But God…

Rainbow Over Cedar Key
Photo by Michelle Pearson

But God!

I’ve been sitting in a meeting room at a hotel near Disney Land all day doing continuing education for my day job. One of the things the instructor told us is, when speaking with employees, never use the word, “But”. His reasoning is that managers and administrators should be using the old, “compliment sandwich”. We should be opening with things they are doing right, then telling them what they need to correct and close with another compliment. He said that if we use the word, “But”, the employee will forget about the praises and prepare themselves for the correction.

While this is fine as a management style, God doesn’t work on our playing field. Remember, Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’” You see, we can’t even fathom what God is thinking, or how He works. God often tells us the horrible state we are in, then negates it with the statement, “But God.”

We see this phrase, “But God”, sixty-four times in the Bible. We see in Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah…” and in Genesis 21:12, “But God told Abraham…”. We see it in Psalm 73:26 where it says, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” In fact, we see this phrase used over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments telling us of times throughout the course of history when God stepped in.

The passage that I would like to focus on today is found in the first few verses of the second chapter of Ephesians. Verses 1 through 3 talks about how we were once dead because of our disobedience and sin. It says we used to live in sin like the rest of the world does, and that we obeyed the devil who is the “commander of the powers in the unseen world.” Don’t forget what we talked about a couple of weeks ago regarding this word, “power”. The word used here is that word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” So, Satan’s power is just the power that God is allowing him to have, for now, none the less, the world follows him whether they realize it or not. Why is this? It tells us in Ephesians 2:2 because “He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” You see, if a person doesn’t know God, if they haven’t accepted what Jesus did for them on the cross, the Devil is “the spirit at work in their heart.” Remember also that Satan comes to them as an angel of light. He fools them just like he did to Eve in the garden, playing on their pride. Remember what he said to eve? In Genesis 3:5 Satan told Eve, “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” He played on her pride and told her that if she goes against God’s word, she will be like God…that’s how he works.

Paul ends those first three verses by saying in verse 3, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” Doesn’t that sound like the world today? Aren’t they always saying, “Do whatever feels right to you” and “Do whatever makes you happy”? That’s Satan working within them!

And, here comes the “But”. The next two verses say, But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” So, we used to follow the Devil and live for ourselves, “But God is so rich in mercy”. Isn’t that beautiful? Romans 5:10 tells us, “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.” Do you see that? He restored our friendship, while we were His enemies…that’s mercy.

Why does He have this great mercy toward us? Look at the end of verse 4, because “he loved us so much” He loves us, even though we are totally unlovable. He loves us in spite of ourselves. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, it says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Do you see that? “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” God sings over us, that’s how much He loves us.

So, God had such great mercy on us because He loved us so much that, even though we were spiritually dead because of our sin, He gave us new life…wow! I heard a pastor once say that God doesn’t give us second chances, He gives us New Beginnings, isn’t that beautiful? That’s what this is a picture of. He doesn’t say that we were dead in our sin, so He gave us a do-over, it says that He gave us a New Life. This isn’t a mulligan, this is wiping the slate clean and starting anew.

And, how did He accomplish this? By raising Christ from the grave! Remember what Paul said just a little earlier, that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. You see, everyone else that people worship died and is still in the grave, but Christ is the only one who overcame the grave. He is the only one who ever defeated death, and that’s because He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last!

I love the parenthetical at the end of this verse, “It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!” That sums it all up, if it wasn’t for the grace of God, we would all be on our way to hell. Many ask how a loving God could ever send anyone to hell, but the truth is, He doesn’t. He made the way so easy that even a child could understand, but remember, Satan plays on our pride and that’s what sends people to hell.

We don’t need to be standing on a street corner shouting, “repent”, we need to be telling everyone we meet about the overwhelming love of God.

Our God Is An Awesome God!

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Our God Is an Awesome God!

I know, I’ve been on somewhat of a kick of old worship songs, but this is another one I’ve always loved. Rich Mullens wrote this song back in 1988 and many only know the chorus, but I think the verses say so much. The first verse says,

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the ritz
(Our God is an awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists
(Our God is an awesome God)
And the Lord wasn’t joking when He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason that He shed His blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

Then the second verse says,

And when the sky was starless
In the void of the night
(Our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness
And created the light
(Our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath He poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
Our God is an awesome God

Isn’t that powerful? Our God truly is an awesome God! I want to look at what Paul says about this, and it is picking up where we left off in his prayer last week. Look at Ephesians 1:19-21 where Paul continues his prayer and says, 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”

So, he starts out by saying that he prays that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe. Remember that one of the attributes of God is that He is omnipotent, which means, “All Powerful”. For those who have been following me for a while, you might remember a series I did on the names of God that are used in the Bible, and how each of these names describes one of God’s attributes. Many of those names speak of His power, names like; Jehovah Jireh – The Lord is my Provider, Jehovah Rapha – The Lord is my Healer, Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Angel Armies, El Elyon – The Most High God, and one of my favorites, El Shaddai – The Lord is More Than Enough!

Some translations of Ephesians 1:19 say “exceeding greatness”. This is a picture of throwing beyond, going far past what we might expect. Ephesians 3:20 says, “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.” Do you see that? God can work through us weak humans to do infinitely more than we could ask for, or even think possible…Wow! If we look back in John 14:12, when Jesus was telling his disciples that He was going to send them the Holy Spirit, He said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The word used here that was translated “power” is the Greek word, Dunamis, which means “inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth”. This is the word that we derive the word dynamite from. It is explosive power and a power that naturally occurs. In contrast, whenever the Bible talks about Satan’s power, it uses the word, Exousia, which means, “the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises.” You see, Satan’s only power is the power that God allows him to have for a season. God’s power, on the other hand, is an explosive power that naturally occurs within Him.

Paul goes on to say in verse 20, “This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” So, the power that is within us, His children, is the same mighty power that He used to raise Christ from the dead, the power that ascended Christ into heaven, and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. That power is in US!

Then he goes on to say that because of this power…the power that we also possess, “he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come” verse 21. Christ is far above all other rulers. The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11, Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the God we serve, and because we serve Him, His power is within us. Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” So, Peter and John were obviously uneducated men. We’ve all known people like that, as soon as you look at them you know they are uneducated, maybe a little backward. But, have you ever known people like that, who confound you in their boldness and knowledge of scripture? People who have obviously been with Jesus? That’s how we all need to be! It’s not about our wisdom! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 says, 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” Remember, it’s not about you!

We all must ask ourselves, “When the world looks at me, do they see that I’ve been with Jesus?” That must be our goal!

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