Friday, November 9, 2012

How do you walk?

"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
One of my best buddies in high school died unexpectedly this week.  He was healthy, strong, and active - only 38 years old.  But on Sunday night, he died of a heart attack.  No warnings, no time...he didn't probably even realize that it was his last heartbeat.  His days on earth were done - and he didn't even know it the moment before.
When we adopted our twins, Romeo & the Professor, from Guatemala, I feel deeply in love with the Guatemalan people.  Oh, how I wanted to adopt another from that country!  To save another pair of chocolate brown eyes and black hair with gorgeous brown skin and smiles as big as the horizon.  I always assumed we would be going back.  I assumed we would be starting on the next adoption immediately after getting home. But we had a very difficult couple of years after the boys came home.  I was overwhelmed and wanted time.  I assumed that I had time......and then the doors to Guatemalan adoptions slammed shut....and they have stayed shut.  All those babies....all those precious lives....we are unable to rescue them regardless of how much they need it. 
How many real life experiences are there like that?  Shocking stories, where someone is just going about living their life, making plans, enjoying the days....and then those days are just a a stroke of a one political decision.  Gone....the days are gone.
Jesus tells the story of a certain rich man in Luke 12:16-21
"16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 

 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” 

His days were a heartbeat...with no warning...with no chance to go back and do it differently.

It is easy to pass by this story or read something more into the rich man's actions then is actually said in the story.   We have to look at what Jesus Himself says is the point, "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."  Riches are not spoken against in the Bible - it is not that this man was rich.  It was that he was using his treasures for himself, not seeking what God would have him do with it. 

The funny thing is, this is what most of us American Christians are working towards.  We are abundantly blessed - even those on the lower end of the pay scale!  We have abundantly more than over 90% of the world.  But our goal is to gather enough of those treasures and store them up in bigger and bigger barns (i.e. houses and bank accounts) so that we can take our ease and be merry.  Once we have accomplished that, then maybe we can give more to others.

We read of the warnings against "riches" in the Bible and think, "Yeah, those bad rich guys.  If I was rich, I would not keep it to myself.  I would help others.  I wouldn't spend it foolishly.  Then I could give more to missionaries.  Then I could tithe.  Then I could adopt.  Then I could....(fill in the blank with a "good" thing)."  I used to think the same thing.  When I would read about how it was harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven than it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."  (Matthew 19:24)  I would think, "Wow, am I glad I am not rich!" 

Then I read a book by Randy Alcorn (Money, Possessions, and Eternity) and he shook my world.  He said (in my paraphrase), "YOU!  You are the rich man.  If you live in America - even on the lower levels, you are richer than 90-95% of the world."  We are the rich man that is so busy with our own worlds that we cannot share with others.  We convince ourselves that we have needs that must be met...when really, with God's grace, we could go without.

Back to the orginal verse....although I hope you followed my bunny trail there. ;-)  We are not here to live for ourselves.  And the point isn't to just meander aimlessly (or semi-aimlessly) through life, pursing our own plans.  Paul is reminding us to think about what we are here think about what we are doing.  God did not just save believers and then step back and say, "Enjoy your life...I will see you when you get to heaven."  He tells us that He saved us with a purpose.  He says that He saved us for specific purposes for each of us -

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10
In Eph 5:15, Paul is urging believers, in light of all that God has done for us, to live wisely.  There is a strong emphasis in the Greek words.  The word "be"("Therefore be careful") is translated "look or observe".  "Careful" has the basic meaning of accurate and exact, and carries the associated idea of looking, examining, and investigating something  with great care.  It also carries the idea of alertness.  (courtesy of The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Ephesians, Dr. John MacArthur)
The point is to be examining our lives in view of salvation and God's purposes for us individually.  This isn't just a quick inventory so we can say, "Yep, I do some good things.  And definitely more good things than my neighbor.  I'm good."  To live wisely, not carelessly and without aim. 
Why are we to do that?  Because the days are evil.  This has several is that they are limited.  We don't know when our last heartbeat will be....we are all one heartbeat away from eternity.  We don't know when a opportunity to serve, to speak, to save a life....will be gone.  Suddenly and without warning.  We may have "meant" to get to it eventually - maybe when it was a little more convenient or we felt a little more prepared - but in a blink of an eye the opportunity was gone....
Dr. John MacArthur also says "....the days are evil.  We are to make the most of our opportunities not only because our days are numbered but because the world [system] continually opposes us and seeks to hinder our work for the Lord. We have little time and much opposition.  Because the days are evil, our opportunities for freely doing righteousness are often limited. When we have opportunity to do something for His name's sake and for His glory, we should do so with tall that we have.  How God's heart must be broken to see His children ignore or halfheartedly take up opportunity after opportunity that He sends to them. Every moment of every day should be filled with things good, things righteous, things glorifying to God." 
We are told what not to do - live as unwise - but we are also told what to do - "understand what the will of the Lord is".   This would be both His general will for everyone (as laid out in Scripture) but also His specific will for our lives.  This specific will is found through knowing His Word, praying, and being willing to do whatever He asks us to do. His Word show us His heart.  It shows us what is good, acceptable, and pleasing to Him.  It shows us what is right and worth pouring our lives into.   He will never ask us to do something individually that contradicts His Word. 
We are to redeem the time.  You already know how much I love that word.  We are to "deliver or rescue" the time from being evil.  We are to purchase, through our actions, the time that was sold to corruption and sin when all of creation fell.  This will not automatically happen.  It is an action word.  We must do it - not hope  that it will, or think that it will, or assume that it will.  We are to be in active motion to redeem the days, just as Christ has redeemed us.  What an amazing opportunity to reflect Him.
If you do not know His Word - how will you ever know what His Will is?  We are told throughout Scripture that only by following His words, commands, and directions in Scripture will we do what is right.  You are not the only person in the whole of eternity that is the exception to thisYou need to know His Word.  His Word is very clear in general details why we are here, what we are to spend our lives doing, how we are to spend our money, even what we are to think and pray about!
We, as believers, claim that we live for Him - that we want to obey Him.  Is that true of your life?  Do you want to live for Him and obey Him?  Okay, let me ask you a couple of questions (ones that heartily convicted me).  You say that you want to live for Him - what are some important issues in life?  Marriage?  What we eat?  What we wear?  How we raise our children?  What we spend our time and money on?  List out your 2 or 3 most important....
Now, how many of those topics have your spent time pouring over all of Scripture to know what God says about it?  What does God say about marriage and how you are to treat your spouse?  Now, no cheating - this is not just pulling up as many random Scriptures that you can remember pertaining to the topic- have you actually purposely and specifically searched Scripture for what God's Will is on this topic?  If you are like me, the answer is "No."  I had not done this.  I claimed to want to obey and serve Him - but I couldn't even tell you what He had already said about it!  Other than a few measly thoughts and sermon notes here and there.
How does God want you to spend your time?  If you are continually in Scripture, learning His heart and His ways; praying for His guidance and repenting when you sin; and asking for the grace to be willing to do whatever He asks.  He WILL lead you.  He will "open and close" doors to keep you on His path.  He will sovereignty direct your days and the people and things that you come in contact with.  He will give you a passion to obey, whatever it is He is asking.  He will give you the delights of you heart - because your delights will be His.
But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you must know His Word.  This is the safeguard that keeps us from just following our own desires...which the Bible tells us are selfish, given to foolishness, and easily swayed.  If you are just following whatever your feelings and thoughts tell you to do, you will go astray every time.
Because this is a blog having to do with orphans and adoption, I have to (because of my passion) focus on that for a moment.  Many say that they are not "called" to this area.  Okay, have you searched Scripture specifically and fully to KNOW - not just guess or assume or go by your own feelings - what God says about this?  What does God say about orphans and widows?  What does He say He will do to people or nations that either care for their widows and orphans or those that neglect or oppress them?  Do you know that He says when you are caring for the poor (which would be 99.99999% of widows & orphans) that you are lending to Him and that He will pay you back abundantly?  Do you know what He says shows pure and undefiled religion? 
No, He does not say that everyone should adopt.  I have never said that and never will.  But we are all commanded to care for them.  His Word is full of the blessings that He will pour down on those that do.  He also says that this brings great glory and joy to Him.  This is not a suggestion, it is a command. 
I am commanded not to lie in Scripture.  I do not get to say, "Well, God has not called me to that.  I just don't feel a passion or desire not to lie."  If I said that to you, you would probably fall over.  Then you would assume (and rightly so) that I might not be saved.  Yet, we feel we can do that when it comes to caring for widows and orphans. 
Now, let me swiftly remind you that this applies to all things God commands us to do.  This would apply to sharing the Gospel.  We are called to share the good news of salvation to all the world.  This does not mean that we all go overseas.  This does not mean that we all share the precious Gospel in the same way (although the truth and the message never changes).  Some may pass our tracts, some may stand on street corners, some may become pastors, some may share over a cup of coffee, some may share with a $5 bill given to a homeless person while telling them the good news....the possibilities are endless.  We must all be open and ready to share wherever God prompts us - in season and out of season.  It will look different with each person - though I emphasize again that the message never changes, only the delivery.
So with caring for widows and orphans, I agree God may not be calling you to adopt.  You should be perfectly content with that answer IF you have truly become knowledgeable about what God has said in His Word, you have sought Him and His guidance through prayer, and you have made your heart willing (by His grace) to do whatever He asks.  If you have sought His will on this and are not called to adopt, then the next question is, "Then what did He ask you to do?"  For He has commanded us all to do something.  To pray for specific widows and orphans?  To give to a family adopting or an orphanage, or to a ministry like Compassion International?  To give of your time?  What has He asked you to do?  You will only be held accountable for what He has asked you to do....He will not ask you for your opinion on what some else should or should not do. 
We are all one heartbeat away from eternity....what will you use the next heartbeat for?  And the next?  You never know when your time will be gone - or a precious child's time will be gone....Do not waste precious time and opportunities by getting distracted or just simply not knowing what God is asking you to do.  What if He is asking you to save a little life?  The time you spent distracted with other things may be critical to that little person.  Let me give you an example..
This is Sonny.
What a precious face.  What a dolly.  It seems sad that he is in an orphanage.  But nothing seems urgent.  It is okay for a family to wait until they feel totally prepared and comfortable - all their needs met first, right?  If they don't feel a passion, they really don't need to pray about it - because God will always make us immediately passionate about something He asks us to do right?  Hmm, if that was true, then Abraham must have been passionate and excited to sacrifice his son, Issac, right? ....
Little Sonny -Sad, but definately not urgent.
Here is Sonny now -
Sonny was not adopted before his time in the baby house ran out.  At not even six years old, he was transferred to a mental institution.  This boy is neglected and abused.  This boy needs help NOW...he needed help a long time before that.
The same goes for little Ksenia..
It may not have been you that was called to save either of these little ones....but what might the consequences be if you are not doing His Will?  If you are His, He has already designed the good and wonderful things He has for you to do.  They may be very, very hard things...but they also may be things that will delight your soul once you finally leap.  They will most definately be things that bring glory to Him.
Redeem the time....don't let the subtle distractions and lies of this world's corrupt system draw you in to wasting that gift - or not valuing it for the gift it is.  How will you spend your hours this evening?  On the things that will last into eternity - or the things that are here today and gone tomorrow because they have no value?....Until He comes, choose to glorify Him in all we do.
To Him be all honor, glory, and power.

After I wrote this post, I was introduced to a new blog....She said perfectly, eloquently, and beautifully what I was trying to say...Please read her

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