Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Psalm 55

"But I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice."  Psalm 55:16-17

There is no greater emotional pain than the rejection of someone who at what time was a good friend.  David was going through exactly such a turmoil in his life.  David was being threatened by a powerful conspiracy against himself.  This conspiracy against David was being led by a former friend.  David said in Psalm 55:12-14, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me. I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God."

David was deeply troubled in his spirit that his former friend would seek to hurt him.  David said to to God in prayer in Psalm 55:2b, "My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught."  David went on to say in Psalm 55:4, "My heart is in anguish within me."  David was so overcome with grief at this situation in his life that he longed to escape the situation in any way possible.  David said in Psalm 55:6-8, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest-I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm."

You and I may have experienced similar feelings at some point in our lives.  When we are in the midst of a relational hurt or some other trial in our lives we may also wish that we could possess wings like a dove.  We may wish that we could "fly away and be at rest."  Rest and peace of heart can only be found in the Lord, however.  Rest and peace cannot be found by running away from our bad situations.  We might be able to leave some situations, but we can not get away from ourselves and our troubled thoughts and emotions.  That kind of peace is found only in the Lord.  Instead of seeking to "fly away" from our circumstances we need to fly to the Lord for His protection, peace, and rest.  We need to rest our problems in the Lord's hands, and then we can soar in the current of His perfect will.

This kind of peace can only be found through prayer and dependence on the Lord.  David said in Psalm 55:16-17, "But I call to God, and the Lord saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice."  David had made prayer a regular part of his life.  David did not just wait until a crisis arose in his life to pray.  Hence, David knew the strength and peace that instant access to God's holy presence could provide.

We too can experience this kind of peace in times of trial.  We may be suffering from a painful relationship like David was experiencing.  We also may be struggling with another kind of trial in our life.  No matter what the crisis or trial in our lives God's Word says in Psalm 55:22, "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the the righteousness fall."

God does not promise to necessarily eliminate all of life's burdens, emotional hurts, or problems; but He will go through these problems with us.  We need to take our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.  We must trust that the Lord is in control of all life's situations.  If we leave our burdens with the Lord, He will strengthen us and sustain us in the midst of the difficult situations in our lives.  He will be our comfort and peace.  All the experiences in our lives, even the difficult experiences can be used by the Lord to draw us closer to Him.  This can only happen, however, if we are resting and trusting in Him; and if we are submissive to His will for our lives.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ephesians 6:10-20

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes."  Ephesians 6:10-11

We live in a society which emphasizes self-worth and self-effort.  Our passage today, however, says that we need to live not in self-reliance but in God-reliance.  We need to live our lives not in our own perceived strength but in the Lord's strength.  Ephesians 6:10 tells us that we need to "be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power."  Our self-effort is inadequate and will fail, but the Lord's strength will never fail us!

In Ephesians 6:11 we are told to "put on the full armor of God."  Roman soldiers in Biblical times put on a full armor before they went out to battle.  They wore a belt to hold up their long flowing robes, so their robes would not get in their way in fighting their battles.  They also wore breastplates and helmets.  Soldiers had their feet protected with supportive and proper footwear.  They further held shields and carried swords.  We as children of God are to be soldiers in God's army.  Ephesians 6:11b instructs us that we are to put on God's armor of protection, so we can take our "stand against the devil's schemes."

The Christian life is a warfare.  God promises us His unlimited resources of power in the battle, however!  The Lord desires for you and me to be strong and empowered by Him!  Only in the Lord is there strength to meet the demands of the Christian life!  You and I do not have sufficient strength in ourselves.  We need to be strong in the Lord alone.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are not just fighting against human strength but against the devil himself and his schemes!  We are inadequate to do that in our own puny strength.  We need the Lord's strength and power!  We need His armor of protection, and then we need to stand against the devil and his schemes.  We need to be prayerfully dependent on the Lord alone.  We must listen to the Lord's battle plan and go forth in His strength.  We must put on His full armor so that we can stand our ground against the devil.  If we truly do this; we will live in freedom and joy instead of apprehension, guilt, and doubt.  This is because we are living our lives in the Lord's strength.

Ephesians 6:14 tells us that the first piece of armor we must put on is the Lord's "belt of truth," so we are prepared for action.  We must at all times be prepared for what the Lord wants us to do and for where He wants us to be.  Ephesians 6:14 goes on to say that we also need the Lord's "breastplate of righteousness in place."  As His children we have Christ's righteousness given to us because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  We must also seek to show practical righteousness in our day to day lives.  Then we we must have our feet ready for anything necessary for the cause of the Lord and for fighting the devil.  We can do this because of our confidence in the Lord's love for us.  The Lord grants you and me His peace.

Ephesians 6:16 instructs us that the Lord further desires that His children take "the shield of faith" with which we can "extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  We need practical day to day trust and faith in the Lord.  We need to fight against Satan's "flaming arrows," the temptations in our lives.  Next, we need to take "the helmet" of His salvation (Ephesians 6:17).  Satan wants to attack our minds and thoughts, so we become discouraged and want to give up.  Therefore, we need the Lord's "helmet" for the assurance of our salvation!  We need a mind truly controlled by the Lord.

Finally, Ephesians 6:17b reminds us that we must not neglect "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."  This is so important, because we are fighting a spiritual battle.  This spiritual battle must be fought in the Lord's strength and not in our own strength.  We must depend on prayer and on the Lord's promises and commands in His Holy Word.  In our own strength we will fail.  In God's strength we are victorious!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Ephesians 4-5

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worth of the calling you have received."  Ephesians 4:1

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as deeply loved children."  Ephesians 5:1

In the Lord Jesus we have full forgiveness of our sins through His precious blood!  Our forgiveness and salvation had been fully attained for us on the cross.  There is nothing we can and need do to earn our salvation.  It is all of grace!  Praise His name!  If we are His children, however, we will show evidence of it in our lives.  This is because Christ sends His Holy Spirit into our lives to give us the power and desire to live for the Lord.

God chose us from all eternity to be His child!  As His children we were chosen for a purpose, however.  That purpose according to Ephesians 1:12b was that we "might be for the praise of His glory."  We were put on this earth to bring glory and praise to the Lord.  Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  Christ redeemed us and washed away our sins.  The Lord then recreated us and is shaping us to become more like Him.  This is so we can serve Him and bring glory and honor to Him in our lives.  This is the purpose and goal for our lives.

The Lord's love for us is infinite and unmeasurable.  He seeks to live and work in our lives.  The Lord wants us to grow in our passion for serving Him and in bringing glory to His name.  Ephesians 4:1b tells us that the Lord desires that we "live a life worthy of the calling" which we have received as His children.  Our lives must be filled with humility, patience, gentleness, and love.  Our characters must be maturing to be more like the character of Christ.  Ephesians 4:13b says we must "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."  We need to live as children of the light.  Ephesians chapter four verses twenty-two through twenty-four tells us we must put off our old selves of sin and self-absorption,  "be made new in the attitude" of our minds, "and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

With the Holy Spirit's help we need to eradicate anything in our lives that is not pleasing to the Lord.  Instead we need "to put on the new self."  We need to act like children of the Lord instead of children of the world and of the devil.  Ephesians 5:1 says we need to "be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children."  Our lives and speech should be filled with thanksgiving for His grace to us.  Ephesians 5:8-9 reminds us that we need to show we are the Lord's children by our kindness, compassion, love, and forgiveness for each other.  We must also show we are the Lord's children by our righteous living and by our personal integrity.  Our lives need to show that we are children of God!

Our salvation is all of grace.  We can not add or contribute to our salvation.  We were not saved, however, to go on with our empty, selfish lives of sin, as if nothing was changed in our lives.  We are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His work to conform us to become more like Jesus.  We are to seek the Holy Spirit's power to always live our lives for the Lord's glory.  This is the purpose for which we were placed on this earth.  It must become our passion and joy to serve the Lord with all our hearts!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ephesians 3

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."  Ephesians 3:17b-18

We as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are part of the family of God!  We are His children! Ephesians 3:7 tells us that we are servants and children of God because of "the gift of God's grace" and "through the working of His power."  Ephesians 3:8b goes on to say that we are recipients in Christ of "the unsearchable riches of Christ."  The riches of His grace and His blessings to us are so bountiful that they are far beyond our total comprehension in their magnitude!  Isn't that an awesome thought?

Another blessing we have in Christ is our ability to approach God with confidence in prayer.  Ephesians 3:12 says, "In Him and through faith in Him we approach God with freedom and confidence."  For this reason we need to pray the prayer of Ephesians 3:16-21.  It is a prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church and for all believers.  It is a prayer that we need to pray for our fellow believers and for all believers.  Paul prayed, "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." (Ephesians 3;16-17)

Paul's prayer and our prayer should be that Christ will live in our hearts as believers in a powerful way.  It should be our consuming passion and prayer that Christ will be at home in our lives and hearts.  It should be our consuming passion that we will grow in our faith and that the power of the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be ever more evident in our lives.  It should be our prayer that sin will be eradicated from our lives and that Christ's character in us will be ever more evident.

Paul's prayer for believers continued.  Paul said, "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17b-19)

Paul's prayer was that we would begin to comprehend the magnitude of the love of Christ for us, His children.  We will never fully comprehend the greatness of His love, because it "surpasses knowledge" in it awesome greatness.  In the measure we begin to grasp Christ's love for us, however, the greater will be our love for Him and the greater will be our desire to serve Him.

The way we can begin to understand Christ's love for us is by being "rooted" or foundationed in His love.  He increasingly needs to become Lord of every area of our lives.  We increasingly need to become "rooted" in Him by spending daily time in His Holy Word and in prayer with Him.  The more time we spend developing our relationship with the Lord and the more time we spend serving Him, the better we will be able to grasp the greatness of His love.

Ephesians 3:19 reminds us that our passion and desire for our lives must be to "be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Our passion must be that we be emptied of self and filled with Christ's character.  Our passion and prayer must be that Christ will dominate our lives more and more and that our eyes will be open to Christ's blessings and love in our lives.  There is no room for becoming complacent in the Christian life.  We need to grow in our love and passion for the Lord.  We need to grow in our understanding of His love and power in our lives.  May this be our prayer and desire.  Praise to Him "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." (Ephesians 3:20)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Ephesians 2:1-10

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

In our natural state we are dead in our "transgressions and sins" (Ephesians 2:1b), but now we who are God's children are spiritually alive in Christ Jesus!  Praise His holy name!  Praise His name that we have been redeemed from sin, the devil, and "the ways of this world (Ephesians 2:2)!  Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that the ways of the world involve "gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following it's desires and thoughts"  The ways of this world involve ignoring the Lord and His will for our lives.  The ways of the world involve a "my rights" mentality.  The ways of the world involve a philosophy of self-effort and self-improvement instead of turning to the Lord in total dependence for the forgiveness of our sins and the meeting of our needs.

We have been redeemed from "the ways of this world."  We need to make sure this shows in our lives in our everyday walk on this earth.  We must be passionate in our love and obedience to the Lord.  We must live our lives in gratitude for His love and salvation to us.  Our lives and ways of thinking must be totally different from those who do not know and love the Lord.

Ephesians  2:4-5 reminds us, "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-it is by grace you have been saved."  Because of God's great love and mercy for us we are no longer condemned for our sin!  We are saved by grace, and we are His chosen children!  Salvation is a gift to us and involves no effort or merit on our part.  We are spiritually alive because of our union with Christ!  Our spiritual standing with God is secure because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

Ephesians 2:6 says, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."  This verse is speaking about an eternity with Christ.  Notice it is speaking in the present tense.  An eternity with Christ is so certain a future reality for us that we can already claim the promise of eternal joys!  God redeems us from our sins and is preparing a place for us in eternity, so "He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:7b). This gift of salvation to us which is totally undeserved brings glory to God.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us that you and I are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."  We have been recreated through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit's work in our lives.  He is forming us into His work of art, and He is working out His sovereign plan in our lives.  He is recreating us to do the good works which He planned and predestined for us from eternity.  The Lord has the blueprint for our lives.

Our whole purpose in this world must be different from those who do not know the Lord.  We are His chosen people who were created to serve the Lord and bring praise to Him by our lives.  I Peter 2:9 sums it up beautifully, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."  May it be our passion to live our lives for His glory!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ephesians 1

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)

In Christ alone we experience everything we need for time and for eternity!  As His children we have already been made recipients of every possible blessing.  Some of these spiritual blessings we will not experience fully until we are eternally with the Lord.  They are so sure a future reality, however, that we can claim them now!  Hence, our attitudes must be different than the people of the world. When we face difficulties in this world we know we have a faithful God who will protect us and guide us. When we face difficulties in this world, we know we have a sure and eternal future with the Lord! Therefore, we can face each new day with assurance and joy.

As children of God we experience many awesome spiritual blessings.  First, the Lord chose us and then adopted us to be His children!  Secondly, in the Lord Jesus Christ we also according to Ephesians 1:7-8 "have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding."  Slaves in Biblical times were freed by the payment of ransom.  The payment required for our ransom from sin and the devil was the blood of Jesus.  Jesus had to suffer hell on the cross for us, so we would not need to suffer the just punishment for our sins.  In the unconditional and unbounded love and grace of God we were forgiven of our sins and made His children!

Another spiritual blessing we receive from the Lord is according to Ephesians 1:10b His bringing "all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ."  In a world where many things do not make sense in our minds we can anticipate with excitement a time when all things will be brought together under Christ's headship.  In eternity the things that we can not understand on this earth will all fall into place and make sense!  We will then fully see that the Lord's plan and purpose through it all was good and right.

Finally, according to Ephesians 1:13b-14 we have the spiritual blessing of being "marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of His glory."  The seal of the Holy Spirit on us means we belong to the Lord for time and for eternity!  This seal is a a kind of down payment on the glories we will experience for all of eternity!

We are given salvation and all of God's spiritual blessings for a purpose, however.  That purpose is to bring glory and honor to the Lord with our lives.  Ephesians 1:4b says that He chose us "to be holy and blameless in His sight."  Only the blood of the cross was sufficient to purchase our salvation, and because of that blood we stand righteous before the Holy God.  As His children, however, we also need to grow in practical day to day holiness in our lives.  As children of God we need to reflect the character of Jesus more and more in our lives.  According to Ephesians 1:12b  it is our purpose as the Lord's children that we "might be for the praise of His glory."  Only as we are living for the Lord and for His glory are we ever going to find purpose and meaning in our lives.  It is the only way to joy and peace.

According to Ephesians 1:17b It should be our consuming passion that we "may know Him better." We should desire with all of our hearts to have not just a head knowledge of the Lord, but also a growing experience of His love and working in our lives.  The Lord promises us that we have His strength to live for His glory.  According to Ephesians 1:19-20 we have "His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead."  We have His resurrection power in our lives!  Isn't that an awesome thought?  May it be our passion to live our lives in holiness and in His resurrection power!  May it be our passion to live for His glory!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Isaiah 51:1-16

"Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord:  Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn." Isaiah 51:1

There are many things going on in this world which could cause us to succumb to fear.  This Scripture passage in Isaiah chapter fifty-one offers comfort when we we are becoming entangled in the tentacles of fear.  A child of God need not be controlled by fear.  When we begin to fear anything or anyone, we must quickly run to the Lord for comfort and protection.  The Lord in His sovereignty already has our lives all planned, so we need not fear.

When we begin to sink into despair or fear for any reason; the Lord says to us in Isaiah 51:1, "Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord:  Look to the rock from which you were cut."  We, who are the Lord's children and are seeking to live for Him, can look to Jesus, our rock and foundation.  Jesus Christ is "the rock" from which you and I "were cut." Jesus is the rock to whom we need to turn in times of great fear.  The Lord Jesus gives our lives a sure foundation even in times of uncertainty and fear.

Verse two of Isaiah fifty-one also suggests that we can follow the examples of the Biblical heroes of faith for inspiration in our own walk of faith.  Hebrews chapter eleven gives us a wonderful account of many of these Biblical heroes of faith.  Furthermore, we can emulate those examples of people in our current life who are walking in faith without fear and with sure confidence in their Lord. These people are all links in the chain of faith, and they can be an inspiration to us.

Isaiah 51:3 says that "the Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord." Zion was a name for God's people in Isaiah's day.  The Lord will comfort His people when they go through fearful or difficult situations. He will turn the "ruins" and "deserts" of our lives into blessings.  A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ will proceed from victory to victory.  No ultimate spiritual harm can ever come to a child of God.  Even if we die we will immediately go to be with the Lord.  What have we to fear?  Therefore, Isaiah 51:3b goes on to say, "joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving, and the sound of singing."  Among God's people there need not be crippling fear, but rather joy, thanksgiving, and singing!

As children of God we need not fear, because the Lord is a just and righteous God.  God says in Isaiah 51:6 that the heavens and earth will vanish someday.  But then in that same verse the Lord goes one to say, "But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail."  We need to fear nothing, because our righteous and faithful God is always with us to comfort and protect us. God says to us in Isaiah 51:12, "I, even I, am He who comforts you."

With the Lord on our side we need never retreat of cower in fear.  The Lord can diffuse any situation that we consider to be potentially dangerous or fearful!  The great God of the universe says to us His children "For is am the Lord your God who churns up the sea so that its waves roar-the Lord Almighty, is His name." (Isaiah 51:15)  The great Lord of the universe personally cares about and loves us!  He knows us by name.  He knows everything about us.  He has our entire futures planned out moment by moment!  He will always give comfort and strength enough for every difficult and fearful situation in our lives!  Praise His name!  Let's rest our lives in Him in joy and thanksgiving and not in fear!  Romans 8:31 b promises, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"