What All of Us Have in Common

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When you look back at who you were and what your life was like before you turned to Jesus, what do you see? Some of you remember your rebellion and obviously sinful behavior. Some of you feel shame because of the thoughts and desires you had, even though you didn’t act on them. Others may look back and feel that you weren’t so bad. You were a good girl, obedient and maybe even went to church, though you didn’t understand why that was important. You may have been one that tried to fulfill the letter of the law.

Well, Ephesians 2:1-10 is Paul’s answer to all of that.

Paul begins with, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

If we were openly sinful, we know we were dead in our sin. If we were just trying to fit in with the world, our friends, and our culture; we were dead in transgressions and sin. If we just listened to the messages of the world, our enemy was at work in us to increase our disobedience, and we were dead in transgressions and sin.

Verse 3 catches even those who were just trying to do their best. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.” All of us have satisfied cravings of our flesh. We raided the cookie jar, or we borrowed things and never returned them, or we schemed to get what we wanted. It is a most human trap. Satan first used it in the Garden of Eden and he is still successful with it today.

So, all of us, by nature were deserving of wrath. (verse3) God hates sin. Sin must be punished. God knew we could never pay the price. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (verses 4-5) God loves us! He loves us so much! God is rich in mercy! His plan worked! Christ took our punishment and now we are alive with Christ.

God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms. (verse 6) That is a mystery! Of course it does not mean we’re physically seated in heavenly realms. But God sees us as in Christ. Christ is seated beside the Father in heaven. And in God’s eyes we are in Christ. We do not have to understand this. Paul wants us to know why this is true. In the coming ages God will show how immeasurably rich His grace is by showing His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. This is another hint that there are ages to come after the world as we know it ends. This world and our life here is only the behind the scenes action that will go on stage in the next age. . . in eternity.

This section wraps up with three verses that we may be familiar with. Verses 8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no-one can boast.” We have nothing to boast about, it is all God’s gracious gift to us. Our only responsibility is that we believe it.

The last verse in this section is, verse 10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We can marvel at God’s handiwork in our lives. As we remember who we were and what we used to do, we can be thrilled with what God is making us. God has worked so steadily and thoroughly in my life that I hardly recognize who I am now compared to who I was before Christ. He teaches us little by little and changes us gradually. We can speed up or slow down the process by whether we yield to Him or resist. But as long as we are willing, He keeps working in us, for us, and through us.

This verse gives us our first inkling of what we must do. Later in this letter, we will learn more about the good works God intends for us to do.

Take time to consider where you came from before you knew Jesus. Think about people you know who might relate to where you were and want to get to where you are today. Pray for anyone God brings to mind. Be open to sharing your story whenever you have the chance.


  • To see the beginning of this study of Ephesians click: Mystery
  • To see the last post for Ephesians, chapter 1, click: The Big Picture

Ephesians 1- The Big Picture

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Paul, when he began this letter to the Ephesians, used an over-flow of words to try to describe the indescribable. The first ten verses are one long sentence in Greek. He was so overwhelmed by what he wanted to say, he couldn’t limit himself to short sentences. Every noun has beautiful adjectives. Every verb has supporting adverbs. He was overcome with the limitations of language to adequately express the truth.

Please take a few minutes and read this chapter out loud. Don’t try to untangle the deep meaning of the words. Don’t stumble over the complicated sentence structure. Just read it. It is like a painting of something real, but invisible. Allow yourself to feel Paul’s excitement and awe.

Now what stood out to you? It is like walking into a gallery full of masterpieces. There is too much to take in on a scan of the room. You simply walk to one picture because it sparkles. Then you look more closely and marvel its range of colors. Then your eye wanders to a tiny picture, not so shiny, but intricately painted. You can go back another time and enjoy seeing these treasures in a different light. You never tire of visiting this beautiful room. I think that is what Paul wanted to provide for his readers.

Chapter one is like scanning that room and taking in creation and God’s purpose for mankind in his plan. Paul wants us to see God’s desires and pleasures and his free and lavish sharing of everything he has for us. It is full of superlatives: glorious, lavish, immeasurable, great, far above, and every!

This chapter is all about God and his plan from before our world was even formed. It tells that even though he knew we would sin and break our relationship with him, he knew what he would do to provide a way for his plan to continue. He is not surprised by our failure. He knew that not everyone would want to be part of his plan, yet he still provided it.

Paul doesn’t end this scan with us here and now. He goes on to paint the picture of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. He reminds us that the point of all this plan is so we can inherit with all God’s people a place in the ages to come.

The central word in Ephesians is grace. Sadly, for many of us, grace means the few words we say before we eat a meal. Grace is often defined as unmerited favor. It is so much more than that. Mike defines it as, “All that God freely gives us so we can be fully transformed.” Another definition is: “The free, undeserved mercy in all its manifold forms and manifestations.” In verse 6 where Paul says, “To the praise of his glorious grace,” he is talking about the unlimited praise of God’s mercy fully displayed in all its beauty. We will come back to talk about grace more as we proceed through Ephesians. Just let the immensity of it capture your heart today.

Please don’t worry if this raises more questions than answers for you. Paul will lead us through what this redemption and inheritance will mean to us personally and in our relationships with others until the time for our step into eternity.


  • To see the first part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Mystery
  • To see the second part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Consider Creation
  • To see the third part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Each One
  • To see the fourth part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: That We May Know Him

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.


  • To see the first part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Mystery
  • To see the second part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Consider Creation
  • To see the third part of the Ephesians Devotions, click: Each One

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.”