Or Instead

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 5:1-14

Each day we are faced with choices. We spend our day making one decision after another. So as we spend time with Jesus, with or without a cup of morning coffee, let’s open our hearts to the choice Paul lays before us to live one way or INSTEAD live another way.

INSTEAD, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:15

INSTEAD, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:24

INSTEAD – that is a powerful word. Paul continues in Chapter 5 with the comparison of following our old sin nature or INSTEAD growing each day to become more and more like the God we were created to be like – truly righteous and holy.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2

Or listen to how The Message rewords 5:2 – Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

Just as children follow the example their parents set for them, we are to imitate our Heavenly Father in everything we do. The primary way to imitate God is by living a life filled with love. We are to LIVE LOVE – but not just any kind of love, the example of sacrificial love that Christ Jesus set for us. When we live a life of sacrificial love, the aroma of our life is pleasing to God. When we live for ourselves, let’s face it, we stink!

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes – these are not for you. INSTEAD, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. – Eph. 5:3-5

Oh how the things of this world pull for our attention every day! We are surrounded by the stink of sexual immorality and, I have to admit, the smell often clings to us as well. The choices we make in the television shows we watch or the movies that entertain us or the jokes we laugh at – we come out smelling a little more like the world every time. But Paul pulls out another “instead” for us. INSTEAD of choosing to fill our minds and our mouths with what the world thinks is funny, we can fill our hearts with love so that thankfulness is what spills over. The aroma of thankfulness is pleasing to the Lord.

Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. Don’t participate in the things these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. – Ephesians 5:6-9

I love that last sentence! It holds the secret of how to imitate God or how to follow the example of Christ. It is the light within you that produces what is good and right and true. Christ living in us – the Holy Spirit filling us each day – that is what changes our aroma. It’s not about human effort to be something I cannot be no matter how hard I try. Imitating God by my own strength is like spraying perfume on to mask body odor instead of simply taking a shower and washing the smell away.

Human effort comes into play when we are faced with choices each day. But in the moment of decision, God has equipped us with the light needed to make the right choices. He can grow us to be what He created us to be but we still have a choice between listening to the prompting of the Spirit or participating in the things those around us are doing – Christians and non-Christians alike.

Paul has another “instead” for us in verses 10-14 of chapter 5: Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; INSTEAD, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Christ provides the light for us to walk in. God does not simply command us to be like Him without equipping us with what we need to obtain holiness. God gives us love so that our life can be filled with the same kind of sacrificial love Christ displayed on the cross. God does incredible things in our life so that it is not difficult to let thankfulness flow from our conversations. Jesus gives us the light within us so that our life can produce what is good and right and true.

But we are still faced with choices each day. We can choose to take part in what the world has to offer or INSTEAD we can rise from the dead and allow Christ to give us light. Look for those “instead” moments today. Recognize the choices before you and determine what scent your life will be today.

His Character Reproduced

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32

Any time we make a major change in life, we are going to find ourselves comparing the old to the new. Look back and consider when you first got married or when you had your first child, when you started a new job or moved to a new community, when you lost a loved one or graduated from school. There are times in our life when things shift and major changes take place, like when we turned our lives over to God and allowed Jesus to take residence in our hearts through His Spirit.

In the last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul does a lot of comparing of the old way of life to the new life in Christ. Yesterday we looked at Ephesians 4:14-15, which compares how we used to live with what we are growing to become:

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. – Ephesians 4:14-15

GROWING IN EVERY WAY TO BE MORE AND MORE LIKE CHRIST

Life is full of changes and each change has a purpose in our life. God uses each new situation to draw us closer to Him and to form us into the person He created us to be. His plan is not for us to continue in the old way of sin but to live a holy life.

With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

But that isn’t what you learned from Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:17-24

CREATED TO BE LIKE GOD BECAUSE GOD REPRODUCES HIS CHARACTER IN US

I like how The Message restates the last couple verses of this passage: Everything—and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

God’s character is reproduced in us – I love that! Paul goes on to compare the old person with the new person, the old sinful nature with the life renewed by the Spirit with God’s character reproduced in us. He shows the change that occurs in our life when we STOP living for our own purposes and START following his good and pleasing and perfect will for our life.

The first time I read these differences, I read quickly, for this passage was very familiar to me. Then I went back and slowly took stock of every change. Praise God for the change He has made in my life. I thank Him for making me a new person yet I admit I sometimes allow myself to fall into some of the old and familiar patterns of this world – forgive me, Lord! Let your Spirit do a work in my heart, continuing to renew me and transform me into a new person for the sake of your plan for my life.

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

Let’s look at the comparison of the old sinful nature and the new life where our thoughts and attitudes are renewed by the Spirit (Eph. 4:25-32):

Old – Telling lies.
New – Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.

Old – Letting anger control us.
New – Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Old – Stealing.
New – Use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.
(When you look at the new it puts a new definition on the old – don’t think of stealing the same but consider the possibility that we are stealing from God when we choose not to live generously with our time and money when there are those in need around us.)

Old – The use of foul and abusive language.
New – Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

Old – Bringing sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live.
New – Remember, He has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Old – A life where there are moments of bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.
New – Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

A Higher Calling

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16

God has a plan for my life and He has a plan for your life – He calls us to a specific purpose and to a way of life that is worthy of His creation. Let’s look at Ephesians 4 to see what God is calling us to.

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. 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. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. – Ephesians 4:1-5

LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING

It is an honor to belong to our Creator.
It is a privilege to be loved by Him.
It is a gift to be saved by Him.
It is a responsibility to be called by Him.

He calls us because He has a purpose for our lives and He equips us with His Spirit so that we can live the kind of life He is calling us to. This is what I hear God saying in this passage:

You have been called by God.
Be humble – do not think too much of yourself.
Be gentle – in actions and in words.
Be patient with each other – show love and notice the needs of those around you.
Love others enough to allow them to be imperfect, just as you are imperfect.
You do NOT have the right to an opinion about someone else – to think it or to speak it.
Be united and live in peace for there is only one body and one Spirit and one future to which we are called. We serve the same Lord, have been given the same faith, and have experienced the same baptism.

GOD HAS GIVEN US A HIGHER CALLING

So why do we allow ourselves to get irritated with each other? Why do we form opinions about our sisters in Christ? Why do we choose to be a friend to one brother in Christ and avoid another? This is not God’s plan. He has given us a higher calling. Our natural tendency is to form opinions about other people but God wants us to die to our sinful nature and grow in the Spirit.

Growth – God’s plan for our lives is to grow! The Spirit-filled life described above doesn’t happen overnight. We need to grow in our walk so that day by day the Spirit does a work in our hearts. God has given us special gifts to help us grow, which Paul talks about in the next few verses of Ephesians chapter 4.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ…

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, GROWING in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. – Ephesians 4:7,11-16

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us enough to leave Heaven and come to earth in order to fill the universe with your glorious presence. Thank you for the gift of the many people you send into our lives to teach us and to help us grow. Thank you for our pastors – bless them and give them wisdom to speak the truth in love. Prepare our hearts so that those you have sent into our lives to teach us can equip us to do your work. Bring us to a place of maturity and understanding, growing in every way to be more and more like You!

Lord, help me today to be worthy of the life to which you have called me. Fill me with your Spirit and give me new eyes to see the world around me. Fill me with your Spirit and give me a new heart to love those you love. Lord, today I take myself off the throne of opinions and allow you to be GOD – to be over all and in all and living through all! Amen.

Saved for This

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 3

I love the third chapter of Ephesians. It goes on to talk about God’s plan of salvation for the Gentiles, God’s plan for the Church and God’s plan for our lives. Dear God, help us to empty out all of the messages the evil one is screaming at us and hear only Your voice right now as we read from Paul’s letter to the Church in Ephesus. Amen.

And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 3:6

Did you hear that? We are part of the body of Christ just as the Jews are – God’s holy people whom He chose and whom He loves. In the same way, He chooses us and loves us. We belong to the One who loves us enough to die on the cross for us. Salvation is available for ALL of us. Paul goes on to explain why.

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display His wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which He carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. – Ephesians 3:10-11

There are things going on in the spiritual realm that we do not fully understand, but what we do know is that our God is supreme and mightier than any other power out there. Let’s look back at Ephesians 1:21 – Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.

Now here is one of my favorite verses because it is what I experience each morning as I pour my morning coffee and sit down to spend time with God. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come BOLDLY and CONFIDENTLY into God’s presence (Eph. 3:12). What a privilege that we are invited into the presence of the most holy God! My heart is moved by what happens as we spend time in God’s presence and I think Paul had the same reaction.

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and earth. I pray that from His glorious, UNLIMITED resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

What happens when I spend time in God’s presence? He empowers me with inner strength through His Spirit. He makes His home in my heart as I trust in Him. My roots grow down into God’s love and keep me strong. He gives me the power to understand just how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is – that’s the same love that is keeping me strong when I’m connected to the vine and my roots are growing. It has no limits! His resources are glorious and unlimited!!! (Take a minute to reread this paragraph and accept it as truth in your life.)

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

May you experience the love of Christ today as He makes you complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from Him. May you understand that God is able and loves you enough to do “immeasurably more” or to “accomplish infinitely more” than you could possibly ask or think. He loves you enough – He chose you and made you a part of His body so that you could enjoy the “promise of blessings” for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

When the enemy tries to discourage you today, speak these truths out loud. Remind Him who you belong to and how much He loves you! Consider again Ephesians 3:14-19:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Message)

United In This

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 1:19-23 and 2:14-22

When WE walk in God’s plan for our life…

Paul’s message to the Ephesians speaks to my heart. To know that God, in His grace, loves me enough to plan for my life gives me purpose each day. I may not understand the big plan or know what he wants me to do in 5 years, but TODAY has purpose and I can walk in that purpose with the peace He pours over me. I can trust Him and rest in Him, letting go of everything and holding tightly to Him. With a thankful heart, I can know He will equip me for anything He has planned for me.

In the same way that God has a plan for each of us individually, God has a plan for the Church – a plan for us as the body of Christ. That is what stood out to me this morning as I read through Ephesians.

God has brought all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. – Ephesians 1:22-23

I love these verses! We, as His body, are the expression of Christ to the world around us. He uses us to reflect Himself to the lost and dying world. THIS is His plan.

THE REFLECTION OF CHRIST

And let’s not miss a key truth here – we are under the authority of Christ, He is the head of the body and therefore He is in charge. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. It’s not about who I am but about whom I am reflecting. It’s not about my ambition but about my submission.

As a reflection of Him, Christ brings us together in unity with each other. He breaks down the walls that separate us and helps us to see past our differences and love each other thoroughly! His plan for us as the body of Christ is to live at peace with one another. There are NO exceptions!

For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 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. 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.

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from Him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. – Ephesians 2:14-18

THE BODY OF CHRIST

It’s not okay for me to have an attitude toward my sister in Christ; she comes to the Father through the same Holy Spirit I do. Because of what Christ has done for both of us, it’s not okay for me to reject my brother in Christ. Jesus died so that the wall of hostility separating us could be broken, so why do we so often try to build the wall back up? So that Christ died for nothing?!!

Together, we are His house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by His Spirit. – Ephesians 2:20-22

THE DWELLING OF THE LORD

Together the body of believers is the dwelling where God lives by His Spirit. He expresses Himself fully through the Church as we reflect Him to the unsaved. As we draw near to Him and as we worship Him together with one voice and united hearts, we get to know Him. As we stay connected to the vine, we work in harmony with the branches around us to produce more fruit than we could ever produce on our own. THIS is God’s plan.

What a privilege it is to be a part of your plan, Father God. What an awesome experience to allow you to dwell in us and work through us so that we naturally reflect who you are to the world around us. Thank you for the reminder this morning that we are your body and that together we have been reconciled through the death of Jesus Christ. We understand that you have a plan and choose to walk in that plan. Use us in the lives of others today. Amen.

Gifted For This

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 1:15-18 and 2:11-13

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. – Ephesians 1:2

Yesterday we looked at how God’s grace plans for our future. We were made for a reason and we were saved for a reason. God equips us for that plan by giving us many gifts – gifts that change us into the person He planned for us to be all along. Let’s look at the gifts mentioned by Paul in the first two chapters of Ephesians.

Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. – Ephesians 1:15-16a

FAITH and LOVE – these two gifts are often mentioned together. When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we naturally begin to love those around us more and more. Perhaps you noticed these are both fruits of the Spirit. When we are connected to the vine (John 15), the Spirit does a work in our lives and we begin to produce fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

I pray for you constantly, 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. – Ephesians 1:16b-17

I see a few gifts from God in this sentence. First of all, let’s look at PRAYER. Have you considered recently how blessed we are to have a God who wants to hear from us and who wants to give us what we ask for? The gifts He wants us to ask for so that He can give them to us generously (James 1:5) are SPIRITUAL WISDOM and INSIGHT. He has a plan for our lives and desires to equip us with the wisdom we need to walk in that plan.

There is one more gift I see here – GROWTH. God’s plan includes the blessing of growing in our relationship with Him, growing in our faith, and growing in our knowledge of God. This growth occurs when we know God personally and experience Him daily. It is so much more than an intellectual knowledge of our Creator – When we walk in God’s plan for our life, it is a relationship where God walks with us each step of the way.

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. – Ephesians 1:18

The gift of HOPE is one of my favorites. Let’s look at what the next chapter says about this hope God gives us:

Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders…You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:11-13

Thank God that He brings us from a state of hopelessness to a confident hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we don’t see aimless wandering but we see that God has a plan for our life – one full of hope for the future (Jer. 29:11).

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right and in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 1:19-20

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, there is POWER. The same power that raised Jesus to life is available to us today. You probably already knew this but did you catch in verse 19 that He also wants to give us UNDERSTANDING of the incredible greatness of God’s power. I think this is a gift from God of which I have only scratched the surface. Lord, give me a greater understanding of just how powerful you are so that I can walk in your plan with confident hope knowing that this power is available to me.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us all along. – Ephesians 2:8-10

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we walk humbly knowing that we deserve none of the lavish gifts He bestows. It is by grace that He loves us; it is by grace that He saves us; it is by grace that He walks with us in a specific plan for our life.

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, the Spirit produces faith and love along with all the fruits that are naturally produced from His presence.

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we pray to Him, asking for spiritual wisdom and insight, and we grow in our knowledge of who God is and what His plan for our life is.

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we experience a confident hope in our future.

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we pray for an understanding of the incredible greatness of God’s power available for us who believe in Him.

When we walk in God’s plan for our life, we see ourselves through the eyes of God – a Masterpiece He has created for a purpose and saved for a purpose.

Made For This

Today’s Reading: Ephesians 1:1-14 and 2:1-10

Once we were dead, but God, in His great mercy, loved us enough to give us life when He raised Jesus from the dead. Once we were dried bones, condemned by our own sin. Now we are God’s masterpiece – created anew in Christ Jesus. Why? Why would God do this for us? How could He look at us with eyes of grace and give us another chance? Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us an answer.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10

God had a plan for Paul and He has a plan for us – so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. God has a plan for each one of us. He saved us for a reason, for a purpose. So in order for us to live up to our created purpose, we ask this question:

What were we made for and what were we saved for?

This letter is from Paul, CHOSEN BY THE WILL OF GOD to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 1:1

Paul greets the holy people in Ephesus, those who were faithful followers of Christ Jesus, by pointing out that he has been sent by God to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was CHOSEN by God and is now an apostle because it is the WILL OF GOD – God’s specific plan for his life. Just as God had a plan for Paul’s life, He has a plan for my life and for yours.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. – Ephesians 1:2

This is a common greeting for the apostle Paul but he goes on in his letter to elaborate on the grace and the peace that God gives us – the grace that plans for our future and the peace that He gives as we walk in His plan.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us to be holy and without fault in his eyes. – Ephesians 1:3-4

What were we made for and what were we saved for – to be holy and without fault in his eyes. How is it possible to be without fault in God’s eyes? The answer can be found in the previous sentence – because we are united with Christ.

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. – Ephesians 1:5

Read that again and let it wash over you fresh and new this morning. This is what he WANTED to do, and it gave him great pleasure. What were we made for and what were we saved for – to be adopted into his own family through Jesus Christ because He WANTS to be our Father, because it brings Him great pleasure to call us His own.

Stop.

Soak it in.

He WANTS to be your Father, because it brings Him great pleasure to call you His own. He looks at you – the one He created and the one He adopted – and experiences joy at the very thought of you. No wonder He has a plan for your life. He loves you. The plan God has for my life and yours is all a part of the plan He had for His Son.

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.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for HE CHOSE US IN ADVANCE, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles who have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, HE IDENTIFIED YOU AS HIS OWN by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. – Ephesians 1:6-14

What were we made for and what were we saved for – to be filled with His Spirit, to receive the inheritance that is ours through Christ Jesus and to praise and glorify God!

Precious Father, fill us with Your Spirit today! May every word we speak and every decision we make glorify you, for you are worthy of all of our praise! Help us to fully understand today what we were made for and what we were saved for.

What Should I Do?

Today’s Reading: Colossians 4:14-18

As we finish up Paul’s letter to the Colossians, consider who you can relate to the most from this early body of believers. There was Tychicus – a beloved brother, a faithful helper in the work of the Lord and an encourager of others. Then there was Onesimus – a faithful and beloved brother, one who could relate to others because he was one of them. And let’s not forget Epaphras – a prayer warrior who prayed earnestly and hard for his fellow believers. But let’s consider one more person in this letter, the person Paul perhaps could relate to the most – Archippus. Perhaps his story sounds a lot like yours.

“Be sure to carry out the ministry God gave you.” This is Paul’s advice to Archippus in Colossians 4:17. I wonder what the story is behind this advice. Perhaps Archippus was running from what God had called him to do, not out of willful disobedience but because he was convinced he had missed his chance. Perhaps Archippus was settling for plan B because he did not accept God’s will when he was first called by God.

RECEIVING THE CALL

Paul understood what it means to be called by God for a specific purpose. Paul said he was chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ (Colossians 1:1), that he was appointed as God’s servant to proclaim the good news (1:23) and given the responsibility of serving His church by proclaiming the entire message of Christ (1:25).

But Paul did not start his adulthood following God’s plan for his life. He was actively involved in the Jewish religion but had not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ and His plan for Paul’s life. God took great measures to get Paul’s attention on the road to Damascus, bringing him back to the true purpose of his life.

ACCEPTING THE CALL

Paul had much to be ashamed of as he accepted God’s call on his life. He could have walked away saying, “I’m not worthy of this call” but instead he accepted what Jesus did on the cross for him and walked into the forgiven life, willing to be and do whatever God created him for.

Paul reminds me a lot of my father, who was called as a teenager to preach God’s word yet resisted God’s plan for his life. As a young man, he walked away from both God and the Church. At the age of 34, he stopped running and accepted God’s call into full-time ministry. After 32 years as a pastor, he is now retired but continues to serve God in the Church knowing that his life is not his own, but that he has been chosen by God.

Paul reminds us that we, too, have been rescued from darkness (Colossians 1:13). We were once far away from God but Christ died so we could be reconciled to Him and brought into the presence of God “holy and blameless,” without a single fault (1:21-22).

WORTHY OF THE CALL

The enemy tries to convince us we are not worthy of what God is calling us to do. But hear this today: You were dead because of your sins but God made you alive with Christ when he forgave ALL your sins. He canceled the record of the charges against you and took it away by nailing it to the cross (2:13-14).

SURRENDERING TO THE CALL

God chose you and God is calling you. It’s time to stop running and “complete the work you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17). The fact that you ran from God’s call no longer matters. The past regrets are just that – past. It no longer matters how you have sinned, but Christ is all that matters and He lives in you (3:11). You died to this life and your real life is now hidden with Christ in God (3:3). And not only are you with Christ, Christ lives in you (1:27). His power is at work within you, giving you the strength to work hard for Him (1:27).

And so my prayer for you today echoes Paul’s desires for the Colossians. I pray that God will give you complete knowledge of his will, that you will have spiritual wisdom and understanding as you continue to follow Him. I pray you will represent Christ today – clothed in love and accessorized with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness as an outflow of Christ living in you. I pray you will work willingly, making the most of every opportunity. I pray you will fully accept what God is asking you to do today with no resistance.

And, oh, yes, tell Archippus, “Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best.”

I’m signing off in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember to pray for me in this jail. Grace be with you. – Colossians 4:17-18

Who Should I Be?

Today’s Reading: Colossians 4:7-13

Paul sure could have used email or facebook. He had so many people he was keeping in touch with, concerned about and preaching to. Of course, he had no idea centuries later he would still be teaching us. Without the postal service or social media, Paul had to rely on friends to deliver his letters and tell others about his ministry. The benefit of these letters was multiplied by the servants of Christ who hand delivered the letters.

Oh how God’s letters to us are multiplied by those He sends into our lives to carry His word into our presence as we enter His! There are many preachers, teachers, evangelists and authors who have helped me understand God’s word over the course of my life. As I read through the last section of Colossians this morning while thoroughly enjoying a hot cup of my morning coffee, I stop to think of all the people God has sent into my life for the very same reason Paul was sending friends into the lives of the Christians in Colosse.

Tychicus will send you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose – to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. – Colossians 4:7-8

My mind immediately goes to those God has called to the same ministry He has called me – those I learn from and am daily encouraged by as we partner together in the Lord’s work. They are faithful and helpful. My coworkers are “beloved brothers” whom I love like family! Let’s stop and thank God for the “Tychicus” in our lives.

I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here. – Colossians 4:9

Have you ever had a friend who just “gets you” – someone who understands you consistently, laughs with you when no one else gets it, and someone you could tell anything and they would still accept you? I cannot imagine my life without “Onesimus” and so I take time this morning to thank God for the friends who play this role in my life.

As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. – Colossians 4:10b

There are some people God sends into our lives not only for our benefit but so we can reach out to them. God wants to use us in the lives of others today. Maybe the “Mark” in your life is unpredictable, like this one who MIGHT show up in Colosse. Maybe the reason God sends someone into your life is not about you but about how God wants to work through you – which amazingly God uses to strengthen us and make us who He created us to be. So I guess we benefit after all! Let’s have our eyes wide open so we can see “Mark” for who he is, just in case he shows up today.

This next one is my favorite and I wholeheartedly thank God for these people in my life!

Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays EARNESTLY for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. I can assure you that he prays HARD for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis. – Colossians 4:12-13

I’m so thankful this morning for the prayer warriors in my life. I do not know where I would be if it was not for the many people who have EARNESTLY prayed for me. Their prayers for me have been for protection and provision, for blessings and for wisdom. They have prayed for God to make me strong in difficult situations and for His Holy Spirit to produce holiness in my life. They have prayed for God’s will to be clear and for my heart to obediently pursue that path. I am so thankful for my parents, my in-laws, and for the many other people who consistently pray HARD for me and my family.

Today people across our nation are deciding who they will be. They will create or purchase costumes, attend parties and eat lots of candy. It is a day to intentionally be someone else.

Let’s turn this around and look at who God is calling us to be in the lives of other people. Are you Tychicus, Onesimus or Epaphras? Who is God asking you to teach and encourage today? To whom is God calling you to be a faithful and beloved friend?

Here’s the big one for me: Who am I praying for today and how am I going to pray? Can my prayers be defined as earnest? Do I pray hard for the requests others bring before me. Perhaps God is calling me to be a warrior. What a great challenge for me today! I think it’s time for me to stop writing and start praying…

What Should I Pray?

Today’s Reading: Colossians 3:25-4:6

Yesterday we talked about the daily struggle some of us have in picking out what to wear. I always gravitate to my favorite sweater or my favorite jeans. I have to remind myself that just because it’s clean again doesn’t mean I should wear it twice in one week. Do you have a favorite sweatshirt or favorite shoes you like to wear? Paul ends chapter 3 by talking about favorites.

But if you do what is wrong, you will be paid back for the wrong you have done. For God has no favorites. – Colossians 3:25

Wait. I don’t have an automatic “in” with God? But I am a pastor’s wife, a pastor’s daughter, a good girl, a nice person. Hey, I’m the CEO of an amazing ministry that is daily changing lives! But Paul was pretty clear that God does not play favorites. He loves ALL of us and He loves us enough to require us to devote our lives fully to Him. He wants ALL of us ALL the time in ALL that we say and ALL that we do.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. – Colossians 4:2

Paul is instructing the believers to not only take time to pray but to DEVOTE themselves to prayer. That is a much stronger word and I have to ask myself if I am truly devoted to prayer. Will it take top priority in my day?

Then Paul adds to pray with a thankful heart. Oh how I love to thank God, to stop and consider all I have to be thankful for and praise Him for the many blessings He gives me every day. This is an element to my prayers that I not only NEED to add, I WANT to add. When I come to God with a thankful heart, it affects my attitude toward everything else.

The NLT Study Bible explains that “with an alert mind” is referring to the Greek verb used in the New Testament exhorting Christians to be watchful in light of Christ’s return. I have to admit that I rarely think of Christ’s return. I stay focused on today and prepared for tomorrow without considering the possibility of His second coming. But Paul is asking the Church to keep their mind alert to the possibility that Christ could return at any moment. The next verses explain why this is important.

Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should. Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. – Colossians 4:3-6

This puts new light on Colossians 3:24, which we looked at yesterday.
Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. – Colossians 3:24

When we keep the reality of Christ’s return as context for our day, we see the non-Christians around us differently. An urgency to lead them back to God flavors our day. When we make it a habit to ask God every day for opportunities, we will be more likely to see those opportunities throughout our day. The literal translation of this is to ask God if He might open a door for us.

Be devoted to prayer.
Pray with an alert mind.
Pray with a thankful heart.
Pray for opportunities.
Pray for clarity in our message.
Pray for wisdom.
Pray to maximize every opportunity God gives today.
Pray for right responses, for gracious and attractive conversation.

Dear Jesus, help me to see doors today that you have placed in my path and lead me through them. Give me the right words so that I might present your message as clearly as I should. Give me wisdom as I live among those who are not believers and help me to wisely make the most of every opportunity. May the words from my mouth be gracious and attractive so that I may always have the right response. Thank you in advance for the opportunities you are going to give me today. Amen.