Monday, October 31, 2011

Who Do You Imitate?

Ephesians 5:1-2

Before my husband was called into ministry he was a band teacher.  I would take our two little boys to his concerts, where they would see him conducting his bands.  Our oldest son was just a toddler at the time and he desperately wanted to be just like him.  He would grab a pen and wave it in the air singing, "Na, na, na," as if it were a conductor's baton.  While we were at the concerts, my son would have his pen and conduct from his chair just like his dad.  He was so adorable trying to imitate everything his dad was doing.  I have seen other people that I admire and attempted to imitate things they did.  We are told in the Bible that God is the One that we are really supposed to imitate.  Please look up Ephesians 5:1-2.

I don't know about you, but sometimes when I know that I am doing something that isn't up to God's standards I am tempted to look at others around me.  It is easy to look at other people and see them doing the same or similar things and feel "normal."  The problem with watching others in order to feel better about myself means that I am not looking at the only One whom I should be imitating.  According to Ephesians 5:1, I should be imitating God.  The only way I can fully imitate God is to keep my eyes completely on Him.  It is when I look at Him I see what needs to change in me and then I can make the changes necessary to imitate Him more accurately.

Ephesians 5:2 shows us the ultimate way we are to imitate God, which is to "live a life filled with love."  As we continue reading, a life filled with love isn't just having loving feelings toward others; it is acting on the love we have for others.  After all, what good is love if we don't show it?  We are told that Jesus sacrificed Himself because He love us.  We will not be able to spiritually save someone by dying for them; however, there are other ways we can sacrifice ourselves out of love for others.  We can sacrifice our comfort.  When we are living a life full of love, we will need to be uncomfortable in order for someone else to be comfortable.  We can sacrifice our convenience.  Sometimes love calls us to a place where we are inconvenienced in order to meet the needs of someone else.  What about sacrificing our desires, recognition, or pride?  God wants my love for others to be more than just an expression; He wants my love to be active.  This is how we imitate God's love.

What are you willing to sacrifice in order to imitate God?

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Memory Verse #21

Matthew 5:14-15


"You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house."



I remember singing "This Little Light of Mine," when I was a child and I always felt like I controlled whether or not my light was shining.  But, looking at this verse really makes me wonder about that.  Jesus said, "Like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden."  It was like Jesus was saying that if we follow Him we become a light in this dark world and this is a light that cannot be hidden.  This verse also reminds me that God has a purpose for this light.  God has a spot where He intentionally picked for this light to be.  Am I willing to completely and totally follow where ever and whenever God wants me to shine?  Do I shine when it is dark all around?  Am I shining my light so that people around me can see there is a hope that is for everyone?  Let's shine our light in this dark world!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Focus

Ephesians 4:30-32

I have found that so much of my walk with Christ is focus.  There are times when my gaze is fixed on Him and I follow Him with complete confidence.  But then there are times when I get sidetracked and I find myself looking at something else on the journey.  It is during those times that I mess up.  I loose my focus and then loose my footing.  I read another post at Seeds of Faith Women where Courtney wrote about being intentional.  She wrote about the fact that when she is not purposely doing what is right, she will unintentionally do the wrong thing.  This is so true!  The only way that we will consistently do what pleases God is be intentional about doing it.  Please look up Ephesians 4:30-32.

Verses 30 and 31 tell us that we have been set apart (also translated as sealed) by the Holy Spirit, so we should live in a way that reflects it.  Living any other way brings sorrow to Him.  A seal is used to show authenticity, and we have the seal of the King of Kings on our lives.  We are His!  The word for redemption in Greek is apolytrōsis which can also mean to pay a ransom.  It is a good reminder that a price has been paid for our redemption and the incredible love Christ has for us is greater than we can comprehend.  When focusing on this love and undeserved grace, we begin to live a life that is more intentional.

What do we need to do intentionally?  Verse 31 says, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior."  We need to be intentional about getting rid of the things that do not reflect God.  These are all things that will hinder us in our walk.  We can want to get rid of these things, but the only way to shed these behaviors is to intentionally take the steps to quit.  We can pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us to do what is right.  Verse 32 says, "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."  Once again, focusing on the forgiveness that has been so freely extended to us will help to remember to do the right thing.  So, knowing this, I need to keep my focus on my loving Savior.  I need to not look at my entitlement and look at the grace of God.  That focus changes everything and when I do that I live more intentionally.

Where is your focus?

Linking up with Brag On God Friday and Spiritual Sundays.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What Is Good

Ephesians 4:28-29

I feel like I have explored two major themes in Ephesians 1 - 4: Unity in the body with Christ and God has a purpose for each of us.  There are other themes within these four chapters; however, God has me focused on these two themes.  I want to quickly bring us back to the idea that God has a plan not only for the church as a whole, but for each individual who follows Christ.  Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He has planned for us long ago."  No matter what God's purpose is for you; He has a plan for you to do good things.  I love that!  Today, I am continuing to explore what it means to be a follower of Christ and looking at the changes that need to take place in order to do these good things.

Verse 28 tells us to quit stealing.  Now, you may be an honest person and never stole anything from any merchant or person.  However, the next statement is something that applies to all of us.  We are told to use our hands for "good hard work and then give generously to others in need."  I think this can be a challenge to every person who professes Christ as their Lord and Savior.  This makes me ask myself this question:  do I work to satisfy my wants, or do I work to help lift up the body of Christ and show love to those in need?  I also want to point out that the word "good" is used in this passage.  So one of the good things God has planned for us to is to do good hard work so we can give it back to God.  Colossians 3:23 tells us to work as if "working for the Lord rather than people."  When we think about the fact that we are doing this not just as a job, maybe we will not feel as entitled to spend all the money on ourselves.

We are also told to watch what is coming out of our mouths.  Everything we say should be uplifting and encouraging to others.  "Let everything you say be good and helpful..."  Once again, we are seeing another "good thing" that God has planned for us.  His plan and desire for us is to be lifting each other up through encouraging words.  As I write this, I feel the conviction that not every word that comes out of my mouth is encouraging.  Sometimes I just spew out a complaint rather than say something good and helpful.  However, this is not an impossible task!  We have the Holy Spirit empowering us to grow more like Christ every moment of every day.

The good things God has planned for us are not all about what type of ministry we are to do; the good things are also about how we live our lives.  It is about our attitudes, words, and our work.  It is about what we do with what God has already given us.  It is about living our lives in the way that Christ has modeled for us.

Are you seeking to do what is good just as God has planned for you?

Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday and Experiencing the Love of Koinonia.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Foothold

Ephesians 4:25-27

Why is it that when children are wrestling or goofing around, they never seem to assess if they are playing in an area with enough space?  And why do they think that tripping is funny without thinking of possible consequences?  I especially go crazy when one of the kids are laying on the floor and grab a hold of one of the other kiddo's feet.  Immediately pictures of face plants or landing on the corner of our coffee table run through my mind.  My children rarely do that because the few times they have thought it would be fun, I have firmly expressed my concerns.  As children of God, we have an enemy who wants to grab a hold of our feet and trip us up; please read Ephesians 4:25-27.

The second half of Ephesians 4 is reminding us to put on our new selves because we now belong to God.  Paul is now explaining to us what that means.  The first thing we learn is that we need to stop lying.  That really doesn't mean anything other than don't lie.  Paul once again reminds us of the unity we have as the body of Christ, therefore we should not lie to each other.  As part of the same body, it is important to be truthful with one another.  This includes when another member of the body hurts you.  Think of it this way: if your one hand slammed a finger in a drawer by accident it is important that your finger shares that it is hurt so it can get out of the drawer.  In the same way, when one person hurts us it is important to "speak the truth in love" and share the pain so they will know that it hurt.  It doesn't help if you say, "Oh, it's no big deal..." when you have been hurt.  When that happens, you never have the opportunity to grow closer together and learn to work with one another.  And pretending the pain isn't there will never allow the situation to change.

On that same subject, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 by telling us not to sin in our anger.  If you read the entire verse in the Psalms, you will see that it says to "think about it overnight and remain silent."  This almost seems to contradict the next thing Paul says when we are reminded that we are not to allow the sun to go down on our anger.  Personally, I do not believe this to be a contradiction.  I think Paul is saying that we are to calm down before going to bed so we can think it through rationally.  I can speak from experience that if I go to bed angry and fuming in my head, I need to stay awake and think through other perspectives otherwise I will not sleep well anyway.  It is when I allow myself to come to God with it and ask Him to help me through the emotions that I can have peace.  If we stuff it down without thinking through our hurt and anger, we are hurting ourselves even more.  I think both the Psalms and Ephesians are telling us that if it takes all night to settle down and forgive, do it!

We are warned that anger gives the devil a foothold.  It is important to heed this warning!  Just as kids grabbing onto a foot while playing can cause a trip up and serious injury, allowing the devil to grab a hold of our feet will do the same for us.  Holding onto anger will trip you up; bottom line.  I have learned that when I am angry at my wonderful husband, I need to give myself space to calm down and think through why I am so angry.  When I do that, I find myself in a place where I see that some of my feelings of entitlement are showing.  Thinking of the undeserved grace and forgiveness I have received through Christ, I no longer feel entitled and I drop the anger more easily.  The longer we hold on to our anger, the harder it is to get rid of it which is what Paul is telling us.  Don't hang on to the anger and allow God to show you a new perspective - even if it takes an entire night of prayer and meditation on the Word.

Are you giving the devil a foothold in your anger?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop and Mustard Seed Planting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Your New Self

Ephesians 4:17-24

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher brought in some chrysalis for the students to learn about butterflies.  She brought in enough so that they would have an opportunity to see at least one butterfly break free from the chrysalis.  It was fun to see my daughter's excitement as she told me how the butterfly broke through and was beautiful.  The metamorphosis that a caterpillar experiences truly amazes me.  I love the fact that God is so creative that He made a creature that would start out as a fuzzy green worm-type bug and turn it into a beautiful bug.  Only God would think of that!  The verses I am looking at today reminds me of this miraculous metamorphosis (even if I risk being cliche).  Please look up Ephesians 4:17-24.

The first thing that we are taught is to not be like the Gentiles (or the world) because "they are hopelessly confused."  Paul then explains that they have wandered further into darkness and have hardened their hearts. The word hardened could also be translated as calloused, which I think gives a more accurate gauge of what happens to someone who lives their life apart from Christ.  A callous is a hardening of the skin as it is exposed more and more to something that may cause pain.  For example, when you play a stringed instrument such as guitar you want callouses to form on your finger tips so that it no longer hurts when you press on the strings.  I believe that when we live apart from God, life is very painful.  As we live without God, we grow a callous on our heart so we don't experience the pain.  This allows for the indulgent lifestyle that Paul writes about in these verses.  We are no longer sensitive to the tugging in our hearts to change.

God has something so much better for us!  We see that we can throw off and shed those callouses that formed on our hearts when we come to know Christ.  We learn that the Spirit empowers us to live the way we are supposed to live.  The Spirit renews our thoughts so that we can live the new life that God has purposed for us.  The Greek word for new is kainos which means to be fresh or new or unprecedented.   The thoughts that we will have in the Spirit will be like nothing we ever experienced.  These thoughts will not be our thoughts, but they will be the thoughts of the Spirit.  These thoughts will be focused on Christ and how He wants us to live; they will no longer be the selfish and indulgent thoughts we had before Christ.  Just as the butterfly no longer looks anything like its old self, we no longer think and behave like our old selves.  We are to put on our new nature that God created for us so we can do "the good things He planned for us long ago," (Ephesians 2:10).  I know that those of you who follow this blog regularly keep seeing me use Ephesians 2:10; however, we need to believe that God has planned for us to do good things as His followers.

Have you shed your callouses and put on your new self?

Linking up with A Pause On the Path.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Knitted Together

Ephesians 4:13-16

I like to crochet, but I have no idea how to knit.  I enjoy crocheting because it can be so relaxing, while at the same time I am making something that me or my family can use.  Even though I haven't learned how to knit, I can create items on a knitting loom.  I have enjoyed teaching my kiddos how to use a knitting loom.  By using the loom, they have made hats for themselves and to donate.  Knitted and crocheted works has a small downside; I'm sure you have experienced the pain of what happens when a thread is pulled in a sweater and creates a hole.  When that happens, you quickly learn that every stitch on a knitted or crocheted item is dependent on all the other stitches.  If one stitch is compromised, all the other stitches surrounding it will also be compromised and will eventually cause the whole thing to fray.  Unity in the body of Christ is similar.  Please read Ephesians 4:13-16.

I first want to remind you that verse 13 is referring to the fact that God will continue to gift the church with leaders until we all come to a place of unity that measures up to Christ's standard.  We are told that once we achieve this unity and maturity, we will not be tossed by every wave and influenced by false teaching.  I find this interesting because this is not achieved maturity alone, but it also requires unity.  When we are experiencing a unity in Christ, it becomes a protection for us as well.  I wonder if that is because such a unity requires accountability with one another and that accountability will keep us in line with God's truth.

Instead of being tossed and turned by the wind and waves, we will speak the truth in love.  The next thing we will experience is that we will grow more like Christ.  The Greek brings out interesting dynamics in this verse because the word, pas is used to tell who will grow more like Christ.  It is a word that means all or every, but it is used in two different ways.  It can be used to mean literally all or everything (everyone), but it can also be used to mean in a collective sort of way.  For example it can mean that it is a collection of some of all types (ie. Jews, Gentiles...").  If you remember, Paul wrote of the unprecedented unity that the Jews and Gentiles have in Christ - but not every Jew and Gentile participated in this unity.  To me, this is kind of like saying that each individual in the collection of the body will come more and more like Christ.  Basically, it is when we are speaking the truth in love with one another and using accountability, we will as individuals grow closer to God as we grow closer to God as a whole.

Verse 16 tells us that the whole body is fitted together for the benefit of each other.  This is where the knitting comes in.  The phrase that is translated as "be fit together" uses the Greek word, symbibazō.  This word is multi-faceted in its definitions.  One of the definitions is to unite or knit together (see footnote 1).  This gives such a wonderful word picture as the verse continues to say, "As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."  The health of the whole body relies on each and every part (or stitch).  Just as each stitch in knitting and crocheting is reliant on all the other stitches, the body of Christ needs each part to do its own special work.  God created us unique to everyone else for a purpose.  He has given each of us a unique work in the body of Christ!  The rest of the body is dependent on each one of us to do our special work.  It really is awesome the way God put us together in this unique body of Christ!

Are you doing your special work in the body?

Linked up with Sharing His Beauty and Women in the Word Wednesdays.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for symbibazō (Strong's 4822)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 23 Oct 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G4822&t=NLT >

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lilies of the Fields

Matthew 6:26-34




"And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?"  Matthew 6:30 (NLT)




I have some violets on my end table that are blooming like crazy.  In fact, they are blooming better than I have ever seen violets bloom.  I cannot claim that it is because I am a tremendous gardener, I think I found the right window.  I also transplanted them into a bigger pot and put them in miracle grow soil.  They have no control whatsoever when I will water them.  But I do water them because I like to see them thrive and grow and bloom.

God wants to see us thrive and grow and bear amazing fruit; however, for a moment I found myself forgetting that.  I was focused on my worries about tomorrow (next week) and the out-of-my-control circumstances instead of focusing on the fact that God knows what we need.  God knows my needs before I know I need them.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need."  My focus needs to be on God and how He wants me to live and I can trust that He will provide everything I need.  Psalm 55:22 says, "Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall."

So, I am reminded again of God's loving provision for those who follow Him.  Those worries are not going to step in and take care of me - they will rob me of my peace.  But God, oh but God!  When I give those worries to God, He will replace them with a peace that passes understanding because He is the One in control.  I can think I have everything planned and under control; but God is the One who is over all, in all, and through all (Ephesians 4:6).  Proverbs 16:3 says, "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans."  He will establish my plans.  That is all that matters.

Linking up with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Over All, In All, and Through All

Ephesians 4:1-13

This week, I feel like a lot of ground was covered in a few verses, so I want to wrap up a little and look back on some things that I didn't look at in these verses.  I think that after looking at such small segments of scripture, we can easily get stuck in the details and forget the big picture laid out before us.  So, I just want to widen our lenses this morning and look at Ephesians 4:1-13.

Paul opens this chapter with a reminder that we are to live in unity with one another because this reflects a life that is worthy of our calling.  One thing that I overlooked was the statement that there is "One God and Father who is over all, in all and living through all."  This is an awesome statement because God is our Creator and is over all things, yet He has put Himself in His creation and we can experience Him through all.  This thought is continued again in verses 7-10 where we are reminded how Christ humbled Himself by coming down to earth and lived among us.  Verse 10 says, "And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself."  I love this because we see that Christ is "over all, in all, and through all." 


This should effect how we live out our faith as it is stated in Philippians 2:5-11; please look it up.  We are told that since this is what our Lord and Savior has done for us, we are to live with the same attitude of humility that He modeled.  Since Christ is over all, in all, and through all; we should be living with the unity that would reflect this reality.  When we as a church show the unity that God has intended for the church, we are showing the world that Christ is truly in all.  This is why Christ gave the wonderful gifts of apostles, evangelists, prophets, pastors, and teachers to the church.  Verse 13 says, "This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ."  Basically, Christ will continue gifting the church until the church reflects the unity that we have been called to live.  This unity with Christ within the church is what God has ordained.  This is part of your personal invitation.  You belong to something greater than yourself!

What can you do to reflect that Christ fills the universe with Himself?  How are you allowing God to put you in a place of unity with Him and the church?


I am excited to tell you that I am now going to be writing a regular post at Seeds of Faith.  This is a Christian women's blog and I will be posting on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month.  Today is my first post and you can find it at http://www.seedsoffaithwomen.com/?p=1806.

Linking up with Brag on God Fridays.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gifts To the Church

Ephesians 4:6-13


In 1994, Focus On the Family named the month of October Clergy Appreciation Month.  I was curious why it started and they have a statement found on their Clergy Appreciation Month website to explain why they began celebrating it.  Basically, they feel that giving appreciation to the pastors is a Biblical practice and they express the importance that congregations give their pastors encouragement throughout the year.  I have to admit that since I am a pastor's wife, I feel strange writing about this topic; however, I feel that it fits in with the verses I am looking at today.  I want to say before digging in, that my husband has felt blessed in all the congregations he has served and this is not written based on our personal experiences.  I am writing this because this is where I felt God leading me this morning.  Even though my husband is a pastor at our church, I need to be reminded of this because there are other pastors on staff at our church (as well as the support staff I work with) and I need to appreciate all of them as well.  Please turn to Ephesians 4:6-13.

These verses tell us that the church has been given gifts, and the gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  I think it is interesting that we are told that these people are Christ's gifts to the church.  The Greek word, didōmi is translated as gifts in the NLT.  BlueLetterBible.com listed several definitions for the word, but the all encompassing theme is to give.  One of the definitions is "to give someone as his own" and going further it says "to give someone to care for his interests," (please see footnote 1).  God has given the church these people to care for the church.  These church leaders are truly a gift from God.

We are also told that their responsibility is to equip the church to do God's work and to build up the church.  I don't know what you think, but I believe that is a huge responsibility.  This is not easy because the pastor has so many different personalities and needs within one congregation.  The pastor has to make difficult decisions for the direction of the church and has a lot of conflicting opinions leading up to those decisions.  We may disagree with our pastors at times, but the most important thing is to ask ourselves, "Am I praying for my pastor?"  I believe that the best thing we can do for our pastors is to pray for them.  Offering encouragement and thanks is important, but backing up our church leaders in prayer is essential.

Do you look at your church leaders as a gift from God to the church?  Are you encouraging and praying for your church leaders?

Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday.

1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for didōmi (Strong's 1325)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 19 Oct 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G1325&t=NLT >

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One

Ephesians 4:3-6

I love reading the Bible because it is so fresh and new every time I read it.  God has a way of revealing something new even if I have read a particular section of scripture multiple times.  Yesterday, my ten year old daughter had to listen to me talk about the wonderful things I've been learning this week and she was so patient! I just want to recap quickly because what I've looked at on Monday and Tuesday feed into today.  On Monday, I looked at how we have been invited by name to take part in God's plan for salvation (or invited to the wedding feast).  Yesterday, I explored the things we've been told we should do to live a life worthy of our call.  I also learned that Paul talked about being united in the Spirit being bound in peace just as ligaments attach the bones in a body.  With that quick synopsis, please look up Ephesians 4:3-6.

Paul makes a list of things that we can know and believe that there is only one: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God and Father.  The book of Ephesians has mentioned the idea of the body of Christ (and church) and we are told in verse 3 that the body is bound together in peace.  I also studied in Ephesians 2 that all believers are united into a new and unique body of Christ - there is nothing like it.  We are also told that there is only one Holy Spirit.  This Spirit is who empowers us to do the work God has planned for us.

We read that there is one "glorious hope for the future."  On Monday I looked at how our invitation could also be translated as an invitation to a feast and explored the fact that God sends out an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb (Jesus) in Revelation 19.  That is a glorious hope!  To have the hope that every tear will be wiped from our eyes and we will be living with God (Revelation 21:3-5) is wonderful.  We have one Lord.  I want to quickly point out that the idea of calling God "Lord" is showing our status as His servants.  So, we could also say that we only have one master.

To say that there is one faith is like saying there is nothing else that we could put our trust in.  Our faith should only be in God.  The idea of Paul writing about one baptism reminds me that this was an issue for the Ephesians when Paul first met them.  He showed them that being baptized in the Name of Jesus was the only baptism that mattered.  It was through that baptism that they recognized that there was a need for repentance and only Christ could provide forgiveness and salvation.  We can also stand firm and know that there is only one God and Father.  Paul wrote more about how God is our true ancestor in Ephesians 3:14-15 and in Ephesians 4, he is reminding us again that God is our Father.  Wow!  What a way to wrap it all up into a statement of faith!

Do you live your life based on One?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Unity In the Body

Ephesians 4:2-3

As I have grown in my relationship with Christ, He has stretched me to view my relationships with His eyes.  The amazing thing is that I assumed that viewing things with His eyes meant that I would understand the other person better so I could be more patient with them.  That is partially correct; however, the greater vision He has given me is where my thoughts do not match His.  You see, I could be completely right in a situation; however, Christ isn't worried about me being right.  He is more concerned with my pride that wants to be right and my need to get what I deserve.  When my Christ vision is turned on, I find myself correcting my thoughts to match His so that I approach the situation with humility.  When my thoughts are turned back to Christ, I am more focused on what pleases Him rather than what pleases me.  Some days, it feels like a battle in my mind!  Please turn to Ephesians 4:2-3.

I looked at verse 1 yesterday, where Paul begged believers to live a life worthy of their calling.  Ephesians 4:2-3 seems to give us what it means to live a life worthy of the invitation to salvation.  The first thing that Paul puts on this list is to be humble.  I have to say that this goes completely against our human nature!  I also want to make a note that humility is not self-hatred or self-degradation.  Humility is remembering that our invitation to salvation was given to us out of grace not out of anything we have done.  When we remember our undeserved grace, it has a way of turning our thoughts off of ourselves.  Christ didn't die because He deserved to die - He died for us out of love and humility.  The other thing we are told is to be gentle.  There is no reason to be harsh with someone.  Just because harshness startles or scares people doesn't mean that harsh words make people listen better.  Paul takes it even further by telling us that we should be making allowances for each other's faults.  After all, we all have our idiosyncrasies and we are all human with all the faults that comes with the package.

We are told that we are to make every effort to stay united in the Spirit.  Remember, one of the themes of this book is how we are united into one church and one body.  This is a unity that can only come through Christ and He has sent the Holy Spirit to empower us.  It is in working with the Holy Spirit in our lives that we can stay united.  We are told to be bound in peace.  The phrase "binding together" is from the Greek word syndesmos.  This word is awesome in relation to the book of Ephesians because it means to bind something together but it is also used when talking of the bond "of ligaments by which the members of the human body are united together," (see footnote 1).  Peace works in the body of Christ in the same way that the ligaments work in the human body.  Peace binds all of the different parts and personalities in the body of Christ and allows for movement so the church can "do the good things that God planned long ago," (Ephesians 2:10).

Are you making allowances for other members in the body of Christ?

Linking up with A Pause On the Path and Sharing the Journey.


1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for syndesmos (Strong's 4886)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 17 Oct 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G4886&t=NLT >

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Worthy of Your Calling

Ephesians 4:1

When I was in middle school, I decided that in addition to studying the flute I would learn to play the viola.  The string teacher at my school began playing in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra when she was 17 years old.  After playing in the orchestra for several years, she quit and began teaching.  I found myself on some weekends practicing about six or seven hours a day, taking full advantage of having a wonderful teacher.  When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to take private lessons with the assistant principal flutist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  This was a great opportunity because he didn't just take anyone as a student.  He had previously studied with William Kincaid (famous flutist in the mid 20th century) and was teaching me what he had learned from him.  Even though I practiced most days, I still didn't take full advantage of the opportunity before me.  I look back on those days and wish I would have practiced more and practiced more of what he wanted me to practice.  I was not practicing as one worthy of taking lessons from such a great teacher.  Paul reminds us that we are to live a life worthy as one called by Christ.  Please turn to Ephesians 4:1.

Paul urges (or begs as it is worded in NLT) for the church to live their lives worthy of their calling.  When I looked this verse up on BlueLetterBible.com, I found that it is so full of treasure!  First of all I want to look at the phrase "of the calling."  The Greek word for this phrase is klēsis, which means calling and it can also mean an invitation to a feast or the "divine invitation to embrace salvation of God," (see footnote 1.).  I love this because it reminds me that God invited us to embrace salvation and it also gives me a vision of the wedding feast that the church will take part in.  Please look up Revelation 19:6-9.  Now I am getting very excited because the richness of God's Word is amazing to me.  When I looked up the phrase, "those who are invited" found in Revelation 19:9, I found a different word for invitation.  The word is kaleō.


Kaleō is an interesting word to find in this verse because it is also used in Ephesians 4:1.  It is used in the phrase, "called by God."  This is a word with a lot of meaning with the most used being to call.  It can also mean to invite as it is translated in Revelation 19.  But this word can also mean to give a name to someone or to bear a name.  To me, this makes it seem so much more intimate because God is calling or inviting us by name.  But remember, once we are in His grace, we bear His name because we are His children.  I dove into this a little on Thursday of last week about how we bear God's name in Ephesians 3:14-15.  So, basically Paul is telling us that it is of great importance to live a life worthy of the invitation we received to take part in God's plan of salvation.  He tells that we do this because God has called (kaleō) us by name.  This is a very personal invitation you have received and it is HUGE!  This is the invitation to the wedding feast (oh how I would love to go on about that).

Are you living a life worthy as one God called by name?


1. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for klēsis (Strong's 2821)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 16 Oct 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G2821&t=NLT >

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Memory Verse #20

Ephesians 2:10


"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."

Every time I read this verse I get excited because there is so much packed into it.  After studying this verse a little for a past post, I really felt that I should make it my next memory verse.  First of all, "we are God's masterpiece."  The Greek word is poiēma, which means workmanship or something that is created.  We are His creation.  Paul goes on to explain that we are "created anew in Christ Jesus," and when I studied that I found that one of the definitions for the word created was to make habitable.  I love that definition because it is a beautiful reminder that we are made habitable for Christ to live in us.  We are told that this happens "so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."  It is when we have Christ living in us that we are able to do the good things that were planned for us.  We can do the things God planned for us when we do them with God.  We have the Holy Spirit living in us empowering us to do what God has planned.

Are you doing life with Christ?

Devotional Christian

Hey everyone!  I just wanted to jot a quick post about a new association I have with a blog called Devotional Christian.  This is a great site that promotes online devotionals and blogs.  I would encourage you to stop by their site because it is a great tool that provides devotionals and links to other devotionals.  There is also a page of Christian blogs where you can see recent posts from Christian bloggers.  Thank you, Devotional Christian for including my blog!

Sharon

Friday, October 14, 2011

Powerful Prayer

Ephesians 3:14-21

When I went back and reviewed what I posted yesterday, I had to laugh at myself because I started out talking about the importance of praying through scripture and ended with God being our heavenly ancestor.  That is what happens when I get excited and about what I am learning and forget to edit (which happens a lot).  Thank you for following my often scattered thoughts.  Either way, reading through it again got me excited about the idea of bearing the name of our Creator because He is our eternal ancestor.  I promise that I will focus today on praying through these verses for ourselves and our loved ones, so let's dig in!  Please read Ephesians 3:14-21.

I am going to do what seems nearly impossible and try to cover this prayer in one post to show you why this is such a powerful prayer that all believers should be praying over each other.  Verse 17 shows Paul praying for the believers to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.  If you have been with me from the beginning of this study, you should remember that the church in Ephesus got to witness the power of the Holy Spirit and the difference between power that comes from God and an incantation.  They have seen it and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit for themselves, yet Paul is still praying it over them.  I think this is a good reminder that we are to be praying that we are working in the power of the Holy Spirit daily because it is too easy to go off on our own and rely on our own strength.

I love verse 17 because it talks of Jesus making His home in our hearts.  Paul wrote about this earlier in Ephesians about how God makes our heart habitable for Christ (see this post).  Then Paul writes about the fact the our roots will then grow down into God's love and keep us strong.  This is such a wonderful word picture that is introduced to us in the Old Testament.  David writes about being like a tree planted by water in Psalm 1, and we know that Jesus is our access to living water.  We cannot stop bad things from happening to ourselves and our loved ones; however, we can pray that our roots grow deep so when the storms come we will not be blown over.  After praying about rooted in God's love, Paul prays for understanding of how wide, long, high, and deep God's love is.  I think that the more our roots spread out in His love, the more we will begin to understand it.  What I know for myself is that the more rooted I am in His love, the more I realize that there is to learn about His love.  Paul even prays that we can experience the love of Christ even though it is too great for a human to completely comprehend.  It is when we allow the love of Christ to take a hold of our hearts we will experience the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  The love of Christ will compel us to serve alongside Him in His power and not our own.

Paul then reminds us that all the glory goes to God because He can accomplish more in our lives than we can even imagine.  What an amazing reminder!  We can think that we know what is best for ourselves and tell God what we need; however, He can think of things that our imagination cannot even reach.  God wants to do a creative and powerful work in your life!  This is why I pray this prayer over myself and family.  I cannot comprehend His love, but I want to understand it more.  I cannot do things on my own; I want to serve God with Him as my partner because He is the One with the power to do all things.  I want to know God more and I want all this for my family.  All of this is to bring God glory.  Whew!  I put it in one post even though I think this would make a great study in and of itself.

Are you praying through the power of God's Word for you and those you love?

Linking up with Brag On God Friday.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Our Ancestor

Ephesians 3:14-21



I have a friend who inserts scripture in all her prayers.  I am always in awe of her prayer life and how powerful her prayers are as a result of using scripture in her prayers.  This is only possible because she has spent  time memorizing scripture and applying it to her life.  I have learned from her example and have started to use scripture more often in my prayers.  When you really think about it, there is nothing more powerful to say or pray than God's own Word.  We don't need to try to come up with anything else or try to make our prayer sound intelligent because God's Word is life and power and it is all we need.  The section of scripture that I am looking at today is a prayer that I pray over my family and myself because it clearly describes where every Christ follower should be.  Please look up Ephesians 3:14-21.

"When I think of all this..."  I just want to quickly review what Paul is thinking about.  Paul just explained that we (all who believe Christ) are united with Christ into one unique body of Christ called the church.  Because of this unity, we are able to go with confidence before the King of Kings with our prayers.  That is amazing!  Verse 15 caught my attention because there was a pretty significant difference between the NLT and NIV.  After looking it up in the Greek, the NIV probably translates it more accurately.  The problem with translating; however, is that we miss out the richness of what a word can mean because we need to put the closest English word to it.  This verse is a good example of that because the word that is used for family is patria.  Patria does mean family; however it also can mean lineage or tracing back our ancestry.  Progenitor is used as part of the definition which according to dictionary.com means "a person or thing that first indicates direction, or serves as a model, originates something," (see footnote 1).

Basically, we are reminded in verse 15 that God is the Father and Creator of all.  I love how rich this word is because when we look at the definition, we see how it describes God in such a beautiful way in relation to us. He is our Creator, but He also serves as our model for how we should be living and gives us direction.  Basically, Paul is saying something like, "I kneel before the Father, who is our Creator, our model, the One who sets our days, the One for whom everything in heaven and on earth is named..."  The phrase "derives its name" comes from the word onomazō which means to be named, but it also means "to bear the name of a person or thing," (see footnote 2).  Let that soak in and think about it for a minute.  Consider for a moment that you bear the name of your Creator.  That is so incredible!  Then think on how that knowledge should be determining your steps and behavior today.

Do you reflect the fact that you bear the Name of your Creator?

Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday and Spiritual Sundays.

1. progenitor. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/progenitor (accessed: October 12, 2011).


2. Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for onomazō (Strong's 3687)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 12 Oct 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G3687&t=NLT >

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

God's Wisdom

Ephesians 3:10-13

God works His plan out in mysterious ways.  In fact, this week we've read how Paul explains the mystery of how God opens His plan for salvation for everyone - Jews and Gentiles.  I will admit that there are times that I cannot understand why certain things happen but I have to trust that God is in control.  With that said, there are things that we can understand because God has revealed them to us in scripture.  Today, I want to look at the fact that we are not the only ones that see the incredible wisdom of God's plan.  Please read Ephesians 3:10-13.

In these verses, we are told that God uses the church to display His wisdom to the "unseen authorities in the heavenly places."  What is the church?  Colossians 1:18 says, "Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body."  Ephesians 1:23 says, "And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself."  So we learn that the church is the body of Christ.  We have also learned about the unity we have as Jews and Gentiles in Christ as one body, one church.  Ephesians 2:16 says, "Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death."  In Ephesians 3:10 we read that God's purpose in doing this is to display His wisdom.

We also read that as a result, we can approach the throne of God with confidence because of Christ and our faith in Him.  From one point of view, this may not seem wise because in the past God only had the high priest approach Him in the Holy of Holies.  Now, God has so many more people approaching His throne which seems like it would be chaotic.  But, from a Godly view, it is so wise!  Our Loving Father is One who wants to be approached.  God wants us to come to Him with everything; it is part of the intimacy we have with God.  He wants to be our everything, which is possible through the unity we have in Christ as a church.  The fact that we can come to Him makes it possible for us to rely on Him for everything.  Remember, He is our inheritance - our portion (Ephesians 1).

Do you trust God's wisdom?

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

God's Plan Both Big and Small

Ephesians 3:6-9

I believe that God has a plan for everyone.  Actually, I believe that He has multiple plans for everyone.  First and foremost, His plan is that we would come to Him through Christ Jesus.  He wants all of us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sins and to follow Him.  He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us (think about that for a few minutes - God wants to spend eternity with you!).  But, I also believe that as individuals He has created us to be unique because He wants us to partner with Him in ministry.  He wants us to be obedient to the call He placed on our hearts and to follow Him where He leads us using the unique personality He gave us.  Please read Ephesians 3:6-9.

Paul reiterates the plan that he wrote about in Ephesians 1 which is that both Jews and Gentiles who believe Christ will be a part of a great inheritance.  A few weeks ago, we learned how God is our inheritance, our portion.  He reminds us that we become part of one body (which we learned last week that this unity is unlike anything that had ever been done before).  We are also told in verse 6 that we will share in blessings that we will receive as His children.  God's plan for us as a body of believers is great!

But this section of scripture also teaches us how God had a plan for Paul to reveal God's great plan.  Paul shows us that while God has a big-picture plan for us, He also has plans on how He wants to use individuals to be a part of His work.  I first want to point out what an amazing thing this is because God doesn't need to use us; He is God and can do it all Himself.  He wants us be a part of His work - isn't that incredible!?  For Paul, this means that he was to be the one to reveal God's amazing plan to the Gentiles.  In verse 7, we see that Paul views this as a privilege to serve God in such a way.  The word translated as serving in verse 7 is the Greek word, diakonos.  Diakonos means "one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister," (see footnote 1).  I know what a servant is; however, it caught my attention worded in this way.  God's plan for each of us as individuals is different, yet there is an over-riding theme that we are to do what He commands.


Do you notice that minister was one of the definitions?  I find it interesting that servant and minister are synonymous in the definition of this word.  When we are executing God's commands, we are His ministers.  I don't know if I can express this the way I am feeling it, but God wants each and every one of us to follow Him into a ministry that He has uniquely planned for us.  In Ephesians 2 we learned that God planned for us to do good works for Him as a result of the salvation we received.  When we are doing the good things God planned for us (whether big or small) we are His servants and ministers.  I hope that this sounds big to you, because it is!


Are you ready to take your place in service to the King of Kings?


Linking up with A Pause On the Path.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Willing Heart

Ephesians 3:1-5

I have had a broad range of experiences in my life.  I grew up in the same house I was born in; however, because my parents had changed churches, I experienced three different schools with completely different friends and very different atmospheres.  I experienced different churches with different worship styles.  As a high schooler, I worked as a waitress and as a college student I worked many different jobs:  computer lab attendant, front desk receptionist, cashier, secretary, and (my favorite) flower planter.  I have worked as an activity therapist, music therapist, flute teacher, piano teacher, guitar teacher, infant through pre-school play and music teacher, manager, grant writer (complete failure), stay at home mom, first grade para-professional, elementary school secretary, and a ministry assistant.  I have lived in suburban Detroit, Kalamzoo (MI), Milwaukee, rural Illinois, Grand Rapids (MI), and now suburban Buffalo.  In ministry I have been pre-school teacher, worship team member, choir member, small group leader, youth leader, orchestra member, elementary small group leader, hospitality team member, and (I know I'm forgetting a lot) pastor's wife.  The point is that all of us (if we've lived long enough) have a broad range of experiences that can seem unrelated at times.  Please look up Ephesians 3:1-5.

I think it is interesting that after all that Paul had been through and everything he accomplished through Christ, the first thing he says about himself in chapter 3 is that he is a prisoner.  It is not that I'm surprised by the fact that he acknowledges his current state while writing this letter, it just caught my attention that he described himself as a prisoner.  He didn't describe himself as a tent maker or as an evangelist; he described himself a prisoner of Christ Jesus.  Paul was writing to a group of people who understood the risks it took to be a follower of Christ during the Roman rule.  The Ephesians understood what it meant to go against the cultural norms.  Yet, Paul reminded them that he was in prison because of his obedience to God's call on his life.

The other thing that caught my attention was the fact that Paul wrote that God gave him a purpose, which was to share the plan God had for the Gentiles.  He wrote how God was using the apostles and prophets to reveal His plan for grace and unity for both the Jews and Gentiles.  It made me think about purpose.  God wanted obedience from His followers no matter what that would mean.  For Paul, he understood that one day he would be in prison because of Christ, yet he continued to follow the call.  Paul didn't even understand why God allowed him to stay in prison when there were so many other people who needed to hear the Good News, yet he wrote letters to the churches.  We can see in hind-sight that God was using Paul's time in prison to reach so many more people throughout history.

God wants to do the same with all of us.  He wants willing servants who are ready to be used anywhere.  He wants people to accept that God has them where they are at this moment in time to be used by Him.  God knows your background and He knows your various life experiences and can use them in the most creative ways.  I have seen God take seemingly unrelated experiences from my past and put them together to use in a new way that I would have never dreamed.  He wants to do the same with everyone.  He is looking for a willing heart.

Do you have the willing heart God is looking for?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sick

Luke 5:31-32

I am sick.  It is a deceptive illness because as soon as I think I am well, my illness shows its ugly presence.  My illness?  Sin.  Today, I failed again.  The problem was that I knew I shouldn't have said what I said, but I did.  Oh, how I hurt my Savior!  So, I asked for forgiveness and prayed for the strength to resist the temptation the next time it presents itself.  I pray that Jesus will turn my focus on Him so that I will not be focused on what my human nature wants.  I pray that I only speak what pleases my Father.  I am thankful that Christ came for the sick and not the perfect.  Oh how I want to please my loving Savior!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Living Temple

Ephesians 2:19-21

Somewhere outside of Tucson AZ, there is a cavern system called Kartchner Caverns.  It was found by a caver and kept a secret for years because this cavern was still "alive," meaning that the cave's stalactites and stalagmites were still growing and it was still an ecosystem that was thriving.  The caver knew that if the caving community found out about it, too many people would come in and expose the cave to too much light, destroying it's ecosystem and drying out the beautiful columns.  Eventually the caverns ended up in the hands of the state of Arizona and research was done on how to best allow the public to see this beauty without destroying the ecosystem.  I had the opportunity to visit it a few years ago, but because of the strict rules I was not able to take any pictures.  Unfortunately, that means this is not a picture of the cavern (it is from a stock photo site), but this still gives you a visual of some of the beauty in that cavern.  As we toured the cavern, we saw so many different designs made by water flowing through mineral rich rock.  Each room in the cavern was different from the next, yet everywhere we turned we saw the beautiful transparent living columns and ribbons.  When there is still growth in the cavern, you can see a sheen on the columns and it almost has a transparent quality to it.  When the column is "dead" or no longer attached to a water source, it becomes opaque and looks more like a solid rock.  What keeps the columns alive is the water source.  As long as there is water feeding the column, it will continue to grow.  The verses I am looking at today made me think of the "living" cavern; please look up Ephesians 2:19-21.

This section of scripture tells us that together we are being built into God's temple, with Jesus being the cornerstone.  This is only possible in Christ, who is our source to living water.  Jesus said in John 4:10, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water."  In John 7:39 we learn that Christ gives us living water, which is the Holy Spirit.  In John 7:38 Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them."  When we believe in Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit which will fill us to overflowing.  There will be an outflow from our lives to share with others.


When we are tapping into the living water, we are being built as living stones for God's temple.  1 Peter 2:5 says, "And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple..."  I think that is a beautiful word picture.  This is not a temple like a cathedral made of rock, this is a temple that is built on living stone that is continuing to grow and thrive from the living water.  Our faith is not to be stagnant and dead, it is meant to be alive and growing and visible to those around us.  Others will know our faith is alive because of the good things we are doing that God has planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).


Are you growing from the source of living water?


Linking up with Brag On God Friday and Spiritual Sundays.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Come To God

Ephesians 2:16-17

I was watching a special about the building of Gothic cathedrals and was amazed by the engineering feat that it took to build those buildings.  The builders made these immense buildings without the aide of computers, but they seemed to understand how to create the arches without seeing the building collapse.  The purpose of the large buildings was to allow the entire village or town to worship in the building and experience the greatness of God.  What I found interesting was how the glass was made for the stained glass windows.  I learned that the glass maker became a chemist as well because the colors in the glass came from different metals.  Once the metal was added to the hot glass, it changed the color and became a part of the glass.  The glass cooled and hardened with the metal forever in it.  The two elements became one new piece of glass and when made into a stained glass window allowed the light of the sun to shine through the cathedral.  This made me think of the unity we have in Christ; please look up Ephesians 2:16-17.

Christ came to bring peace to everyone - the Jews and the Gentiles.  His plan for reconciliation included everyone and brought unity to all who believe and follow Him.  Yesterday, I explored how that means that God created us new in an unprecedented unity.  Just as the stained glass is made, we are made one to shine the light of Christ.  The promise that we have as a result is that we can now come to the Father through the Holy Spirit.  This is important to consider because up until Christ the only way Israel was able to approach God was through the high priest going to the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Paul is now explaining that Gentiles are now able to come to God as well and everyone can come to God through the Holy Spirit.

I believe that too many Christians look at God as unapproachable and uninterested in their problems.  That is so untrue!  Not only does He care, but He created a way for us to approach Him.  It is in this blessed unity we have in Christ that we are able to approach the King of all Kings.  Christ sacrificed so we could have this gift.  God wants us to come to Him for EVERYTHING.  If it is important to us, He wants us to come to Him.  God is the God who cares and hears us.  Believe that He listens.  Psalm 34:17 says, "The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles."  We are His people and He hears us.


Do you come to God?


Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One People

Ephesians 2:14-16

There is a new commercial on TV right now for a car that starts out with a giant person made out of a bunch of people.  When the giant person needs to do anything, all the people work together to get it done.  When the giant person opens the front door to the house and sees four different cars all the people disassemble and go to the car that works best for them.  The point is to show that everyone has a different preference for a car and this car maker has made cars to fit everyone's needs.  What if we reversed the commercial and had everyone start in their individual cars?  When everyone got out of their cars they ran to the door and turned into one giant person and worked together to open the large door.  To me, that is a picture of what happened when Christ came into the picture.  Please look up Ephesians 2:14-16.

There was a great division between the Jews and the Gentiles.  Yesterday, I looked at how the Jews were very proud of their heritage and their circumcision.  In fact, it was to the point that many believed that things like circumcision was what provided their salvation.  But Jesus had a different plan and no longer wanted the division between people.  Through Him the Jews and Gentiles were made new and unified into one group of believers.  The word in verse 15 that is translated as "new" is the Greek word, kainos.  Kainos means new, but it also means unprecedented, unheard of, and novel.  I love that because isn't it just like God to make something unprecedented?  We were made into a new people that is unique in every way.  There is nothing else like us when we are united in Christ!  And never before had anything been done like this unity with Christ.


"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession that you may declare the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, now you are a people of God.  Once you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy."  Without Christ we were not a people, but in Christ we are unified into the unique body of Christ.  We are no longer set apart because of physical changes, we are set apart because of the sacrifice that Jesus made in our place.  We are made whole because we listened to Christ calling us to follow Him.  Jew and Gentile doesn't matter any more.  What matters is do you follow Christ?

Rejoice in this unprecedented unity we have in Christ!

Linking up with iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spiritual Pride

Ephesians 2:11-13

I grew up in a family that went to church almost every week.  All through elementary and middle school I went to the school affiliated with my church and memorized a lot of scripture and memorized the Ten Commandments.  I joined a Bible quiz team and began memorizing whole books of the Bible.  We listened to the local Christian radio station and went to the Christian night at the roller skating rink.  I had an engraved leather Bible with a clasp.  I served in the church in various roles.  It would have been easy to develop a pride about my spiritual up-bringing (I did for a while); however, my knowledge isn't what made my faith real.  It was the change in my heart as a result of God's grace that helped me to apply the knowledge and grow my faith.  I want to look one more time at Ephesians 2:11-13.

Paul refers to the fact that the Jews were "proud of their circumcision."  Paul was pointing out that their up-bringing in the Jewish faith wasn't what was going to save them.  The important thing is to allow Christ to perform a change in the heart and let Him cut away all the sin.  I think this is something to consider as Christians: are we relying on our up-bringing or heritage for our salvation?  Don't get me wrong, I believe it is awesome to have a heritage that shows generations of people honoring God.  But I do want to stress that your faith cannot be your parents' faith; everyone needs to have their own relationship with God.  We can grow up following all the rules and doing the right things; however, those are not the things that save us.

We are saved only by grace through faith and the good works that we live out should be out of a desire to obey God as a result of our salvation.  Different denominations have "rules" for what a good Christian should be following.  I am not at all implying that these are bad; however, I think it is easy for Christians to confuse the rules with the relationship.  We cannot be proud in what we do or do not do; in fact God wants humility.  It is when we understand that it is only through the power of Christ that we are able to live a life that is pleasing to God that we begin to see the change that is necessary to take place.  If we are finding ourselves looking good because we are measuring ourselves next to others, that is a sign that we need to re-examine our faith walk.  Romans 12:3 says, "Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us."

Are you measuring yourself with faith?

Linking up with On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cutting Away

Ephesians 2:11-13

I just recently started reading the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman where he challenges Christians to examine their walk with God and decide whether they are a fan of Christ or a follower of Christ.  Using different "case studies" found in the New Testament, he shows different ways a person could be living as a fan and not a follower.  Kyle points out how being a follower requires change and sacrifice as a result of the gift of grace we received.  With the book in my current reading pile, I thought of it as I read through the verses I am looking at.  Please turn to Ephesians 2:11-13.

 Last week, I focused on the need for grace and forgiveness and God's response was to provide a way through Christ.  I also looked at how we were dead because of sin but God raised us with Christ so He could point to us for future generations as an example of what His grace can do.  I looked at how salvation was not a reward for doing good things; however, good works should be the result of salvation.  I also explored the idea that when we received God's grace, we were made habitable for Christ to live in us, who empowers us to do the good things God planned for us.  Today, I want to look at the idea that God strips away the sinful nature in us.  In verse 11 Paul writes how the Gentiles were separated from the Jews and the circumcision was physical evidence of their covenant with God.  In this verse, Paul also points out that the circumcision was performed by humans and it only affected the physical body.

In Colssians 2:11 Paul wrote, "When you came to Christ, you were 'circumcised,' but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature."  When Christ does a work in us, it is not a physical representation; Christ wants to perform a permanent change in our hearts, cutting away the sinful nature in us.  When we become followers of Christ, we need to accept the changes He wants us to make and be willing to sacrifice the things that make us comfortable.  We learned last week in Ephesians 2:10 that these changes are made so that we can to the works that God planned for us long ago.  Don't you love knowing that God has had plans for you before you were even born (Psalm 139:16)?  It is in the cutting away of our sinful nature that gives us the endurance and ability to run the race.  "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us,"  Hebrews 12:11.

Are you ready to follow Christ?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Memory Verse #19

Proverbs 18:10

"The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe."

As I began my study on Ephesians, I looked at the story of the sons of Sceva (Acts 19).  They tried to use Jesus's Name as part of their incantations and suffered severely as a result.  The church in Ephesus then saw that there was power in the Name of Jesus and held great respect for it.  While I was at my church's women's retreat, this verse was used by one of the speakers and it reminded me of that story.  It reminded me that while we may understand that there is power in the Name of Jesus, do we find safety in His Name?  Do we view His Name as our safety, our refuge?  God wants us to run to Him.  A tower wasn't just used for its fortified strength, it was used as a watch tower as well and as a place to defend an area.  Soldiers can be placed in various spots on the tower and attack their enemy while being protected by the strong wall.  Thinking of God being a strong tower (or mighty fortress), we see that we not only can run to God for our defense but we can also depend on Him to keep watch for us.

Do you depend on God as your place of refuge?