Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jesus changes all of that

Graphic taken from Vimeo
Today I'm looking at Ephesians 2:11-13:

But don’t take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God’s ways had no idea of any of this, didn’t know the first thing about the way God works, hadn’t the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God’s covenants and promises in Israel, hadn’t a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.(MSG)
If, when I read a passage, nothing exactly pops out to me, then I look at the passage in 4 ways: what did it mean to the people it was written to, what could it generally mean to people, what are some general applications of this scripture, what does it mean to me personally.

What does this passage mean for who this was written to:
Paul wrote this to the church in Ephesus.  For around the past two thousand years God had revealed Himself to the Jewish nation.  Starting in Genesis 12:1-3 God called Abraham to follow him and promised that he would be the father of a great nation.  God also told Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed.  It was the Jewish nation about whom the Old Testament is directly relating their history.  The Bible indicates in Acts 4:16 that God had basically allowed the non-Jews to just walk in their own ways.  But God's promise to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed was fulfilled in Jesus.  To the church in Ephesus these verses explain that God's salvation is for everyone - not just the Jews. 

What does this passage mean to people in general:
All people, before they come into a relationship with God through Christ, are outsiders to God's ways. We act according to what seems right to us.  Sometimes we show some wisdom and we do alright.  Other times we just give in to our sinful nature and end up with all kinds of problems.  We don't understand the rich history of how God worked with Israel that is recorded in the Old Testament. We don't see how God is working in the world around us. But Jesus changes all of that.

What are some general applications of this scripture:  
  • Don't take your relationship with God for granted, God planned it for you throughout time
  • Get to know God and His ways better through God's Spirit helping you read the Word and study
  • Don't discriminate against anyone since God loves ALL people
  • Don't see yourself as better than anyone else since God's plan through Jesus is for all people
  • You don't need to feel alone because God's got you with Him
What does it mean to me personally, what is the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart through this passage:
I don't have to live like everyone else around me.  I don't have to be discouraged by circumstances at work.  I don't need to feel hurt or sad that 2 of my 3 sons don't reach out to me very often and I miss them. I can know that God's got good plans for me.  I am in on what He is doing.

Oh Father, show me what You're doing here in the world around me.  Help me see things through You're way of seeing things so that I can join in Your work. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

What kind of God is this?

Photo from Christian Poetry
As I'm reading through Ephesians 2:1-10 my spirit zeros in on this theme of God wanting to do us so much good. In verses 7-8 I'm blown away by this theme (I'm especially partial to the way Peterson paraphrases these verses in the Message):

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. 

Then again down in the 10th verse I read:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)
Albert Barnes wrote about these verses and I appreciate the ways he says it:
"Such was his love toward those who were lost, that it would be an everlasting monument of his mercy, a perpetual and unchanging proof that he was good"
As I read these verses I'm hit with this this idea that there is God.  The God, the one who is the almighty, all knowing, creator of the universe, ruler of all. This same God is here planning and desiring to do so much good to all mankind. So much good to me.  I ask myself - What kind of God is this? That He would want all the time in this world and the one to come to shower grace and kindness on me. That He would prepare good works for me to be about in my life. That He would bother to have a plan for someone like me. What does it say about Him? What does this mean to me?
I want to look at each of these questions burning in my heart.  
What do these verses say about God?  As I think and pray about that, this is what comes to my mind:
  • God thinks about humanity, He makes plans for us
  • God wants to shower humanity with kindness and grace
  • God will do what He wants for humanity through Jesus
  • He wants to save us from the natural destruction that living according to our flesh will result in 
  • God wants to give us salvation, He doesn't want to make us work for it
  • He has a purpose for humanity
  • He has good works that he planned for us to do
What does this mean to me? As I think about pray about it, this is what comes to mind:
  • I'm loved
  • I've got lots of both kindness and grace in my life 
  • I'm created to be an example of how good, kind, and full of grace God is
  • I'm supposed to give what I've received - I need to every day look for ways to extend God's kindness and grace to other people.  As I think on this I'm hit right now by the need to be praying throughout the day as I work or live with people - OK Lord, how exactly do You want me to extend Your grace and kindness to this person right now?
  • My life is not some thing of chance.  God's got a plan for me.  He's prepared good stuff for me to be doing.  I have purpose.
Oh Father, may Your Word work in me.  May I know and experience in my deepest part, Your mercy and kindness.  May the joy of these gifts permeate my life.  Holy Spirit, please remind and prompt me throughout my days to let You show me how to extend mercy and kindness to the people I encounter.