Category Archives: Ephesians

I Kings 7; Ephesians 4; Ezekiel 37; Psalm 87, 88

I sometimes think all things should work out for me, here and now; as if I should completely find rest and satisfaction on earth. Expectations of God, of others, of me, and impatiently waiting for it to happen, now. Entitlement – a word to describe the belief that one inherently deserves privileges or special treatment. And I have no qualm in declaring with other worshipers, “All my springs are in you,” (Psalm 87:7). Hint to God.

Reality often strikes the senses like plunging your dry, warm body into a frigid pool of black water – shocking, awakening, slicingly sharp. Each time, I go back to my knees. Regroup, re-read Scripture, PRAY…“O Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry,” (Psalm 88:1, 2). Then more waiting…

When I forget that I have been redeemed, reborn, I feel like Israel who cried out to God, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” (Ezekiel 37:11) Yet, regardless of my culpability in getting lost, God reminds me of His unfailing love. He demonstrates His mighty mercy to Israel and by their example, to me. God took the prophet Ezekiel to a valley to see dry, bleached bones come together; sinews attach, and flesh cover as the bones came to life. He gives this same promise of restoration and revival to the drought within this earthly temple, this jar of clay, me. And even if these promises become sparks of light He shoots out of my fingertips to others, I will be glad. Like King David who dedicated his personal goods to the future sanctuary that his son Solomon, not David himself, would build; I take pleasure in being a conduit for translating concern for the things of God to my family and others in my little sphere of influence. I can make every word count, every effort all in, every passion submitted.

Ephesians 4:29, 31, 32 “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” If my heart is turned to pleasing my heavenly Father and loving others, then the things of earth will pale in importance. How easy it is to trust God when my heart is set on obeying His commands. How satisfying it is to forget that I am and immerse myself in the “Great I AM.”

 

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture and commentary quotes from: The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 1 Kings, 66 Books, Ephesians, Ezekiel, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

1 Kings 6; Eph.3; Ezek.36; Ps.86

What if God says ‘No’?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” Ephesians 3:20

So, what do we do if God says ‘No’? In our humanness, do we try to convince God that we know better? The quick answer to the question asked is “we continue to believe that God is who He says He is and knows what is best for us.” That was easy, right? Not really… but why? Is it a pride thing? Do we really believe in God’s power to know best? For me, my tendency is to lay my desires at the cross, but pick them up again when I don’t see results quick enough!

The good news is that we can go to God for anything. Philippians 4:6 states “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” However, when the answer is ‘No’, do our actions align with our words so we still believe and trust in our Savior? Or, is our belief conditional, based on if we get what we’ve asked for? Tough question, but one we need to consider, as it offers an opportunity to strengthen our faith.

In Luke 22:42, we find Jesus, in His most anxious moment ever recorded, knowing full well what events will be taking place in the coming hours, in solitude, asking His Father, “if you are willing”, (meaning Jesus knew His Heavenly Father could if He wanted to) “take this cup from me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” In this one request, Jesus was modeling how we should be approaching God… that whatever request we have, that we trust that God knows what is best and will respond accordingly.

I’ve been working hard to be more deliberate at making sure that my words and my actions are in alignment. At the root of this desire is the trust of knowing that God loves me and wants what is best for me. Do I have that faith to trust Him in and with all things? I will admit, it’s certainly easier to believe that I just experienced a “God moment” when He says ‘Yes’… after all, ‘yes’ responses typically equate to opportunity and progress. However, can ‘No’ answers be another form of blessings from God? Or do we interpret such responses as God turning His back on us and loving us less? After much reflection, I’m learning that God, like any good parent, sometimes needs to say ‘No’, because He knows better than us… that during those times when His answer is ‘No’, He is offering an opportunity, through faith in Him, to experience a better outcome than we could possibly have imagined from our limited perspective. The reasons may be revealed, or they may not, but faith has us trust that whether He reveals His reasons or not, we must trust our Heavenly Father knows best.

Beyond trust, ‘No’ responses allow us the opportunity to reflect more and to become more prayerful. This typically doesn’t happen when the response to our request is a ‘Yes’ from God. We may be thankful for the event, but we usually don’t consciously give thanks to God for that open door as we usually take open doors for granted as coming from God. Closed doors, on the other hand, grab at our hearts more intensely, and substantive prayer should follow.

Paul does an amazing job in Ephesians 3 at explaining God’s plan for the Gentiles, not by boasting of his association with Jesus, but through humility, expressing the glory to be experienced when we put our faith in God. Paul also explains that the many blessings he speaks of are in God’s time and not our own; that waiting on God’s plan will ultimately reap the greatest reward for generations to come.

Father… help us to communicate more effectively with You through a changed heart… that by learning more of You through Your word, we grow to trust you more so that during those times when Your answer is ‘No’, we trust You because of the relationship we’ve established with You, and that the plans You have for us are good… always! Amen…

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19

God instructs Joshua to decimate his enemies: hamstring the horses and strike down every breathing enemy–man, woman and child. It’s a blood bath…  the stuff of nightmares. These pages of the Bible leave me with far more questions about God than answers. Where is the God of grace and mercy that I cling to? But who is God if I disregard these pages? I am made in God’s image, not He in mine.

And what would Joshua think of the sanitized bubble that I live in? Perhaps he would be envious; war and violence are realities on television and far from me. Perhaps he would be appalled at my comfortable, complacent living.

David, also a man of war saw the horrors of war first hand and sings this: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the people under me… I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, the one who gives victory to kings, who rescues his servant David.” Psalm 144:1,2…9,10.

It’s no wonder that the Jews didn’t understand Jesus. They were looking for a warrior king whose hands were dripping with blood and taking revenge. Instead, comes a king who says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Matthew 19:14  They wanted a kingdom that they could see, a kingdom where they would be in power.

Who is this God we serve? He can wipe nations from the face of the earth and yet calls the youngest and weakest to draw near to him. Are we are in a spiritual war that is just as deadly and God spares us the horrors of seeing all that is going on around us? Paul says as much and repeats the message God spoke to Joshua and the people of Israel: “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12.

Dear Lord, keep me from being complacent and naive in thinking that what I see is all that is going on. May I be ready and not deceived by the evil one. Heal me from distraction and chasing from false idols so that I may be your woman and follow hard after you. 

Kathy

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Num. 25; Ps. 68; Isa. 15; 1 Pet. 3

Would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives… Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3

In lieu of the current-day statistics on marriage, the good news is there’s a 100% chance of success in marriage! A rather bold statement in light of how marriage is portrayed today in the world. I know that 100% sounds extreme, but it is possible! How? Because our God made marriage and He never makes or designs anything to fail! Nor does He make anyone to fail. God speaks to us throughout His word in various forms, but nowhere more clearly and direct, than in 1 Peter 3, which speaks to both men and women about His perfect plan for covenant relationship. And, just like in Ephesians 5, men and women are given specific instructions to submit to one another in the fear of God, then continues with specific instructions to each on their responsibility.

So, if the “manual” tells us what to do, why do so many Christian men and a women fail to fulfill their God-given calling as husband and wife? Why is the divorce rate of Christians and non-Christians virtually the same? The answer is simple… 18”! The distance between the head and the heart… it’s the distance between the knowing and the doing, as many Christians have chosen to ignore or reject God’s perfect plan for marriage into their hearts. Head knowledge offers a mental perspective of God’s plan, however it is in the heart where true relationship with God resides and actions have the best chance of survival.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Other factors are at work, as well, which threaten God’s plan for marriage… contemporary attitudes towards marriage have distorted God’s architecture of mutual submission to mean something negative, using descriptors such as dominated, oppressed, and dictatorial instead of the divine expression of God’s love and understanding for His children and how they innately function in the context of relationship.

Jimmy Evans, in his book “Marriage on the Rock,” stated that of the scriptures related to relationship, couples love Ephesians 5 because of what it says about their partners responsibility to relationship, not their own! Perhaps the answer to living according to God’s plan lies in considering what scripture says about ourselves first, and inviting God into the process of holding us accountable to our roles, and let Him handle the rest. Man… Woman… God… three strands… not easily broken!

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

God, who made us, understands completely that the innate need of a woman is security and to be loved, and for a man, to be respected and honored… both 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 speak to this directly. Interestingly, women are not commanded to love their husbands, rather to submit to their husbands… to understand and support them, as that is the language that speaks to men! Men? 1 Peter and Ephesians 5 use different language on what you’re to do… the command for men is to love their wives, as Christ loved the church, who gave Himself up for her… to live with her in an understanding way. Different approach… different language… same origin… SACRIFICE for each other, using the language of your partner! Isn’t He amazing? God knew what He was doing and His design is perfect! God’s plan isn’t meant to harm us… QUITE the contrary. God’s plan, at its foundation, is to protect us… it’s the instructions on how to penetrate brokenness and speak deep within our partner’s heart.

Perhaps, if things aren’t going so well relationally, prayers aren’t being answered, it might be worth considering a different approach… How about God’s plan for marriage… so that our prayers may not be hindered.

So… a quick question… (answer honestly!)…

If you were accused of “acting like a Christian _____ (husband/wife)”, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Father, in our humanness, we often forget that You designed us… and who better than You to guide us how best to live as husband and wife. Lord, soften our hearts to adopt Your way as the only way to live this life in relationship as husbands and wives, so that our actions towards one another are a tangible expression of You living within us. Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

I looked to the past for the key. But because of the estrangement and the years, I had no answer. How many generations did it go back? One. Two. Three? More?

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:6b-7, NLT

I wanted something different for my children. I told them of a better way. I told them of the woes to come if they continued on a path. They saw my struggle. How could I impress upon them the power of love when my own heart was guarded? The question haunted me.

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35, NLT

God breaks strongholds. He takes impossible situations and he brings good out of them. I sat at my sister’s hospital bedside days ago. I spoke encouragement to her, told her she is a fighter. In a moment of clarity, she said to me, “God is always fighting for us, and he lets us think we’re the warriors!”

Her words are treasure. I laughed and cried with joy at her insight. Oh, God, you are mighty. Dear God, you are good.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT.

The power of love, at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus, through all generations. Forever and ever. Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

I may be a bit morbid, but I think a lot about the living and the dead. On one level I am asking the ageless questions about who lives and who dies and why. These questions pave the path of pain that leaves a jagged swatch of loss I cannot conceal. If you know me well, you have sat with me during those times of grief. On a deeper level I am wrestling with existential crisis questions such as the meaning and purpose in this life. These thoughts are universal.

In John 12:1 we read, “Then, six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.” How fitting that Jesus would be in the house of the man who had tasted death and returned to life after three days!” Perhaps Jesus thought of His own imminent physical death by crucifixion. Can you imagine how that memory of seeing Lazarus walk from the cave into the light and now sitting next to him impacted Christ? Was this inspiration for Jesus to prophecy His own death?  Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain,” (John 12:23). The souls saved through the miracle of raising Lazarus would pale in numbers to the generations of souls saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So what did Lazarus do to deserve life after death (the first time)? Can we add to a lifespan, or is the numbering of our days unlikely to change? My curiosity was piqued after reading this interesting passage in Proverbs 9:10-11. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you,” (my emphasis.) Can it be that life is extended through the wisdom and word of God?

Of course, my next thought is an automatic negative one that says, “Yea, but what if I have molded the golden calf?”

Sometimes the New Testament Jesus is preached as if Christ brought love to a world which had only known the wrath of the God of the Old Testament. I’ve come to believe that this line of thinking may be an example of how our ways are not like His. For in Exodus 33:18, 19 when Moses had asked for a demonstration of God’s favor (remember this is after the Israelites’ faithless worship of their man-made golden calf). God said, “I shall make all My goodness pass before you, and I shall call out with the Name Hashem (Mercy) before you; I shall show favor when I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose to show mercy.” God was about to show Moses the 13 Attributes of Mercy (see Exodus 34,) that Moses was to teach His people. God wanted them and us to invoke these attributes of mercy in prayers.

Mercy is for the living. Ephesians 2:1,4, and10 declares, “And you He made alive…God who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

My prayer: God, give me revelation and understanding. Without Your mercy, I have nothing. And like Moses, I say that without Your Presence, I will not move. Even though I have done nothing to deserve Your favor, I seek Your goodness through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Savior. Praise You for however many days to come, continually living in Your presence.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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2 Samuel 13-14; Acts 28

David’s life appears to be a cautionary tale. The man who is known and loved by God as “a man after His own heart” transitions from relentlessly steadfast to tempted and fallen. As a father, he lacks discipline and is intimidated by his children. His family is the picture of dysfunction and discord. How did he get to this point? I want to believe that love for God translates into godly children and a wonderful family life. David’s life tells a different tale. But the story of God at work in the lives of ordinary humans doesn’t end there.

God’s story is not about our ability to get it right and follow Him as He deserves. It’s not about producing nice and tidy lives. The Bible is the story of God’s righteousness at work in selfish, vulnerable lives. When we believe that Jesus died so that we may assume his status as perfect before God, the transforming power of the his Holy Spirit is released in us. Sometimes we don’t realize that God is at work. Other times we fall to our knees in awareness of His presence. His redemptive work in not only us, but in all of history is like a river. It carves through the mountains of our lives so that when we look back at the landscape of our lives, there is no denying the undeniable force of His presence.

Fast forward to Paul. Historians would describe him as a fanatic…one minute persecuting believers, the next minute preaching the very Gospel he despised and sought to exterminate. How does one explain such a turn around? Insanity? No, it’s all because of the magnificence of what Christ has done. This week I have been reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over and over again, as if it was written directly to me. I get a taste of God’s redemptive, untamed love. It defies imagination and Paul describes it better than anyone I know.

No wonder this man Paul couldn’t help himself; he risked everything to travel and tell others of Jesus and the love that changes everything. “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 28:31And today, his words continue to invite us into to life with Christ and all its richness. I pray that we are like Paul, captivated by the unrestrained, unimaginable wonder of God’s love so that we are transformed and made whole.

Amen

 

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