Sunday, March 27, 2016

Woman, why are you crying?

Read John 20

Before the Spirit left his body, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

His atoning sacrifice was complete.  Jesus stood in our place and took the punishment for all sin upon himself, the only human flesh that could be an Unblemished Lamb for us.

We can understand this somewhat.  We have the benefit of hindsight and scriptural explanations that would follow.  Blood must be shed for the forgiveness of sins.  It was.

Why must blood be shed?  That’s something to ask Jesus on a slow day in eternity.  We have no shortage of theories and suppositions, but for this age all that we can say it that it was required and it was accomplished.

The sacrifice was complete.

What did that mean 2000 years ago?

The Jews had this trouble maker out of the way.  The Romans surely wanted nothing more to do with this matter.  The disciples had scattered and were disoriented.  They reconstituted physically, but emotionally they were devastated.

A secret follower of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus.  He could not let it hang on that cross with the Sabbath so near.  He was assisted by Nicodemus.  They moved the body to a nearby tomb that had never been used.

Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds worth and these two men wrapped the body in linen.  They had to hurry.  Sundown brought the Sabbath and while many extraordinary things had occurred over the past few hours; these men would observe God’s law and the Sabbath day that God had established and Jesus had said it was made for them.

We can only imagine what transpired from Friday evening to Sunday morning.  Somehow, the disciples had come back together, surely afraid of what might happen to them.  Jesus had told them that the very thing that had them so distraught must happen.  He even told them what would come next.

But they did not comprehend.

The story that begins the first day of the week—Sunday—begins with Mary Magdalene.  Other gospels mention other women, but John notes only this Mary.  She started for the tomb while it was still dark.  People with a casual interest in something don’t get up at zero dark thirty.  Mary did.

She arrived at the tomb to find the stone rolled away.  Had it been in place, it is not clear what she hoped to accomplish, but it had been rolled away.

We don’t get the full witness statement here.  Did Mary look in the tomb?  Did she go in?  We don’t know.  All we know is what she reported.

They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they put him.

The culprit for this unthinkable act has been the culprit of the ages—they.  They did it.  They took him.  It is their fault.

Perhaps Mary analyzed the evidence:  Stoned rolled back, empty tomb; it must be they—surely it took many of them in any case—who did this.  They took him.  They put him somewhere.

Mary does all that she knows to do.  She runs back to Peter and another disciple, whom most presume to be John—the author of this gospel—and gives them the news.

Peter and John race to the tomb.  John wins the race but stops at the entrance to the tomb.  Peter zooms right on by him.  Peter was like that.  Dive in head first and see what happens.

John followed.

There were burial strips and a folded cloth but no body.  There was no Jesus.  The scripture said that they saw and believed; but did not comprehend what had happened.  Surely there was some Proverbs 3:5-6 wrestling going on at that point.

Jesus had been telling them for some time that he must go to Jerusalem.  He would be killed, and on the third day he would rise from the dead.

The disciples heard this but it never quite registered.  I compare this to me attending a risk management class in the late 1990’s.  I was the only program manager in the class.  The rest of the class were bona fide geeks, some even had slide rules and like to use them.  This was in the age of computers and mega-calculators, they wanted to work out these complicated risk equations by hand.

I bought the software that did all of this stuff behind the scenes.  For the risk equations that I had to do as part of the class, I was glad when they were finished.  The geeks wanted more problems to work.

These two disciples believed what they could wrap their minds around, but surely did not comprehend the magnitude of what had happened.  There was some cognitive dissonance between what they were doing their best to believe and their understanding of what they believed.
These two men did the only thing they could think to do.  

They went home.

Sometime during this epiphany by the men, Mary had made her way back to the tomb.  She is not listed among the contenders in the race described only between Peter and John.  Perhaps she walked back and caught her breath as she had already run back to report her earlier observations.

Whatever the case, she was at the tomb again, and she stood outside the entrance crying.  She bent over and looked inside and this time there were two angels in white seated where the body of Jesus had been.

The angels spoke and in one of the few times where angels have speaking parts in the New Testament, they don’t begin what they have to say with “Fear not!”

Instead, they ask:  “Woman, why are you crying?”

Mary surely exasperated, replied, “They have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”

We might think that the angels were a little callous.  Did they not know the anguish of this woman?

I have visited the homes of families that had just lost a loved one many times and never have I thought of beginning a conversation with the phrase, “Why are you crying?”

Were these the only angels available for duty on that weekend?  Weren’t there some with better tact?  C’mon, really, who begins a conversation on a day such as this with “Why are you crying?”

What were they thinking?

In the late 1980’s, I was stationed on independent duty in Des Moines, Iowa.  My mission was to train reservists and make sure they were ready to deploy to combat.  We didn’t do things the traditional way that reserves train with a show up Saturday morning and go home Sunday afternoon.

We came in Friday evening and trained until late Sunday afternoon.  We did our best to squeeze 2 weeks of training into about 50 hours.  You had to throw in a little sleep because some of these young men had a hundred miles to drive home at the end of the weekend.

As the end of the training drew near, I would gather with the reserve officers as the Marines did their final inspections and turned in their weapons.  This was a critical time as I had to make sure the officers were already tuning in for the next month’s training.  I did not want to be interrupted.

On one occasion, my admin chief—a gunnery sergeant—kept sticking his head in the door raising a finger that he just needed a moment.  I gave him the look that said “no.”  He did this a couple more times and I gave him the look a couple more times.

This was my time with these officers before they returned to were often consumed by their civilian jobs.  Did the gunny not get this?  He had access to me all week long.  These few men in my office were going home in a few minutes.  Didn’t he get it?

I need to tell you something about this gunnery sergeant.  After about 145 years, he had finally gotten season tickets to the Minnesota Vikings.  He was a diehard fan and had finally got what he had wanted for decades.  He also had a bookie.
So on the weekends that we didn’t have reserve training, he would go to the game and pick up “cards” from his bookie.

He would always give me one.  I gave him five bucks and quickly picked my winners from a dozen or so games.  It was five bucks I never intended to see again and I was too busy to make intelligent guesses.

I had given my card and five buck to the gunnery sergeant earlier that week and had forgotten all about it.  It surely was not on my mind while I was trying to cram a two hour meeting with these officers into twenty minutes.

Finally, the gunny just couldn’t contain himself and burst into the meeting and stood in front of my desk and said, “You won!”

Evidently, I had picked all of the winners.  I think it amounted to about $150 that I won, but it was still something that couldn’t be contained.

The gunnery sergeant hand been pacing outside of my door surely thinking, “Why is he upset with me?   Does he not know why I need to see him?  Does he not know the news?”
Does he not know?

The gunny had some great news and I wasn’t ready to hear it.  Really?

Two angels were sitting in a tomb one morning and a woman shows up crying.  How can she be crying?  Does she not know what has happened?  Did he not tell them ahead of time?

Woman, why are your crying?

Mary was at the center of the greatest event in all of history.  How could she be crying?

You know what happened next.  She has this encounter with a man whom she believes to be the gardener and even asks him if he knows where the body might be.

“If you did it, it’s okay; just let me go get him.”  Mary wonders if the “they” who took the body might be this man, but she can’t alienate him if she wants to recover the body of her Lord.

She does not know with whom she is speaking.  This man asks the same thing as the angels, “Why are you crying?”

All Mary wants is the body—“please let me have him!”  Mary needs to tend to the body of her Lord who was killed in such a brutal manner and buried in haste.

But in an instant, in a single word, her concerns are gone.

She looks again at this man and knows him to be Jesus.  “Rabboni, Rabbi, Teacher” was all that she said but in that moment she knew that she served a risen Savior.

In that moment, she understood the question:  Why are your crying?

This time her report to the disciples was not just of an empty tomb but of a risen Lord.  They would not see him until later, but Mary’s questions had all been answered in an instant.

We know the whole story.  We don’t have to live it moment to moment.  We know the sacrifice required to take away our sin was made.

We know that death was defeated.

We know that the grave could not hold Jesus.

We know that he did exactly what he said he would do.

We know that in this resurrection is not only life for Jesus but for us all.

We know the assurance that Jesus gave in the Great Commission:  I am with your always even to the very end of the age.

We know the Spirit has been given to us.

We know that God will not leave us or forsake us.

We know the depth and breadth of God’s love in this sacrifice and resurrection.

So how could we ever be sad?

How could we ever be afraid?

How could we ever be discouraged?

How could the temporal pressures of this world take away our joy?

We know the whole story from that first Easter morning and we know the joy behind the question:  “Why are you crying?”

This is a day of celebration like no other.  There is no room for anguish and anxiety. 

Jesus Christ is risen and we know that to be true.  We know that we serve a risen savior and that in him we have life, life abundant, and life eternal.

It reminds me of a Bible verse familiar to us all.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

The cross is empty.  The grave is empty.  Jesus offers us life that is full.

Today we celebrate our victory in Jesus.  Cry if you must, but let them be tears of joy!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Coffee Talk is back for April

It’s back!

What is?

Coffee Talk, that's what.

What is Coffee Talk?  Why it is a gathering of believers that are strong in their faith and want to explore some interesting and sometimes even controversial topics in the Bible, in life, or that just happen to be bouncing around in their minds.

What must I do to participate?

First, this is seriously for those who know with certainty that God loves them, that by the blood of Jesus they are saved, and that God’s love and your salvation are assured.  This is really not for the new believer.

Second, bring your Bible.  If you don’t have your own Bible, then you are probably not up to this evening of engaging conversation.  Stop by on any other day and Tom will give you a Bible.

Third, we do not gather to convince each other that our interpretation of any matter is the one and only way.  We come to explore, engage, and envision the things that have been on our minds knowing that we may have different perspectives and opinions.  These discussions are part of the benefit package of growing in grace.  We can touch on things that might be too tough to explore in Sunday School or another Bible Study where there are believers still subsisting on milk alongside those chewing on Biblical ribeyes.

What are the topics?

Bring what you have been thinking about.  We may discuss one topic for an hour or jump around with three or four different ones.

For the first of these April gatherings, we will prime the pump just a bit by starting with Job 1, specifically, The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.

That may take 10 minutes or may have to be continued, but it is a starting point.  The point is that we as believers who have been growing in grace for a while need a place and companions to sharpen us, refine us, and help us grow even more.  Your topics do not have to originate with a Bible verse.  Bring what is on your mind and let's see what we can figure out.

The coffee will be ready when you arrive.  If you prefer a soft drink, please bring it with you.

18 April 2016      7 pm
25 April 2016     7 pm
Pastor’s Study
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
205 State Highway 44

Burns Flat, Oklahoma

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Plans, passion, purpose, and palms

For those that abide in some sort of lectionary discipline, there are usually two courses for this Sunday that precedes the First Sunday of Easter.  That liturgical dichotomy is the celebration of the palms or the passion of the Christ.

Palms or Passion?

Is it the triumphal entry as King or the Suffering Servant?

Do we focus on the palm lined highway or the painful road to the cross?

Maybe, sometimes, just every once in a while, we should consider both, and even more.  But let’s start with palms. 

This week that we now call Holy Week, begins with palms.


Palms come from trees without branches.

Palm leaves or fronds symbolize victory.

Palms are evergreen.

A road lined with palms would look like someone rolled out the green carpet.

The palm in the desert is the symbol of life.

Places such as Palm Springs make us think of resorts and retreats.

Palms denote status and comfort and even peace.


In the world of life experience, purpose is often the cohesive, the organizing principle, and the multiplier.

A life expended with purpose is a life lived beyond its potential.

Purpose gets you out of bed in the morning.

Purpose causes you to say, Good Morning, Lord, instead of Good Lord, it’s morning.

Purpose gets you to school.

Purpose gets you to work.

Purpose gets you talking with God.

Purpose gets you up the hill.

Purpose lets the insult roll off while focus is maintained.

Purpose adjusts the sails when the wind changes.

Purpose cooks Ramen when the paycheck isn’t enough for the water bill.

Purpose crosses the minefield to save a friend.

Purpose gives insight into our Heavenly Father.

Purpose gives us insight into ourselves.

Purpose unlocks our gifts and talents.

Purpose gives us permission to say no to things we don’t need to do.

Purpose brings us to abundance—not in stuff or money—but in life.

Purpose purges poverty.

Those who live without purpose endure a cruel type of poverty.

This form of poverty just passes the time.

This form of poverty sees only immediate needs.

Character atrophies in those living in the poverty of purpose.

Commitment is foreign to anyone without purpose.

The power to effect desired change is irrelevant if there is no desire.

Fear rules.

Language sours.

Money is illusive.

There is no Sabbath to take in a life without purpose.


Passion detests apathy.

Passion abhors ambivalence.

Passion presses on when there is nothing left.

Passion suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Passion does not stop to question purpose.  It presses on knowing the purpose comes from God.

Passion gives up self.

Passion and purpose wed and become unstoppable.

From before man was placed upon this earth, Jesus knew what he must do to create the relationship between the crown of God’s creation and God himself. 

Our three-in-one God knew that a redeemed man was more valuable than one never tested, trialed, condemned, and rescued, but it would take both purpose and passion to bring about this special creature.

Humans couldn’t handle it.  We couldn’t be flesh and complete on our own.  You can spend your life trying to figure out why the two seem incompatible, but I doubt you will get the complete answer until the age to come.

Why does sacrifice require blood?

Why must life be sacrificed?

Why were we worth it?

Jesus was just hours away from what would be one of the most detestable and essential chapters of human history.

Jesus was still on an emotion high from the meal he had just enjoyed with his closest friends.

Jesus was exhausted.

Jesus was so close to accomplishing his mission.

Jesus knew human pain and agony.

Jesus knew he must do this thing.

Knowing all things, Jesus hoped he had missed something and there was another way.

Jesus was with the closest of his closest friends.

Jesus was alone as they fell asleep at the wheel.

Jesus knew that the time to glorify the Father was near.  His glory would be in fulfilling this mission.

Jesus knew that the time for his betrayal was even nearer.

Jesus would fulfill the plan made before the earth began, but a plan doesn’t get you to the cross.

A plan doesn’t endure false accusations.

A plan doesn’t turn the other cheek to a slap in the face.

A plan doesn’t surrender its own life as a sacrificial lamb.

A plan does not endure the scorn of leaders in place only by the will of the Planner himself.

A plan does not endure a crown of thorns.

A plan does not endure physical torture.

A plan does not suffer the cross when there is no crime.

A plan does not suffer the sins of the world upon innocent flesh.

A plan cannot utter, “Forgive them.  They know not what they do.”

But purpose with passion will cry tears of blood.

Purpose with passion will endure false accusations in order to get to the cross.

Purpose with passion will bleed from the thorns or the whip and not cry out for the Father to put an end to it all.

Purpose with passion will take the sins of the world upon the only innocent flesh that could bear them.

Purpose with passion will go to the cross.

Purpose with passion will forgive the executioners.

Purpose with passion took away the sin of the world.

Purpose with passion endured separation from the Father, if only for a short moment in eternity.

Purpose with passion is the only reason that we do not stand condemned today.

Jesus knew that he had to go to the cross.  There was no other way.  We cannot blame the disciples for falling asleep.  They were like travels in the passenger seat.  If you are not the driver, it is so easy to nod off. 

Jesus was the only one who knew what was next.

He was the only one who knew that his purpose and passion were required to fulfill the plan of God.

Jesus came to reveal the divine heart to us—God loved the world so much!  A walk down the primrose path would not suffice.  He must suffer.  He must die.  He must surrender his life as a sacrifice for undeserving humankind.

He knew that this was the plan all along but that did not make it any easier.  His passion and purpose were essential to our preservation.

We talk about the suffering of the Christ, but we are careful to do it only in an academic discussion.  It doesn’t make good dinner conversation.  It doesn’t go with the flow of the playoff game on television.  It’s not something that you throw in while looking at the pictures of the grandkids.

But it is at the heart of every ounce and breath and meter of life that we know.  Absent the passion and purpose that compelled Christ to continue to the cross, we would still be lost.

We would not know the joy that so many of us cherish.

We would stand condemned and far removed from our Creator when God’s heart desires us to enjoy him fully and be in his presence.

Jesus who is God and King and Messiah chose to continue to the cross and be Savior as well.  He chose to be an Unblemished Lamb for us.  He chose love but love required all of his purpose and passion to die for us on an old rugged cross.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best,
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine
Such a wonderful beauty I see
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
It's shame and approach gladly bear;
Then He'll call me someday to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I'll share.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down,
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

It was more than just God’s plan.  It was his purpose and passion for us that caused that plan to be one that took all of our sin and bore all of the suffering so we could live.

As we move towards a celebration of resurrection, consider this week just how much God loves you.  Consider that you have been at the heart of his purpose and fueling his passion since before humankind began.

This passion for you was always a part of his plan, but this plan was fulfilled in the sacrifice on the cross.  His purpose for us becomes known in his plans and passion.  They are good plans and his passion is intense.

God loves you.  He loves you very much.

Let’s spend this week—a week that begins with palms—trying to grasp just how great God’s love is.

Let’s spend this week—a week kicked off with a parade for a King, a path lined with palms, and shouts of Hosanna—just being overwhelmed by the plan, purpose, and passion that would take Jesus to the cross to die for our sins.
Let’s spend this week knowing that God’s plan for our salvation has been completed.  It is finished.  The work on the cross is done.

If we will do that this week; we will be ever so prepared to celebrate resurrection on the Sunday to come.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Don't let the sun go down...

We could spend a few weeks on this chapter talking about Gifts from God, many enumerated herein.  We could talk about those who follow Jesus, the church, being the body of Christ and being called to unity.

We are one in the Spirit and we are one in the Lord.  We are one in Christ Jesus.

We sing those words frequently and they bring us much assurance and encouragement.  It is wonderful to know that we have been equipped with special gifts to help us produce good fruit.  It is encouraging to know that we will not all have the same gifts but we will all have a contributing place in the body of Christ.

We should all be encouraged to know that the body of Christ is our family.  We don’t need to covet each other’s gifts and talents and unique abilities.  We need to discover and discern how God has equipped us to contribute and when and where we need to lean on others in the body of Christ.

Diversity of gifts and unity in the body are a divine model.  We seldom it right.  Sometimes we get close.  Sometimes we get a taste of what it is to live in a family of faith.

For the moment, let’s save the larger discussion on Gifts of the Spirit and Unity in the Body for another time; and let’s dive into growing in grace.

Growing in grace only begins with salvation.  You receive the free gift and begin this course called discipleship.  Once we have begun this course, we are to be different from the world.

Paul would say take off the old self—that’s the person conformed to the image of the world; and put on the new self—that’s the person being made in the image of God.

To understand Paul, and even some other parts of the Bible, we need to understand a paradigm or model that we might call all ready done/in the process.

Are you made in the image of God?  Are you being made in the image of Christ Jesus?  Are we there or not?  The answer is “yes!”

Has God made us in the image of himself—which surely includes Jesus—or are we on our way to being made in that image?

The answer once again is just “yes.”  Yes to both.  We are made in his image and on the way to being made in his image.

We will see more of this all ready done/in the process thinking from Paul as we navigate his letters.  For now, understand that what we will discuss forthwith falls within the framework of discipleship—following Jesus as those who accept him as our Lord and Savior and Master.

We are blessed with salvation, equipped with special gifts, and designed to work as one body with Christ as the head.  Now what?

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

I love the phrase, speaking the truth in love.  I use it a lot. Frequently, I use it beyond its original context but within the author’s intent, I think.

We should consider the original statement and intent.    First, Paul is writing to members of the body of Christ.  These are disciples.  We are disciples.

He gives them and us a starting point for growth.  It is truth.  We must speak the truth to each other, not to hurt, but to grow in God’s grace.

Truth spoken to other believers should have the potential to produce growth.

Now I have shared with many of you on occasion that in the course of my life I was accused of being tactful twice; however, you should note that I was acquitted on both counts.  Being just blatantly honest comes naturally to me.

But the direction here is to speak the truth in love, and the “in love” part means that there is potential for growth in another believer.

There is another condition if we want effectiveness.  I meet with people all the time who come looking for money.  Trust me, I do speak the truth in love with them and I seldom expect much growth.  Why?

Because most of the time, I am meeting with someone who is not much interested in being a disciple, much less growing in grace.  Their focus is just fixing the immediate problem and not growth.

Many are saved.  The gift of God is for all and many have accepted it, but so many do not want to follow Jesus, live by God’s wisdom, or make any sort of productive changes in their lives.

I speak the truth in love and fully believe that I am called to do that, but Paul’s counsel is to a body of believers that want to truly follow Jesus.  They want to grow in God’s grace.

If you have spent any time studying God’s wisdom, then you will note that the fool or the foolish are not much interested in correction or growth.

This counsel is for members of the body of Christ who desire to grow in God’s grace.  With truth as our foundation, we are much less vulnerable to what Paul described as the schemes of the world, these cunning and deceitful ploys to lead us away from God.

While we do not live under the law for our salvation; that does not mean that there are not some good guidelines for godly living that we should strive to go by.

In general, metaphoric terms we are told to put off our old self and put on the new one. 

Here we go again with this all ready done/in the process thinking.  We know from Paul’s second letter to Corinth that  if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

In this letter, Paul is saying that we need to be a part of making this new creation.  We are to put off the old self and put on the new self.  This is growing in grace and there is a whole lot of participation for us.

We are to get rid of falsehood and put on truth.

We are to get rid of vulgar speech and put on encouragement in our speech.

We are to get rid of corruption and deceit and unclean desires of our hearts and put on God’s righteousness that we know in Christ Jesus.  You might have heard it as put off corruption and put on incorruption.

We are to get rid of coarseness and put on gentleness.

We are to get rid of arrogance and put on humility.

We are to get rid of words that tear down and put on words that encourage.

We are to get rid of selfishness and put on unity.

We are to get rid of futile thinking and put on a renewed mind.

We are to get rid of darkness and put on light.

We are to get rid of unsavory pursuits.  If you have been stealing to make a living, stop it.  Get a honest job.  OK, let’s keep with the parallelism here.  Get rid of being a thief as your livelihood and put on employment.

We are to get rid of bitterness, rage, brawling, slander, and malice in all of its forms and put on kindness and compassion and forgiveness.

Paul even throws in an OBTW in his forgiveness counsel, just as Christ has forgiven you.

Take off the old self and put on the new self.  Stop living in the darkness and live in the light.

Stop living just for ourselves and bear with one another in love.

It’s not like once we have been saved that we have no guidelines at all.  Paul gives the big metaphors and general guidance as well as some specifics.

Paul makes a special note here in the area of anger.  

Remember James counsels us to be slow to anger.  Perhaps anger is not something that has to be completely purged from our system, but we are admonished not to let our anger lead to sin.  A little inductive reasoning might tells us that by itself,  anger itself is not a sin.

Anger is an emotion that we have all surely experienced.  

Paul is saying, master you anger so that it does not become your master for you are being made in the image and likeness of your Master.

Jesus had some righteous anger.  Remember that he turned over tables and made a whip to run off those who made his Father’s house a den of thieves.  They made it into a commercial zone instead of a house of prayer and worship.

We should note that Jesus was not quick to anger.  He had been in the temple when he was 12 and now some 20 years later, he lets loose his anger. 

Our counsel is not to let anger get the best of us.  We must not let it lead us to sin.  The Message says it this way.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

Other translations say, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

Going to bed while you are still angry makes for a bad night’s sleep and is not in keeping with putting on the new self.

You might not be able to resolve the issue that led to the anger but you can put the anger to bed before you turn in.  We must not hold onto anger and weaken our defenses against evil and the Evil One.

Paul says don’t give the Devil a foothold.  Give it a few weeks and we will get to putting on the full armor of God.  We have to get to and through marriage first in this letter, but for now, do not call it a night if you are still wrestling with anger.

You may have unresolved issues but don’t let anger govern in your life.

Remember that you have some help.  The Holy Spirit is walking with you all the time.  The body of Christ is your family and is available to encourage and counsel you.

Within the body of Christ are some with special gifts—evangelists, pastors, teachers, and many more.  Paul’s list here is not an exclusive listing of all gifts.

The body of Christ is equipped to help you grow in grace.  You are to help others as part of that body.

So what is it to grow in grace?  Let’s start with not letting the sun go down on our anger.  It’s a good model.  

Sometimes it saves the day.

But must we apply this model only to anger?

What if we have vulgar language?  Should we not do something to improve that before the day’s end?  We may not eliminate a lifetime’s vocabulary in a single day but we could take a few steps in that direction.

If you are a thief or engaged in other criminal activity, that might just be something to give up before you go to bed tonight.  It might take you more than a day to find an honest job and you can get unemployment if you quit your thieving job, but you should give it up now nonetheless.

If we are mean spirited or malicious or bitter, we need to work on that today.  It doesn’t go on our to do list.  It is not something that you do when you get around to it.  Don’t let the sun go down on your bitterness.

If you have been saved by grace and faith and have decided to follow Jesus, put on the new self before the sun goes down.

We are a new creation and we get to put on the attributes of that newness every day.  First we need to rid ourselves of some old habits and old ways and even old thinking.

There is a saying that seems to have been around for almost 500 years without any certainty on who said it first, but it bears repeating here.

There is no time like the present.

God has made us in his image and preserved us for all eternity; yet, each and every day we are called to grow in grace and become more and more like Jesus.

We still have a lot of work as far as putting on the new self goes.  It is a certainty that we will get there because God as he spoke through his most prolific letter writer says we are already a new creation.

But we still have lots to do and there is no time like the present.  Let’s do all that we can to put on the new self today.  And as far as those things that belong to the old self, let’s cast them off before the sun goes down.

Paul gives us lots of theology in his letters, but in this part of his letter he challenges to work on our lives.  This is part of discipleship.  This is growing in grace.

our salvation is not at risk in our conduct and behavior but our conduct and behavior should stand in stark contrast to most of the world.

Paul says, “Let’s work on that.  Let’s do it today.  There is no time like the present.”

Don’t let the sun go down on your anger or anything else that you know you need to work on that you could do something about today.

I have been talking a lot about connecting the disconnected, connecting with other congregations and denominations, and reaching the lost.  Let’s take a week and focus on ourselves and grow in grace.

Let’s work on ourselves this week whatever that may mean to you.
·      Anger
·      Vocabulary
·      Vindictiveness
·      Our worship
·      Prayer time
·      Patience
·      Humility
·      Encouragement
·      Thinking
·      Emotions

If you don’t know what to work on, you might ask someone within the body of Christ who you trust to speak the truth in love to you. 

Why on earth would I ever do that?  Why would I ask someone else what I need to work on?

Because you want to grow in grace.  We know that challenge and support working together produce growth.  We want to grow.

Why did people read Paul’s letters when he consistently challenged them?

Because they wanted to grow.  They knew salvation and wanted to grow in God’s grace.  I think that we do too.

Let’s take off those old clothes and put on the new, and let’s do it today.  We can at least take some steps in the right direction today.

Let’s not let the sun go down on us today until we have grown a little in God’s grace.

There is no time like the present.