Carpe Diem

“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

Paul’s instruction to “see then that you walk circumspectly” is also translated “be very careful” or “pay careful attention, then, to how you live.” Paul is urging us to take a moment and consider how we live and why we make the decisions we make. Unlike what the world encourages, we aren’t to get caught up in the moment and simply do whatever feels right. The days are evil, so if we’re not careful we’ll end up giving our energy and time to temporary pleasures which will leave us empty and frustrated.

God-incidences

“That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.” Esther 6:1

It has been said with a sovereign God there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. There is no doubt it was a God-incidence that the king couldn’t sleep the night spoken of in Esther 6:1. God kept the king awake knowing Haman was busy building the gallows to hang Mordecai. The king could have arranged for something to help him fall asleep. He could have called a troubadour to sing him to sleep or called a concubine from his harem to help calm him, but instead he had someone read the records of the chronicles to him. This may sound like the perfect thing to put someone to sleep quickly, but before the king could fall asleep he heard something very interesting. Within the records of the chronicles was the record of Mordecai’s service to the king five years earlier. This information made the king think fondly of Mordecai and would end up saving Mordecai’s life.

Imitators of God

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

Behavioral scientists have discovered an interesting phenomenon called “imprinting” that takes place in the early development of some animals. If an animal is exposed enough to another animal, object, or person during critical stages of their development, they will consider it as their parent. If a young goose is “imprinted” by a dog, the gosling will see the dog as it’s mother. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul suggests the same sort of imprinting should happen in our relationship with Jesus. We should be walking so closely with Him that His nature is imprinted on us.

Life as a New Man

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds his readers that when they received salvation, they were given new life. The old man that was governed by deceitful lusts was gone, and was replaced by a new man governed by the truth of Jesus Christ. In the verse above, Paul claims this new man “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Does this remind you of Genesis 1 where it says God originally created the first man, Adam, in His image and likeness?

NCL's 13th Anniversary This Sunday!

Good morning NCL family,

As I was sitting at my desk wondering what I could share about our 13th anniversary this Sunday the only thing that came to mind is, “Oh no, 13! That’s not good. Everyone knows what that means. We’re doomed! It’s over! I guess I should prepare my last sermon ever in Newport Coast.” Isn’t it funny how humans can take a little number like 13 and make it an evil thing? Though this may be the world’s view of the number 13, it certainly isn’t the biblical view. I discovered the number 13 in the Bible refers to an amazing blessing from God.

Step of Faith

“Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, facing the entrance of the house.” Esther 5:1

As I read this one little verse this morning, my heart was moved to pray for our country. Similar to Esther’s day, many unbelievable things are happening in our government today that often leave us wondering, “What in the world can we do?”

Walk in Unity

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Did you notice one word in the above passage that stood out among the rest? The word “one” is used seven times in these three verses. I think Paul wants us to understand that there should be unity among all believers. Notice how Paul reveals that it is the triunity of God that brings unity to His children. We see the spirit in verse 4, the Son in verse 5, and the Father in verse 6.

The Prayer Request

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Ephesians 3:14, 18-19a

John Stott wrote, “One of the best ways to discover a Christians’ chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. Prayer expresses desire.” The above prayer from Paul takes place at a crucial transition in his letter to the Ephesians. In the first three chapters he has been discussing some pretty dense doctrine, and he will spend the rest of the letter teaching us how to apply that doctrine to our lives. So before he gets into the application, he prays the believers in Ephesus would comprehend the overwhelming love of Christ.

For Such a Time as This

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

If you were reading the book of Esther for the first time you might wonder, “Where is God?” Nowhere is God’s name mentioned and nowhere does it appear God is doing anything. The book begins with a narcissistic king in control which leads to an evil man named Haman gaining some control, but it never appears God is in control.

The Mystery

“...to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 3:9

The word “mystery” really jumps off the page doesn’t it? In the New Testament, a mystery is not an eerie thing from a movie, rather it’s “a truth hidden by God in times past that is now revealed to those who are in His family.”  

A New Society

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” Ephesians 2:14

Equality seems to be the most relevant issue today. It’s at the forefront of our society’s mind and is causing a lot of dispute because we’re desperately trying to figure out what it looks like and how to obtain it. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize we were given the answer nearly 2,000 years ago. At a time when inequality was leaps and bounds worse than it is now, Paul declared Christ Himself “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”

His Will, His Way, His Time

“So the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Shushan was perplexed.” Esther 3:15b

Four years had passed since Esther became queen and Mordecai began to rule at the city gate. Everything seemed to be peaceful in Shushan. Then, in a moment, everything changed because of a man named Haman. Although everyone in the kingdom was willing to bow down to Haman, Mordecai was not. As a result, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews by casting lots (what the Persians would call “pur”) to determine the day the Jews would be exterminated.

Everything is in His Hands

“And Mordecai had brought Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.” Esther 2:7

Nearly four years had passed since the king deposed Queen Vashti. During those four years the king was humiliated in battle. When he returned from battle beaten and lonely, he was in need of human touch and missed Queen Vashti. This concerned the king’s counselors because they were the ones who encouraged the king to depose her. So they suggested the king should have all the young virgins in the kingdom gathered up so he could choose one to be his wife. Esther would end up being in this group.

Triumphant

All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” Matthew 21:4-5

Oh, the paradox of Christianity! Jesus insisted that His grand entrance into Jerusalem would be as a peaceful Savior, even though the crowd wanted Him to enter as a powerful political Messiah. While the crowd couldn’t see past their Roman bondage, Jesus saw their deeper need of being freed from their bondage to sin.

Death to Life

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

In order that we might fully appreciate who we now are in Christ, Paul bluntly describes how terrible the situation was we used to be in. Oftentimes I feel we lose the full gravity of what Christ accomplished for us. Perhaps we think we used to be bad people and Jesus made us better, or we were struggling and Jesus came along and helped us. Even some of the metaphors we use in many of our worship songs seem to be insufficient. Although I adore the song “Amazing Grace” and would never disagree with the lyrics, I feel famous phrases like “I once was lost but now am found” or “T’was blind but now I see” don’t quite get across exactly what Jesus did for us.

Prayer for Enlightenment

“The eyes of your understanding being enlightened...” Ephesians 1:18a

Ok, I know you’ve heard me say this many times before, but this may be my favorite verse. The ESV translates it, “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” We often think of the heart as the seat of our emotions, but in the Bible the heart refers to the entire inner man which includes the emotions, the mind and the will. Through the Bible we learn the heart has spiritual faculties that parallel our physical senses. We read things like, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… He who has ears to hear, let him hear… If indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious… A sweet smelling aroma… In hope that they might grope for Him and find Him…” (John 3:3, Matthew 13:9, 1 Peter 2:3, Phillipians 4:18, Acts 17:27). Throughout these scriptures the heart is found seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and touching.

Acquainted With the King

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

God’s timing for us to start the book of Esther is amazing for two reasons. Firstly, one of the reasons this book is so fascinating is that the word “king” is used over one hundred times, but the name of God isn’t used once. Why? We can’t know for sure, but we can surmise that it was most likely because the children of Israel were more interested in their earthly king than they were in their Heavenly King. Does that sound familiar?

Doctrine to Doxology

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

In the verse above, Paul uses some form of the Greek word for “eulogy” three times. Although most of us think of a eulogy as a short speech praising someone at their funeral, the word more generally means “to praise, to bless, to bestow special favor upon.” In it’s most basic sense it means “good word.” The purpose of this verse is to setup all that Paul is about to declare in the next 12 verses.

Really Rich

“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8

I am amazed by the fact the apostle Paul penned these words while sitting in a prison cell in Rome. When we visited Rome in 1992 we saw the cell Paul may have been kept in. I remember walking down a set of stairs into an underground area and seeing how the cells had been hewn out of stone. They were dark, damp and cold. When I walked into one of the cells I had to bend down because of how low the ceiling was. I noticed a hole in the ceiling and was told the guards would use this hole to not only lower down food and water to the prisoners, but also to urinate on the prisoners. Needless to say, the living conditions seemed unbearable, but as I knelt in that cell I could picture Paul sitting in the corner with a candle and a blanket, writing to his friends in Ephesus about all the things the Lord revealed to him about Christ and the church.

Debrief

“And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’” Joshua 3:5

The main message Joshua wanted every person to know was that God keeps His promises and enables us to succeed if we simply trust and obey Him. Someone once said, "Our tomorrows can be exciting and wonderful if we are all God wants us to be." God still wants to reveal to His people that He is the God of wonders, all He asks is that we set ourselves apart and trust and obey Him. The same God who reigned in Joshua's day continues to reign today. The question today is, "Where are all the Joshua's?"