That We May Know Him

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Based on: Ephesians 1: 16-23

Paul was so encouraged to hear of the Ephesians’ faith in Jesus and love for all God’s people. He records his prayers for these converts to faith in Christ. He wants God to reveal the truth that he had been standing on through all his hardships. He knew from experience that truth could keep them strong for the long haul.

Pray

Paul prayed for these believers. He thanked God for them and wanted them to know he prayed for them. In turn, they prayed for Paul. When our hearts are stirred at hearing of the faith of other believers, we should pray for them.

I believe we are stronger when we are praying faithfully for those God lays on our hearts. We have been so blessed by people who have made a special effort to let us know they are praying for us. We are not alone! Knowing they are praying for us, stirs our faith to grow and reach out to others.

Paul’s requests of God

Wisdom and revelation. The reason Paul wanted God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation was so that they may know Him better. God doesn’t give us wisdom and revelation because we are more spiritual than others. Wisdom and revelation are not a reward for good behavior. We cannot boast of wisdom and revelation. The purpose of wisdom and revelation is so that we might know God better. If we know Him better, we can pray more effectively. If we know Him better, we won’t be so afraid of the world’s dark messages. If we know Him better, we will want to be more like Him and please Him.

Hope. Our world can confuse us or make us fearful or depressed. Paul prayed that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened to know the hope to which God had called them. God’s calling for us is one lit with hope.

We watched a special on the artist Johannes Vermeer. They demonstrated how everything in his paintings had a purpose. All the lines pointed to the reason for the painting. My eyes had been drawn to the spot they mentioned, but I had not seen it as pointing out his message. My eyes had to be opened to see it. Paul was praying that they would see God’s calling for them lit with hope.

Inheritance.

Paul wanted God to remind them of the glorious inheritance he has for those who believe him. This inheritance is for us and for all who have believed him in the past and will believe in him in the future, his saints. He is our ultimate inheritance. All He has done for us and is doing in us will be fulfilled in heaven. There will be no more lack or needs. We have riches in his glorious inheritance.

But since Paul knew our penchant for disqualifying ourselves, he added power to his prayer for us.

Power.

Most of us when we hear ourselves referred to as saints, inwardly shake our heads and say, “Not me.” We know too well our own failings and frailty. Paul asks God to help us see what power is even now, working in us. It is the same strength that raised Christ from the dead and seated him beside the Father in heaven. If his power could do that, it can help us change into God’s likeness. This happens little at a time, but steadily as we spend time with God.

What can we do with all this?

It is so far out of our normal way of looking at our lives. Our world crowds in and floods us with messages of hopelessness and appeals to our vanity. Many of us don’t like what we see in ourselves as we’ve been cooped up with ourselves and our families for a couple months.

It all sounds so completely out of our world! It is!

He wants God to give us the ability to know him better. As we know him better, we get to know what pleases him and what changes he wants in our lives. As we know him better, we trust him with our secrets and with our doubts and fears. We begin to see his tender care to provide not just what we need, but what he knows will please us. He wants us to know him as a good father.

Paul wants us to be able to see above and beyond our individual lives and our current situation. God knows what is coming. We don’t. Since he knows the future, he wants us to have hope based in his character, his promises, and his past care for us. When the world totally turns upside down, he wants us to know we have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. With that insurance, we can walk through this tiny bit of eternity with him.

Shut-in

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It’s been eight days since we were told we could not get close to each other, meet in groups, or travel farther than 6 miles from home. Our temp is taken and sanitizer used whenever we go to a grocery store or pick up food.

This is not a local phenomenon, it’s worldwide! It’s not for a few days, but weeks or perhaps months.

So how are you faring? Most everyone is well physically, if they don’t have on-going health issues. A few are still having emergencies crop up. But since we are mostly in our own home, I think even things like broken bones or concussions are very infrequent.

Our greatest enemy is fear  

It seems to me the stress is more from fear mongering. Even dear friends, thinking they are warning us, send every advisory that comes to their attention. So much of what is being passed around is not helpful and only increases the discomfort of being cooped up.

Do we practice social distancing? Yes. Do we wash our hands well and often? Yes. But, we need to stay healthy too. So, walk every day, be in the sunshine, let fresh air blow in your windows. Smile at anyone you see, even if you can’t have a chat. Fix healthy food. Catch up on sleep that you’ve been missing in your busy, usual life. These are all things you can do without harming others or risking your own exposure to Covid19.

We, as believers in Jesus, have hope. We pray and believe that God will keep us safe and healthy. But should we get the virus, He will help us heal and regain our strength. And what if He doesn’t? What if we get sick and die? Well, that is where Christians have hope that the world does not have. We know that if we die, we will be with God! Heaven is on the other side of this life. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can keep us from God’s love! (Romans 8:38,39) We have a sure foundation for our faith!

We are only shut in if we allow ourselves to be. We can reach out in prayer. We can contact the people we love and are concerned for in many ways. We can share the message of life and love with those who are so fearful and troubled. We can trust in our Redeemer, Healer, Comforter, Friend!

Romans 15:13- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Shock and Awe

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Shock and Awe is a military tactic that involves sudden, overwhelming force intended to paralyze the opponent so they can be conquered. I see that tactic being used in media. Overwhelm us with the dire and drastic so that we feel helpless and willing to accept their solution.

I suppose shock and awe news has always been with us. It sells more ads. But, maybe the number of social media outlets and the speed of reports make it feel like more bad news than ever before. Whether it is real news or fake news, we must sort out for ourselves. Even if it is something we can do nothing about, our blood pressure rises, we feel anger, fear, or disgust. We cannot escape it. Even if we don’t use social media, don’t watch TV, or buy a newspaper, the first person we meet will tell us their take on the latest rants.

We are citizens of America and long-time MM2H visa holders in Malaysia. That doubles the amount of shocking news we can hear in a day!

So how do we, sons and daughters of God and citizens of His kingdom, respond.

Ephesians 1:11 sums up the biblical foundation for our responses. “In Him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.”

Since this world is so broken with sin and its consequences, and God is a good God who has planned the very best for us, I believe God does not cause bad things to happen to us. It is not His perfect will that His children suffer terrible diseases or are hurt in violent ways. It is not His perfect will for us to be abused or tormented by wickedness in our world. BUT, He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.

The terrible things going on in our world are no surprise to God. He knows the sin that has brought on these consequences. His plan is to redeem us out of this brokenness and establish His kingdom right in the middle of this darkness. His kingdom has been shining for 2000+ years and will shine into the future where He reigns overall.

Romans 8:28 (ESV), “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God will take any situation in our lives and any situation in the world and work it out. Nothing escapes God’s rule.

So, does that mean we do nothing about the bad stuff going on in our world? No, of course not. We should always begin with prayer. God has many ways to show us our part in bringing His purposes to fulfillment.

God will help us see if there is any root in our lives that makes us more fearful or angry over the news. We may need to forgive past hurts or confess our part in making situations worse.

Wherever we can have influence for good and righteousness and peace, we should act. Sometimes, it is just a word of calm when someone is very fearful about the bad news. Sometimes there is an action we can take to alleviate another’s pain or distress. Sometimes we should take advantage of means available to us to share a word of wisdom to those involved.

Think about this:

Phil. 4:8 (ESV)-“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

She Tears it Down

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Photo by Connor Misset on Unsplash

With Valentine’s Day just past, I was thinking about the difference between happy and unhappy marriages. We have seen examples of both.

In happy marriages, the husband and wife care for each other by paying attention to each other. They will stop what they are doing to help or listen to or encourage the other. There are frequent touches, both physical and emotional throughout the day. There is support when the other is having a hard time or is ill or is exhausted. In other words, they each are trying to do what will help the other.

In unhappy marriages, one or both are disengaged. They are ignoring or repulsing the other. They ‘stonewall’ to protect themselves or to punish the other. They avoid each other some or all the time. They hurt, instead of help each other.

Among unhappy marriages, there are those who just have gotten too involved in their own sphere of life and forget the importance of the frequent contacts with their spouse. I call these the neglectful ones. They may surface at times like Valentines Day to treat their spouse as special. This is good, but it doesn’t take the place of the daily touches that make a happy marriage.

Then there are the unhappy marriages where one or both have turned outside the marriage for the kind of friendship that would be in a happy marriage. They may be accusing the other of neglect or hurtfulness or infidelity. With their accusation, they feel justified in pursuing a caring relationship outside their marriage. So, these may be full-blown affairs or emotional dependence.

Of course, there are men who are mean, abusive, terrible husbands. There is little or nothing a wife to a man like this can do to have a happy marriage.

Then there are wives who have decent, hard-working, but insensitive husbands. These men are often good providers. They got the idea that to be a good husband was to provide well for their family. They may be good enough in bed and be good enough fathers. But they just don’t communicate much with their wife and are not very attentive to her needs.

A wife with a husband like that can still love and care for her husband. She can pray for him. She can talk to him about ways he could be more connected. But even if he never changes, she can still find her happiness in God-pleasing ways. This is hard and it means living with unmet needs, but God will honor her and their children and show her how to be a blessing to others.

Proverbs 14:1. It says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one pulls it down with her hands.”  

I have met foolish wives. I always come away grieved that I cannot do anything to help them become wise women. They throw down what could be a good life.

A foolish woman may meet the requirements for a good wife. She may cook good food, keep the clothes washed and pressed, dust and sweep the house. She may take good care of her children. She may work outside and add to the family finances. But. . .

  • She pays little attention to her husband. She may find him ‘boring’ or non-communicative. She feels she has good reason to not even try to discuss life with her husband.
  • She is critical of everything her husband does. She can never be satisfied. She thinks he doesn’t do anything up to her standard. a
  • She focuses on her own interests and has little regard for what he’s interested in.
  • She makes sure to win every argument or make him pay if he ever succeeds in winning.
  • She gossips and is shameless in her tales of her husband’s short comings.
  • She chooses to sleep in another room or prefers sleeping with her child rather than her husband.
  • She centers her whole life around her baby or children and never gives her husband her undivided attention.
  • She may simply draw into herself and quit trying to make her marriage work.
  • She either lets herself go and pays no attention to her appearance or she becomes sexy in her dress and flirtatious with other men.
  • She gets shrill or silent, whichever seems to hurt or frustrate her husband more.
  • When her foolishness is full-grown, she has an affair with another man.
  • Ultimately, she either files for divorce or makes life so miserable for her husband that he feels he has no choice but to divorce her.

When we meet a woman who is tearing down her home with her own hands, she seldom uses only one of these tactics. The couple may come for ‘counseling’ at the request or requirement of their pastor, but their heart is not in it and they only want a rubber-stamp for their decision to break up their marriage.

My heart grieves. I grieve for both the husband and the wife. I grieve for their children who will suffer greatly and carry a warped view of marriage into their own marriages. I grieve for their friends and family who had such high hopes for them on their wedding day.

(I am not saying divorce is always wrong. It may be the only way to be safe for you and your children. But divorce is always a shredding of hearts and lives.)

If you are in a less than happy marriage, please do what you can to rekindle the love you had before you married. Remember the good things about him and remind him of happier days. If you are not finding solutions, please talk to a counselor or pastor. They cannot cause your spouse to become your idea of a model husband. They can, however, help you to become a better version of yourself and one who pleases God with her attitudes and actions. When you are not tearing down your home with your own hands, your husband may see the change and love it enough to change too.  


To see a video about modes of communication that tear a marriage apart, click: The 4 Horsemen

If you wonder whether you can make a difference in an unsatisfying marriage, read Mike’s article: Can One Partner Make a Difference

Each One

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Ephesians Devotions – part 3

God has a master plan for His creation. He has a plan that includes all of creation and each one of us individually. His purpose is to fulfill His cosmic plan.

Our Bible tells us what we need to know about His purpose for humanity and his plan to fulfill that goal. Much of that plan is beyond anything we can know or even imagine. But He has revealed some details of that mystery for us. And He has revealed as much as we need to believe in His good plan and purpose for us.

Being human, we can’t know by ordinary provable means this plan or solve this mystery. That’s part of the genius of God’s plan. We must trust Him. We must believe by faith that God is and that He is working out His purpose in the moment and in the ages.

God knew that much of humanity would never believe Him or be willing to be a part of fulfilling His purpose among men on earth. But He also knew those who would believe Him and trust Him and do their part in the mystery of the ages.

Ephesians 1 says, “He chose us before the creation of the world.” It says, “He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.” It says about the Jews who believed Jesus was the Christ, “In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” It further says about the Gentile believers, “You also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” In these few verses, Paul has made sure we all know that we were chosen, predestined, and included in God’s salvation plan.

So, if we believe that Jesus is God’s provision for our redemption from sin, we were chosen and predestined for salvation. Nothing and no one, could keep us from His plan.

If we don’t believe, but are still alive, we can still be one of God’s chosen and predestined people. If we won’t believe, then John 3:18-19 says, ‘Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’

So, if we were chosen by God and predestined for sonship, we are important to God. We’re not just one of the billions of inhabitants of this planet. He had work prepared in advance for each of us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

There are people that we meet and know that no one on earth has ever prayed for. Even if there is a reason we cannot talk to them about God, we can pray for them. There are things we can do for people that no one else can do for them. They may reject everything their family would say to them, but as a friend or colleague or boss, we can tell them the mystery of life in Jesus.

Do you know that you are part of a kingdom that will never end? Do you see your everyday duties and choices as part of God’s plan? A word to a neighbor today may change the course of their life for God’s plan and purpose. Your part doesn’t have to be halfway around the world, it could be in your own home with your own family.

We are each important in God’s eternal purpose and plan.

Most Bible characters are only mentioned once. They are cited for one thing they did or said. That one thing was important to God’s plan. We don’t know about the rest of their lives, the people they loved and cared for, or the troubles they overcame. Yet, God highlighted them to make sure we could know these, too, played key roles in His plan.

It is good to know we are chosen. It is better to choose to cooperate with God and His plan, even though there is so much we don’t understand. It is awesome to think God cares that much for each one of us individually!


To see the first part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Mystery
To see the second part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Consider Creation