Posts Tagged “Ephesians”

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ
Ephesians 2:1,4-5a (NIV)

As for you – yes, you! And me – we were dead in our sins. We were truly dead men walking. That’s the phrase used to describe men who have been sentenced to death and are in prison awaiting their execution. Like these men, we had a death sentence over our heads because of the sins we had committed. The sentence hadn’t yet been carried out, but it was irrefutable and irreversible. There were no appeals that might save us. We were still walking around. We might not have even heard the verdict, but it had been announced –

The soul who sins shall die.
Ezekiel 18:4b (NKJV)

“I [Jesus] told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins.”
John 8:24 (NIV)

1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NIV)

We were objects of the judgment of God because we chose to live according to our own desires – in other words, the way we wanted to live, without care or consideration of how God wanted us to live. We lived according to our own rules and our own made-up religion. But Truth is Truth. We can choose to believe that it is raining, but unless water is falling from the sky, it is not raining. We can choose to believe that there’s nothing wrong with our sinful behavior, but if God has defined it as wrong, it is wrong. And we become objects of God’s judgment.

But God – but God! – who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ. He saw our need and Jesus said “Father, let me take the punishment that they are owed, that they earned, that they deserve.” The sentence is irreversible, but it can be transferred to me. And so…

4…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5a (NIV)

He made us “alive with Christ”…even when we were dead men walking. Only God can make the dead live. Only He, the One who breathed life into Adam .

The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 
Genesis 2:7 (NIV)

That describes how we were created physically. Spiritually, God has done the same thing. Out of dust, something with no life, He breathed life into us and made us alive with Christ. Truly, it is by His grace that we have been saved. We didn’t do anything to earn our salvation (as Paul wrote later in the chapter) – it was a gift offered – the gift of Christ. And when we accept the gift, when we accept Christ, we are made alive with Him.

There’s a big difference between the first life and the second life. The first life is bound by earthly things. The second life – whew! – it is eternal and it is unbounded. To truly appreciate the next verses, we need to get a running start by re-reading verses 4 and 5:

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

Not only has our death sentence been paid by Jesus – not only have we been made alive with Christ – but God has also raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms! Now, while I’m sitting on my couch, typing on my laptop, I am also seated with Christ.

Pause to consider that a bit more. Wherever you are, can you imagine that you are seated with Christ? I’m sitting cross-legged with my feet under me because my toes are cold. Seated in Christ, I imagine then, that I am sitting on his lap. Pause to think about what that would be like (is like).

…(pausing here – are you?)

It’s not only when I’m sitting in the corner of my couch with my legs crossed on the seat cushion that I am seated with Christ. I will soon go to my office and sit in my desk chair. There, I will be seated with Christ in heavenly places. Can I embrace that and be confident in the wisdom He will give me for the day (if I ask for it from the one seated with me). Frequently throughout the day I ask advice of those around me. Today, I want to be aware that I am seated with Christ and turn to Him for advice.

But these are earthly things I’m writing about. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms – speaking of the rule and authority we have in the spiritual realm. We have it here on earth and we will have it to a greater degree in heaven. More to ponder…

Why has God done all this? I love this next verse

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

I made a nativity set once from clay. I used molds to create Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the wise men and animals. After firing, I spent hours and hours painting them. They were my workmanship. I probably spent more time on the nativity set than anything I’ve ever made. I created it. They were inanimate objects. After painting and glazing them, I gave wrong instructions for the final firing and they were ruined. I was heart-broken. But it gave me insight into this verse. “We are God’s workmanship.” He has molded us and He gifts us and He teaches us and He disciplines us – all for a purpose. We are of so much more worth to Him than that nativity set was to me. He has spent so much more creating me and saving me and molding me into the person – in Christ Jesus – who is (or will be) perfect for the good works He’s prepared in advance for me to do. That process began before the creation of the world!

4Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

Even before he breathed life into Adam, He chose us. He began working on us, creating us to do good works. And not just any works – the works He is preparing for us to do. In other words, He’s putting things in place so that I am ready and the works are ready at just the right time. I can’t even think three moves ahead in chess (or checkers for that matter). But God…

4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.
Ephesians 2:4-5

He made us alive with Christ so that we might do the works which He has prepared for us to do. My life has purpose. Your life has purpose. Heavenly, God-created and God-sent purposes.

Lord, help me to grasp how deep and high and wide and long your love is for me (Ephesians 3:18), that you would raise me from my dead man walking condition and seat me with Christ in heavenly places. That you created me in Christ for a purpose – to accomplish the good works you’ve prepared for me.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartDeveloping an unoffendable heart isn’t easy! It means regularly dying to ourselves and living as Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesian-s that they were to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, NIV) That means overlooking offenses – treating those who offend you as if they had not. It’s what God does for us, forgiving our sins to accept us into His Kingdom.

Such actions don’t come naturally, easily or cheaply. They must be intentionally developed. Here are some tips – practical actions you can take – to help develop your unoffendable heart:

Tips for Developing an Unoffendable Heart…

  • Meditate frequently on how very much God loves you. Pray Paul’s pray for the Ephesians for yourself:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

  • Make the decision that you want to have an unoffendable heart. Ask God to bring it to your attention the moment you are tempted to take offense.
  • Pray – sincerely pray – for anyone who does anything you’re tempted to take offense at. Don’t pray that they would go away, pray that they would prosper, that they would know Christ in a deeper way, that their relationships would be blessed, that their marriage would flourish and they would be in good health. Bless them. It’s what Jesus commanded in the sermon on the mount:

But to you who are listening I say: …bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27, 28

  • Purposefully humble yourself when being criticized. Ask God to reveal any truth in the criticism. If there is no truth in the criticism, ask God to reveal any behaviors you may have that lead others to believe the falsehood.
  • Do something positive – show some love – for the person offending you. Again, it’s what Jesus commanded:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Matthew 5:44

  • Ask God “what am I to be learning through this? What is Your purpose for it?”
  • Pray for a humble spirit. Being proud invites opposition from God as well as those around you. Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud and so do many people. Those around you may respond negatively toward you (giving you an opportunity to take offense) because of your prideful and arrogant behavior. Keep God on your side and be inviting instead of confrontational toward others by remaining humble.
  • Become a world-class encourager. Becoming an encourager means looking for the best in people and nurturing those qualities. Developing that “good finder” muscle engages muscles that are needed to overlook an offense.
  • Replace your frustration or anger with the one who is bring the offense with kindness. Be kind to others

31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

Practice these things and you will develop an unoffendable heart. Not overnight, but will happen. When I was a child, I took accordion lessons. I practiced half an hour every day for years and years and years. And years. At one time, I was pretty good. I wouldn’t have been good without the practice. The same is true for developing an unoffendable heart. Practice, practice, practice.

I’m not nearly as good at playing the accordion now as I was many years ago. Why? Because I no longer practice. Again, the same is true for our unoffendable heart. Even when it becomes strong, it will require regular workouts to keep it’s strength. Practice, practice, practice.

Will it be hard work? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. First because it is what God wants you to do. It is a matter of obedience. The wonderful thing about God, though, is that when we are obedient – living as He wants us to live, our life will be filled with more peace, more joy and more love. I want to live in more peace, joy and love, how about you?

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Paul’s prayers are wonderful. They go so far beyond what we typically pray. His prayer for the Ephesians is just one example. As Matthew Henry puts it, Paul doesn’t pray “that they might be freed from persecution; nor that they might possess the riches, honours, or pleasures of the world; but the great thing he prays for is the illumination of their understandings, and that their knowledge might increase and abound.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible, WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 689)

Like I said, not your typical prayer. Let’s look at it.

17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Ephesians 1:17-21 (NIV)

Paul begins by saying that he “keeps asking” – Paul doesn’t say a quick prayer and consider the topic addressed. He continually prays that the Lord would give the Ephesians the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they may know the Lord better. What a great prayer. Oh how I want people praying that for me! (Feel free to pause in your reading and do so right now.)

I find it interesting that earlier in the chapter Paul praised God for two things related to this prayer:

He gave God praise because He has blessed us “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (v7b-8).

He praised God because “He has made known to us the mystery of His will” (v9a).

Having already written that God has blessed us with these things, Paul then went on to pray for them – that God  would give the Ephesians the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they might know Him better. I’m reminded that it’s important to pray for the things that God has already blessed us with. God has blessed us but many of those blessings are apprehended through prayer. So go ahead! Ask Him to bless you with all spiritual blessings. Ask Him for greater revelation. Even when you are experiencing those blessings – go ahead and ask for a greater measure of them. For yourself and for those around you.

Notice the purpose of the wisdom and revelation – so that we might know Him better. It’s not wisdom for the sake of wisdom or revelation so that we might impress other people. It’s wisdom and revelation so that we can know God better. In my experience, knowing God better always leads to loving Him more. God blesses us with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we might love Him more.

Wisdom and revelation are “head knowledge” (albeit head knowledge that leads to heart knowledge). Paul then goes on to pray for “heart knowledge.” He prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” Two great points in that prayer: (1) that we would know that we are people of hope and (2) that we are people of calling. Earlier in the chapter Paul wrote this:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.
Ephesians 1:4 (NIV)

If you know Christ, you are called by Him to be a witness for Him. You have been chosen to be holy and blameless in God’s sight. It’s not holiness of our own making, although we’re to live a life that is pleasing to God. Yet no matter how hard we try, we will do things that are not pleasing to Him. Still, through the blood of Christ, we are holy and blameless in His sight. Without the blood of Christ, He sees our sin. Through the blood of Christ we are holy and blameless.

If you know Christ, you have a hope that goes beyond anything this world can give. The word translated as hope in the Bible means “confident expectation.” You have a confident expectation of the end game – and it’s not riches and a leisurely life. It is eternity with a loving, all-powerful God. It is the confidence that you have been blessed with every spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3). It is the confident expectation that He is always with you – never leaving or forsaking you (Joshua 1:5).  It is the confident expectation that when you have breathed your last breath on earth, you will be in His presence (2 Corinthians 5:8). That’s the hope to which we’ve been called. The world doesn’t have those hopes. The world is negative because they see only the negative the world offers. Chistians – people called by God – are positive because they have hope. We are a people of hope. Hallelujah. Lord, when I forget that, please remind me.

Paul then prays that we would know the tremendous power God has for those who believe. I wrote about that as part of our “Living God’s Heart Series.” Check out the blog titled “A Beating Heart.”

Friends…

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.    
Ephesians 1:3-10 (NIV)

…As Believers, we are blessed, chosen, called, redeemed, forgiven, lavished with wisdom and understanding, and called. No wonder Paul calls us people of hope. Let’s live it!

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Make God’s Word the cornerstone of your summer reading schedule. Join us as we read through a few chapters of the Bible each day. Use our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules to stay on track with us. If you fall behind – don’t worry about it! Just keep reading. I am praying that God will reveal Himself to you as you read each chapter. Ask Him to and He will.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the July/August bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the July/August 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

The July Reading Schedule also appears at the end of this blog.

Here’s how the Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedules are organized:

  • The first two columns of the schedule allow you to read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice over a two-year period. You will typically read about three chapters a day if you follow this reading plan.
  • The “Additional Readings” column put you on a plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. You will read between four and five chapters a day if you follow this plan.

I hope you’ll join us! I love the way God’s Word seems to speak to my specific situations as I read through His Word. I know He’ll do that for you, too. I’d love to hear about it. Email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for July is below.

July 2013 RARE Reading Schedule JPG

 

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWhen our hearts are full of faith, one of the things that is at the forefront of our minds is how very much God has done for us. We know the price Jesus paid to bring us near to God. We know how much God loves us to have sent His Son to die in our place. A faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where we find mercy and grace. It’s also where we find – experience is perhaps a better word – the tremendous, unimaginable, indescribable love of God. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

OK, Paul is the master of the run-on sentence. I’ve been so blessed by a study we’re doing on the book of Ephesians that I’m preparing a series of blogs that will publish in July. For now I only want to deal with one point from this powerful prayer. Paul is praying that being strengthened in their faith, and rooted and established in love, the Ephesians would have the power to understand – to grasp, to apprehend – how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is. A faith-filled heart becomes a heart that is overwhelmed with an understanding God’s love.

The love of God is not dependent on my performance. The love of God is compassionate. The love of God is uplifting. The love of God forgives. The love of God chooses not to remember my sins once they are under the blood of Christ.

Faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where God’s love was and is poured out. That love isn’t poured upon and into our hearts only so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is so that our hearts can be filled with the same love to show to others. A faith-filled heart becomes a loving heart.

A loving heart looks outward. A loving heart demonstrates God’s love to others. It reflects God’s nature to others. That means we learn to love others with a love that is not dependent on their performance. That means we are compassionate, uplifting, forgiving, choosing not to remember the sins of others. You know the passage I have to go to here:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

That’s a picture of a loving heart. We can only do that through the power of the Spirit at work in us. We can only do that when we’ve experienced how wide and long, deep and high God’s love is. Knowing that comes from knowing Him. And we find Him at the foot of the cross.

How’s your loving heart doing? Does it need a refill of God’s love? Join me at the foot of the cross. Where Christ died so that we might receive mercy and find grace.

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Pair of Dolphins KissingLet me give you some insight into our typical schedule. Three or four days a week my husband works second shift at the job God has graciously provided to pay our health insurance. I work fulltime in our home-based business during the normal work day (and beyond). So I am in the office by 8am, but because he doesn’t get to bed until about 2am several nights a week, Phil doesn’t come in until 9 or 10am.

This morning, I was busy working – in the middle of writing something – having a full thought in my head that I was trying to rapidly get on paper (well, screen actually). I also had a second thought in my mind that I desperately didn’t want to lose – it was firmly planted as the next task, but if I didn’t get to it soon, I was afraid it would wilt before blossoming.

That’s when my husband came into the office. He didn’t follow his normal routine – going to his desk and cheerfully say “Morning, Beeb!” (now you know our favorite term of endearment for one another). Instead, he came to my desk, pulled up a chair and came in for a kiss.

Now I love my husband dearly and I love his kisses…but I REALLY wanted to get these thoughts down…kisses could wait, but could my thoughts? Yet I felt prompted, yes, I believe by the Holy Spirit, to turn away from my keyboard and give my full attention to my husband. Praise God that I was obedient to that prompting. My husband greeted me with a very tender kiss followed by professions of his undying love. It wasn’t a peck, and it wasn’t passionate – it was soft and gentle, letting me know that I am a treasured woman. Wow!

And the Holy Spirit turned it into a teachable moment.

§ Giving and receiving love and affection from my husband is more important than getting the next thought on paper or the next task done.

§ God can use moments to change our lives. How long was my “interruption” this morning? Not long. Yet my day is changed. And I know Phil’s day is changed. In the front of my mind is the tender moment we shared and the knowledge that I am very special to him. Moments that can change days can change our lives.

§ God is my Husband. He has given me an earthly husband not only for my joy, but also as an illustration – an earthly picture/experience – of my relationship with Him. He wants to surprise me with tender moments that can change my day and my life. I could have said to Phil “I’m in the middle of something” when he pulled up a chair this morning. I would have missed out. I can say the same thing to God – “Lord, I need to finish this thought before I pay attention to You.” And it will be my loss – I will miss the opportunity to experience God’s love, His grace, His wisdom – all things He wants to shower upon me. I will miss the moments with God that can change my life.

Lord, thank you for lessons that come out of tender kisses. Thank you for my husband, who loves me and who gives me glimpses of Your love and care for me. Help me to be tender toward You and toward him – even when I’m in the middle of some seemingly urgent task.

Husbands and Wives

1In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over 2by observing your pure and reverent lives. 3Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God….

7In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

8Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.
1 Peter 3:1-4, 7-9 (NLT)

Gentlemen – Kiss your wives tenderly. Love her.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
Proverbs 5:18 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.
Colossians 3:19 (NLT)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25 (NIV)

Ladies – Love your husbands passionately. Read Song of Solomon in a modern translation and love your husband as the young woman loves her bridegroom. And resist the urge to nag.

2Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. 3How fragrant your cologne; your name is like its spreading fragrance. No wonder all the young women love you!
Song of Songs 1:2-3 (NLT)

A quarrelsome [or nagging] wife is as annoying as constant dripping on a rainy day.
Proverbs 27:15 (NLT)

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartI find that there are certain conditions in my life that lead to holy boldness:

Confidence – When I am feeling confident, I am bold, not timid.

Freedom – When I am experiencing freedom, I am bold because there’s nothing that is hindering me from being so.

Security – When I am feeling secure, I can make bold moves instead of playing it safe.

Being loved – When I know I am loved and will be loved even if I fail, I can step out in boldness, not being limited by any fear of what others will think.

Having hope – When I have hope, I can climb mountains that are otherwise too overwhelming.

All of these things are found in faith. All of these things are results of a faith-filled heart. Boldness – holy boldness – comes from a faith-filled heart, and it is the difference between timidly attempting the assignments God has given me and boldly attacking the assignments He has designed for my life.

All these conditions come from our faith in Christ. Let’s look at Scriptures that relate to each.

Confidence – Our confidence comes from Him – knowing what He has done for us and what awaits us:

Since this new way [that is, faith in Christ] gives us such confidence, we can be very bold.
2 Corinthians 3:12 (NLT)

Freedom – Oh, the freedom that comes from knowing God:

He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Titus 2:14 (GW)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Security – Having security means I am not worried about what will happen to me; I’m not to take action.

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

2He sang: “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.
2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NLT)

Being loved – Knowing that we are loved brings the greatest freedom and in turn, the greatest boldness. It is what causes us to run freely in the wind and fiercely into battle.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

But God showed [demonstrated] his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
Romans 5:8 (NLT)

Having hope – Hope gives us reason to look forward – reason to live boldly today because of what awaits us tomorrow.

18So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.19This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Hebrews 6:18-19 (NLT)

Faith in Christ is the key to conditions of the heart that lead to a holy boldness.

Similarly, there are conditions of the heart that lead to reckless boldness. This may not be an exhaustive list, but I find these conditions to be the most common reason we take recklessly bold actions:

Fatalism – When I believe that “whatever is supposed to happen will happen,” I am less careful about where I step and the path I take. Fatalism is a lie from the enemy. Scripture is clear that we have personal responsibility to pursue God, to choose to obey Him by taking the actions He assigns to us, not waiting to see what will happen and trusting it has been His will.

Utter sense of futility – When “who cares” and “what difference does it make” are phrases that have captured my mind and heart, I either fall into the depression of nothingness or take rash action. Of course these phrases are also whispers from the enemy. They are signs that he has been on the prowl, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s trying to devour you. God cares and He has purposes for your life that reach into eternity.

Rebellion – When I’ve become tired of following my King and decide to go my own way and make my own decisions, all of my actions can be labeled reckless boldness. We can’t blame the enemy on this. This is sin. It is our own selfish pride. It is thinking we have a better plan than God. It requires repentance – a genuine sorrow for our attitudes and actions, a turning to God for forgiveness and a change in our behavior and thoughts.

Disappointment with God – When God doesn’t live up to our expectations (oh, Lord, it is difficult for me to even write this, but I know there are time when we feel like this – forgive us when You are so worthy of our worship even when we feel disappointed) – when God doesn’t live up to our expectations, our hearts can grow cold. Our minds build a case against Him and our attitudes turn to rebellion. Being disappointed with God doesn’t have an easy solution – it’s usually a combination of repentance for our own wrong attitudes with a heavy dose of experiencing God’s great love. It requires an understanding that God’s plan is greater than our earthly desires.

The antidote to all of these conditions that lead to reckless boldness is faith. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against these conditions. A faith-filled heart is the greatest weapon against reckless boldness. That faith comes from being with Jesus. We see it again and again in the New Testament.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (NLT)

Because the men had been with Jesus, they had a holy boldness that confounded the leaders. We can have that same holy boldness.

It is also because of our faith in Christ that we can come into God’s presence freely – and it is in God’s presence where we find the source of all the conditions that lead to holy boldness:

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.
Ephesians 3:12 (NLT)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:19 (NLT)

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Our faith-filled heart enables us to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives – it gives us the holy boldness we would otherwise lack and it keeps us from acting recklessly, without caution or care.

We have been studying Ephesians with our nursing home Bible study group and I have been so strongly impacted by Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians. I have been praying this prayer at every gathering since we studied the passage and regularly for myself and Phil. It seems so appropriate to every venue. And it is totally appropriate here. I pray for you as Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

I can’t pray it any better. Knowing the vastness of God’s love for you, may you be filled to the “measure of all the fullness of God.” Whew! That’s gonna lead to some holy boldness!

If this blog has blessed you or helped you live in holy boldness, please share it with others. You can use one of the buttons below to share. Let’s help one another become a people worthy of God’s calling (Ephesians 4:1).

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

5b“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?
6He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!”

Luke 24:5b-6a (NLT)

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

I hope you celebrated a wonderful Resurrection Sunday a few days ago. At the end of our service, several of us were sitting around…not wanting to leave the holy area where God’s presence had been, I suppose…and I think it was our pastor who said “I wish every Sunday was Resurrection Sunday.”

Yes, we had a great morning – a special early service followed by a potluck breakfast followed by a regular service. But the reason behind it all is that Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

He is alive! The resurrection is the turning point of Scripture. Everything prior to that point in history was leading up to it and everything after that event flowed out of it. The Old Testament builds toward the lamb of God slain for the sins of the world. Jesus is that lamb of God. But it’s not His death that gives us life. Yes, it is His death which pays the required penalty for our sin, making it possible for us to live eternally with God in heaven. Yes, it is His death which bridges the gap between our holy God and sinful Sandy. Yes, it is His death which demonstrates how very much He loves us.

But it is His resurrection that seals the deal. It is His resurrection that proves He is the King of Kings, Almighty God who holds all power in His hands. It is His resurrection that makes it possible for Him to be seated in heavenly places at the right hand of God. And it is His resurrection that makes it possible for us to be seated in those places with Him.

The angels asked the women “why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?” Jesus is alive! His heart still beats. His hands still move. His ears still hear. He is the lamb who was slain yet lives forevermore.

The resurrection shows us – it demonstrates for us – the kind of power that is available to those who believe.

Come with me to Ephesians 1:

19I [Paul] also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21Now he is far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
Ephesians 1:19-23 (NLT/NIV)

The power and authority that is in Christ is also alive in us. His heart beats in us. That power and authority becomes available to us and through us when we submit to His headship. Verse 19 says it is God’s power for us who believe…it is God’s power thrown open by our obedience. If you look through Biblical history, both Old Testament and New, the Israelites had power when they were obedient. The Apostles had power in their obedience. They were ineffective in their unbelief.

Yes, I’m using the words belief and obedience in the same way and that’s because in the ancient, middle-eastern mindset, they can’t be separated. To believe means to act on or live by that belief. It means to obey. You can’t have one without the other. It is our faith and obedience that gives us access to God’s power.

How great is that power? In verse 21 Paul struggles to find words that are big enough and well, powerful, enough, to describe God’s power. He uses these words:

  • Arche – means principality, also means source or beginning – Jesus is the originator of all things
  • Exousia – means authority, power or jurisdiction
  • Dunamis – the word from which we get dynamite – explosive power, ability, miraculous, creative power
  • Kyriotes – means dominion or ruling power, governmental power
  • Onoma – the power to name something – this power comes from having ownership, control or authority over something

Paul is saying that God has made Jesus far above all those kinds of power. Far above. And he goes on to say that Jesus is far above all those kinds of power not only in this world, but in the world to come.

And that very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in us who believe – He makes that power available to those of us who believe.

Do you believe when you pray that you can change the world? Do you believe that when you talk to someone about Christ that you can change the world? Not because of who you are, but because the power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in you.

There are many reasons why we might not be experiencing that power in your life, but one of them is that we simply haven’t owned it – we don’t expect to change the world (or often even to have an impact) when we do things for Christ. Yet Scripture says that the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in us. Oh ye of little faith! (Oh, me of little faith!)

God’s message to me this Resurrection Sunday was that He is alive! He is alive because of the awesome power of God that was able to raise Jesus from the dead! That power is “for those of us who believe” – it’s in me!

I don’t waste that power because I didn’t believe I had it. I don’t waste it because I don’t even try to use it.

Let’s believe in – that means expect! – powerful moves of God and let’s step into them.

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Seeing Through a LensI woke up today thinking about lenses! I guess that makes sense:

  • I need to have my eyes checked. It seems I have been consistently making text on my screen larger over the past few months and everything looks a bit fuzzier than it used to.
  • A friend of mine has started taking photography classes and it is changing the way she see things.
  • Yesterday I started reading a book about confidence in God. It’s a lot about the way we view life.

I’m reminded this morning that you can only see the shadow when you turn away from the light. Standing facing the sun I am unaware of the long shadow it creates behind me.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
James 1:17 (NLT)

He created the lights in the heavens. Doesn’t it make sense to keep our eyes on Him to light our path?

Some manuscripts have the second half of this verse differently. They read “He never changes as a shifting shadow does.” (NLT footnote)

The One who created the lights in the heavens and causes them to move to His consistent rhythm, remains unchanging. “There is no shadow of turning with thee.” Can there be a better lens from which to view our lives?

As I’ve thought about this, the question that comes to me again and again is this: “What lens are you looking through?” Two that seem likely candidates are these:

Self – my abilities – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of my own abilities? If so, I can tell you that I will be overwhelmed with my inadequacies for dealing with the circumstances, challenges and opportunities. At my very best, I’m not enough – not good enough, not smart enough, not energetic enough, not creative enough, not wise enough, not compassionate enough, etc. The list goes on and on. But God is enough. We could find Scripture for each of the “not enoughs” in my list, but let me just share two all-encompassing verses that promise God’s provision

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

Other people’s opinions – Am I looking at my life, my circumstances, challenges and opportunities through the lens of what other people think? Danger, danger, danger. People are fickle. Our opinions change from moment to moment. Look at the crucifixion of Jesus – one moment the people are worshiping Him as the coming King “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and they next they are shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Matthew 26 and 27). When the opinion of others affects the way I approach my life, how can I be anything but like a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”? (Ephesians 4:14, NASB).

Viewing life through either lens leads to a pretty miserable life. With the former, I am overwhelmed and defeated. With the latter, I am thrown this way and that – and again overwhelmed and defeated.

There is a third and better option: Viewing life through the lens of faith – Trusting in His faithfulness and ability to meet all my needs. We have a choice. It doesn’t always seem like it, but we do. In the physical realm, I can choose to put my glasses on so I can read the text in front of me more clearly or I can continue to squint and read fuzzy words. I can turn on a light or sit in a dark room. I can turn toward the sun or stare at the long shadows that hint of dark forces.

If I stay in the world of fuzzy words, dark rooms and long shadows my life suffers. My emotional stability suffers. My ability to live for God’s Kingdom suffers.

If I turn to the world in which God is sovereign, in control and loves me unconditionally my life prospers. My emotional stability remains strong and sure (because it is held together by the One who holds the universe together). And living for (and in) God’s Kingdom is a reality.

Why would I choose any lens other than God’s? Why would you?

An afterthought: Are you looking at the doors God has closed or the ones you don’t see yet – remember, we walk by faith not by sight. (But that’s fodder for another blog.)

For fun:

Old Woman or Young Woman?

Do you see a young woman or and old woman?

  • If you see a young woman, and wish to see the old woman, imagine the ear as an eye, the necklace as a mouth and the chin as a nose.
  • If you see an old woman, and wish to see the young woman, imagine the eye as an ear, the mouth as a necklace and the nose as a chin.
  • Your brain wants to flip to either one or the other image but if you study it long enough you might see both images at once. Can you do it?

From: http://www.nobeliefs.com/puzzles/illusions.htm#checker

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