Saturday, August 29, 2015

God is Good

Graphic from Scott Wendall
Ephesians 1:3 in the Message version says it this way:

How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.

I appreciate what John Mac Arthur says about this verse:

"The Greek word translated "blessed" is eulogetos, from which we derive the English word eulogy. It means to "speak well of someone." Paul begins verse 3 by saying that God is good. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 19 that "there is none good but one, that is God" (v. 17). And God is good whether we perceive Him to be or not."

I read through Ephesians 1:3-14 this morning and thought I'd go through that whole passage. Then I started re-reading and can't get past this third verse. I want to spend some time today thinking on what the Bible has to say about God being good; what that means, what it means to me, and how it can impact how I live.

I want to look at some other places in the Bible that I'm told God is good:

* From the very beginning of the Bible I see God and his creative actions described in Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, & 25 as good.

* 1 Timothy 4:4 speaks to the fact that both God and all He creates are good.

Psalm 119:68 tells me that God's very nature is good.

* Psalm 33:5  tells me that God is so good that the earth is filled with His goodness.

* Lamentations 3:19-33 is one of my favorite scripture passages. The 25th verse especially speaks to the fact that God is good to those who seek after Him.  Good  is who God is.

 * Repeatedly in the Psalms we're told as God's followers to give thanks to God because He is good.  To cite a few of these scriptures there's  Psalm 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, & 136:1

* Psalm 25:8-11 tells me that God in His goodness will instruct me in how to live well

* James 1:16-18 makes it clear that every good gift is from God

What does it mean that God is good?

I appreciate how Richard L.Strauss explains it:

 "First of all, God Himself is good; that is, He is everything that God should be—the ideal person, the sum     total of all perfection. There are no defects or contradictions in Him, and nothing can be added to His nature  to make Him any better. He is excellence to an infinite degree, possessing every desirable quality, and  therefore of inestimable value. God is good. Because God is Himself the highest and greatest good, He is  also the source and fountain of all other good."

God is the standard for Good.

What does it mean to me that God is good?

I want a good life. The fact that God is good; that He creates good things, shows me how to live in goodness, and gives good gifts - it all makes me want God.  I want to learn about Him.  I want to know Him. I want to think about Him.  I want to seek after Him. I want live my life in obedience to Him.

Today I'm thinking on 2 simple things the fact that God is good means to me:

1. God's goodness provides me with a standard of what is good

There are messages all around me as to what is good and how I can obtain "the good life". Ethics in the workplace are sometimes transitory.  But God is unchanging (Numbers 23:19-20, Psalm 102:25-27, Hebrews 3:18, 1 Timothy 1:18).  As I learn about Him and how He functions, how He works in people's lives, what He calls me to - this shows me what is truly good.  This shows me where my life focus needs to be.

2. Remembering God's goodness keeps me encouraged.

Although the earth is filled with God's goodness, planet earth is fallen (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 15:12-20). Life is not perfect. Stuff happens and sometimes my life is difficult.  I do things that I don't want to do.  I mess up and I'm disappointed in myself. I see people I know and care about encounter painful circumstances and events.  I see tragedies on the news and in the world around me.

I could become discouraged.

One way to keep from discouragement is to think on God's goodness.

I appreciate these thoughts from John Piper:

"when Marshall came to speak to the Wheaton alumni a few years ago down at Wheaton and told this story, he said, at the end of his talk, summing it all up, “Life is hard and God is good. Life is hard and God is good.” That is the meaning of Lamentations. That is the meaning of Job. You might say that is the meaning of the Bible. Life is hard and God is good. And many of you are right in the midst of proving it to be so now. At least if you would trust him, if I could persuade you this morning that God is trustworthy in it, and if you held on to it, you would discover that life is hard and God is good."

How does the fact that God is good affect my life?

Two ways I want God's goodness affects my daily life:

1. I want to be thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:8, Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:15-17, Philippians 4:6-8, 2 Corinthians 9:15).

A huge part of being thankful is choosing to focus on all the good things God's given me instead of focusing on the negative things around me.

I benefit from Joel Osteen's thoughts on choosing to be thankful:

"Choose today to let the peace of Christ rule in your heart and have an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord. Even if you have things that are upsetting you, take a step of faith and begin to thank God for his goodness in your life. Thank Him for working behind the scenes on  your behalf. As you do, you will walk forward into the life of blessing He has in store for you!"

2. I want to show God my gratitude for His goodness by giving to others.

 Vince Gerhardy makes this great point:

"The thinking of the world is that everything is mine to keep and mine to use in whatever way I choose. When God is put at the center, we realize that everything is his and he gives it to us to use not just for ourselves but for the care of others, the work of the church. As God has given to us, we start giving to others - the best way to show our gratitude.".

Oh Father, I thank You that You are a good God.  Help me to live my life in gratitude.  May my heart and lips overflow with gratitude to You throughout the day.  May I continually see ways I can give to others every day.  May I extend Your goodness to others.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Failure to follow through sometimes causes a detour

Since I didn't complete my follow through from my last time in Ephesians, I want to look at some verses the Lord brought to my mind when I was praying for forgiveness just now.

I read Lamentations 3:19-33 out of 4 different versions. I'm especially delighted by the Message paraphrase of these verses:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.
28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.
31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way

Wow. What a great God!  I'm ever so grateful for His mercy.

I'm also thinking about trying a time of just "waiting for hope" when I'm stressed or struggling with temptation. Taking a few moments just for silence before God. 

The other passage God brought to my mind was 1 John 1:9.  I read 1 John 1:5-10 out of 4 versions. Verses 8 & 9 out of the NIV especially speak to my heart:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I'm so glad that He forgives me when I ask and that He makes me clean.  May I take a few moments each evening to seek His forgiveness.

What's the good if I don't follow through?

I'm disappointed in myself.

I have not followed through with all the applications from my time in the Word last week.

This is the self evaluation of my follow through:
  • I've continued to spend time daily in the Word briefly in the morning.
  • I started a prayer journal that includes a lot of prayers for my sons, my daughter in law,  some for John, some for his daughter Mary & son Troy, and for my friend Sheila.
  • I only prayed with this prayer journal X1
  • I did not pray during the work day.

What I'm going to do about that:
  • Add items into my prayer journal for my DOR and trust receptionist
  • Start a brief time of reflection and prayer when I squeeze in a lunch break at work 
 Oh Heavenly Father, I'm so grateful that Your mercies are new every day.  Please forgive me for not following through. Thank You that Your Word assures me that You are faithful to forgive my sin and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.  Thank You so much.  Help me live in obedience to You. Please help me make better use of my time.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How can I be faithful to God?

As I think about the faithfulness of the church of Ephesus I'm asking how I can be faithful.

When I googled that question, I saw that Wikihow told me 5 steps on how to be a faithful Christian: read the Bible,  pray, ask myself in the situations of life what Jesus would do, avoid temptation and tempting situations, and go to church.  That's not such a bad list.

Promise Seed Ministries had some interesting thoughts on faithfulness as well. This site had some Bible verses referred to as the author made his points:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 - These verses talk about giving dignity to your body and avoiding sexual sin. They also talk about caring for the concerns of other people.

1 Thessalonians 5:23- This verse talks about how it is God who will make us blameless.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 -  This is the verses where we are reminded that our bodies are God's temple and that He lives in us,

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 - In these verses we are being urged to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates our body and spirit. We're urged to separate ourselves from evil things and told to not be yoked with unbelievers.

2 Timothy 2:14-21- These verses talk about how we need to turn away from evil so we can be more useful to God. We are to do our best to present ourselves to God as people who are able to utilize His Word and do His work.

The writer over at Promise Seeds put it this way:
"The characteristic of faithfulness is an outgrowth of walking in the experience of this separation. Moreover, faithfulness concerns maturing in our relationship with God. The presence of the Lord produces the state of being called sainthood. Nonetheless each saint must learn to live as a reliable, dependable follower of Christ Jesus."

There's always this balance between having a relationship with God and Him working these desired qualities into our character, and doing what we need to do to grow in these character qualities.

So what do I, today, believe God is telling me to do as a response to these verses and thoughts?

  • Continue spending time each morning in His Word
  • Be faithful to continue in this study in Ephesians
  • Talk with God more, grow this relationship. Specifically: * During my work day make a time for a meal break and spend a bit of time reflecting on the day so far, talking with God about it. * Spend some times in the evenings praying for each of my sons, my DOR, and my trust account receptionist. Maybe even write out some of these prayers.

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
To God’s holy people in Ephesus,[a] the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2 (NIV)

As I looked at these first 2 verses in 5 different Bible versions a couple of things struck me:

1. Paul was an apostle, was doing what he was doing, because it was what God wanted.
   How powerful of a statement is that? What he was doing in his life was because it is what God wanted.
   Can I say that?
   Maybe. Sometimes. So often it's easy to just get caught up in living; to get into motivations that are about my comfort, my ego, and what pleases me. Or even just be going through the motions of life.
   Oh Father, help me to be doing what I'm doing each day because it's Your will. Help me live with a purpose. Help me in each day to know what You want me to be doing; keep me mindful of this.

2. The people in the church were faithful.
    I'm thinking back to Acts 19:1-20:1 about the beginning of the church in Ephesians. These were people in a culture that was dominated by worship to a false god (Artemis). The temple of Artemis that was there was considered one of the 7 wonders of the world.  Their faith went against the common culture.
    Yet they remained faithful despite the common culture.
    When John addressed the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-6, he even commented on their perseverance. 
   Could the same thing be said of me?
   Is the hallmark of who I am that I am a faithful follower of Christ?
   Yes and No.
   Too often I stray the course and get into things that are not the best use of my time and energy.  I'm reminded of the lyrics to a song that I learned many years ago in church, it's a song that is sung to the the Lord:

"So many times I've failed, and I have slipped away, but I will never leave - because You are so faithful".

Then the chorus proclaims:

"I want to be faithful to You
I want to be true Lord.
Whatever You say I will do
I will obey."

These are indeed the words of my heart today.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What's my take away from the background of Ephesians?

Six  take-aways from reading Acts 19:1-20:1 and Revelation 2:1-7 are:

* Some people readily receive the truth
               Oh Father, may I always be open to Your truth.  Help me not be so caught up in my agenda that I miss You.

* Paul invested time in people
             Father, who do you want me to invest in?  Obviously my sons; show me how You want me to be investing in them. Prayer; encouraging emails & conversations.  Please show me if there's anything more.  Also, Father, show me if there's anyone else You want me to invest in.  I know that the new DOR at work seeks out my mentoring; please show me how to be effective with him as well as the main receptionist with whom I work closely.  Show me if there's anyone else You want me to Invest in.

* Powerful encounters with God can be harmed by rumors
              Father, may I be very careful regarding my words. Please keep a guard on my lips. By your mighty power at work in me, may I refrain from spreading gossip.

* God values tenacity
             Father, keep me strong by the work of Your Holy Spirit in me.  Help me to be diligent and tenacious.   

* God values a heart that hates evil
              Oh Father, don't let me be a hater but make me a lover of You and what is good.  Help me to hate evil itself, not people.     

* God requires that we love Him first, above all else.
             Oh Father, heal my divided heart.  Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to love you above all else.  Grow in me a passion for You.  I can't do this on my own; I'm just too selfish and You know that God.


Many scholars believe that Ephesians was written around 60 A.D. Scholars note that this letter is similar in style and purpose to Colossians and date them both to have been written around the same time.  It is thought that this book was written by Paul when he was in a prison cell while being held in Rome.

There is some debate about if this letter was written exclusively to the church in Ephesus, or if it was meant to be circulated more widely.

Ephesus had a harbor that was located at the intersection of major trade routes and was a commercial center. It was  famous for the temple of Artimis which was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There's not a lot known about what was involved in the worship of Artimis, but some information is available at this site.

We can find information about the church in Ephesus by reading Acts 19:1 through Acts 20:1.  There is also the passage in Revelation 2:1-7. When I read in Acts 19:1-Acts 20:1, I see these things regarding the church of Ephesus:
  • When Paul came to these Believers they didn't know yet about the Holy Spirit
  • Paul explained to these people about the Holy Spirit whom they readily received  
  • Paul taught in the meeting place for 3 months trying to make the kingdom of God real to these people
  • Rumors were started (it appears by those in the crowd Paul was teaching) about the Christian way of life so Paul stopped teaching in the meeting place
  • Paul started teaching out of the school of Tyrannus (more information regarding the school of Tyrannus can be found here). 
  • Paul taught at the school of Tyrannus for 2 years
  • God did powerful things through Paul during this time.  Literally garments of his, such as scarves or handkerchiefs, were taken and put on sick people and those sick people were healed. 
  • Some people tried to cast demons out of man using Jesus and Paul's name and the demons came out and beat them up.  This became highly publicized and many involved in witchcraft renounced these beliefs. 
  • Timothy and Erastus were Paul's assistants during this time. Paul send them on to Macedonia prior to his leave of Ephesus.
  • There was a silversmith named Demetrius who made lots of money off selling statues related to the worship of Artimis.  He was concerned about the decrease in business resulting from Paul's teaching. He got together a group of other, similar business men, and they started a big uproar. 
  • The rioting group went into a stadium and were harassing two of Paul's associates, Gaius and Aristarchus. The town clerk finally got the riotous group settled down and the event dispersed by informing them that any concerns they had needed to be handled through the court system.
  • Paul met one last time with his disciples and then left for Macedonia.

When I read in Revelation 2:1-7 I see these things regarding the church of Ephesus:
  • They were tenacious and did not quit
  • They hated evil
  • They fell away from their first love in God
  • God wants them to come back to loving Him first