Category Archives: Christmas Devotion 2011

Ephesian 1: 15-23; the Triumph of Christ’s Entrance in Our Life

“That will explain why I, having heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and the love that you show toward all the saints, having never failed to remember you in my prayers, and thank God for you.” Eph.1:15-16. Paul sees in this Gentile church a love that is founded on faith. It is important to remember that our Faith in Christ is grounded on Love, not on reason,nor on emotions but purely on Faith. As was evident to Paul, the young church was not separated by ideologies or traditions but united by the one true Faithfulness that came from the Spirit of God and the embracing gift of the Father, through Christ.

It is not a love that causes us to divide ourselves into groups but a love that binds us together as a marriage to God. In this new relationship we are the brides of Christ, united by the Holy Spirit to grant love to one another and to share in that same love with each other as the family of God. But in that love we are called to serve with loving-kindness each and every member of those “elected to serve” in Christ.

Paul continues with the love thought with the next line. “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed.” (vs. 17a) What a glory it is to be granted wisdom and perception! No longer are we held up in darkness and living in a void because of the sin of Adam that separates us from the light of Salvation. While the wisdom of the ages was still not grasped as obtainable to many of the Jews, these gentiles, these lost souls, now to hold on to it with understanding and confidence. This is something that many today still struggle with. We only need to search out the scriptures, our hearts and to seek after the mind of Christ, we receive a full knowledge, perception and reality in the Wisdom from God. We can just by entering a prayerful and spirit filled attentiveness, grasp what was not understood for ages before Christ.

And to what purpose? the rest of verse 17 says, “…TO BRING YOU TO FULLKNOWLEDGE OF HIM.” This is the whole of the word, the complete story in what was contained in the first 14 verses of chapter one: That we have understanding, wisdom and perception of the meaning of life given by the Blood of Jesus. We are to seek after the fullness of Jesus, we are to seek the Completeness of His Way, we are to understand with godly wisdom the history of the people of God that we can live in Christ. God gave us a spirit that reveals to us what was separate from those who lived before Christ. He gave us the Spirit who is our comforter,our counsel and our guide that we can know without any doubt of what path we are to walk, what ventures we are to undertake and how we are to live with one another.

This brings to my mind a question that we should consider very carefully. If those gentiles, the people whose backgrounds are from Hittite, Persian, Medea, and Assyrian, who were once enemies of the God’s chosen people of old eagerly welcomed the message of Jesus as there own, why do we find it so hard to love as they did? If these people who worshipped strange gods, the creation of the imaginations and idolatry of the Persian, Greek and Roman gods of lust and war, these people whose fathers and mothers prayed to idols and who once engaged in lewd acts as a praise to these false gods, now worshipped a god who came down from heave and gave them peace, spiritual gifts and a heart of love never known before, why then do we still practice to deceive ourselves by engaging in unkind acts toward each other. How can we change those things about ourselves that continually show others that we do not really act in the faith of these ex-pagans?

So as Paul tells these new and eager Christians how well they are doing in their walk, he brings even more encouragement to them with these following words. “May [Christ] enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope His call holds for you, what rich glories that he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that He has exercised for us believers.” Ephesians 1:18-19a. He tells them that they are to be enlightened, to see through the eyes of the Lord and the Spirit how to live, what to seek after and how to build up each other and those who have been weakened by the trials of the world. They are to continue in their efforts to aid the fellow believers among the Jews, and the people who have tried to discourage them. They are to see with the mind of Christ how to bring unity of the Spirit to all the saints. And they are to see just how great the infinite greatness of Christ’s power is in them. And he also encourages them to remember that this power in Christ is to there into eternity, because He is infinite justice and all Power of God is infinite.

I ask another question of you now. How great is our effort to see with the mind of Jesus? Can we see the true riches that is our infinitely from God? Or are we still seeing the incarnate world and seek after those what is are temporal and finite? How enlighten are we when we pray, or when we try to grow in faith? What is there that is holding us back, what is preventing us from opening our minds to see what is God’s desire for our lives? Are we trying to grow unearthly prosperity when we should be seeking to grow in spiritual prosperity?

The next sentence is very long and needs to be taken apart then joined together again. I will write on each point then put it together. Starting with the rest of verse 1:19, “This you can tell from the strength of His Power.” God is the almighty, the all powerful. In Him all riches and glory are due. But what strength are we celebrating? The next part of the sentence, “at work in Christ, when He used it to raise Him from the dead.” The Power to cause what is dead to be alive, but in Christ, He raise Himself up from the grave. Perhaps it was easier for the the Gentiles to accept this miracle than the Jews but it is still an astounding thing. When so many today reject the possibility of the event ever happening and call believers fools and deceivers. But this event was true and to Gentile Church, it was the core of their Faith. and because of it called them to be generous in the sharing of the love through gifts and aid toward others. How strongly is your faith in the reality of the raising up of christ by His own Power and the Equality He shared with the Father? Does this tug at your heart to be generous toward the needs of the weak the hungry and the disproportionately disadvantaged?

Continuing with the sentence, “…to make Him sit at His right hand in heaven,” This gentle reminder that Jesus is the Right hand of God, a representation that the right hand is the hand of Justice, of mercy and of condemnation. All Judgement that lies in heaven is from the Lord God and through Jesus it is administrated. He is, by the Power of the Father of the heavens and Earth, our Justice. To the Gentile Church this a wondrous thing, to know that Justice is handed out by the one who chose to redeem rather than condemn them. In the past the Gentiles who wanted to accept the God of the Jews were required to become Jews first. But through Jesus this was no longer the way. The New Way was through accepting Jesus.

We add to this new Justice, new authority. Verses 21-22, read, “far above every Sovereignty(earthy powers), Authority, (Angels, spirits), Power (Satan, demons), Domination ( spiritual oppressions, injustice and the like),or any other that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to come, HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET, and made Him, as ruler of everything, the head of the Church.” In this we are told that the present age, the age of mortality and the next age, the age of the new kingdom with God, Christ is the head, He is the sole authority, He is the Power, the dominate ruler not to be questioned or denied. We are assured that His reign is forever even into eternity. We are granted that by His Supreme
Right, we are subject to His Law and to His judgement. To the the Gentile Church, now counted as a part of the Holy Family of God, this was great news. For them the acceptance was not welcomed with fear or trembling but with rejoicing pleasure. To know that the One Whom you call God, and your redeemer has everything put under His feet, is to understand in their culture, that the world, the heavens and everything that claims any power is a footstool to Jesus, nothing more and nothing greater.

This brings to mind a question for us; are we treating Christ as a slave to our whims or are we being subject to His Mercy, kindness and desires? Do we accept that Jesus has all the Power, all the Authority and all the Domination to do as He chooses? Are we being good subject or are we being whining pests bringing to him our selfish wants and greedy desires? do we treat Christ with the same devotion as did this small Gentile Church, surrounded by pagans, hard-line Jews and powerful men from Rome? Are we dealing with everyday life in complete trust of Jesus?

And this brings me to the end of the sentence. the end of Paul’s prayerful statement of hope and good will to the small group of devote believers. The last verse of chapter 1; “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills the whole creation.” Ephesians 1:23. Jesus fills both the whole of heaven but also the whole of earth. There is nothing that escapes His attention. While we live in a world filled with strife, one soaring with hate and animosity toward the believer, it was much the same for this church. Yet they held strong to their beliefs, they worked with godly intentions, with a Christ filled purpose. We by comparison seem to be much less in today’s world. We give grudgingly, we complain about paying taxes so the poor can eat and have medical attention. We gripe about our government and the intrusions into our lives. We want to be independent. But that is not what we are to be. We are completely dependent on Christ! We are under His headship! We are to accept His fullness into our very being. The Churches of Ephesus had no problem with this, and that is why Paul loved them so much.

From the very beginning of this passage, it is a prayer for the people of the Church as a whole, a prayer of gratitude for the faithful Love of this community of Believers and a hope for the Church as a whole. Paul wanted the people to see that they are all given the Spirit and Perception to act with godly wisdom and mercy just as Christ have graced them. He wanted the whole of the Church to see with the mind of Christ exactly what they must do, how they must live, think and dream. he wanted them to understand that Jesus is the One Power over all, that Christ is the Authority of all they do and they should continue to work for the Good of Salvation. Having been accepted into the Family of God, having been adopted as the Chosen of Abraham and of Issac and Jacob, to be no longer exiled form Grace and Salvation, they are overwhelmed with the desire to what is pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Paul wants everyone of us to see this message with a clear and open heart. He wants us to grasp that Jesus is not just a fluke of good fortune but the sole authority of everything that is in the heavens and on the Earth. He wants us to rely on the prayer as our own that we go to the Father with the expectation that Christ is the one who fulfills our every need and is providing us with complete justice and mercy. Paul’s prayer is the we are to be filled with the enlightenment and full knowledge that Christ fills the Universe with His Justice, His Mercy and His Grace.

That is the message I have for all of you this Christmas, that As Paul wanted the Children of Ephesus to be knowledgeable in the vastness of the Power and Grace of The Lord Jesus, we are also filled with the same awareness in our day to day living. It is my desire that we can open the eyes of our mind to see the vast Glory of Christ’s reign in heaven and over Earth. That even in the strife and battles of the world that tend to drive fear and sin at us from all sides, we remain faithful to the Promise that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, adopted by the Father and promised by the Blood of Jesus to be His Own! I pray that we not only accept this Divine Hope with pure Faith and devote Love but that we seek to share what we have in the spirit and in the flesh with those who seek after peace and desire to have the love that we have already obtained.

Merry Christmas to all

Bible Study: Ephesians 1:9-14 God’s Plan, To Share the Mystery of Salvation

Continuing in the study of Ephesians from the Jerusalem Bible: What joy it is to see that God had a plan from the very beginning that included us. In the first eight verses we saw the gifts of Blessings to the faithful, the plan of adoption into the family, the chosen of Israel, the Redemption of the Gentiles and the giving us the wisdom and insight into His word and purpose. Each of these gifts of God where ordained from the first. His plan when he began the creation of man. Now we enter into the really great stuff!

The other four gifts are found in the next verses. In fact if we wanted to we could divide these gifts into even more. As I go through them we will expand on these gifts and maybe call them six more gifts instead of four. But I prefer to still call them four gifts. Starting with verse 9; “[God] has let us know the mystery of His purpose, the hidden plan He so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run its course to the end:” It was the intention of God that we should know what he has planned. It is His desire that we have an understanding that everything that happened in the past had a purpose and that the purpose was that Christ would be offered up for us that we might become acceptable to the Father in Grace and Love. And it was the right time for these things to happen. Not only did Christ have to be presented as the perfect sacrifice, He had to be presented by the Gentiles (Romans)so that we could be included in the reconciliation. And that was the plan from the beginning. The course of man’s history had to reach this point, so that the sacrifice of Jesus would include us, the Gentiles. Verse 10 continues with this thought with another gift, God’s choice for the Gentiles. “That He (God the Father) would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in heaven and on earth.” (verse 10) In this verse we have the establishment of the “Church under Christ”. Jesus is the Head of the heavenly Church and the earthly church. Jesus is the One who Unites both the Jews and the Gentiles under the mantel of Salvation. The question for us is, are we uniting under Christ or are we contending with one another. Do we exhibit a Unity of Spirit with each other or are we questioning each other. If God intended us to be united as one people under Christ, why then is there so much non-conformity among his followers?

Thus we are brought together under the fifth gift; the claiming as God’s own chosen People. “And it is in [Christ] that we were claimed as God’s Own, chosen from the beginning, under a predetermined plan of the one who guides all things (Holy Spirit?) as He decides by His own will.”(verse 11) While many will claim that many are chosen not to be redeemed this passage does not claim that at all. It claims that it was predetermined that it was God’s plan to claim Gentiles as His own just as He had claimed the children of Abraham. It is not a setting aside but a joining together. And it is a joining by the will of God as to whom He chooses. And it sets aside some to be the evangelists, the preachers and the teachers. It calls to the Believers of Ephesus to become the extenders of the promise and the sharers of the word. While it does not express that in words here the evidence of that intention to be the examples of Christ and His workers is clear in the later potions of this letter.

We who have gained freedom and to be blameless in the eyes of God are now called to set ourselves aside for His purpose. We have been gifted by the Holy Spirit to be the chosen of God to his pleasure and purpose. We are shown the mystery of His Love and His Salvation to bring everything together through Christ. It is also God’s plan to guide us in the living of the Unity with Him. He does not leave us to fend alone but He has provided us with a support system called the Holy Spirit. So there we have it; not only have we been planned for from the beginning to be in Unity with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit, but we are guided by the Holy Spirit to be in one accord with the Father of Mercy and Grace.

But the gift does not end there! No, it continues right into the next gift! Verse 12 tells us; “(We are) chosen to be, for His greater glory,the people who put their hopes in Christ before He came.” Now here Paul Is talking to the gentiles who had become “good fellows” or believers of Israel’s God but not been circumcised according to custom. They had the hope of salvation promised them in the teachings of many of the Jews. Just as many today want to believe yet still lack faith, they have hope of salvation but still have doubts. To them still is promised Christ. Just as the faithful among the Jews and the Gentiles who wanted to believe that Christ would come to restore them to the Father, we have many who yet still cling to fear that they are worthy of God’s Salvation. They have put their hope in Christ, but to the people of Ephesus, who had not known Christ, their hope was in the coming. Here’s the question; Having seen the Hope of Salvation, what can we do to ensure others may see the Hope Realized in Christ?

So it is the second part of the gift of Hope Promised that the next verse completes the promise, verse 13. “Now you too, in Him, have heard the message of truth and the Good News of Salvation,” This is the greatest part of the gift. And perhaps to some the greatest gift of all! And the end of the gift, in what is also a part of its wonder, is “AND HAVE BELIEVED IT(!)” Having the hope to believe in the Salvation, having heard it and now by the grace of God being able to believe it! there are many millions of people who have heard the Word yet do not have Hope of God, or Faith to believe and for those we must pray, but for those who did have hope and did hear and did believe, God has set them apart to be His own! What effort are we putting into the sharing of the message of Salvation? Do we let the world know that we believe? Who is to bring the message of Salvation if we can don’t demonstrate the Word in our homes, our jobs or the places we congregate?

Yet to me, as great as the gift of the message of truth is, it is not the one I want on my tombstone. Because it is the next gift that binds them together. It is verse 14 that completes it. In the Jerusalem Bible these verses are written as a poem. From verse 3 through 14, almost as a song to be song from the heart. And to me it is also a song to my heat for the last gift that sings to my soul. “And you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise,, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those God has taken for His own,to make His Glory praised.” We have a contract with God! This is the covenant that has been promised, that we are called God’s chosen people to praise Him. Promised of God the father, paid for by the Blood Sacrifice of Jesus and signed and witnessed by the Holy Spirit. A threefold covenant of God given to us without our having to do anything but praise Him! A contract of God given to Man for eternity, irrevocable because it is signed, guaranteed by God Himself in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit! have you accepted as truth the Gift of the Trinity? That it is the Threefold Godhead that presented you with all the gifts? That it is God’s Plan that very aspect of His is in the Salvation, adoption and acceptance of man into His grace?

So here is the questions:
1) On gift four, how has God shared his purpose with you? Do you see yourself as a part of His purpose? What do you intend to do with your gift from God of having a purpose?

2) How has gift five,God’s predetermined plan guided you? As God has chosen to guide you in all things, what direction in your life do you need to redirect to reflect God’s guidance?

3) In the sixth gift, God put your hope in Christ and gave you the message of Salvation to believe. As it was the Hope of mankind to hear the Word, and to believe, what in your life leads you to expand on the faithfulness Christ has placed in you? Where are you best suited to share the Hope and the Promise and the Salvation the tChrist has given you?

and 4) And the seventh gift, the Holy Spirit’s stamp of approval and witness,is it fully accepted and used? As God is the provider of the Promise, the giver of the Promise and the Guarantee of the Promise, how can you show God that you are a respecter of the Promise And give Him the Praise worthy of Him? what changes can you make in your life that can demonstrate the praise and thanksgiving of the gifts?

A Study on EPHESIANS: Mystery of Salvation, Chapter 1:1-8

Chapters 1 through 3 of Ephesians deal with the Mystery of the Church and the wonderful Mystery of the Salvation of God. I want you to put aside the preconceived ideas you may have been taught and start fresh with an open mind to what this wonderful letter has to offer. I am using the Jerusalem Bible because it is concice and because most if not all of you have never seen this translation that was provided by the Roman Catholic Church for its rich penetrating word usage. When using other more popular translations I will make note of them.

In the beginning, Paul starts as he often does with a blessing and greeting. He is very proud of this church filled with gentile Christians and with what they have done with their faith. But this letter to all the churches and was written from th prison of Rome. We must take into account the conflicts that have risen the early church between the Judaisms, Apollos and the Gnostics that have brought false teachings into the churches. There is much today that is similar to the problems Paul’s small congregations faced. We want to re-examine our faith to see if what Paul was presenting them is still what the churches today present to their congregations. Does it uplift or does it tear down. Does it Unify or does it divide? So Paul opens his address with; “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings of Heaven in Christ:”(Vs. 3) Blessing to ALL Spiritual Gifts. Blessing of Heaven, of Christ and of each other. but even before this His opening is a blessing to all the churches of Ephesus who are “Faithful to Christ Jesus.” He wishes them peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. He sets the stage of the inclusive relationship of the duality of God the Father and Jesus with the church of faithfulness.

Verse 4 states clearly: “Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence,” We are blessed (made happy) from the beginning. We were chosen of God to be Holy! To live Blameless. To Live through Love. And to be in the presence of God through Jesus. While it is popular to think that we are a select or privileged people, I want to convey here that this is a Gentile church Paul is writing to. He is conveying to them that they, by electing to follow Christ, to take up the burden of Faithfulness to Him. They are exercising nothing more that the will of God had for them from the creation of time, that They would be included as His Own just as the Jews were before them.

So the question is: If we have been blessed to be holy, blameless and without blemish of sin, what are we doing with this blessing? If we are to be chosen from the beginning, where is the proof of our election in Christ? If we are to be set apart from the world to be in the presence of God, what then do we have to show for it? As we study this book, we need to examine what it means to be a follower of Christ. We need to ask of ourselves if we have shown that we are living in the Love that Jesus shared with us. We need to live with the blessings that have been promised from the first that Christ is our Salvation and the One who Rescues me.

Verse 5 and 6 continues with the plan of God from the first, “determining that we should become HIS adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for HIS PURPOSES, to make us praise the glory of His GRACE, His free gift to us in the Beloved. It was the plan of God when He called Abraham to be the father of a nation of messengers, that the Gentiles, the rejected of God, be made acceptable and worthy through the Blood of Jesus. It was for God’s purpose that we are now included as the children of God just as were the sons of Israel. And the purpose of our adoption is so we can praise God for His Grace and Mercy.

The question now is: Do we show true praise to God for this wonderful gift? Do we accept the adaptation of the Father as grateful children or do we abuse the gift with callousness and disregard? We need to not be boastful of the gift of Salvation and adoption but humble for it was a gift uncalled for. And now that we are adopted as His Children, we are also His messengers. Just as the Jews were the messengers of the Law, we are messengers of the Love.

So far I have mentioned two gifts given of God to us through Christ that have come from the beginning of time. These Gifts are the Blessings of being chosen to be in the Family of God as the Israelites, and the Blessings of becoming holy and spotless before Him. The third Gift is found in the rest of the sentence found in the seventh verse, “in whom, through his Blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins. …” This is the double gift, and in the light of the purpose of God, the most important one. This gift from the beginning was fulfilled on the cross. For it is by the cross we achieve forgiveness. Many will claim it is Faith and that is partially right but the truth of the matter is that without the sacrifice of the Cross, there could not be forgiveness. Our Faith allows us to receive the redemption but still it was the shedding of the Blood of the the most perfect Sacrifice that fulfilled God’s promise.

The second part of the gift is the Redemption, the Reconciliation that came with the sacrifice. The verse continues with, “Such is the richness of the grace which He has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.”(verse 8.) And this brings more questions to mind. Why? What did we do to receive such gifts? Who are we to be forgiven and reconciled with God? Well the answer is nothing! And now that we have been reconciled and redeemed, forgiven and included, how are we expressing that gratitude so undeserved?

What is the evidence in our lives that we are redeemed? How are we demonstrating to the world that we are free from sin? What is it that shows that we have the freedom of God’s Grace to walk in His righteousness? We must be able to show that by the new life we have with God that the gifts He has showered us with in His Wisdom are not wasted. After all God chose us in Christ to be His own just as He chose the sons of Israel to lead a people in righteousness, we are also chosen to live as a nation of Children of God to love our Father.

So the questions for us as a people of God are:
Have I lived to be a holy and sin free person as God wishes,or do I still seek after other desires?
Have I lived as a child of God, or am I still living as a child of the world?
Have I accepted in complete accord the freedom I have to be forgiven, or have I walked back into the bondage of worldly desires?

These Questions we must ask of ourselves. For to be truly free, and to fully accept the gift of the cross, we must act as the chosen of God with complete and impartial commitment to His Will and Way.