Am I Worthy?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Worthy?

This week, I would like to start looking at the 4th chapter of Ephesians. The first thing we need to remember is that Paul didn’t write the book of Ephesians in chapters and verses, it was a letter to the church at Ephesus. So, Paul starts out what we know as chapter 4 verses 1 by saying, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.”

Notice that he starts out by declaring himself a prisoner of the Lord. The Greek word used here is not the same word used by James, Jude, Peter, and Paul in other locations, that we spoke about last September in our 2-part series on the word “doulos”, but this word means the same thing. It is a bondservant, a servant by choice. I won’t go into depth, but you can read the series on my website.

Let’s look at the first word in the verse, “Therefore.” I had a pastor that used to always say, if you see the word “therefore,” you need to find out what it’s there for. If you read last week’s blog, we talked about Paul’s prayer for the Church. He ended that prayer by saying that, as a result of Christ living in us and empowering us, we will be able to do infinitely more than we could ask for or ever dream of. Because of that power, Paul is begging us to live a life worthy of that calling. But what does he mean by this statement?

I see it all the time on Facebook and Instagram, people saying, “you are worthy.” But, what does the Bible say about it? John the Baptizer said, “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Matthew 3:11. So, John, the cousin of Jesus and the forerunner of the Messiah, said that he wasn’t even worthy of being Christ’s servant.

Look at the Roman officer who came to ask Jesus to heal his servant. What did he say? “But the officer said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.’” Matthew 8:8. This was a Roman officer, respected by everyone who had enough faith in Christ that he knew that all Jesus had to do is say the word and his servant would be healed, but he didn’t consider himself worthy.

There are many other instances, such as Peter in John 13:8 and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:9. Look at the parable of the great feast, which is a picture of heaven, where the master said, “The wedding feast is ready, and the guests I invited aren’t worthy of the honor.” Matthew 22:8. And, Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

So, who in the Bible thought they were worthy? Let’s look at Matthew 7:22-23, 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” These are people who think they are worthy of getting into heaven, but Jesus tells them to go away. He says He never knew them. Remember, pride was the original sin. What did the serpent say to Eve? He talked her into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by telling her that she would be like God. He played on her pride. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Saying that you are worthy is nothing more than pride. We are not worthy of salvation, we are forgiven. Salvation is a gift from God that cost His Son’s life, a gift that we don’t deserve.

So, we are not worthy, but Paul begs us to live a life that is worthy of our calling. And, what is that calling? Let’s look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28. In verses 19-20 it says, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. A disciple is someone who imitates the one they follow. So, our calling is to imitate Jesus. What Paul is saying is to live a life that is as close to Christ as possible. That’s a high calling, but one we must strive for.

Going back to Ephesians 4, Paul tells us how we can live a Christ-like life. Look at verses 2-3, Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” The instructions are pretty simple: be humble, gentle, patient, stay close to the Holy Spirit, and…you guessed it, be united as the body of Christ.

If you wonder why I talk so much about the unity of the Church, it’s because the Bible talks so much about it, and the Church today isn’t doing it. The body of Christ is more divided today than ever. My book, also titled Cathedral Made of People, addresses this as well as other symptoms of the Churches disease. The book is the same title as this blog, but it isn’t the same. It is a compare and contrast between the Church of the New Testament and the Church today. It will be available next month on Amazon and some other electronic sources and my goal is to have it printed by the end of the year. So, as soon as it is out I will let you know where to get it and if you would like to see some ideas of what we can do to heal the Church, buy a copy and share it with your pastors to see what they think.

But, to sum it all up. Since you have that power living in you, pray that God will help you live a life worthy of the calling of Christ.

How Do We Stop Division?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

How Do We End the Division?

A few weeks ago, we looked at how the Gentiles were separated from God by religion, then last week, in my blog titled “Let the Walls Come Down”, we talked about ending division in the body of Christ. Okay, so if we are going to end this division, how do we do it? The beauty is that, just like with salvation, Christ has ended it for us and all we need to do is accept what He has done.

Let’s pick up where we left off last week and look at the next two verses. Ephesians 2:15-16 says, 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 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.”

Paul starts out these two verses by letting us know that the first thing Christ did to stop the division was to end the system of law. You see, the law did nothing but divide the Church. The Bible is clear that the law was never meant to save us, it was meant to show us our need for God. If we try to keep the law, we will just end up sinning. Take a minute to read Romans chapter 7, Paul explains it very well in that chapter. We also read in Romans 8:3, “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.” So, the Jewish people of the Old Testament were not saved by the law as some will try to tell you, they were saved by God’s grace, through their faith in the coming Messiah. If you question that, read Hebrews chapter 11, now take a close look at everyone mentioned in that “Hall of Faith”; Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of Israel, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel, every one of these people lived before Christ, they all lived during the Old Testament times and were all saved by their faith.

So, Christ ended division, first by ending religion. You see, the religious people of the Old Testament times were the ones who made salvation about keeping the law, just like the religious people today often do. Religion is manmade and always tries to make it about us. But, the truth is, we can’t save ourselves, without the death burial and resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope.

Paul finishes verse 15 by saying that Christ was able to end the division between the two divisive groups, “by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.” He made us all one body. I believe I showed you these verses last week, but they are worth looking at again, Galatians 3:26-29 says, 26 For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” So, what exactly is this saying? It says that once we are in Christ, ALL division is gone. He says there is no more racial division, there is no more sexism, there is no more class envy, and why is that? Because we are all one in Christ!

So, Christ ended religion, He ended racism, sexism, classism…He ended all the isms. The reason we don’t see denominations in the New Testament is that Christ ended them when He died on the cross.

Verse 16 goes on to say that he brought us together as ONE BODY. So, how did He do that? As this verse goes on to say “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross” Christ’s death on the cross ended denominations, it ended division, it ended religion. Religion and division were hung on the cross with Christ!

Paul ends this passage by saying, “and our hostility toward each other was put to death.” Friends, if you belong to a church group who are hostile toward anyone, you need to leave, it’s that simple. And, it’s time to ask ourselves, “has my hostility towards others been put to death?” If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, even if you had to hesitate for a moment to think about it, then you need to take care of that right now. Lay the burden of hostility, hate, and division at the feet of Jesus. As it says in Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”

Here’s the thing, it’s not really our doctrines that divide us, it’s our pride. You see, we have developed these doctrines and will fight for them to the death. Many of which were contrived by taking scripture out of context, or even worse, someone came up with an idea and then took scripture out of context to back it up. I’ll say it again, the only doctrine that matters is salvation by God’s grace, through our life-changing faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ…absolutely nothing else matters! Paul told the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” Again, nothing else matters!

How

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How to Love Your Wife

Men are typically self-centered and proud…there, I said it. But, it is true! We naturally think of ourselves first. Have you ever noticed that nowhere in the Bible does it tell women to love their husbands? God didn’t have to tell them that, because loving comes naturally to most women. Men, on the other hand, need to be reminded over and over. We tend to focus on one thing at a time, and it is usually ourselves. That’s why it’s not as common to hear of women neglecting their families for their carrier, but it happens all the time with us men. So, God reminds us several times throughout scripture to love our wives.

I was reading in Ephesians 5:25-33 the other day and wanted to share a few things I learned. This passage says, 25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” 32 This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one. 33 So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

As you may have noticed in my previous blogs, I believe it is important to go back and look at the original language to help us keep scripture in context, so let’s analyze this one. Look at verse 27, it says “He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church…” The Greek word translated “present” also means “stand by”, and the word translated as “glorious” also means “gorgeous” and “Honorable”.  Later in this verse, it says that He presents this church without any blemish, which also means “without rebuke, without blame”, and then he uses the same word at the end of the verse where it is translated, “fault”. So, what these first three verses are actually saying is that we husbands should love our wives the way that Christ loves the Church. He loved His Church so much that He gave His life for her, just so He could present and stand by her, as a glorious, gorgeous and honorable Church without a spot, or wrinkle, or any other blemish, in other words, without rebuke or blame. And, instead of looking like that, He made her holy, set apart, and without blame. That’s how we are to love our wives.

In the next three verses, God goes even further by telling husbands to love their wives the way they love their own bodies. You see, God knows how selfish and self-centered we are, so He tells us at the end of verse 28, “For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.” He’s playing on our self-centeredness and pride. And, then He says in verse 29 and 30, “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.”

In verse 31 he says, “As the Scriptures say, ‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’” This is referring to Genesis 2:24 where it says, “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” This is a beautiful picture that pastors have used for centuries, but what’s even more beautiful is when you look at it in the Hebrew language. The word translated as “one”, also means, “another”. So, when God says that we will become “one flesh”, He isn’t saying that we will both become the husband, or we will both become the wife, it is saying they will become something new, “another flesh”. When a man and woman come together as husband and wife, they become another flesh, they become something altogether new…isn’t that beautiful. We also see this relationship between Christ and His Church in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

In verse 32 he says, “This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.” So, this great mystery of two people becoming something altogether new illustrates what? You guessed it, this illustrates the Unity of the Church…there it is again. I can’t stress how important Church unity is. This topic is seen continually throughout the New Testament. The problem is that the Church today is no longer united, we are divided into different denominations and subgroups. And, what did Jesus say about a house divided? IT WILL FALL! (Matthew 12:22-28)

He ends this passage with verse 33 where he reiterates what he has been saying, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There again, notice that even after this long dissertation about men loving their wives, he doesn’t say that women should love their husbands, he says they should respect their husbands, which really puts the onus back on us men because respect must be earned…just sayin’.

So, to answer the question of how men should love their wives, it’s pretty simple. Love her the way Christ loves us, He gave His life to make us holy. Then, love her the way you love yourself. Take care of her, feed her, clothe her, and put her first. If we do this we will be obeying God, and as a double bonus, our wives will respect us. So, to put it simply…Love Her!

Sitting at The Head Table

Acostas with the Visitors
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Sitting at The Head Table

I’m sure we have all been to wedding receptions or banquets. Everyone is sitting around those big round tables with the white tablecloths, often surrounded by six or seven other people you don’t know. If you look up in the front of the room, you see the head table where the wedding party or the honorees are sitting. Those people at the head table always seem to be having the best time. They all usually know each other and let’s face it, this is their day.

Have you ever had the opportunity to sit at that table? If you are married you probably did at least that one time, and maybe at an awards ceremony in high school, but it’s not something that most of us do more than once or twice in our lifetimes. But, the day is coming when we will all get to sit at the head table, the one that really matters.

Look at Ephesians 2:6-7, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He raised us from the dead, remember we were dead in our disobedience and sin, then He seated us with Him in the heavenly realms. Wow, that’s better than any head table I’ve ever seen. But, that’s how much God loves us. He doesn’t just forgive us, He doesn’t just raise us from the dead, He brings us to the front of the room and sits us next to Him. In fact, Romans 8:34 says, “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Isn’t that awesome? No one can condemn us, because Christ died for us and is pleading our case to the Father.

Now, since God has done all this for us, we are obligated and should desire to live for Him. Colossians 3:1-4 says, 1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” So, since we have a new life, we need to fix our eyes on heaven. We must die to this life and live for Christ. Frances Chan once used an illustration of a rope. He had a rope that came in from the back of the room, ran up and down the aisles, up onto the stage, and ended in his hand. The tip of the rope that he was holding was painted red. He said that the rope represented eternity and the red tip represented our life here on earth. He then asked why we are so concerned about this little red tip, and not about the rest of the rope. We need to take our eyes off the red tip and fix them on the rest of the rope. Take a look at the video.

The reason we are still on this earth is to be ambassadors. We are ambassadors of our homeland, heaven, to this foreign country we live in, earth. As ambassadors, we must represent our homeland in a positive way. We need to live our lives before the world the way Christ lived His life on earth. The pastor I grew up underused to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” If they know you are a Christian, they will be watching to see if it is real.

Okay, so how did this happen? Why are we raised from the dead with Christ? He tells us very clearly in this passage, the end of verse 6 says, “because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Yep, there’s that unity thing again, are you beginning to see a theme? It’s not my theme, it is one of the key themes of the New Testament. Again, how many different denominations do you see talked about in the New Testament? Just sayin’.

As with everything, there is only one reason that God did all of this, for His glory. Verse 7 says, “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” Have you ever been sitting in a room full of people, whether it was at church, or a meeting at work or school, and the person speaking uses you as an example in their speech? An example of a good thing, of course. How does that make you feel? Even the shyest person feels pretty good about being pointed out in that way. How much more special will you feel when God uses you as an example to future generations of how His grace and kindness affected your life? To coin a phrase, I could only imagine. Remember, glorifying God is our job, “Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.” Isaiah 43:7.

So, the next time you find yourself envying the people at the head table, know that one day you will be at an even better, even bigger, even more, important head table. If you have accepted what Jesus did for you on the cross, if you have confessed your sin to Him and asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will one day be seated at His right hand. Look at John’s description of the throne room of God in the book of the Revelation and know that one day, you will be there seated with Jesus…wow!

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.

Open The Eyes of My Heart

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Open the Eyes of My Heart

We used to sing a worship song in church that says,

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You

To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy

This song came from what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:18 when he said, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” We’ll get to this verse in a minute, but first I want to look at the verses leading up to this statement.

This is the beginning of his letter to the church at Ephesus, which was a church that he had never met. In verse 15 he talks about their reputation, he tells them what he has heard about them. It says, “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere.” So, what was their reputation? It was faith and love, he said he heard about their strong faith in the Lord Jesus and that they loved God’s people everywhere. Did you catch that? They loved God’s people…everywhere. They had no prejudiced toward anyone. You would not believe some of the hateful and prejudiced things I have heard coming from the mouths of pastors, even while they are preaching. God loves us all, and if you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you are my brother or sister no matter what color your skin is or what denomination you might belong to.

Paul goes on in verse 16 to say that he has not stopped praying for them. This makes me think about what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 where he said, 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You see, we are to pray without ceasing, and that’s exactly what he did for this church. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean we should do nothing but pray, but anytime God brings something or someone to our mind, we need to stop and pray.

So, what did Paul pray over them? Did he pray for wealth and prosperity? Did he pray for their health? No, let’s look at what Paul prayed over the church at Ephesus. We find it in verse 17, “asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” The first things he prayed was that they have spiritual wisdom and insight. In today’s world, we think that blessings mean that we will have a lot of money. We think that blessings equal monetary increase, but nowhere in the Bible does it say that, or even elude to it.

The first thing he prayed is that they would have wisdom, and how do we get wisdom? James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” The word in this verse that is translated as “ask” is the Greek word, aiteo {ahee-teh’-o} which doesn’t just mean to ask, it also means to beg, crave, desire, and even require. If God is going to give you wisdom, you must crave it and beg for it, and seek it out. We require food to live, so we always find ways to get food. So, wisdom needs to become our food. He also prays that they will have insight, meaning revelation in the knowledge of God, or true knowledge.

Okay, so he prays that they will have wisdom and insight, or true knowledge, but for what purpose? He says, “so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” So, he prayed that God would help them understand God better! One of the most important things that we as Christ followers must do is to understand God better. Another song we used to sing years ago was called “I Want to Know You”, and the lyrics said:

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

Do you want to know God? Do you crave the knowledge Him? Paul finished this prayer in verse 18 by saying, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” He prayed that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened…he prayed that God would open the eyes of their hearts so they could see Him. This needs to be the prayer of every Christ follower, that God would open the eyes of our heart that we might see Him, that we might know the hope of His calling.

So, what is His calling? 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us, “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? He called us to live holy and set apart lives. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

My oldest son started a praise band when he was in high school and called it Peculiar Nation, because of this verse. We are expected to be holy or set apart. In Christ we are a royal priesthood, we are both kings and priests. We are a holy…set apart nation. We are God’s own possession.

Stop right now and ask God to open the eyes of your heart so you can see Him in the beauty of His holiness.

Grace…The Final Frontier

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Grace…The Final Frontier

I know, the Star Trek reference might give away my nerdiness, but it seemed fitting. We’ve talked about faith, so now let’s talk about grace. If you’ve spent any time in the Bible you know that salvation comes through our life-changing faith in God, but only by His grace. So, what exactly is grace? Merriam-Webster defined it as, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification”. In other words, grace is a free gift from God. It is something we can’t earn or achieve on our own.

In Ephesians 1:6-8, Paul said, So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” So, in verse 6 Paul thanks God for the “glorious grace he has poured out on us”. First, he said “glorious grace”. The Greek word for “glorious” is Doxa, which means “a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor, and glory.” You see, God’s grace always results in His praise, honor, and glory. So, this doxa grace, this glorious grace has been poured out on us, but not on everyone, just on those “who belong to his dear Son”. If you belong to Jesus, you are covered in God’s grace, it has been poured out on you. I love this picture of His grace being poured out on us. Michelle and I like to hike, in fact, we do it every weekend. Many of our hikes lead us to waterfalls, and invariably, we see people standing under the waterfall…that’s the picture of God’s grace being poured out on us, it’s like standing under a waterfall of His grace.

Paul went on in verse 7 of this passage to say that God’s kindness and grace are so rich that He bought our freedom with the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s a high price, in fact, that’s the highest price possible. He bought my freedom with the blood of His only begotten Son! Think about that for a minute. Again, let’s picture that illustration of grace as a free gift. To us, the receivers of the gift, it is totally free. There is nothing we can do to earn it because let’s face it if we had to earn it, it wouldn’t be a gift, would it? But, on the giver’s side, there is always a price, even if it was a homemade gift, it cost that person time and materials. I remember one year for Mother’s Day, my brothers and I pulled together all of mom’s S&H Green Stamps, I know that is dating me somewhat, but we used them to buy her a figurine. Of course, she told us how much she loved it, and it sat in our living room for years to come, but it wasn’t a gift, because she paid for it. With a gift, there is always a price to be paid by the giver, and God paid the ultimate price for our freedom. There are those out there who will tell you that we are all on different roads to the same place, but that is simply not true. The Bible tells us, John 14:6 “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” And, again in Acts 4:12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” Redemption only comes through Christ! Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” So, if we could be saved by any other means, then Christ died in vain!

Ephesians 2:6-7 tells us, For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.’’ There it is again, that ever-present theme of unity. Why has God raised us from the dead and seated us in the Heavenly Realms? Because we are united in Christ! Again, as with everything, this is for His glory, He seated us in the heavenly realms so that He could point to us in the future as examples of the “incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us.”

Notice that He didn’t just pour out His grace on us. The verse says, “along with all wisdom and understanding.” There is an old hymn that says, “There shall be showers of blessings”, and while that is true, I don’t think that is an accurate depiction. This verse says, “Poured Out”, there is a deluge of blessings. He has doused us with His kindness, wisdom, and understanding…wow! James 1:5 says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” I learned a lesson on this verse years ago from my youngest son. When he was about thirteen he read this verse and believed it. So, he started praying and asking God for wisdom every day, and Caleb is now one of the wisest men I know. The Bible is true, in fact, it is truth, so we must start believing it, not just say we do.

One of the things I love about this passage is the word kindness. You see, there are thirty-one verses in the Bible that tell us that God gives us wisdom and understanding, but this is the only verse that adds kindness. God has poured out on you and me, grace, wisdom, understanding, and kindness. What a beautiful picture!

A Lamp To My Feet?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

A Lamp To My Feet?

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” I have heard this verse my entire life, but I guess I never gave it a lot of thought until a couple of weeks ago.

Michelle and I go hiking every weekend, in fact, we are currently training to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim this summer with a friend of ours. A couple of weeks ago, we took a hike on the Goat Canyon Trestle Trail. We began this trail in Jacumba Hot Springs in Southern California and hiked over seven miles out and back, so it was a total of over fourteen miles. This trail follows abandoned train tracks the whole way, so more than three miles of it are inside tunnels. In fact, two of these tunnels were a half mile long each.

As you can imagine, these tunnels, especially the long ones and the curved ones, can get pretty dark. Also, the ground is extremely uneven, remember, we are hiking on old train tracks, tracks that were originally installed in the 1920s, so we are either hiking across the cross beams or dirt that has been filled in on them over the decades. But, not to worry, we carry our trusty headlamps.

The first of the long tunnels was a half mile long and curved. So, this one was somewhat of a double whammy. On top of that, I assume this one was a little less structurally stable than the others since the inside walls and floor had been sprayed with concrete to keep rocks and such from falling. I don’t believe that spraying the floors with the concrete was intentional, there’s was no need for it, plus it was very uneven and random.

As we had gotten a couple of hundred feet into the cave it became very clear that it wasn’t very clear anymore, so we had to get out our handy-dandy headlamps. I’ve never felt so much like a Boy Scout…I was prepared. So, we both put on our headlamps and continued. It didn’t take me very long to realize the problem with this. You see, I was hiking on an already sprained ankle, and I’m not exactly the most graceful person to begin with.

I have a high-end headlamp so I could see in front of me great. And, since Michelle was hiking in front of me, she could see where she was going with no problem. My problem was that I couldn’t see what the ground in front of me was doing. Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but it didn’t take me stumbling more than two or three times to I realized there might be a problem with this. You see, I had a light for my path, but I didn’t have a lamp to my feet. Now, Michelle, who was also wearing a headlamp, had a light for her path, plus my headlamp was a lamp to her feet. Michelle didn’t stumble, but I did…several times.

So, what exactly is this verse saying? It says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. We must be able to see the path before us, but if we don’t have the lamp on our feet, we will stumble. The beautiful thing is that God’s word does both.

First, it provides light for our path. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” God has a plan for your life, a plan for good and not disaster, and His word will light the way. “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make your way plain for me to follow.” Psalm 5:8. God has a plan for us, and He wants us to see the way.

Second, His word is a lamp to our feet. Psalm 119:165 tells us, “Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble.” You see, it’s not enough to just read the word, it’s not even enough to just memorize verses, we must love it and love its instructions. Psalm 1 tells us in verse 2 that those who are blessed, “delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” And, it goes on to say in verse 6, “For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” If we delight in His law and meditate on it day and night, our path will be clear, in fact, it says that the Lord will watch our paths. We all need to ask ourselves daily whether or not we delight in His word. It is easy to let the distractions of this life keep us from the word, but if we delight in the word of God, if we long for it, we won’t let our busy lives distract us from it.

So, when you find yourself in the dark, don’t just use a flashlight for your feet, or just a headlamp for your path, use both. And, when you find yourself in spiritual darkness, and we all find ourselves in that place occasionally, if you have been delighting in the word and meditating on it, when it seems like the walls are closing in and a cloud of darkness is over your head, you can reflect on those passages you have meditated on. Those passages that you have been delighting in will light your path and show you the way out.

Let God show you His path. 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. He never says that His path will be easy, but He will guide us, “For that is what God is like. He is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.” Psalm 48:14. He also promises us that, “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Am I Offensive?

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Am I Offensive?

In today’s Social Media World, it seems like everyone is offended by everything. I think back to the sixties and seventies when nothing seemed to offend anyone. The other day I had an old jingle pop into my head out of nowhere. When I started thinking about the words, I realized that this commercial jingle would never fly today. See if you remember this one if you are old enough:

Hotdogs, Armored hotdogs.

What kind of kids eat Armored hotdogs?

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks.

Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chickenpox love hotdogs

Armored hotdogs.

The dogs kids love to bite.

So, how many people would that song offend today? Even PETA would be all over that one! But, the Bible has a lot to say about offending people, and it has a lot to say about being offended.

First, let’s look at what the Bible says about being offended. In Colossians 3:13 we read, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” As always, the scripture doesn’t need to be interpreted, it is crystal clear. We must realize that those outside of Christ are sinners and will act as such. It never ceases to amaze me when Christians are offended by a movie or TV show. Here’s another news flash, unbelievers will act like unbelievers. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that we should lie down and accept it. For instance, just last week on The View, when talking about our Vice President, they referred to Christianity as a mental illness. Don’t be offended by this, be outraged. Call ABC at (888)994-8384 and let them know that we won’t stand for hate language either. When Christ saw the money changers in the Temple He wasn’t offended, He was outraged and did something about it. But, this verse isn’t just talking about unbelievers, we must realize that our brothers and sisters in Christ are human and will make mistakes. It is our job to forgive them the way that Christ forgave us.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus gave His disciples, what we often call The Lord’s Prayer, at the end of it He said, Matthew 6:14-15 14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This goes with what John said in 1 John 4:8, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” because remember that Love is Longsuffering, so if we love others, we will forgive them.

Here’s the catch though, sometimes it is okay to offend. Check out what Christ told His disciples in Matthew 15:12-13, 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” 13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted,”. You see, if someone is not preaching the truth, we can’t worry about whether we offend them or not, we are obligated to speak the truth.

Besides, throughout the scripture, we see that God’s word will offend. Because people want to believe that what they believe is right, and anything contrary to that can be offensive. 1 Corinthians 1:20-23 says, 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom.23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” So, the Bible is offensive to some, and nonsense to others. Nothing has changed, has it? Paul told the Church in Galatia this, Galatians 5:11 “Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended.” And, then in 1 Peter 2:7-8 we read that Christ will be a stumbling block, Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, “The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.” And, “He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.”

Here’s the thing, we will be offensive, we will be hated, and we will be persecuted, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Notice it doesn’t say we might be persecuted, it says that if you are living a godly life, you will be persecuted. But, there is always a silver lining. Matthew 10:22 says, “And all nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.” So, yes, you will be hated by every nation, but if you endure, you will be saved!

Isn’t it beautiful how, when God tells us something bad is going to happen, He also helps us see the big picture? He gives us a glimpse of what’s to come. So be prepared and endure. Don’t seek to offend others, and if you do offend someone wrongly, even if you think they just have thin skin, make it right. But know that, if you are living a godly life, and if you are speaking the truth, you will be persecuted, you will offend many. I want to leave you with one more promise. John 16:33 says, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Always remember that He has overcome the world!

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