the life of the believer.

Where can I go?

In Psalm 139, God’s presence is demonstrated through several of His key attributes.

In verses 7-12, from which our text for today is found, David speaks specifically of God’s omnipresence.  God is everywhere all the time.

In Jeremiah 23:23-24 this characteristic is spoken of by God Himself.  “Am I a God near by, says the LORD, and not a God far off?   Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.”

Acknowledging God’s Presence

The impact of living in God’s presence offers extraordinary benefit for the believer.

First, knowing God is everywhere offers us great comfort.  The new norm for living in the 21st century requires us to be ever vigilant—watching for potential risks and dangers that may threaten us physically, financially, and/or socially. To know that we are never out of the presence of God should settle the faint-hearted.  God alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).

Secondarily, believers living in the presence of God possess great confidence knowing that God is ever-present. Even in the most routine of transactions, recognizing that the “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, releases us from unnecessary stress and concern (Phil. 4:6-7).

Finally, living in God’s presence provides us great clarity as to how we are to live in this present age (Titus 2:11-13).  This acknowledgment requires that we live obediently according to His Word and under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Living in God’s Presence

God’s Word, especially the New Testament, describes God’s expectation of our conduct in light of living in a fallen world. Our  behavior is different from the world’s view (Rom. 12:2; 1 Pet. 1:13-16; 1 John 2: 16-17)

As believers in Christ, our reality recognizes that God is the center of our universe and it is God who sustains us and keeps us (Ps. 3:5; Heb. 1:3).  We joyfully seek His will—the divine purpose of the ever-present God.  Our life and reality is derived from knowing we live continuously in the presence of God.

A Better New Year’s Resolution, Part 2

A Better New Year's Resolution, Part 2

A better new year

As we shared last week, new year’s resolutions are not the best way to create change in our life.  Strength of character and self-will, often fall short in taking us where we really want to be.  We determined that “the best way” to introduce real change in our lives is through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We must put on our “new man”.  In Christ we have a new identity.

Embrace our identity in Christ

When I began my Christian walk, the meaning of “in Christ” was a mystery to me.  I tried to understand it based on those things I was familiar with.  For example, I established membership in the local church.  I was in fellowship with its members to serve and glorify God in my life.  But “in Christ”, what did it mean?

In Christ is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart.  By the Holy Spirit we take on the personality of Christ.  It is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus.  It describes the believer’s union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God.  The result of that action is the believer is transformed into a “new man.”  (2 Cor. 5:17).

Renewed in knowledge

Knowledge is defined as general awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

However, in Colossians 3:10 knowledge means “precise and correct knowledge”.  It is used in the New Testament of the knowledge of things ethical and divine.  It is this type of knowledge that is needed today to navigate the challenges of our times.

Paul tells the church at Colosse to “put on the new man” who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.  “New man” and “old man” were terms introduced by Paul to contrast the believer’s new versus old behaviors and lifestyle (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 2:15; 4:22-24, Col.3:9-11).

So why did Paul tell the church to put on the new man? Because the new man has access to the “precise and correct” knowledge needed for righteous living (living in right relations with God and with mankind).  This knowledge is provided through the Holy Spirit living within the new man (John 16:13).  This is where transformation takes place.

In addition, this new man’s knowledge is further strengthened as a result of being created in the image of God.  In Christ we possess God’s divine nature—His DNA.  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms.  It is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that equips us for the purpose and plan God has created for our lives.

True Knowledge

In Christ, we not only have renewed knowledge but also “true” knowledge.  Paul describes this in 2 Peter 1:2-4.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Knowledge (of God) protects us against error and deception, regardless of its source.  It helps us discern and use God’s truth to guide our life.  True knowledge sharpens our spiritual eyes to see not only potential dangers but also the possibilities that God has in store for us.

Promise of a better year

If we want a better new year, we must be intentional.  Our aim should not be wasted on things that never work.  Our focus must continue to be on the Person who has the authority and power to “make all things work together for our good.”  (Rom. 8:28).   That person is Almighty God (Ps. 97:1-2).

Our divine truth is this.  Being in Christ and knowledge of God will provide us with everything we need to be successful not only in 2022 but also all the way to glory. Let us diligently seek the Lord more this year than last.  This is the best way to a better new year.

Where do you get your information?

Where do you get your information

What’s up?

Well it’s October.  The fall is my favorite season.  Good-bye bugs and bites!  No more 95% humidity and sneezy nose.  Bye-bye day light savings time!  Better than it being fall, it’s Throwback Wednesday. For those of you who may be new to WordBytes, on Throwback Wednesday, we look at what’s trending in the news or what the hot topic of the week is.

Well if you slept through yesterday, you failed to experience the crash of Facebook and its social media sisters, Instagram, and WhatsApp.   Facebook-owned services, WhatsApp and Instagram went down on Monday, for the second time in 2021.  This failure left some three billion online users frustrated and unable to connect all over the world.  It is reported that Zuckerberg lost nearly $7B alone on the Facebook outage.  The outage shut out 2.9 billion Facebook subscribers.

So what did we do when Facebook and her affiliate platforms went down?  There are about 3.78 billion social media users worldwide.   Social media has become the life blood for us living in the 21st century.  It has become not only a source of information, but also our primary connection with others.  This sometimes fosters a false sense of belonging and fellowship. Now really, who has over 20,000 friends? Have you ever asked them for a loan?

Where did you get that from?

That’s the question I usually ask people when they share information that I question.  Surprisingly, we look to social media to inform our decision making.  “If it’s on the internet, it must be true”.  Really?

So where do we, who rely on social media platforms, go to get our information. Is social media the “best” source of truth (that is if you’re looking for truth)?  Does it help us “respond” wisely or simply “react”?

According to the Pew Research Center, about a quarter of U.S. adults get most of their news through social media.   They recently shared information on “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media.”  Here are some of their key findings.

    1. U.S. adults who mostly get news through social media lag behind others in attention to election and pandemic news.
    1. U.S. adults who mostly rely on social media for political news are often less knowledgeable about current events.
    1. In addition to lower awareness of current events, social media news users hear more about some unproven claims.

Where do you get your information?

When I opened my email today, I received two invitations to help “inform” me.  One was 10 Things You Need to Know Today.  They highlight key news stories nationally and internationally.  They know where I should focus my attention, right?  The “1 Thing I Need to Know Today” is that in Christ Jesus, I live, and move, and have my meaning (Acts 17:28).   This one thing guides my actions and thoughts for the day.

The other is The Week.  Their subject line states, “Read what the world’s thinking”.  I asked myself; “do I really care what the world is thinking?”  The only Person’s thinking I’m concerned with is God.  So I pray that I have the mind of Christ and joyfully obey His will (Phil. 2:5).

Our continual reliance on social media and the Internet makes it necessary to carefully examine the sources of our information.  Believers must especially be intentional in practicing spiritual discernment.  Truth and life come from God through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

We must not only seek truth in all we do, but we must also boldly denounce lies that keep others in darkness (Eph. 5:11).  A lie by any other name—alternate view, misstatement, or an error in communication, is still a lie.  Its intent is to deceive, mislead, and misrepresent.

So for this month’s Throwback Wednesday, we offer for your reading, Discernment:  Light for Darkened Eyes.”   MAY THE TRUTH BE WITH YOU!

The God Who Contends

For I will contend with him who contends with you, And I will save your children.”  Is. 49:25b

In our study last week, we discovered the power available to us when we exchange our human weakness for God’s inexhaustible strength.  Declaring our total dependence on God moves believers from doubt and fear to confidence and trust.  This confidence is strengthened by the reality that we have a God who contend on our behalf.

In most Old Testament texts, contend refers to fighting or strife between two persons.  The Prophet Jeremiah pleaded with God to reverse His decision to punish Judah with exile:  Give heed to me, O LORD, and listen to the voice of those who content with me! (Jer. 18:19)

In other biblical writings, contend is used in reference to a legal argument or defense.  In Ps. 35:1, 23 the psalmist is asking the Lord to enter the case and act as their advocate.  Such is the case in John’s epistle as he reminds this new church that they have a “heavenly Advocate” who stands before the throne of God and contends for His saints (1 John 2:1).

Our text today is found in the section of Isaiah known as the “Prophecies of Comfort”.  Israel and Judah’s disobedience was a major offense to God throughout their national history.  Upon hearing Isaiah’s pronouncement of judgment, the people tried to shift blame to God by accusing Him of “forsaking  them” (v.14); but Isaiah would not engage in their excuses but would instead comfort them with God’s promise of the coming Messiah and hope of restoration.  God would contend for Israel and Judah, even while they were in exile and bring them and their families back to their native land.  Those nations who had been enemies of Zion would receive judgment for their crimes and ultimately destroyed. God would contend for Zion because of His promises and because of His great love for them (Deut. 7:7,8).

Before the foundation of the earth God was contending for us (Ps. 139:15, 16).  God contends for us through His everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3).  Through Jesus Christ, Satan has been defeated (Col. 2:15) and sinners reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).  With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need to successfully live in this corrupt and lustful world (2 Pet. 1:3-11).  Regardless of your personal situation or circumstance, know that God “has you covered”—He contends fo you.

Also Read:    “Victorious Living”

Redeeming the Time: Finding Faith

Then He spoke a parable to them that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.  Luke 18:1 (NKJ)

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”  Luke 18:8

Today we end on conversation on “Redeeming the Time” by examining God expectation for believers and His Church.   The definition I use for redeem means to exchange or convert.  What do we exchange our time for?  How does our use of time convert into something of value—specifically of eternal value to God and for kingdom building?

We have examined to date “redeeming the time” from the perspective of witnessing and the importance of making every moment count for eternity as we “number our days”.  Last week we were reminded by the Psalmist to rejoice in each day “the Lord has made” and not to squander it.  For our close, I’d like to share another viewpoint on redeeming the time from Luke’s account of the parable of the “Unjust Judge and the Persistent Widow” (Luke 18:1-18).

Found in Luke 14:25-18:34, Jesus is seen teaching to diverse multitudes through guided lessons and parables.  Jesus uses these moments to also target the Pharisees, who mistakenly believe they are living righteously and above reproach.  As believers we must continually examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5) to avoid “secret sins”—hypocrisy, self-righteousness, arrogance and “toxic behaviors”—anger, malice, envy, critical and judgmental attitudes—that cause us to ruin our testimony of faith (Titus 3:3-6).   When the Son of Man returns (The Second Coming) will He find faith?

In the opening verse of our text, Jesus shares the key to faith and what He expects believers and His Church to be engaged in.   Faith is not only a matter of specific activities but also one of attitude. 

Men ought always to pray.    Why?   Because the world will be so absorbed in the things of this life, they will be utterly unprepared for the certain judgment that awaits them when Jesus returns.  Like the time of Lot and Noah, people will be engaged in lawlessness, moral decay, and social mayhem (Luke 17:20-37).  Does that sound like the 21st century we live in?  Checkout the “news-of-the-day” and you will see the erosion of institutions and truths that once guided this nation and this world.  Believers and the Church ought ALWAYS to pray—not just one day in May.  Without prayer, will the Son of Man find faith?

And not lose heart.   Jesus used the parable of the Persistent Widow to illustrate the characteristics He desires of His Church as He prepares to return.  Though the widow dealt with a person she knew was unjust and indifferent, she remained tenacious, unflinching, and determined.  As believers, we live in a world where we will experience persecution and ridicule.  We will be challenged daily because of our faith in Christ and our adherence to God’s Word.  Jesus’ words to His disciples in the 1st century are still true for His disciples in the 21st century:  “In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Let us daily renew our heart and follow the example which Jesus has given us (Heb. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:16).  If we lose heart, will the Son of Man find faith?

Jesus is on His way back to judge the world (Rev. 19: 15, 20, 21) and to retrieve His Church (John 14:1-4).  He is coming sooner than later!  It is God’s will that none would be lost and that all will come to the saving knowledge of Christ (John 3:17).  Will the world be ready for Jesus’ return?  And will the Son of Man find faith?  Do your part by redeeming the time to make an “eternal” difference!

Redeeming the Time: Don’t Squander the Day

 

“This is the day the LORD has made.” Psalm 118:24 (NKJ)

“Time is free, but it’s priceless.

You can’t own it, but you can use it.

You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.

Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

Time is something all living creatures share.  It is both illusive yet well within our control.  One writer said that the way we spend our time defines who we are.  Solomon stated that it is “time and chance” that makes the playing field level for all men (Eccl. 9:11-12).  What do you do with your time?  Are you using it to your best advantage or are you a victim caught in time’s swift movement?

As I woke this morning, the Lord gave me this instruction, “Don’t squander the day!” What did God mean by that? I knew He saw my appointments for today and my “things to do” list. I had carefully prioritized them so that nothing would fall through the crack. To squander means to spend or use something wastefully. There are many things I do with my day but I felt squandering was not one of them. After presenting my defense, the Lord patiently began to share His heart with me.

“Don’t squander the day by…”

Rushing to do the routine rather than enjoying the uniqueness of the day. We are so busy planning our next hour or day that we fail to live in the moment—in the very present now. The rich fool spent his time in the routine of planting and it yielded a reward of “plenty”. So he began plans to erect new barns “to store all his crops and goods” not knowing that his soul would be required of him that very night (Luke 12:13-21).  He didn’t live to enjoy the uniqueness of the day. The rich man squandered the day.

Pondering over past hurts and offenses. There is little to be gained in such activities and definitely nothing that can be useful in accomplishing God’s purpose for our lives. The brother of the prodigal son was offended and jealous of the attention his brother received—the attention, he felt, should have been his (Luke 16:25-32). The father expressed love and appreciation for the faithfulness of the son who remained with him but the brother chose to “cling” to his anger. He was offended and “would not come in.” The brother of the prodigal squandered the day.

Instead of “squandering the day”, spend time with Abba Father…

Asking, listening, and reflecting. Think about the possibilities of your life; not rehashing what could or should have been. Playfully create new scenarios for your life with the Creator of the universe versus replaying old tapes. With God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37).

Watching. We spend great efforts attempting to “make things happen” rather than observing the work God is doing around us. He invites us to watch Him at work in the lives of individual believers and the Church to accomplish His purpose through the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4-5).

Squandering the day expresses the failure to see the work of God in this present moment.  It is a failure on our part to see His hand on every person and in every circumstance that He allows in our life.

“Don’t squander the day” is not a flippant directive but acknowledgment that God is present in our circumstances and working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28).   It results in our witness to both the goodness and the greatness of the Lord.  Let us therefore confess and declare our confidence in His love and in His faithfulness. This is the day the LORD has made…DON’T SQUANDER IT!  Redeem it!

Redeeming the Time: Appreciative Living

So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.

Psalm 90:12 (NRS)

As we formulate principles for “Redeeming the Time”, it is critical that we fully understand the value of appreciative living.  What is that?

Appreciative Living is not about fixing ourselves or our lives, but in finding what works; where we excel; what we love; what makes us come alive.   It is an expression of gratitude for where we are right now.   Many time we don’t redeem the time because we’re fixated  on things outside the will and the purpose of God (Eph. 2:10).

Time is the constant factor throughout every phase of our existence. Too often, however, rather than appreciate time, “the gift of 7X24”, we try to control it like any other resource we either consume or squander. We attempt to gain more of it, spend it more wisely, or endeavor to save it. All these efforts are folly and a waste of time (Eccl. 9:11-12). Instead God’s desire is that we “gain wisdom” as we move through time. And that wisdom begins by appreciating the time and place God has given us.

Psalm 90, the oldest of the psalms, was written by Moses to contrast the frailty of man with the eternal, everlasting nature of God. In light of this sobering difference, Moses petitions God to “teach us to number our days.” It is within God’s teachings that invaluable knowledge is provided as to how we are to live in the time He has allotted each one of us; it is available in God’s Word and through His Spirit who lives within us.

The “numbering of our days” recognizes that each moment of our life counts. No moment is to be wasted (Prov. 24:33-34). To “grow in wisdom” acknowledges the reality of God’s Lordship and results in the believer actively seeking His will. All these actions result in a life lived to the fullest and in the fullness of God (Ep. 3:16-20). This is appreciative living.

What causes us not to fully appreciate the time God gives us? The first is ingratitude. As times marches on, our days may become more routine or mundane. We settle into a rhythm of apathy and indifference not fully aware that an “ingratitude attitude” has moved into our heart (Luke 17:15-18; 2 Tim. 3:2).

The next theft of appreciative living is pride. Pride operates out of the false belief that whatever is accomplished is as a result of one’s own skills and knowledge and perhaps a “little luck”. Time is not a factor in the pride equation accept as a medium in which work is accomplished. It is only appreciated when the individual comes to the end of their life (becoming either old or ill) and are then surprised how, “time flew.” Ingratitude and pride are but two examples of personal behaviors that result in undervaluing time. That’s why Moses advises us even in the 21st century to “number our days”.

What do you do with the time God has gifted you with? Is it spent with your children and family? Do you tithe time to your church or volunteer with a local nonprofit that serves the needs of your local community?  Or do you simply “live within time” with little appreciation for its purpose and potential in your life? While we don’t know how many days or time we have in the future, we do know that ultimately our days will come to an end (Heb. 9:27). Don’t let your last thought be that you wish you had appreciated one of the great gifts from God—TIME!  Redeem the time!

Children of the Light, Part 2

“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that l write unto you. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet,                                     the hope of salvation.” l Thessalonians 5:1, 8 (NKJ)

Believers are privileged to enjoy a special relationship with God as a result of Christ’s work of redemption. Being justified (made righteous) by faith, we now have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and are adopted as sons (Gal. 4:5-7)—sons of light and sons of the day.  ln last week’s teaching, we exhorted believers to live each day as if Christ would return at any moment. Believers know that the Day of the Lord is coming. So how are we to live as we wait for Christ’s return?

As children of the light, we are to live soberly. To be sober means “self-controlled and clear-headed.” The literal Greek rendering of sober is “l am well-balanced” and free from the influences of intoxicants.

Intoxicants are anything that impairs a person’s thinking or judgment.  Intoxicants are not limited to alcoholic beverages but can include people, relationships, or habits. To be sober is used metaphorically of “alertness” and “watchfulness.” Believer would be well advised to live self-controlled, well-balance lives while avoiding those things that impair their thinking (1 Pet. 4:7; 5:8).

To help the church at Thessalonica “live soberly” while waiting for Christ’s return, Paul recommends two critical pieces of armor–a breastplate and a helmet. While defensive in nature, they are designed to protect two key areas of the believer–their heart and their mind. Paul uses language reminiscent of Ephesians 6 where he describes the proper attire for waging war against “principalities and powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual host of wickedness.”

A soldier’s breastplate covered him from his neck to his waist and protected most of his vital organs. That is what the breastplate of faith and love does for the believer. Faith, our belief in the Risen Christ, guards our heart from error. Love protects our relationship with God and with others.  lf one loves God, he will also love other people (1 John 4:20-21). Faith and love cannot be separated.

The helmet, representing the hope of salvation, guards the believer’s head from attacks on their thinking. The believer’s hope lies in knowing that they are delivered from any future wrath from God (Rom.5:8-9). “For God hath not appointed us (believers) to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”(1 Thess.5:9). God’s wrath is reserved only for the children of disobedience (Eph. 5:6).

As believers wait for Christ’ return, we are to “be sober and adequately armed.” Waiting is not characterized by idle pursuits or wasteful self-indulgence.  Instead our life should reflect an attitude of joyful anticipation as we prepare for the Second Advent of Christ.  Our work of ministry should include passionate evangelizing, expansive outreach, and an outpouring of love to the disenfranchised and brokenhearted. We are to remember both our heritage and our future. We are to live as children of the Light.

Children of the Light, Part 1

“You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 (NKJ)

1st and 2nd Thessalonians are the first letters written to the early churches. These letters, written by the Apostle Paul, were different from his other letters and crafted for a more spiritually mature audience.

The church’s inquiries included questions concerning Christ’s Second Coming and what benefit were gained if Christians died before Christ returned to establish His kingdom. Since Paul couldn’t predict when Christ would return, he instead assured these early Christians that what matter more was how they live each day.  Paul’s words are still relevant today.  We must live each day as if Christ would return at any moment.

Paul begins chapter five by explaining the stark reality concerning the time of Christ’s second return. No one knows when it will occur! Not even the Son of God (Acts 1: 6-7).  Paul describes Christ’s return as a “thief in the night” (v 2); as “sudden destruction” and as “travail upon a woman with child” (v. 3). While many have tried to estimate the time, it remains the business of the Father alone to determine when His Son will return. This is His prerogative as Creator of heaven and earth. Our times are in His hand (Ps. 75:2-5).

Paul uses the literary device of contrast and comparison to emphasis the distinct difference between how believers are to wait for Christ’s return versus nonbelievers. The brilliance and clarity of light and day is contrasted with the ambiguous character of night and darkness. Paul builds on this theme by depicting individuals “of the night” as those “who sleeps and are drunk”; “sons of light and day” are described as those who “watch and are sober” (v. 6), These differences would be easily understood by the readers of
Paul’s letter.

Living in the 21st century, we are consumed by concern of “future things.” Political outcomes, financial predictions, and social posturing occupy too much of our waking hours. Like the church at Thessalonica, we are carefully assessing our options and prioritize our resources (financial and time) based on what “we hope” will give us the greatest return, But is our focus on the “right” future things? Are we showing adequate concern for our spiritual future? Will our current efforts net us the greatest spiritual return for our eternal souls?  ln whose hand are you placing your “future hope”?

Modern technology offers to us “timely” information so that nothing will “catch us by surprise”.  But Christ return will be different. There will be no blog or Facebook post to announce His return. There will be no tweet or unauthorized photo to publicize His arrival.  We will simply have to watch, read “the signs” and wait (Matt 24:L-44; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36).

Next week, we’ll explore how we are to live while we wait for Christ’s return-unless He comes first .  In the meanwhile, when your thoughts become cloudy and anxious because of concern over “future things”, choose to walk in the light. Jesus is the Light.

“We’ll walk in the light, beautiful light! Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.  Shine all around us by day and by night. Jesus, the Light of the world!”