Friday, September 30, 2011

The Good Things He Has Planned

Ephesians 2:10

There is a pastor at our church that has fish in his office.  One fish in particular is interesting because it is supposed to grow quite large and dominate all the fish in the tank.  When he first got the fish it was black, but it is slowly turning orange and may even turn red.  The reason this fish intrigues me so much is because it is supposed to be the leader in the tank but it is actually afraid of everything.  We hardly ever get to see this fish because he is always hiding behind a rock not realizing that all the other fish (except one) are tiny in comparison to him.  It is comical at times because there is another fish that also enjoys the rocks and will occasionally come to rest behind the same rock, so the orange fish quickly swims to the next rock with an urgency that says, "Please don't see me!"  So, here is this fish that has been changed from black to orange and who will not come out into the open for all to see.  I think at times we do the same after God has changed us.  Please turn to Ephesians 2:10.

We are God's masterpiece!  This whole week has centered around the theme of God's grace in response to our sin.  Rather than anger, we experience forgiveness and salvation; but that is not all we experience.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us that He created us new in Christ Jesus.  The Greek word translated as "create" is ktizō which means to create; however, the first definition for it is to make habitable.  I want to focus on the idea of being made habitable because we are told that Christ lives in us.


Romans 8:10 says, "And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God."


Colossians 1:27 says, "...And this is the secret:Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." 


Galatians 2:20 says, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."


I could go on; there is so much in the Bible that tells us that Christ lives in us.  When we received the amazing and powerful grace of God, we were made habitable for Christ to live in us.  How beautiful is that!?  I never fail to get excited when I talk about God's grace because I know that God has made me new!  That is not the end of the story; Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God does this so that we can do the "good things that He planned for us long ago."  God has a plan for each one of us and we are made new so that we can do good things.  This is when we can live out the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) because Christ lives in us.  We are able to do the good things God planned for us because we are not doing them alone.  We cannot be like the fish that hides behind a rock even though it has been changed and is growing.  God has bigger plans for us!

Are you living life remembering that Christ lives in you?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just As You Are

Ephesians 2:8-10

I just recently received a new CD by Travis Cottrell and as I was listening to it the hymn, Just As I Am began to play.  He took this hymn and wrote a chorus to it which is a beautiful reminder that God takes us right where we are and just as we are.  The thing that struck me this morning is that we are approaching the King of all Kings just as we are; what other king on earth would accept someone in their presence just as they are?  Think on that for a moment; would you approach Queen Elizabeth without doing something to fix up yourself?  But God is just the opposite, He wants us to come as who we really are and He does the fixing.  What a beautiful thought!  There is nothing we can do to make ourselves to appear appropriate before the King of all Kings, yet that is how He prefers us.  We come through Christ to the throne of God and leave a new person.  Please turn to Ephesians 2:8-10.

The NLT words these verses in a way that reminds us that God's gift of grace has nothing to do with what we have done.  We can do all the good things that we can think of; however, they still will not erase the sin in our hearts.  Only the blood of Christ can wash us from our sin and this was given to us as a gift of love, mercy and grace.  Oh, how thankful I am that we have such a merciful Father!  Verse ten tells us, "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."  Do you believe that you are God's masterpiece?  We can try to be good enough and never reach heaven, but when we come in our brokenness God makes us new.  We can then live out the life He planned for us and do the good things He called us to do.  Remember, yesterday I looked at how we are living stones or standing stones to show God's glory.  The good things we do through Christ is the evidence of God's work in our lives.

Let go of all the pretenses; believe that God prefers you to come just as you are.  That is when He will do the work in you that only He can do.  God wants your brokenness, He wants your wounded heart.  He wants your emptiness and He wants to save you.  Come to Him as you are and you will be made new in Christ Jesus.

Please take some time to reflect on His love for you and go before His throne of grace.  You can listen (and buy if you like it) to the new recording of Just As I Am here.

Linking up with Some Girl's Website.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your God Story

Ephesians 2:4-7

When I was in high school and college, God had set me free and walked me through forgiveness toward my dad.  Forgiveness truly lifted a huge burden off of me and I really felt a freedom from the control of my past.  The problem was that I still suffered from shame and really didn't want to talk about my dad with anyone or how God helped me forgive.  Several years ago, God used a friend to show me how hiding in shame was not allowing God's glory to be seen in my life.  I had shared my story with her and her comment to me was, "Wow!  I would have never guessed that you have been through such things because you seem really put together and have such a strong faith.  I always assumed that you came from a stable, Christian home."  In that moment I realized that people see me for who I am in the present and not for what God has done.  I still don't just blurt out the story to everyone I meet; however, I am no longer hiding in shame.  If I don't share how God has completely healed me from my past (and shame), no one will know the work He has done in me.  God has a story that needs to be shared in every one of us; please look up Ephesians 2:4-7.

Verses 6 and 7 are worded so beautifully in the New Living Translation, "For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.  So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus."  Praise God! God has raised us from the dead with Christ so He can point us out to future generations to show His grace and kindness.  He loves His children and He wants others to see what He can and will do for all who are united with Christ.  This unity we have from Christ didn't just mean we sacrifice our old selves, it means victory over death and to be used as an example for others to witness God's redemption and glory.

It makes me think of the standing stones that God would have the Israelites erect when He did something to remember for ages to come.  The purpose of putting up a standing stone (or alter) was so that when someone came to that spot they would ask, "What happened here?"  And the question could be answered with, "Let me tell you what God has done..."  The beautiful thing is that we are now the standing stones.  1 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT) says, "You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.  And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.  Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God."  We are God's living stones that can "declare the praises of Him who brought us out of darkness into His wonderful light," (1 Peter 2:9).  We all have a story that can declare the greatness of God in our lives and it doesn't have to be dramatic.  My husband grew up in a beautiful family and can declare praise to God for what he was spared.  That is a wonderful story in my opinion!


Are you sharing your God-story with others?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rest For Our Souls

Ephesians 2:1-5

I was talking with some friends the other day how I love watching movies that show someone overcoming obstacles and experiencing victory.  When I walk out of the theater after watching such a movie I feel satisfied because the underdog won.  When we come to know Christ as our Savior and Lord, we become victors over death.  Yesterday, I talked about the separation from God we experience when we sin, even to the point that we deserved God's anger.  I even explored that when we sin we are slaves to sin and obey the devil rather than God.  However, today I want to look at the fact that God had a better plan for us because He loves us greatly.  Please read Ephesians 2:1-5.

Ephesians 2:4-5 are memory verses for me and they are some of my favorite verses in scripture.  I like how it is worded in the New Living Translation:  "... he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead."  I looked at a few verses yesterday that showed how our sins were nailed to the cross with Christ when He died.  Today, I want to point out that it is through His resurrection that we have victory with Christ from death.  Remember that in Ephesians 1 we are told that we are united with Christ, so His victory over death is shared with us!

I want to explore a little of what that means considering that we were once slaves to sin.  Romans 6:17-18 says, "Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living."  We have a new master and we are now slaves to righteous living.  The word "slave" sounds like we're just moving from one task master to the next; however, remember that each of those masters operates differently than the other.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:20-30, "Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Christ is gentle with us and instead of finding guilt, shame, and emptiness as we had with our old task master, we will find rest for our souls.  What a beautiful promise!

It is living the life that God calls us to live is a life that will find rest in Him.  When we trust His direction we will have peace.  It is not a promise that we will not have trials, because we are told that trials and difficulties will come in this life, it is a promise of rest regardless of our circumstances.

Do you follow the master of rest?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Who Do You Obey?

Ephesians 2:1-3

After church on Sundays, our family relaxes and watches football on TV.  This has been the tradition in our home since my husband and I got married 18 years ago, so I have learned a lot about football.  One of the first things I learned so many years ago was the importance of getting a first down so the offensive team could continue to move the ball down the field.  The ball is watched carefully by the referee to see if it made it past 10 yards for a first down, and when the team gets a first down they are able to start over again for their next first down.  Sometimes the ball falls very close to the 10 yard mark; however, it falls short of making the mark.  Close isn't good enough, the ball must go 10 yards or further.  The Bible tells us the same with our relationship with God - the sin in our lives separates us from God and we can never be good enough.  Please turn to Ephesians 2:1-3.

Verse one tells us that we were dead because of our "transgressions and sins."  That had me curious because I had always looked at transgressions as the same as sins.  When I looked up the word for trespass it is paraptōma which means to fall beside something or a lapse from truth.  The word for sin is hamartia which means to miss the mark, to sin, to do something wrong, a violation of the divine law in thought or act, and an offence.  Paraptōma almost seems like it isn't always an intentional choice, especially when I picture the idea of falling beside something.  It is as if it shows the idea that we just can't seem to be good enough - we can get close, but there is always something that is going to be a deviation of God's truth and righteousness.  Hamartia almost seems to be showing the line that is drawn about sin because it is based on God's law.  I'm going to come back to this thought tomorrow; however, sin is defined by a disobedience to God's law.

Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death and Ephesians 2:1 reminds us that when we were living in sin we were dead spiritually.  The other thing I want to point out that it is clear in verse two that we were obeying the devil rather than God when we were living in sin.  In John 8:34, Jesus tells us, "Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin."  Romans 6:16 and 2 Peter 2:19 reminds us that we are slaves to sin when we sin.  This is our lives without Christ.  So we can sin and become a slave to a horrible master or we can try to hit the mark on our own strength and never quite become righteous enough.  I cannot leave this thought with you that we are doomed to God's anger because there is a hope that is beyond all that.  Romans 6:6 says, "We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin."  When we believe in Christ and make Him the Lord of our life, our sins were crucified with Him and death has lost its grip on us.  Praise God!

So my question to you today is this - who do you obey?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Only God


As I was looking through some pictures today, this one caught my eye. This is the house of a man we visited in Zambia who had HIV and lost a leg due to diabetes. This is what he lived in with no one to assist him on a daily basis. As you can see, the roof is held in place with bricks, so if there is a big windstorm, he will lose his roof with no way to replace it on his own. He stayed in a wheelchair made of a plastic seat bolted to a wheelchair frame. He enjoyed the times when his pastor came to visit because he would read him the Bible which gave him so much hope and joy. When we found out that he could read, we gave him a Bible so he could read daily. The thing that caught my eye is the statement that was painted on a wooden plank on his house: “Only God. 

That got me asking “Only God what?” I know for this gentleman it was a statement of hope and faith, but when can we state “Only God?” Here are some thoughts:


Isaiah 43:12 “’…You are witnesses that I am the only God,’ says the Lord.”  

Deuteronomy 10:21 “He alone is your God, the only One who is worthy of your praise, the One who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.”  

Luke 18:19 “…“Only God is truly good.”  

Matthew 23:9 “And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father.”  

Jeremiah 14:22 “Can any of the worthless foreign gods send us rain? Does it fall from the sky by itself? No, you are the one, O Lord our God! Only You can do such things. So we will wait for You to help us.”  

1 Corinthians 3:7 “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”  

1 Corinthians 8:6 “But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.”  

Romans 16:27 “All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.”  

Romans 3:30 “There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.”  

Jude 1:25 “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”  

Ephesians 2:5 “that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”  

So this is our response:  

Deuteronomy 13:4 “Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him.”  

Matthew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  

2 Corinthians 1:9 “In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”  

Revelation 19:10 “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, ‘No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.’”

He is our Only God!!!  No matter what our circumstances may be, we can declare, "Only God!"

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Greater Story

Ephesians 1:21-23

Have you ever noticed that there are some jobs that are never done?  Then there are some jobs that seem like they will never be done and then one day you realize that you can't remember the last time you had to do that job.  Changing diapers was like that for me; part of it was because all three of my children were born in a period of three and a half years.  I remember celebrating with my daughter (my youngest) when she began potty training, but I honestly don't remember saying to myself, "this is the last diaper I will ever have to change on my children."  That's because we just never know for sure when a job like that will be complete.  Our walk with God is like that as well because He is constantly changing us to make us more the way He purposed us to be.  One thing we know for sure, once we believe in Christ and follow Him we become a part of the "body of believers," or the church.  This is done through Christ and we can see that it is through Him that we are complete; please look up Ephesians 1:21-23.

For the last few days, I looked at the power and authority that Christ has, and today I want to look at how Christ works in the church.  Please understand that when I talk about "the church" I am referring not a particular building or denomination, I am referring to the collective group of believers worldwide.  When we believe and follow Christ, we become a part of a story and legacy that is greater than ourselves.  The word translated into body in verse 23 is sōma in the Greek.  This word is translated literally as body, or to represent a larger collection of a whole group that is united (such as the church).  In Ephesians 1:11, we are told that we are united in Christ and I think it is safe to say that because we as individuals are united with Christ we become united as a whole.  That whole is the body of Christ.  We are not an island in our faith, we are to bond together to do the work that God called us to do.

The other thing to think about is the idea that the body of Christ is made full and complete through Him.  The Greek word for "full and complete" is plērōma.  This word can mean the fullness of time and it also refers to "the body of believers, as that which is filled with the presence, power, agency, riches of God and of Christ," (see footnote 1.).  I just love that it is a reminder that we are filled with Christ and that also means that we have the access to the power that raised Christ from the dead.  God intended for the church to be strongest when we are working together and united.  I guess that is probably why we see disagreement within the church world-wide; our enemy knows that if we are united that there is strength and power that is greater than we as church can even comprehend.  Imagine what would happen in our communities and around the world if the church remembered that we are part of something so much bigger than we can understand.  We are a part of God's story.

Let's make this chapter in God's story an adventure as we band together in unity!
1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for plērōma (Strong's 4138)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 22 Sep 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G4138&t=NLT >

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Authority of Christ

Ephesians 1:19-22

I work at our church as a ministry assistant to both Outreach and Groups.  One of the things I like about my job is hearing the stories of how God is working in the lives of people in small groups and around the world.  Since I work in Outreach, I get to read the updates from missionaries around the world as share their struggles and how they experienced victory through God's mighty power.  As many of you know, I had the opportunity to be a part of a team that went to Zambia last year where we served on a prayer team during our first week.  As a part of the prayer team, we got a taste of Christ's authority as we saw students being healed and delivered.  We can know that Christ has authority; however, it is still amazing to see His authority.  Yesterday, I looked at the power that God uses on behalf of believers, and today I want to look at what the Bible says about Christ's authority.  Please turn to Ephesians 1:19-22.

When I was studying about the church in Ephesus, I remember that the Ephesians learned a strong lesson about the authority of Jesus's Name.  There were some that were using His Name is if it were a part of an incantation and they found themselves being mocked by the demons and severely beaten (Acts 19).  After that, the believers had a lot more respect for His Name and understood that it wasn't an incantation; Jesus's Name is power.  When we read about the authority that Christ has been given, the authority isn't just about earthly things that we can see; He has been given authority over the unseen.  The word translated into "leader" is kyriotēs which is used in Colossians 1:16, "For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him."

In Luke 10:1-20, the disciples learn the power that is in the Name of Jesus.  I don't know about you, but when I think that someone has so much authority that at the very mention of their name everyone has to obey, I am amazed!  I am also completely humbled that Christ would choose to share in that power with me, a mere human.  What love our Savior has for us, but do we live as though we are serving the King who has authority over all things?  Once again, Christ's Name isn't just some incantation that we can use to fix things, there is power and authority in His Name that commands respect.  Jesus is victorious and has broken the power of death over His people.

Do walk through life as a servant of the King of all Kings?  Do you understand that the One you serve has authority over all things?

Linking up with Some Girl's Website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mighty Power

Ephesians 1:19-20

Several years ago, I was in Washington D.C. for a work related conference and I had about six hours to do some sight-seeing on Sunday before heading back to the airport.  I decided that since it was Sunday, I would go to a service at the National Cathedral.  I had visited it once when I was about 12 years old, but I couldn't fully appreciate the architecture at that time.  I arrived a little late since I wasn't too familiar with the transit system and even though I walked in as a tourist, God met me there in such an unexpected way.  I was overwhelmed by the size, beauty, and sound of the building, in fact everything was so exaggerated in its presentation that I felt the enormity of God (as much as possible).  Here I was among other tourists and regular worshipers and I was crying from the emotions that were flooding my heart.  As if that emotional assault wasn't enough, we sat down to read a written prayer in the hymnal.  The first line read, "By the power of the resurrection of Christ..."  Wow!  Is there anything more powerful than the power that raised Christ from the dead?  I still look back on that morning with such appreciation that God would allow me to read that prayer while experiencing a taste of His greatness.  The wonderful thing is that power that raised Christ from the dead wasn't meant just for that Easter morning; please read Ephesians 1:19-20.

Yesterday, I looked at the first half of this prayer that Paul shared with the church in Ephesus and how he prayed that they would grow in wisdom, understanding and have enlightenment (or revelation) of God.  Today, I want to consider what it means to "understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe Him."  I looked up the word translated into "power" in Greek and it is the word, dynamis.  This word is used 120 times in the New Testament, but the thing I found interesting is that it is used for "miracles."  I love how BlueLetterBible.com defines it.  It defines it as strength, "inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth," (see footnote 1.).  This is a power that God puts forth just by virtue of His nature.  This power is who He is and Paul is reminding the church that God uses that power for all believers.


The church in Ephesus experienced a lot of oppression from their culture and from the Jews living there, but they also experienced the power of the Holy Spirit living in them (see Acts 19).  Paul was praying that they could understand and live the life that a person with that power should live.  I think that we believers sometimes live in defeat and fear which is not what God has intended for us.  It is true that we need to pray to understand this incredible power that is unlike anything in this world then we would be living a victorious life.  We can trust and believe that God wants the best for us and when He calls us to do something, we can know that He has already made us victorious.  Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans."  When we commit to follow God and to walk in obedience, we will see His mighty power on our behalf.

Let us pray that we can understand the mighty power of God.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for dynamis (Strong's 1411)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 20 Sep 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1411&t=NLT >

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wisdom and Light

Ephesians 1:15-18

As I have grown in my prayer life, I have found myself praying more often for other people.  I pray for friends who are going through a difficult time and those who have specific prayer requests.  I pray for my mom, brother, and sister and their families.  I pray for my husband that he will continue to be a good husband and father and I pray for the ministry God has entrusted him at church.  I pray for my children that they will grow in Christ and make wise choices while they are at school.  I love how the more I have used prayer, the more God has me pray for others.  Yesterday, I was reminded how I should be praying for believers around the world as well.  He has also been showing me in scripture other things to pray over people.  There are many wonderful examples of what we should be praying into people's lives (and our own) in the Bible, particularly in the Epistles (New Testament letters).  Please read with me the beginning of a prayer Paul prayed over the Ephesian church in Ephesians 1:15-18.

The first thing that Paul prayed was for a Spirit of wisdom.  James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  God is generous in what He gives us including wisdom, but we need to ask.  This is such an important prayer to be praying over ourselves and others because wisdom will help us understand how to make better choices in life.  Wisdom will also help us learn and grow as we walk with God.  Paul also prays for insight or revelation, which is apokalypsis in Greek.  This word means to have a "disclosure of truth...concerning things before unknown," (see 1).  There is always more about God and the Bible that we just don't understand; however, isn't it encouraging to know that we can pray that God reveals the unknown to us so we can continue to perfect our faith.

Paul also prays, "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 his holy people..." I find the phrase "the eyes of your heart" so interesting because it gives us a word picture of how we should be viewing this world. We should not be looking through our own human vision; we should be looking with our heart with an enlightenment of the hope we have in Christ. When we view the world with this enlightenment, all the things that seem hopeless no longer bog us down. We can have a renewed hope which can propel us to love others and continue doing the work that God has called us to do.

I will continue to look at the rest of this prayer tomorrow, but I want to leave you with this challenge: will you pray for wisdom, revelation and enlightenment of vision for yourself and others?

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for apokalypsis (Strong's 602)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 19 Sep 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G602&t=NLT >

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thanking God For You

Ephesians 1:15-16

I am so grateful for many things.  I am grateful that God blessed me with such a loving husband and three beautiful children.  I am grateful that I have a roof over my head.  I am grateful for the many ways that God has provided our needs and how creative He has been in His provision.  I am grateful for the creek and trees that are behind our duplex and for the little garden I have been able to grow on our deck this summer and for the bounty of tomatoes that are still coming.  I am grateful for my job and the wonderful co-workers there.  I am grateful for the birds that are currently singing through my patio door.  I am also grateful for the many people that God has put in my life and invested in me to see me grow in my relationship with God.  I am grateful that God has shown me many more people who have sacrificed their desires to see that others come to know the One and Only God who loves them so dearly.

Ephesians 1:15-16 says, "Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly..."  As I was studying Ephesus, I found that Paul had spent three years there before going back to Jerusalem where he would be arrested and sent to Rome.  These are people that he grew close to and loved.  One of the reasons he was drawn to Ephesus in the first place was because he found out that there were believers there that were hungry to learn more.  The church in Ephesus had also faced a lot of opposition and they continued to grow.  Paul had dedicated his life to spreading the hope we have in Christ to the world and he was so thankful to hear that there were believers that had a strong faith in Christ and loved God's people.  I imagine that it was such a breath of fresh air to learn of believers that loved as God called them to love.

When I was in Zambia, I saw believers who had nothing worshiping with uninhibited joy.  I saw believers who sang to God with all that was in them even though they didn't know when they would have their next meal.  I met believers who were living in poverty and still served those who were dying of AIDS.  I met believers who had to wait until Sunday to hear God's Word because they did not own a Bible.  It humbles me greatly when I think of them and I am grateful for their amazing faith.  I am also humbled because I haven't thanked God for them or kept them in my prayers.  I believe that God puts people in our lives so we can pray for them and it is a both a responsibility and an honor to pray for others (Ephesians 6:18).  Let's not forget that there are believers around the world facing poverty, starvation, disease, and persecution and we need to be praying for them.  Let's not forget the believers who live in complete abandon to their desires in order to please our heavenly Father.

Who has God put in your path to pray for?  Pray for the believers around the world.  Who are you thankful for?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Memory Verse #18

Isaiah 46:4

"I will be your God throughout your lifetime - until your hair is white with age.  I made you and I will care for you.  I will carry you along and save you."

I'm just thinking of what a blessing it is to know that God will never abandon us; He will never leave us.  Throughout out our life, He is our God.  When we need to be carried, He will carry us.  When we need to be saved, He will save us.  No matter what, nothing can change the fact that God made us and He cares for us.  That is a fact that we just cannot overlook - He is our Creator.

I think of the few things that I have made and how I take care of them for sentimental reasons.  Those are just items, nothing very important.  God made us to be living and breathing and His affection toward us is beyond sentimental value - He loves us.  If I take care of something that is really worth nothing, imagine how much more our loving Creator takes care of us - the ones He loves.  All He wants is for us to come to Him with everything; He wants to be our God, our portion, our everything.

Friday, September 16, 2011

All To Give God Glory

Ephesians 1:3-14

God has led me in ways that I never expected and I have so enjoyed the journey!  As I have somewhat picked apart these verses in Ephesians, I have found God pounding in me the message that He is to be my portion.  It has been so loud and clear and each day as I have gone to study more, I was sure that God was done with it and brought me back to that message.  Today, I would like to just read through all these verses and wrap up some of the ideas that are found here.  Please turn to Ephesians 1:3-14.

In verse three, Paul wrote, "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ."  I started off this week exploring the idea of spiritual blessings, but I also love the fact that Paul begins with praise to God.  That is what this life is about - lifting all our praises to God who has showered us with more blessing than we can see or comprehend.  Paul then explains that we have been chosen to without fault through Christ.  That idea amazes me!  Romans 8:1-3 tells us that in Christ there is no condemnation and we are free.  Paul tells us that God has great pleasure carrying out His plan to adopt us into His family by purchasing us with Christ's sacrifice.  He has "showered us with kindness" and has given us wisdom and understanding.


This section of scripture also reveals that all who believe are united with Christ and because of this unity we are to receive an inheritance.  I explored how elsewhere in scripture we can see that the Lord is our inheritance; He is our portion.  We learn that God's plan is that all things are to be under the authority of Christ and God makes everything work out according to His plan.  God's plan is that He is to be our everything!  Paul reminds us that when we are adopted into the family of God, we receive the Holy Spirit which is our guarantee that we will receive this inheritance.  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee that God purchased us through His beautiful Son.  Paul then wraps it all up just as he started out this section of scripture that all this is done so we can praise and glorify God.

Sometimes we forget the simplicity of God's plan because we get caught up in its complexity.  Sometimes we forget who we were before Christ and forget to give God the glory.  If we could remember that we have been purchased at the greatest price so we could be united with Christ, we would be lifting our praises to God every moment of every day.  If we could remember all the spiritual blessings He has so extravagantly poured out on us, He would truly be our portion.

Take the time today to reflect on all the spiritual blessings you have been given through Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Inheritance

Ephesians 1:12-14

I have known people who have received an inheritance from a relative and it changed the shape of their life.  For example, one of our friends received an inheritance from her grandma and not only had her college paid for but could continue living off the interest on the inheritance.  I've seen others use their inheritance to buy their home.  An inheritance is a gift that someone passes down to relatives after they die and can sometimes change the standard of living for the person receiving it.  God speaks of an inheritance for those who believe in and follow Christ.    Please look at Ephesians 1:12-14.

One of the ideas I looked at when I was studying the church of Ephesus (see posts from weeks 1 and 2) was the fact that they personally experienced the difference once they were in Christ and received the power of the Holy Spirit.  They also witnessed amazing miracles of God through Paul during the three years he was with them.  The church was familiar with the Holy Spirit's power.  Paul reminded them that because they were working in the power of the Holy Spirit, they had a gift that only believers received.  That gift was a guarantee that they would receive an inheritance as a child of God.  I find it interesting that the word "inheritance" is used because it is a gift passed down to relatives after someone dies.  Jesus died for us so that we could be made right with God, so the word inheritance is a beautiful representation and reminder of why and how we receive this wonderful gift.

What is the inheritance?  I looked up the word inheritance in the Greek to see what it meant.  The word is klēronomia and is only used 14 other times in the New Testament.  It is found in Hebrews 9:15 where it says, "That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant."  This still didn't explain to me what the inheritance is but it did remind me of the fact that Christ died in order that we could receive the inheritance; so I did more digging and found Psalm 16:5-6 where it says, "Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine. The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!"  Don't you just love how God fits everything together with what we've been looking at all week?  Of course, I had to look up the word used in Hebrew for inheritance and what I discovered was that verse literally says, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup..."  I also discovered that the word for inheritance can also mean portion.

Some of you haven't been with me all week to understand why that is so exciting to me, but once again to be reminded of how God is our portion is such a blessing to me!  He is our portion - our inheritance.  How beautiful that is to me!  Since this post is getting long enough, I will leave you with that thought, but I would encourage you to do more digging on your own.  Use BlueLetterBible.com  to look up more (such as cup) and enjoy the journey with God.

Are you excited to know that your portion or inheritance is Christ?

Linking up with Some Girl's Website and In Search of Beauty.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

His Purpose

Ephesians 1:9-4

When I worked as a music therapist, I had to write an assessment of the person I was working with.  I assessed many skills such as cognitive, fine and gross motor, emotional, speech and language, and so on.  I also assessed whether or not there was something in their current environment that would effect those skills and behaviors.  After completing the period of assessment, I would develop realistic goals and objectives.  Once I had goals and objectives identified, I could develop a plan of action on how I would help this person meet those goals.  Having a plan in place helped me to plan out individual sessions to begin working toward the objectives that were identified.  Because I was using music, the individual didn't always feel like they were working; however, over time I could see the difference that the exercises were making in their abilities.  Sometimes, even with the music, the task was still difficult and required hard work and would be met with some resistance.  I would continue to push forward because I knew that if they would complete the task, over time they would grow and meet their objectives.  The verses I want to look at this morning talk about God's purpose for our lives; please read Ephesians 1:9-14.

Verse 11 keeps ringing in my head, "...He makes everything work out according to His plan."  These verses are very clear that God has a plan and whatever He has planned will come to pass.  The word in Greek translated as plan is prothesis and is used in Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them."  The thing that I found interesting about this word is that it is also used for the "shewbread" in the Holy Place.  The shewbread were 12 loaves that were placed in the Holy Place on the Sabbath representing the tribes of Israel.  So many things in the tabernacle were a symbol of Christ, and the shewbread was another representation.  According to Vines, the bread represented that through Christ, believers are accepted before God and the bread also represented that they are nourished by God.

This is where I get excited about how God orders everything that I have been studying so far this week.  On Sunday, as I was sharing about God being our portion with a friend, she reminded me that the priest relied on what was given for their portion.  The shewbread was part of their portion and they were the only ones who were permitted to eat it.  My friend also reminded me that all believers are now priests for God (1 Peter 2:5,9).  Christ tells us in John 6:51 that He is the living bread and is our nourishment.  Christ is our portion.  I know I keep coming back to this idea; however, I love the beauty that God wants to be our portion.  That is His purpose.  God will use whatever He needs to use to bring us to the place where He is our portion, our nourishment.  Just as in my music therapy sessions, He will use some things that don't seem so hard such as being in the Word and prayer.  Other times, we are in difficult situations that He has allowed; He allows these so we can come to Him for our portion.  I don't like those times and I wish I didn't have to have those times; however, it has been in those times when I have learned to rely on Him all the more.

Do you trust God's purpose?  Do you trust that He will work all things for His plan?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It Gave Him Great Pleasure

Ephesians 1:5-11

When my husband and I were in our earliest years of marriage, we knew that we wanted children and we were even sure that we wanted three children.  By the time we reached the seventh year of our marriage, we had three little blessings in tow and we knew we were blessed.  The amazing thing that God does in a parent's heart is that even before the parent has met their precious child, they already love the child.  As soon as I knew that I was pregnant with each baby, my heart was filled with so much love.  I have also seen this happen with parents that know they going to adopt a child; they are filled with so much love and happiness for that baby they haven't even met.  In fact, the parents who are adopting a child pay a great price to bring that child into their family.  I have seen families take on a second mortgage in order to adopt a child.  After paying a great price and waiting a long time, the parents finally get to hold their new child and it is truly their child.  The Bible explains that God paid a great price to adopt us into His family as well.  Please read Ephesians 1:5-11.

The phrase that sticks out at me is the fact that it gave God great pleasure to adopt us through Jesus.  I think of all the families I have seen adopt a child and the great pleasure they experience.  The moment that they get to hold their child, all the cost was worth it.  God paid the greatest price of all for us through His Son, Jesus.  I think of the joy I felt when I first held each child and the joy my friends have felt the first time they held their adopted child and it makes me realize the joy that God has each time one more child enters His kingdom.  Each time someone chooses to believe in the price that was paid for them, God's heart swells with joy.  This was His plan before time began; that we would become His children through Jesus.  God knew us before we were even born (Psalm 139:13-16).

Do we respond to our heavenly Father as though we understand how precious we are to Him?  Do we understand that it gave God great pleasure to pay the price for us to become a part of His family?  2 Peter 3:9 reminds us that God wants to see everyone to be a part of His family:  "The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent."  I don't know if I can convey in words how desperate God wants to see all come to Him, repent, and become His child.


Do you respond to God as a Father who paid a great price to be your Father?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Spiritual Blessings

Ephesians 1:1-7

I love how God speaks to us!  I wrote my post on Saturday, which I felt was unrelated to my study in Ephesians.  On Sunday, as I was sitting in the service, I began to hear a sermon that spoke a very similar message based on a different passage.  It was such a blessing to hear God say something not exactly the same as what I was studying earlier; however, it flowed along with what I was studying and added greater depth.  I keep thinking about how I want the Lord to be my portion as the author states in Lamentations 3:22-24.  The more I focus on the compassions He so generously gives each day, the more He becomes my focus.  The more I recognize how much I have been forgiven, the more I love Him (Luke 7:36-40).  As I have focused on that idea, insecurities have crept in to make me focus on the security I can physically experience in this world.  The more I seek security in the world, the less the Lord is my portion.  So, as I have found myself in my little struggles today, I tried to prepare this post in the midst of a tug of war.  When I finally focused on the message of the verses I was reading, I realized and was reminded of where my focus needs to be.  Please read Ephesians 1:1-7.

I love what Paul wrote in verse 3, "All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ."  Every spiritual blessing...can we even comprehend what that means?  What I do understand is that we receive such blessing because we are united with Christ.  That unity comes from the sacrifice that Christ made for us.  Verse 7 tells us that we are purchased by the blood of Christ because of the generosity of God.  Listen, the best is that even before the world was created, God already loved us!  The other day, my daughter asked my why I named my blog the same name as a song.  I began to explain to her that it symbolizes the fact that I have a Father in heaven that knows me so intimately along with everyone else that even though there have been billions of people, He still knows my name.  That is such an overwhelming thought and so beautiful to me.  She then reminded me that He knew me before I was even born as we read in Psalm 139.

With all that said, when I focus on the amazing love that God has so lavishly poured out on me, the Lord is my portion.  When I remember that I have been forgiven much - so much that God's mercies are new every morning, I love much.  When I focus on the love that God had for me before I was even born, I feel more of His presence in my life.  As I feel His presence, the surrounding factors that allow insecurities to sneak in no longer seem that important.  So, even though I am a people pleaser, the Lord can still be my portion instead.  We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Do we need any other portion?  Our cup is full!

Let the grace of God wash over you and fill your cup.  The Lord is your portion.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Simple Saturday - All Things New

I am so thankful that today is Saturday!  It has been an absolutely crazy week and a bit on the stressful end of things.  I have felt pulled in many directions this week as my husband and I adjust back to our fall morning schedule, get the kids back into the school routine, and continue to gear up for the fall programming at church/work, and make the checkbook balance after paying all the school fees (etc...) that you incur at the beginning of the school year.  I don't know about the rest of you, but the first week of school doesn't bring a lot of homework for the kids, it brings a TON of homework for me.  I have three children and each one of them brings home papers that need to be signed.  Every year at this time, I wonder how I am supposed to keep all the information straight with the middle school when each teacher has different policies on homework and grading.  Each kid is sent home with a packet of information from each middle school teacher and then we have to sign a form saying that we have read and understand all their policies.  Needless to say, I was beginning to get a hand cramp when an hour after I sat down to go through all the papers I found myself still signing and reading.  Ugh!

I actually like beginnings and starting new.  There is a freshness and excitement about starting something new. Here are some wonderful things that has happened this week as well.  My kiddos like their teachers!  I got a lot accomplished at work.  The Green Bay Packers won!!!  (I had to throw that in).  We had fun as a family going to the movies.  I have also been learning some new things in my Bible study this week; I never fail to be amazed at how God teaches me something new from a story I have read many times before.  I love the freshness of God - He always reveals something new within our lives.  Lamentations 3:22-24 says, "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'"   Oh, how grateful I am that God is faithful! Praise God that His compassions (or mercies) are new every morning!

I just wonder if we don't seek God's freshness in the way we should.  Do we start our day asking God to renew our minds and give us a fresh perspective?  Imagine what would happen if we sought after God's compassions that never fail.  Imagine what would happen if we relied on His faithfulness and waited for Him.  What if we relied on Him to be our portion?  God pours compassion on us even when we are unaware - He loves us so much that He has provided a way to salvation rather than destruction.  The more we open our eyes and become aware to His unfailing compassion, the more He becomes our portion.  I think of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume and began to kiss His feet (Luke 7:36-50).  When Jesus was questioned about why He allowed such behavior He explained that she showed so much love because she had been forgiven of much.  He continued to explain that the one who has been forgiven of little shows only a little love. The truth is, we have all been forgiven of a lot and have experienced God's daily compassions; we just need to realize it.

Are you aware of God's compassions?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Ephesian Church

Revelation 2:1-7

Whenever I begin to study something new, I pray for God's guidance.  Because I am not making my own plans, I honestly cannot predict how long it will take for me to study.  So, with that said, I had no idea that before I would open the book of Ephesians I was going to spend two weeks reading through 1 1/2 chapters in Acts.  Today, I want to just review what I have learned about the church in Ephesus before I begin digging into Ephesians on Monday.  Here are my thoughts:

  • Paul had an intimate relationship with the Ephesian church because he lived with them for three years.  As I read yesterday, he made sure that before going back to Jerusalem (and then off to jail) he met with the elders one more time.  When his ship docked he called for the elders for one more word of encouragement and warned them of false prophets.
  • The church in Ephesus was eager to learn and grow.  They were familiar with the baptism of John but unfamiliar with the baptism of Christ which allows for the Holy Spirit to His powerful work.  They personally witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in their own lives once they fully understood and believed in the salvation they received in Christ.
  • The Ephesians understood that there is power in the Name of Jesus.  They witnessed how His Name wasn't just another incantation - they had respect for His Name.
  • Sorcery was prevalent in the city of Ephesus and the surrounding region.  The people in the church threw away their need to practice sorcery in exchange for life and freedom in Christ.
  • The church faced opposition from both the Jews and the citizens of Ephesus - even to the point of causing a short-lived riot.
  • Ephesus was the patron city of Artemis.  This means that Artemis was the primary goddess they worshiped and was a part of their every day life.
  • It is believed that Ephesus was an educational hub and had an extensive library.
  • Ephesus was a port city, which meant that there were a lot of visitors coming and going.
  • Ephesus was controlled by the Roman government - just like Jerusalem.  This meant that they lost certain freedoms; however, they were still able to keep much of their culture.
There is one more reference to the church of Ephesus outside of the book of Ephesians and it is in Revelation.  Please turn to Revelation 2:1-7.  The church is commended for testing and not following false prophets; however, God is calling them back to their first love in Him and for each other.  He tells them that they need to return to the works they originally did that was fueled by their love for Christ.  It is a good warning for us to heed as well - are we serving out of our love for Christ or out of duty?  Do we still have the passion for Christ that we had when we first came to Him?  Are we serving others because we love them?

I look forward to digging in to the book of Ephesians next week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Will You Follow?

Acts 20:16-38

My husband is a Children's Pastor, and God has sent us on quite a journey - both spiritually and physically.  We have been a part of experiencing incredible growth as God has moved us to new churches.  Every time we have had to leave a church, it has broken our hearts because we always fall in love with the people we are serving.  This last move we made was so difficult because we found ourselves not only in love with the people in the church, but we had connected with the people in our community.  While it is so hard to tear myself away from the church and the people I have grown to love, each move has had its purpose and I can always look in hindsight and see that God was doing His beautiful work in our lives.  So, as I read through this section of scripture I can completely relate to the emotional good-bye Paul gives to the elders of the Ephesian church.  Please turn to Acts 20:16-38.

Paul felt that the Holy Spirit was leading him to go back to Jerusalem; however, he had also been told through the Holy Spirit that he would be going to jail.  While Paul didn't completely understand this plan, he still chose to walk in obedience.  He also knew that this meant that he would never see the people he fell in love with again.  To me, the fact that Paul took the opportunity to send for the elders when the ship had docked shows how much he cared for them and the church.  Paul asked them to remember everything they learned and saw him doing so they would know how to lead the church.  Paul warned them of the false teachers that would try to steer the people in the church away from God.  Paul reminded them of the opposition they faced within the city of Ephesus.

This is such a beautiful scene and it is a reminder how wonderful community is.  It also reminds me that when we follow God, we are sometimes put in positions that are heart-breaking.  We have the ability to see that God used Paul to reach millions of people through his letters that were written while he was in jail.  Paul had no idea that God would use him so powerfully while he was in jail; however he chose to obey even though it made no sense to him.  This also allowed Paul to hand the leadership of the Ephesian church to the elders - God was raising up new leaders.  We need to remember that when goodbyes are difficult, God wants to use us in a different way when He moves us to a new place.  It is also an opportunity for God to grow new leaders.

Are you willing to follow God to wherever He wants you to go?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the Enemy Attacks

Acts 19:32-41

At this point last year, I was part of a team that would be going to Zambia during the last half of October.  We were all excited and we prayed as we prepared, but I was blindsided by some of the enemy's attacks.  I was sure I knew where the attacks were going to come from and that I would be ready; however, the attacks came from areas that I least expected.  I found myself struggling in every area of my life and not in ways that I thought were struggles for me.  My son's asthma was out of control for over a month and this was the first time we had seen his health crumble in years.  Suddenly, the medicine that had kept his asthma under control wasn't working anymore.  I had some struggles at work.  We were faced with some financial struggles.  I was being attacked with doubt.  There were other attacks as well and all these things were happening at once.  We can walk into something and think we are ready for anything, and we become blindsided by an issue that we would have never dreamed up.  The church in Ephesus dealt with opposition that seemed to blindside them as well; please look up Acts 19:32-41.

Yesterday, I looked at the importance of the church understanding why we do what we do.  Today, I want to explore what the city leader said in verse 37, "You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess."  I think this is an important statement to think about.  The church in Ephesus was following God without insulting others, yet people still saw a difference.  Even while they were innocent, they still were blindsided by Demetrius' attacks.


When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, we have an enemy who will fight us.  The attacks can be surprising and we can feel unprepared.  That is why it is so important to keep in prayer and in the Word and being a part of a Christian community.  We will read later in the book of Ephesians (Ephesians 6:10-20) the importance of being ready for the spiritual attacks that we will face.  The armor of God is not something just to be aware of, we need to use it!  The more we speak and pray through each piece of armor, the more we will be prepared to recognize and respond to attacks.  We need to be in "training" for the battles we will face and trust God's direction.  Training is actively growing in your relationship with God through prayer and the Bible.  I believe that scripture memorization is extremely helpful as well.  We may be blindsided by the type of attacks we will face; however, we don't need to be unprepared.

Are you in training?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

They Didn't Know Why They Were There

Acts 19:23-32

In July of 1967, the city of Detroit experienced a riot that is considered the worst riot in its history, and is considered one of the worst riots in America.  Basically, the riot began because the police raided an illegal bar and since there were about 80 people involved in the raid it created a scene in the 12th Street neighborhood.  As the last police car left the scene, a group of people began to loot the stores on 12th Street in protest.  The police didn't do much to stop the activity at first probably because there wasn't enough police force at the scene to stop the looters.  They also thought that perhaps it would calm down and end on its own.  Unfortunately, it opened the door for a larger scale riot that built up to a level that the state of Michigan was unable to control the situation.  The National Guard and Army were called in by the President to regain control.  Five days later, 43 people were dead, and over 450 people were injured.  Over 7,000 people were arrested and there were reports of police brutality and abuse of both guilty and innocent people.  This riot had blindsided the police; however, research done after the riots revealed a frustration among the African Americans in the city due to poor wages, work conditions, education and housing.  A riot can often start as one thing, but can be fueled by other points of dissatisfaction.  Please turn to Act 19:23-32 to read about the beginning of a possible riot in Ephesus.


In yesterday's post, I explored the idea that the church began to effect the local economy not because they boycotted or protested a business but because they were simply following God.  The result was that some of the church leaders were brought into the amphitheater while other believers prevented Paul from going in.  There was a lot of shouting and it sounds like no one could understand or hear what anyone was saying.  The phrase that has stuck out at me as I have read this chapter over and over is in verse 32 where it says, "In fact, most of them didn't even know why they were there."  Yikes!  To me, that is a scary statement because they were there just to join along with the commotion without even knowing what it is about.

If we as a church look closely at our culture, we could easily see similar issues.  Some people lead with great charisma and some people follow.  The sad thing is that some people follow without knowing why.  In this particular event, the church knew they were following God and they knew why they were following God.  Do we as a church know why we do what we do?  Do we do things because that is the way we have always done it, or do we do things because it is what God wants us to do?  Do we know why we are here?  I don't want to just follow the crowd because that is what everyone else is doing, I want to have purpose in what I do.  I want to be led by God and not by the crowd.


Who is leading you?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Choices We Make

Acts 19:21-27

Did you know that the porn industry makes billions of dollars each year?  I couldn't find any financial information that was consistent on how many billions; however, each report had a number in the billions of dollars.  That is a staggering and sobering number.  The online gambling industry also makes billions of dollars each year.  Unfortunately, not everyone that gambles online can afford to gamble online.  As I am preparing to study the book of Ephesians, I am reading through what the book of Acts tells us about Ephesus.  The section of scripture I am looking at today show what happened to an industry in Ephesus and throughout the region when people began to follow Christ.  Please turn to Acts 19:21-27.

Demetrius was a silversmith in Ephesus who made a living selling silver shrines of the goddess, Artemis.  He noticed that the church was beginning to cause lower sales and he decided to point this out to the other merchants in the area to stir things up against the church.  He explained that while their wealth and respect comes from their business, no one would want to see Artemis robbed of her prestige.  I have to stop and chuckle at his speech because the first thing out of his mouth was the wealth they achieved by their business.  But of course, Demetrius finally ended his speech on the importance of Artemis's prestige.  Remember, last week I looked at how the church experienced a cultural shift when they recognized the real power in Jesus' Name as opposed to using an incantation.  Suddenly, the church and others were realizing that there was real power in Christ.  They were no longer buying sorcery books or shrines to Artemis.

The church has a silent influence that I believe it often doesn't recognize because we are not always doing what we are supposed to do.  What would happen in our country if we quit buying materials that are against God's desire for us?  Years ago, politicians noticed the difference it makes when they began talking about issues that many Christians cared about.  Because they wanted the Christian vote, they would say things that the Christian voter wanted to hear.  This is not about influencing government or manipulating economics; this is just about doing what God has told us to do.  If every person who called themselves a Christian began to seek God's direction, would others notice?  I believe they would.  The early church wasn't attacking the makers of shrines to Artemis, they simply stopped contributing to their sales.  I'm not calling for boycotts against any company - I'm just saying if we are following God's direction it will make a difference.  This post isn't about finger pointing or discussing what you are buying or what you are watching.  I am saying that we will make a noticeable difference in our world (that doesn't always make others happy) when we follow God.

I ask you this question as much as I ask myself:  Am I following God in all the choices I make?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Memory Verse #17

Zephaniah 3:17

"For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."

I keep reading this verse over and over because it is a beautiful promise that the Israelites were told they would experience when they were redeemed from captivity. However, we know that we have the Holy Spirit within us; therefore, the Lord our God is living among us!  Our God is a mighty savior!  We have been given salvation by His grace through faith in Christ and His sacrifice.  I think of how much I delight in my children, and then to think that God delights in me even more!  God will calm all of our fears - I have personally experienced peace in situations where I shouldn't have been peaceful.  Only God can do that!  Some versions read "He will renew you with His love."  How beautiful!  And as if that isn't enough, we read that He rejoices over us with joyful songs.

Close your eyes and let the love of our Heavenly Father wash over you today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Trust and Believe


Acts 19:11-20

I have had many friends that were missionaries serving all over the world.  When I have heard their stories, one common thread was that often times the Christians they are serving still follow a lot of the cultural norms even though it is clear in the Bible that they are not to do those things.  For example, it would not be unusual to see a person worship in church but go and make a sacrifice later in the week to the god who they believe sends rain. I saw this first hand while I was in Zambia.  We prayed over many people who believed they were following Christ, but yet they still turned to the witch doctor when they needed help.  For some, they are scared to stop going to the witch doctor because they are threatened by him.  For others, it is as if there is an insurance policy by going to the witch doctor (and strong cultural pressure as well) after praying to God.  When reading through Acts 19, we see that there was a history of witchcraft in Ephesus as well and circumstances made them face their cultural beliefs.  Please turn to Acts 19:11-20.

These verses give us a little understanding of the culture in Ephesus.  The first thing that I noticed is that Paul had been given gifts by God to perform miracles.  And we can assume that many people were affected by these miracles; however, it is when the sons of Sceva enter the scene that we see a cultural shift.  All of a sudden, it is if the people realized that using the Name of Jesus was not an incantation of some sort.  Remember, our God is so powerful that when we believe and speak the Name of Jesus there is power.  A new reverence came over the people in Ephesus and many people began to understand the difference between God's never ending power and their use of sorcery.  This caused them to turn away from their witchcraft and incantations and believe in the most and only powerful and holy God.

It makes me wonder about myself and my culture.  What am I doing that seems "normal" but is going against what God wants in my life?  Where am I trusting and believing in something else rather than God?  Little by little, God gently reveals to me where I need to change and trust in Him.  Those false beliefs can then be thrown away just as the Ephesians threw their expensive books of sorcery into the fire.

Are you willing to throw away what gives you comfort in order to trust and believe God?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

God Works Even In Adversity

Acts 19:8-10

I just saw the movie The Help this week and it was incredible - so incredible that I am going to have to read the book (which I've been wanting to do anyway).  I think that everyone should see this movie because it is challenging to watch.  This movie explored the relationship between high society women and their maids in Jackson, Mississippi just as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum.  However, the movie doesn't just focus on the discrimination between Caucasian and African American women, it also focuses on the the discrimination of high society in general.  One theme that stuck out at me in this movie was the idea that adversity often made the characters stronger in the end.  As I am preparing to study the book of Ephesians, I am looking at some background of the church in Ephesus.  Today, I am looking at how adversity effected the starting church in Ephesus.  Please turn to Acts 19:8-10.

We can see by reading that scripture that Paul met a lot of opposition in the synagogue and moved to the lecture hall of Tyrannus.   As I briefly looked at the ancient city of Ephesus, I noticed that there was a rebuilt facade of a very large library that tourists can visit.  It is thought that this library held thousands of scrolls and Ephesus was an education hub in the region.  It isn't known where the lecture hall of Tyrannus was located; however, it is thought that since Ephesus was an educated city that this was a place for philosophers to lecture and have discussions.  The end result for the church in Ephesus was that they began to reach out to a broader audience because they were able to meet in a public place.  Ephesus was a port city which means that there were visitors from all over the region doing business.  I think that many of these visitors probably took the opportunity to listen to the lectures and ended up hearing the Good News from Paul.

Just because Paul met opposition and had to leave the synagogue sounds bad, God used it to spread the gospel to many more people throughout the region and even other parts of the world.  Paul didn't give up when he faced opposition, instead he just moved to another spot.  Remember, it is so much easier for us to see the God-timing and God-placement in this story because we have a different perspective.  Paul didn't have the perspective of hind-sight during this time and just had to trust God would use him no matter where he spoke.

We will face adversity and it may even come at a time when we know that we are following God's direction.  Just because adversity comes doesn't mean that it comes with defeat.  Imagine where the church would be today if the apostles and early church gave up when they faced opposition.  Imagine where our country would be if the Civil Rights Movement quit after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  When we face adversity, that is when it is time to pray and ask God how He is going to work within it.  God is more powerful than any opposing force we face.

Are you working withing adversity today?  Stand firm and know that God is working in you and in your situation.