Wonderful Friday

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Today is a good day for wonder.

It is Good Friday and the start of our four day weekend.  All my children will be home so I am washing sheets, making beds and tending a batch of chilli on the stove.  My hands are busy but my mind is thoughtful.

I have celebrated 40 Easters as a Christian.  I know the story inside and out, forward and backwards.  I have taught many, many Easter lessons in Sunday school using props and crafts and DVD’s and have read the Biblical account with my own children over and over again.

But there is a danger in familiarity.  The danger is that I can lose the wonder of it all.

And if I lose the wonder, what is next?  Will I lose my gratefulness?  My humility?  My love?

Wonder is the child-like reaction I had when I first heard the story. I was eight years old, sitting in Sunday school class that a friend had invited me to. It was all pretty old-fashioned and simple and a frog puppet shared words of light and life to me. I couldn’t believe how good that news was and I couldn’t say yes quick enough.

Wonder stirs worship and obedience.  Wonder keeps me from cynicism and staleness.

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A Christian life that cultivates wonder is one that is growing and sincere.  Wonder keeps me from just going through the motions of faith.  Wonder is a gift.

But it can dissipate.  We can lose it before we even realize it and first love can become ordinary.  So, special celebrations like Easter are an opportunity to stir up wonder, love and gratefulness again.

We can use these holidays to display the truth and beauty of what we believe.

 

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We can intentionally put praise and gratefulness at the core of our weekend with Church services or local walks of witness.  Spending time with other Christians is so important because wonder is contagious.  

We can look at Easter from a fresh perspective.  My family and I love to watch the movie, ‘Risen’ at Easter time and last year we attended a live performance of the passion of Jesus that was wonderful.  Every time we see the gospel from a new angle we have the chance to remember the wonder of it.

And we can pray.  We can make it the cry of our hearts that we will never take for granted the glorious good news that Easter celebrates.  We can pray that we would be people who never, ever get over the wonder of knowing God.

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Slowing Down

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Redeeming the time, because the days are evil  Ephesians 5.16

There is just no getting away from it.

Whether it fits my personality and my routine or not, if I want an Ephesians 5  lifestyle, I will just have to slow down a bit sometimes.

The words used in Ephesians 5.16, ‘redeem’ and ‘time’, are translated from the Greek words ‘exagorazo’ and ‘kairos’.

‘Exagorazo’ means ‘to purchase’.  ‘Kairos’ means ‘an important or opportune time’, which is why the NIV translates this phrase as ‘making the most of every opportunity’.

Sounds good, but how can I do that?  How can I make the most of every divine moment I am given?  How can I capitalize on these chances to do life-changing, Kingdom work?

Well, first of all, I have to recognize them.

Living carefully is a lot like driving carefully.  If I drive too fast I can miss things. I can miss dangers, like obstacles on the road.  Or I might miss my turning and have to make a frustrating detour.

If I live frantically I can miss things too.  I can miss opportunities.

I love the story of the Samaritan women in John chapter 4.  Here we find Jesus walking from Judea to Galilee.  He’s been busy in Jerusalem.  He’s been flipping tables in the temple, teaching truth and baptizing His followers.

Then we read in John chapter 4.4, ‘But He needed to go through Samaria.

This was the way to go from Judea to Galilee.  It was the road that took Jesus from his ministry in Jerusalem to more ministry in Cana where many miracles would take place.  But for our Lord, it was more than this.  The road through Samaria was an opportunity.  There was a person to love, a life to transform and a village to impact.

So Jesus stopped at this well and purchased the moment for good.

Every day you and I are going from place to place, task to task, from busy to more busy. In the middle of all that travelling are all kinds of ‘kairos’ opportunities.   Some are really obvious but others can be missed.  If our schedules, our minds or our hearts are too full, it is easy to overlook these Kingdom events in our lives.

You and I pass by wells every day as we live our lives.  If we slow down a little, we can recognise these places as the holy ground that they are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Secret Ingredient

Fried chicken

I don’t know if you read about it in the news, but the UK faced quite a crisis back in February when KFC restaurants actually ran out of chicken.

As the teenage population panicked (and I am not exaggerating!) amateur cooks jumped in action.  Social media was flooded with attempts to find Colonel Sander’s elusive secret recipe.

Have you ever found yourself looking at another Christian and wondering what their ‘secret ingredient’ was?  Have you ever coveted someone’s peace or their victory or wisdom in a particular area?  I have.

As I have studied and meditated on Ephesians 5.15-17, I think the Apostle Paul reveals to us that magical, secret ingredient.

I think it is time.

Paul, the writer of Ephesians, makes it clear here that carefulness and wisdom are inextricably tied to how we use the hours we are given.  We cannot escape the fact, whether we like it or not, that living life well will cost us our time.

Without exception, the Christians I know who live lives of fruitfulness and victory, are people who give regular, intentional time to the things of God.

Think about all the activities that the Bible says are to be part of our normal Christian walk.

Pray without ceasing 1Thessalonians 5.17

Be ready to give an answer I Peter 3.15

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind Romans 12.2

Give to those in need and show hospitality Romans 12.13

Draw near to God Hebrews 10.22

Encourage other Christians Hebrews 10.25

Seek after God’s Kingdom Matthew 6.33

Confess your faults to one another James 5.16

Heal the sick Matthew 10.8

And those are just a fraction, there is so much more.  Verse after verse encourages us to think about, consider, lay hold of, lay aside, put off or put on all sorts of things.  The language used implies a process.  It takes time to really consider something important or to put off a bad habit or start a good one.  Hospitality and ceaseless prayer will not happen if I don’t make time for them.

Jesus’ death has made available to me everything I need for an abundant, godly life (2 Peter 1.3)  His promised helper, the Holy Spirit, empowers me to live this way.

So, if I am not experiencing this abundance, could it be that the missing element is my time?

What if it is just that simple? What if I am just one secret ingredient away from experiencing deep, life-changing, fruit-producing spiritual growth?

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Careful but carefree

 

cropped-dsc_02231.jpgWhat does the ‘careful living’ described in Ephesians 5.15-17 look like?

Is it an overly cautious, tentative kind of life?  Does being careful feel like trying to negotiate a tightrope, always afraid to put a foot wrong?

I don’t think so.

I think that living carefully looks like freedom.

There is a passage in Matthew where Jesus describes this.

‘Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.’    Matthew 11.28-30 The Message

So it is closeness to God that needs our carefulness.

And closeness with our Father always brings freedom.

It is that freedom that Adam and Eve forfeited when they listened to the serpent.  He whispered to them that sonship was slavery.  When they believed it they took their first steps of independence away from God.

And those independent steps walked them right out of Eden’s rest.

Jesus says when we walk with Him, our steps are free and light.  There is no tightrope, only grace upon grace.

But don’t think for a minute that these joyful, carefree steps aren’t risky.

Jesus-following steps are bold steps.  They are walking-on-water steps.  They are get-out-of-the boat steps.  They are steps that trample right over darkness to bring in the light.

Because a life that keeps company with God will always become a life of dangerous obedience.   When we walk with Him, we become like Him.

This kind of carefulness changes the world.

 

 

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Living carefully

blog picture 2There are three verses nestled in Ephesians chapter 5 that I have come to love.

‘See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.’ Ephesians 5:15-17

There is something about this passage that speaks to me.  It’s an invitation to a kind of living in this chaotic world that I know I need.  It is a life I know I was made for.

The word circumspectly in the Greek has the meaning of walking with precision and exactness.  Other versions of the Bible translate this verse as ‘be careful how you live’ or ‘be careful how you walk.’

I call it ‘living carefully’.

Now I know in 2018 we are constantly being offered different ways of living our lives.  The media sells us the idea that accomplishment and acquisition will bring us fulfillment. The latest lifestyle bestsellers insist mindfulness and simplicity are the only way to real contentment.  We are told we need to slow down and be in the moment while we are simultaneously encouraged to multitask and improve our time management.  Do more, do less.  Buy more, buy less.  And so often contentment seems just out of reach.

Ephesians 5 shows us another way.  It is a careful way, a wise way.

Instead of chasing productivity we can discover purpose.

Instead of just efficiency, we can have fruitfulness.

Instead of mindfulness, God offers us the mind of Christ.

And instead of living for photo opportunities, God invites each of us into a life full of supernatural, world-changing opportunities.

If that invitation appeals to you, join me as I dig into these verses over the next few weeks and find out what it means to really live carefully,  how to do it and why we should want to.