Face to Face

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In the last couple months I faced fear. It was not just a phobia about an imagined, possible danger. It was a specific and potentially very serious situation.

So, as I had faced fears before I went back to Isaiah 41: 10 and 13.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”

As before, I poured out my heart with its fear to God. I imagined Him walking along side of me and reaching out with his right hand to support me. But then it says God would take hold of my right hand. Oops. Did God and I have to switch places or did He just reach across me and take my right hand? The image was getting all muddled and I was distracted and couldn’t seem to get the comfort I remembered from other times of fear.

Suddenly, the image changed. Instead of God and I walking side by side while I poured out my heart to Him, we were facing each other. As I poured out my fear, He reached out with his right hand and supported my left elbow. Giving me just the support I needed to stand. Then He looked into my eyes and said, “I am the Lord your God.” I could no longer see what I was afraid of. His face came between me and my fear. His eyes locked on mine and He assured me He is my God and the Lord of my life. He was holding my right hand encouraging me and helping me keep my eyes on Him.

I’m so thankful that God’s comfort that is so different from the world’s. Where the world tells us to toughen up and stand, God says He will support us so we can stand. When the world tells us that whatever we are afraid of is nothing. God acknowledges our fear and says He is with us and won’t let go.

Instead of my focus being on these dark days and so many concerns, I’m more and more looking in my Father’s eyes and hearing Him tell me not to fear and that He will help me or the ones I’m praying for.
This image has changed much of my time in God’s presence these days. It is not fear that drives me to His presence. It is desire to see His face between me and my concerns, my intercessions for others, and my deep desire to see revival in our land.

The Nations Rage

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My Bible reading recently included Matthew 24 and Psalms 2.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is telling his disciples about the times leading up to the end of this age. He lists signs of the times: wars, rumors of war, nation against nation, famines, and earthquakes. As long as I’ve been alive all of these have been happening. They seem more frequent, but maybe it is because of our instant news. Anyway, by these signs, we’ve already been in the last days for many years. I’m sure my parents’ generation thought they were in the last days with two world wars, the Spanish Flu, concentration camps, and starvation after the ravages of the wars.

Jesus then goes on to say there will be persecution of believers. We would be hated by all nations. We also see this in many places. Churches are burned, crosses pulled down, and worse, persecution so bad that whole communities flee their homes as refugees to other nations.

But, more important than all the signs, are the directions Jesus gave us as we live in these times and see the end draw nearer every day.

He starts with, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah, and will deceive many.’” (vss 5-5) We must not forget this. We must not get so caught up in the fear and dread of the news that we latch onto anyone’s claims of deliverance. There will not be another Messiah, there is only One who saves, the Lord Jesus. Even if others follow a leader like this, we should not be deceived.

Next, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.” (vs.6) We are not to dwell on these things and get afraid and spread fear. We should look to the Lord our God who says to us, “Do not fear, I will help you.” (Isa 41:13)

He warns that persecution will get bad to the point of being put to death. (vs. 9-10) Why would He say this? It doesn’t seem a very good way to encourage his disciples. Jesus was not trying to frighten His disciples. He was just stating a fact. Persecution would be part of the end of the age. Jesus never scares us into obedience or threatens us with punishment. He wanted us to know this would happen to many believers living through those dark days. He wanted them to know so they would not lose heart and fall away from faith. He wanted them to avoid questioning whether God is a good God. He wanted them to stand together and support one another.

Now I don’t believe there are many believers who can think about persecution without cringing. We have a normal fear of pain and death. But many of our brothers and sisters today are being persecuted. Their homes are being confiscated, churches burned, and some are being killed. Some of these Christians were very new believers and God did a mighty work in them to bring them through with a good testimony. So what does Jesus tell us to do about persecution? “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” So for us who have time before facing persecution, we must know His Word, His presence, His comfort, His strength as more real than this world we live in now. That is who we will stand firm to the end. We will only be ready if we spend time with God and learn how to recognize His hand and help.

Jesus warns us not to be deceived by false prophets. (vs. 11, 23-24) And Jesus warns that because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold. (vss 12-13). One last warning in this chapter is that no one knows the day or the hour that the Lord will come. Our job is not to figure out the date and time, We are to keep watch, be ready, doing what the Master has planned for us to do. ( vss. 36, 42-46)

Now just after reading these verses and thinking about them, I turned to my Psalm for the day, Psalm 2. At breakfast, my husband played a modern rendition of this Psalm put to music.

It opens with, “Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’”

That sounds like the news we get from the media today! Mobs riot and tear down any reminder of good people who have done good for our nation. They rob and destroy churches. They want to wipe out any memory of good and righteousness and Christian influence.

But the next verse tells us God’s opinion of all their bluster and evil. “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”

God has their end fully planned! They may seem to win for now. We have read the last page of this story. God wins! He rewards those who love and honor Him! He has a place for us to dwell in His presence with no more weeping and no more pain. We are not forgotten! We will not be left out!

If you have read this far, you may be concerned about your preparation for living through harder days before the end of the age. In some of my next posts, I will be talking about ways we can grow in our faith and dependence on God. I will provide links to different types of aids to build your strong foundation on our Savior and our Lord.

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