"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who Said This?

"We think that by living gracious lives (instead of grace-filled lives) it makes us attractive to God. In reality, it only makes us more attractive to one another."


I did, after reading Michael Spenser's book, "Mere Churchianity"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Aw, Dad, do I have to?

Ephesians 5:3-5

 3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking,which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Why is Paul saying this? He has just stated that we must walk in imitation of God, so why the specifics?

I think it has something to do with the fact that new converts (and old too) come from all walks of life. They need to be shown what it means to walk like Jesus walked. It might be easy for some to justify such behavior, either in ignorance, or in stubbornness of heart. Either way, Paul is making it clear that these behaviors are out of bounds for the lover of God.

Those last words are strong! What about grace? Grace is all over Paul's writings. But so is the idea that walking in Christ is not merely "accepting Him into your heart" one time, nor is it the idea of get baptized and walk however you wish. Those kinds of responses are idolotrous, and are not for those of God's kingdom.

Ouch! (But if taken to heart, that is a very good ouch.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

Ephesians 5:1-2

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Paul has just finished giving a list of behaviors that we should follow. Now he is talking about imitating God. While some might see this as a bouncing between legalism and faith, this actually makes sense if you view Paul's list of behaviors as a vision of what being a Christian is all about. Here is what it looks like to imitate God, as His beloved children. And when we look at a picture of something, we know that we are only seeing in 2 dimensions what actually exists in 3 dimensions.

I have a 9 year old son. I love to joke around, and so does he. I like the Chicago Bears, and so does he (even though we live near Indy, and the Colts train in our town). The Colts are our second favorite team. At this age, he is not ashamed to imitate me, and I don't mind it either.

Is he a perfect imitation of me? No. Sometimes he carries things too far. Other times he just takes off on his own. But he loves me and I love him. I see that as a picture of our relationship with God. If we love Him, are in awe of Him, and want to be like Him, we will strive to imitate Him. Paul has spent some time trying to help those in the faith develop what that should look like. Then he goes into these verses to make sure we are not getting the wrong idea and trying to work our way to salvation.

He calls our redemption through Christ an offering, a sacrifice. It is not an obligation. God did not force Christ to suffer wrath for our sin. Our response, if an imitation of the original, should be the same: not forced obedience, but sincere imitation from the heart of a child who truly desires to be like his Father.

Jesus said it simpler, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vote for your favorite!

Ephesians 4:28-32

28Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

For a guy who preached a lot against legalistic Jews, Paul sure seems to have a lot of rules. Then again, so did Jesus. So how does one understand all of this?

I see it this way, Paul (and Jesus for that matter) was not telling us what to do as much as he was showing us what it should look like. How many times did Jesus say, "The kingdom of God is like..." Showing us, not telling us. Saying, in the kingdom of God, you don't steal, you share with those in need. In the kingdom of God, bitterness and anger do not rule. In the kingdom of God, tenderness and forgiveness reign.

I think of the parable of the servant, who was forgiven a large debt by the king, and then had a man who owed him money put in jail. So some people went and told the king, and the king was angered and had the man whose debt he had forgiven thrown in jail. Why? I see two possible answers.

Number one: We make this an exact model of the kingdom of God. Therefore, when the king says that because I forgave you, you should have forgiven others. File this under legalism. The king is being petty, because there was no tit-for-tat response. If we base our interpretation of this passage only on the facts presented here, couldn't we carry it farther? Couldn't we also say that those who are not forgiven are those who have others tattle-tale on them? For the man who owed the king would not have been called back before the king unless someone had told the king. So God needs tattle-tales.

Number two: Jesus is sharing a kingdom principle here. And that principal is not that we forgive just because we have been forgiven. It is because we serve a gracious king. I don't think the king was angry because the man did not forgive his fellow man as much as it is because the man insulted the king by not responding to the king's grace. It was not the legalistic lack of forgiveness that bothered the king, but the fact that having been forgiven such a large debt, the man's life was unchanged. How could you come into the presence of the king, your very life in his hands, be set free when you deserve imprisonment or even death, and not be changed? Is that not the wickedness that angered the king?

And so it is with Paul. Either one, he is giving us a bunch of requirements that if we meet them, God will give us grace. Or two, he is showing us, all of us, who live in sin and have sinful hearts that tend to focus on ourselves that this is what the grace you are now living in should look like.

In light of what I have already read through in the book of Ephesians, I vote for number two. I vote for the grace that I can only attain as I continue to walk in Christ, and not the grace that God gives me as a result of what I do.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yeah I'm angry, so what?

Ephesians 4:25-27

25Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil.

Therefore, refers to previous verses that talk about no longer thinking in our old, futile ways. We have been renewed, so keep growoing in it! As a result of being renewed, we do not lie to one another, but we speak the truth!

Here is a bell-ringer: Sometimes when you speak the truth, people get angry! The truth can be a hard, bitter pill to swallow. And it is okay to get angry, just don't let your emotion of anger get the best of you and lead you into sin! Resolve your issues of anger, do not dwell on them, do not ignore them, do not let them fester. To dwell on it, to live in it, to not resolve it is to give the devil a foothold in your life.

I don't think anyone who truly walks in Christ wants that, do they?

Grow up!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Now Hear This!

Ephesians 4:17-24

 17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self,[ which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

There is a lot of weighty stuff in these verses. But the one theme that seems to permeate them is the idea of change. When one becomes a Christian, it involves a change. So we are no longer walking in darkness, no longer alienated from God because our our hard hearts. When we come to Christ, we put off the old self, and are renewed in hte spirit of our minds.

I just wonder, how does that match up with what Christianity looks like today? We hear that we can go to heaven, but do we even understand that a change must take place? Do we understand that without Christ, we are corrupt and have hard hearts? Or do we just believe that we can say a prayer or come forward to be baptized and all is well? Do we even encourage people to read their Bibles and seek these things out?

Yeah, this is kind of a rant today. But I believe it is an important rant, one that people need to hear. One that, unfortunately, many won't.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Ephesians 4:4-6

4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6( one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I read this and I find myself asking, "Why all the focus on the oneness of everything? I know the importance of unity, but what is he getting at?

So I go back a few verses. Paul considers himself a prisoner of God, a bond servant. My thoughts wander, maybe he is attacking something cultural. Back then, people would grab onto just about anything when it comes to faith. (Things haven't really changed much, have they?) So perhaps Paul is clarifying the unchanging nature of God and of Paul himself.

First, God. There is one God, one hope, one faith, one baptism, etc. But we like options. If I don't like your God, I can find one that suits me. If there is only one God, that severely limits my options.

Second, Paul. He is committed. He has sold out to the one God, and is not going to change his message when things don't go the way he wants them to.

There is one God. Am I willing to serve Him on His terms? There is one me. Or is there?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jesus and the I-Phone Gospel

Ephesians 4:2-3

2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Paul considered himself a servant of Christ. He felt that in light of what God has done for Him, he had no option. He urges us to do the same. When he “urges” us in verse one, I believe that he is calling us to walk along side of him.

I also believe that Paul, although using language that sounds like it is a legalistic list of behaviors, is really just showing us what it looks like to walk in Christ.

Consider this, when you buy the latest techno gadget, you can approach your possession in many ways. Some will buy an i-phone just to say they own one. They will get it and then just use it for phone calls. Others will take it out of the box and use it for calls, and play with it as they have time, getting more out of their purchase, but still not realizing its full potential. Still others with take it out of the box along with the owner’s manual. They will play some and read some as they have time and are able to understand. Still others will take it out of the box, read the owner’s manual, and maybe take a class or get some advice from others with more experience. These will most likely get the most out of their phone.

Paul is the ultimate expert. The guru of what it means to walk in Christ. In these verses he is painting a picture of what it looks like to get the most out of life as a follower of Jesus. What does it really look like walk in a manner worthy of Christ? Humble, with a deep sense of our own lowliness. How can we look at others and love them unless we first see His love for us, a love that came undeserved. Humility sees that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. As I keep my eyes focused on the cross, how can I see anything else? Gentleness. I think of handling a baby here. We all understand the need to be gentle, yet we also understand the need to hold firmly. I don’t think gentleness means timidly, but rather a manner that is under control, not done in anger or spite, but as one who walks along side of Christ. In patience. Not wanting things done on our own timeframe, but waiting on God’s timing. Not expecting that all are at our level of maturity, but letting grace flow through us that others can grow as we have grown. Bearing with one another, because in spite of best intentions, we are still human and wrestle with the flesh.

And last, he talks about our unity in the Spirit. Not just our unity, but our unity in the Spirit. Without the Spirit, we are no different than a country club, Rotary club or any other “helpful” organization. But it is the Spirit that counsels us and leads us to all truth.

Want to get the most out of your relationship with Christ? Then you have to make Him more than a show-piece to get the attention of others. You have to do more than just make Him a play thing that you learn about as it is convenient. You have to take Him to heart, learn from Him and His word. I that asking too much? I guess maybe that depends on what you expect when you take Him out of the box.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Ephesians 4:1

1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of( the calling to which you have been called,

I want to do longer sections of Scripture, but it just seems that Paul packs so much into each verse!

Therefore, whenever I see that word, I want to look back and see what it refers to. In chapter 3, Paul has impressed on the reader the importance of understanding the scope of God’s love and how that needs to impact our lives. It certainly has impacted his, as he calls himself a “prisoner” of the Lord. Paul is compelled to surrender himself to God because of his knowledge of God’s love for him.

It’s like when I am sitting on the lazy boy, and my son crawls in my lap. I ask him what he wants, and he says, “Nothing, I just want you.” He knows I love him, and he willingly places himself in what could be a very dangerous place if it were with someone who did not love him. To become like a child, to crawl up in His lap and just whisper, “Abba, Father, I just want you.” To know that He loves, to know that He protects, and to know that ONLY He has the power to do so.

Paul realized this. And he desires us to realize it to. And if we do, we will walk in worthy manner. That’s not called earning our salvation through works, it is called growing in grace, progressive sanctification.

So, that is my goal for today, to see myself as His prisoner. As a prisoner I have no rights, but I know the one I have entrusted myself to will also see me through it. Sure, it might hurt a little. This is not about my comfort, it is about His love.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Your serve...

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Paul has just stated that we need to know and understand the not-completely-understandable. We need to comprehend the scope of the love of God, but in reality, that is beyond our understanding. In striving to do so, as we grow in this understanding, we grow in our walk with God. So to close this section with the statement that He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think makes sense. This God of Paul’s is beyond understanding, yet we can understand that He loves us and works for us.

It is that next phrase that puzzles me, “according to the power at work within us.” Certainly we do not limit God’s ability to work for us, do we? Then I look back at the first half of the sentence again. Where does it say that God is doing anything just for me alone? Perhaps the idea that God is able to do more than we can comprehend has more to do with the salvation of many, rather than Him just helping me out of a jam or two.

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever.

Why is it that whenever I read the Bible, I see it as being all about me? God is amazing not just for what He has done in my life, but for what He has done in all things. And I am such a small piece of that. I think Paul recognized this. Paul seldom if ever spoke about what God had done for him in a personal sense. Rather, he spoke about how his weaknesses magnified God. How in spite of his failings, God was sovereign and in control.

That is a God worth serving.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Matt Chandler and Suffering

Matt is a favorite preacher of mine. He speaks in a way that challenges my heart. Here he speaks of a topic that he is very familiar with, suffering. Matt's battle with cancer is on-going, and the prognosis in the long-run is not good. So he speaks in a way that deals with the idea of "sometimes God blesses by healing and sometimes God blesses through suffering." Anyway, if you have about 40 minutes, it is worth listening to.

We are here to pump you up!

Ephesians 3:17b-19
that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I touched on this idea yesterday, but since Paul thinks it okay to mention strength twice, I will too.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just didn’t want to get out of bed? Maybe it was because of a test, a job responsibility, a household responsibility, or something even bigger. You knew that what lay before you was a large task, and up to it or not, the bed seemed like a nice, safe place to be.

Not only was the task daunting, but even the mere thought of it was enough to make you unsure of yourself. Sometimes I think that is how the love of God should make us feel. Not that we can’t live in his love and enjoy it, I definitely think that is appropriate. But it should be more than just that for us. There is that whole “pick up your cross” thing Jesus spoke of. Unless we know the breadth and length and height and depth of His love, how in the world are we going to be able to pick up our cross, and why would we want to?

There is a benefit to seeing the full scope of His love. It is that we might be filled with the fullness of God. I think Paul alludes to the impossibility of this happening to perfection on this earth because he states that Christ’s love surpasses knowledge. But what a soul-strengthening goal, to know Him, to seek to understand Him, to trust Him more and more that we might see the fullness of His love for us.

I want that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Can anyone loan me a few bucks?

Ephesians 3:16-17

16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

Just how rich is God’s glory? How can we comprehend limitless riches and glory? Even with all his wealth, Bill Gates cannot but the world, let alone the universe.

Scene one: A man, let’s call him Joe, comes before the king. He owes the king billions of dollars, so the king sends him and his family to prison. Now the king will never recover his debt from this person, but justice demands imprisonment. The man pleads and the king relents.

Scene two: Joe runs into someone, let’s call him Stan, who owes him $50, and has him thrown in jail until the debt is paid. Perhaps Joe feels that Stan is a part of the reason he almost went to jail. Rather than be overcome by goodness that he (Joe) has been set free, he is overcome by anger.

Scene three: Friends of Stan report Joe’s actions to the king. The king is angry because his mercy was not shared by Joe. Back Joe goes to prison, and I would not be surprised if the king did not give Stan the $50 to get out.

To be strengthened in our inner being means to see not only the depth of the riches of the king, but also the depth of our debt and his mercy to us. Faith means not just receiving God’s grace, but living in it, sharing it.

How did Joe get into that mess in the first place? I don’t know. Or do I?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Because of the wonderful things He does...(God, not the Wizard of Oz)

Ephesians 3:14-15

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

For this reason...so we have to go back a few verses and see what the reason is...

In the previous verses Paul is writing about the grace given him. And what Paul considers grace is not necessarily what we consider grace. When we think of grace, we likely tend to think of grace in regard to the gift of salvation. But Paul extends that even farther. Everything about our lives is God’s grace being extended to us. Paul’s ministry, his sufferings, all things. Paul had the uncanny frame of mind to look at whatever circumstance he was in, and see how that connected to God revealing Himself to those Paul met in life.

In Lydia, the seller of purple cloth, a woman of means who probably made Paul’s life a bit more tolerable. And the Philippian Jailer, who tortured Paul in chains. That’s the one that blows my mind. Paul and Silas in jail, singing praise to God because they knew that God had a purpose in this. Something good was going to happen. They likely did not know what, and it might include their death, but God had something good in store. Then the chains fall off, the doors open. How cool is that, freedom! But Paul, I believe through the Holy Spirit, knew this was not about their freedom. The jailer was about to kill himself, and Paul saves him from himself by crying out, “We are all here.” Then the grand purpose is revealed, as Paul preached the Gospel and this man and his family are saved.

For this reason...because Paul understood that everything is in God’s hands, and He was a part of everything. So no matter what, God’s grace was flowing in all things. For this reason Paul bowed his knees before the Father. Bowing does not just signify worship, but it signifies submission. Paul was willingly placing himself in the hands of the Father. The one from whom everyone on earth is named.

Now maybe that is not significant to us, taking our name from God. But in those days, names meant something. Remember Jacob, so named because he grasped the heel of Esau at birth, but that name also meant Deceiver? And what a fitting name it was! And it was God who later changed his name to Israel, One Who Wrestles with God. So this is not talking about God giving us the name of Johnson or Smith, or even Jimmy or Steve. It is talking about God who is in control of all.

So, two choices: One, bow down before Him. Not to gain favor or get an easier lot in life, but because He is God and He gives grace in all circumstance. Second choice? Resist Him, complain, whine and beg for more. Don’t bow down before Him, but expect Him to bow to you and give you all that you desire. Belittle Him. Which do you think the Creator God of the Universe demands?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Starting right

Ephesians 3:11-13

11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

This (the mystery of the Gospel being revealed) was done according to eternal purposes. So often we just look at things from the perspective of "what is going on now," or even worse, "what's in it for me." But there are purposes that are so much bigger we cannot begin to wrap our minds around them.

All things are created by Him and for Him. So if we even want to begin to try and understand something, that is where we start, Jesus Christ. Not ourselves. So now, we can approach an issue with confidence. Not because we will have all the answers, but because we know the starting point, the point by which all things are referenced.

If you build a building, and start in one corner, and that corner is off, the entire rest of the building is off, no matter how meticulous you are from then on. If our life is not built on the Rock, no matter how well we build, everything else is off. But if we know we have the correct starting point, we can continue in boldness and confidence.

Paul tells them not to lose confidence because he is suffering. In a sense, he is saying it is okay, everything is going according to plan, and in the end, I will be victorious. I say this so that you can be strengthened by what you see in me. Praise God.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A few comments about Paul...

Ephesians 3:8-10

 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Just a few comments:

I love that Paul, even though he has written most of the New Testament, considers himself "the very least of all the saints." More of us need to take that position.

I love that he considers his role in God kingdom a "grace [that] was given." His role as an apostle and all of the suffering that went along with it was an unmerited favor bestowed on him by God. More of us need to take that position.

I love that Paul's goal is to make God's plan known in all he does to everyone he can. Even though he is the least of all saints, he does not consider it intimidating to bring the gospel message, the wisdom of God, to rulers and authorities. More of us need to take that position.