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?"

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Isaiah 46

There are times in life when we are hit with unexpected and unpleasant events and circumstances. Isaiah 46 is a wonderful passage to read when we are facing a crisis or an uncertain future.  In this chapter in Isaiah God is talking to His special Old Testament people, the Israelites.  We can apply these same words to our own lives as His children today.  This chapter in Isaiah tells us that God is the only true God.  The chapter also demonstrates the foolishness of relying on anything or anyone but the Lord in facing life's challenges.

Babylon was Israels's enemy in Old Testament times.  Isaiah told Israel at the time of the writing of this book that some day Babylon's false deities were going to be carried off into captivity. These false deities would fall and fail.  Not so the Lord!  In Isaiah 46:3 the Lord told Israel that He had carried Israel since her birth.  He has also carried us, His children today, since our birth!  Our Lord will never fail us!

The Lord said to Israel and the Lord says to us today, "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (John 46:4)  The writer of  this devotional is old enough to have a few gray hairs. Looking back on her life she can see that the Lord has indeed always sustained her and carried her through both difficult and pleasant times.  He has always rescued her in times of crisis.  When one is a bit older one begins to gain some perspective on the Lord's faithfulness.  One has seen His faithfulness in the past.  Hence, it is a bit easier to begin to have greater trust in His faithfulness in the future.

In verse five of Isaiah 46 the Lord goes on to say, "To whom will you compare Me or count Me equal?  To whom will you liken Me that we may be compared?"  These are rhetorical questions on the Lord's part.  There is no God, but our true God.  No one or no other resource can be compared to to Him in terms of His power, glory, sovereignty, mercy, or love.  If we trust in anyone or any resource in this life other the Lord for our ultimate protection and well-being, we are sinning.  We are then making that person or resource our idol.  The Lord God alone must be our first love and passion. He alone must be the One to whom we turn for protection and help.  He alone is our help, our salvation, and our hope in this life and for eternity.

Read verses eight through eleven of Isaiah 46, and let the words flow through your spirit.  Revel and find joy in their words of comfort to you.  The Lord says to you, "Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart---I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please---What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do."

Our sovereign God is in control of the seeming uncertainties in this world.  He is in sovereign control of our lives as His children.  He is watching over us and protecting us in His goodness. He has every detail of our lives in His sovereign will and plan.  He knows our beginning from our end on this earth and has an eternal future for us with Him.  His purpose for us will stand.  When we truly believe and begin to comprehend the glory of that concept there is no room for fear, worry, or panic even in times of crisis!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Isaiah 43

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One---, your Savior;---you are precious and honored in my sight." Isaiah 43:1b-4

One can find wonderful promises in God's Word where one least expects it. Isaiah 43 is one example of this.  In this passage God is making some wonderful promises to the people of Israel. We can apply these same promises to our lives as His people today!  This chapter of Isaiah tells us that the Lord formed us, created us, and redeemed us; so as His children we need not fear! We need to ask the Lord's help to never fear but to always trust Him.  He chose us to serve Him as His children!

Isaiah 43 tells us that the Lord calls us and knows us each by name!  We can replace all of our fears with the Lord's joy and peace, because He gives us the right to a personal relationship with Him!  He says to you and to all His children, "I have summoned you by name; you are Mine." (Isaiah 43:1b) What is even more wonderful is that He gives us His name!  We are part of His family!  As His children we belong to the Lord!

The Lord also promises that He will always be with us.  When we "pass through the rivers" of life's difficulties they will not sweep over us.  When we "walk through the fire" we "will not be burned." (Isaiah 43:2)  We will always have difficulties in this life.  That is inevitable.  But the Lord will be with us protecting us and guiding us all the way!  As His children we are "precious and honored" in His sight, and He loves us! (Isaiah 43:4)  We need not be afraid of anything, because He is always with us.  In fact, His command to us in Isaiah 43:5 is "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

When you or I are feeling overwhelmed with life's struggles we can cry to the Lord, and He will see us through those troubles!  The waters of life and the fires of life can not overwhelm us as His children!  The waters of life and the fires of life are under His control, so we need not fear.  He will be with us and give us His strength, as we pass through them.  The Lord will not give us His extra strength ahead of time, but He will give us His extra sustaining strength at just the right time when we are going through our deepest trials.

He called us by name and created us for a purpose.  God's purpose for us is that we live for His glory! We are His servants, whom He has chosen to serve Him! We have been chosen to know the Lord, believe on Him, and understand that He is God!  Most of the world does not understand this; but as His children He is our Savior, our God, and our hope forever! No one can change what He has determined!  No one can deliver us out of His hand!  He is our Redeemer, Lord, Creator, and King!

He has done great things for us in the past, and He will do great things for us in the future.  He does new things for us each day!  The longer the writer of this devotional walks with the Lord the more she sees how he is always faithful.  He is always faithful to us even when we can't understand what is going on in our lives.  He makes a way in the deserts of life.  He does this, because He formed you and I Himself that we might bring glory to His name!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Isaiah 40:27-31

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

Do you ever feel discouraged and want to give up?  Do you ever feel that a task or trial that the Lord has given you is too much to handle?  Do you ever wrongly feel as if you are all alone in handling a challenge in your life?  God's Old Testament people in Isaiah's day felt that way. God's people at that time were saying, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God." (Isaiah 40:27b)

When we begin to feel this way in our lives we must recall God's promises in His Holy Word to always be with us and to always strengthen us.  Isaiah 40:28 says, "Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom."  The Lord is a great and powerful God; and this great God of the universe chooses to give His enabling strength to us, His children! Isaiah 40:29 says, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

The key to endurance in this life is not our own strength, for "even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall." (Isaiah 40:30)  The key to endurance in this life is the Lord's strength in our lives.  His supply of strength for us is limitless and is always readily available!  The way we avail ourselves of the Lord's strength is by putting our total trust expectantly in the Lord. We must not seek to run ahead of the Lord or try to seek out our own fallible resources.  We need to wait on the Lord for His strength with the absolute confidence that He will give His strength to us.

We might go into the Lord's presence in prayer weary, tired, and discouraged.  We can leave the Lord's presence in prayer strengthened and refreshed!  Isaiah 40:31 says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."  As we wait on the Lord and trust Him, our strength for facing life's challenges are renewed and invigorated!  This happens when we begin exchanging our finite weaknesses for the Lord's infinite strength.  Then like the eagles, who are known for their vigor, we will be able to fly or rise above the challenges of this life.  This kind of strength is found only in the Lord, but in the Lord's strength we can "run and not grow weary." The Lord is our strength!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Isaiah 39

"What did they see in your palace?" Isaiah 39:4

If someone would closely examine your or my life and home what would they see?  Would they see lives that are passionate about our relationship with the Lord?  Would they see lives that are consumed with a desire to please and obey the Lord in all things, or would they see lives and homes consumed with materialism and the pursuit of temporal possessions?

In our Scripture passage today God had just healed King Hezekiah from a serious illness. Because of King Hezekiah's desperate plea to God in prayer God had granted him fifteen more years of life. Shortly after this the king of Babylon sent King Hezekiah letters and a gift.  The king of Babylon did this, because he had heard of King Hezekiah's recent illness and recovery.

When the envoys from Babylon came to visit King Hezekiah's palace, he could have shared his testimony of God's grace in his life.  King Hezekiah could have shared with the Babylonian envoys how the Lord had been gracious to him and had answered his prayers for healing.  It would have been a perfect opportunity to share with these people the love and grace of his God. Instead King Hezekiah used this occasion as an opportunity to brag about "what was in his storehouses-the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, his entire armory and everything found among his treasures.  There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them." (Isaiah 39:2b)

After the envoys from Babylon left King Hezekiah's palace the prophet, Isaiah, came to King Hezekiah and asked him, "What did they see in your palace?" (Isaiah 39:4)  Notice Hezekiah's answer to the prophet's question in the later part of Isaiah 39:4.  Hezekiah said to the prophet, Isaiah, "They saw everything in my palace."  Then Hezekiah went on to say, "There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them."

Hezekiah did not mention speaking to the Babylon envoys about the spiritual and eternal treasures he had in the Lord God.  King Hezekiah did not mention speaking to the envoys about God's blessings in his life in healing him from his serious illness.  He did not speak of the daily blessings and treasures of the Lord's presence in his life.  King Hezekiah spoke only of his material and temporal treasures.

The prophet, Isaiah, then told King Hezekiah, "The time will surely come when everything in your palace and all your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.  Nothing will be left, says the Lord." (Isaiah 39:6)  The information gained by the Babylon envoys about King Hezekiah's treasures would be valuable to future Babylon kings, and someday Hezekiah's descendants would be taken into captivity.  All King Hezekiah's hoarding of earthly possessions and all his pride and dependence on these things was useless.  King Hezekiah's focus should have been on the Lord God and on eternal and spiritual treasures.

Matthew 6:19-21 tells us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Where is your and my heart?  Do we place value in the material and temporal things, or are we placing value on spiritual and eternal treasures?  If others came to our houses today, what would they see in our homes and lives?  May others see in us the treasures of a vibrant love relationship with the Lord.  May they see the joy of the Lord in our lives.  May they see obedience to the Lord in all areas of our lives.  May they see us storing up eternal and spiritual treasures! Nothing this earth has to offer is worth pursuing.  The Lord and His spiritual treasures are all that ultimately counts in this world and for eternity!