By the will of God

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God,…..”  Ephesians 1:1

I saw this verse with new eyes yesterday.

I had been jumping past the middle phrase.

Suddenly, I saw that the middle phrase, “an apostle of Christ Jesus,” was being done by the will of God.

Paul was recognizing from the get-go that his being an apostle required that he function within God’s will as he did it.

I have a ton of family relationships.  I’m a father, grandfather, husband, father-in-law, uncle, brother, etc…

What if I started the verse with my name (Peter) and then inserted the family relationship into the middle space?  “Peter, the husband of Julie, by the will of God..”

That personalizes the verse.  It reminds me that the relationship I have to my wife must go forward in the Lord’s will.

God has put me in the position of being a husband and I must realize the responsibility and my need to seek His guidance.

When it comes to work, I can insert my job into the middle phrase.  “Peter, a driving instructor, by the will of God..”

It centers me on the thought that whatever I do, I am chasing His guidance and mindful that I represent Him at work.

Try personalizing your own situation using Ephesians 1:1.

 

 

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Are we the prophets of Baal?

“Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!”  they shouted.  But there was no response; no one answered.  And they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah began to taunt them.  “Shout louder!” he said.  “Surely he is a god!  Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling.  Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”  So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice.  But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”  1 Kings 18:26-29

When the thought ran through my head that President Trump might lose, this section of Scripture came to mind.

Many believers are convinced that God wouldn’t allow Trump to lose.

They’ve prayed.  They’ve donated.  They’ve assured themselves that God is on their side.  He’ll make a Trump win possible……and it may yet happen.

But if it doesn’t.  What then?

Is it inconceivable that the godless will become the “Elijah’s” of the Scripture above?

Would it be surprising if they taunted believers?

“Maybe you didn’t pray enough.”

“Maybe God was out of town and missed your request.”

“Maybe He was tired.”

“Maybe the god you think exists, doesn’t exist.”

It could be tough to listen to.

Will we respond angrily?

God is all-powerful.  We know that He can turn an election one way or another.

It is not our task to tell God what He should or should not do.  Our task is to align ourselves so closely to Him that we will do/say what He wants in all circumstances.

The name of the President shouldn’t change our relationship to God.  God knows his name and will use him, as He did Pharaoh & Nebuchadnezzar, any way He chooses.

We must seek God’s will and follow it.  He is capable of handling the details beyond that.

 

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The virus and the Holy Spirit

“I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me…..” Galatians 2:20

How do you know if you have Covid-19?

You take a test.

Many are required to take a test just to “prove” that they don’t have the virus.

The tests have come under fire.

Are the results accurate?

A New York Times study indicated that 90% of the tests were faulty.

The test requires amplifying the swab result.  The higher the amplification the more that can be detected.

Seemed like a good idea until it was discovered positive results were coming over dead virus and very weak virus.

Helps to explain why people who aren’t sick, or who have very minor symptoms, test positive.

The Governor of Ohio tested positive without symptoms one day.  He took a retest the next day and tested negative.

The best judge for whether or not you have the virus is the symptoms you feel.  Minus the symptoms, you have probably taken an over-amplified test.

I have the Holy Spirit within me because I, as a sinner, believed that Jesus took care of the consequences of my sins when He died in my place.  The old me didn’t believe that way.

Now the Holy Spirit can live within me, and does.

But how does anyone in my midst know that!

Without “symptoms,” I can make all sorts of claims but the symptoms of His presence within me are the ultimate revealer.

Does anyone suspect that you or I have the Holy Spirit within us?  Saying we do, is not enough.  Where are the symptoms?

 

 

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I live for “likes” and “retweets”

How about sharing the glory!

Does everything have to be about me?

Even Paul, who is often pegged as arrogant, gets his part, and God’s part, right in today’s verses.

God deserves ALL the glory.

How much am I giving Him?

Am I willing to minimize myself to a workable piece of clay in the Potter’s hands?

“You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s masterstroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did – Jesus crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2: 1-2 (The Message)

If something is presented in a complicated way, many of the listeners/readers will tune it out.

My sister & brother-in-law are weavers. And very good at it. Occasionally, they will give an explanation on Facebook of something specific they are doing in their weaving process. The words they use are English, but what they mean in the ways they use them, sail quickly past me.

There, however, may be weavers out there who would hang on their every word. I am just not one of them.

Paul super simplifies things for non-believers. He nutshells his message to them into two topics: Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and Jesus Christ died on a cross.

When those two topics are understood, he can then go into specifics.

Paul sees the simplistic approach as important. Why? Because God can work with it.

Paul notes several verses later that his downgraded style draws folks away from celebrating him and towards God instead: “But the Message came through anyway. God’s Spirit and God’s power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God’s power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.” Verses 4-5

I think that my task in doing these devotionals is, with God’s help, to make them as simple to understand as possible. If someone, after reading an entry, comes away with “me” instead of “God” then I have wasted my time.

To Him be all the glory!

 

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How is your prayer life holding up during the Covid-19 crisis?

“My purpose in writing is simple; that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he is listening. And if we are confident that he is listening, we know that what we have asked for is as good as ours. 1 John 5:13-15 (The Message)

Are you praying that the Covid-19 pandemic will end? Why hasn’t it, then?

I imagine Elijah and Baal’s prophets: “Maybe, you could pray a little louder,” taunts Elijah, “maybe, he’s taking a nap.”

If you have been praying that God would end the pandemic, He has not chosen to grant that to you.

Are you discouraged as a result? Do you wonder about His hearing ability?

Deciding how God should do something is folly. His Ways are different than our ways. I have heard it said: “If we knew what God knows, we would understand why He does what He does.”

But of course, we do not.

You get the sense of the frustration in Psalms where David (usually) is lamenting something and wondering about God.

For us to behave similarly, is not a bad thing. It shows that we care, and it shows that we know where the Ultimate Source is.

I have Christ in me. He wants to live through me. He wants to love me and others. Wouldn’t successful prayer be an extension of those things?

I have a Source within me that knows what I should be doing…..and asking for. That relationship must be optimized.

 

 

 

 

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If you are a believer, why are you still trying to work your way into God’s favor?

“As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us; by the Spirit he gave us.” 1 John 3:24 (The Message)

Do you have to pray? Memorize Scripture? Tithe? Etc…?

If you are a believer and you must do such things, my question is, “Why?”

Could you NOT do those things and still be acceptable to God?

If you are not sure, then you need to hear this: You were a sinner. Jesus Christ died taking your sins on Himself. He received the punishment your sins warranted. When God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus was free of our sins and so were you. When Adam sinned, God’s perfect relationship with him ended. God could no longer live in Adam or any of his descendants (that’s us) because of sin. By Jesus taking away your sins (past/present/future) you become sinless in His eyes and He can now live inside you as He did in Adam before he sinned. God now finds you completely acceptable to Him.

Can you do things to “upgrade” or “enhance” your acceptability in God’s sight? No! Your sins are gone. You are as clean in His sight as you will ever be.

If someone told you that God accepts them because they have done this-or-that, you would be quick to note that they can’t work their way to God. Yet, as a believer, are you trying to work your way into His good graces by doing your own version of Christian this-and-that?

What if you did not pray or read/study the Bible, would you feel guilty? You need to examine that guilt. It is not coming from God. It’s from Satan. He wants you to feel inadequate, discouraged, and frustrated. God has already accepted You. He’s in you and He loves you. He does not come and go based on what you do. Live with that assurance.

Understand that praying and Bible study are not bad things. But they are not the measure of our acceptability to God. That acceptability has already been taken care of.

 

 

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Hope in the new normal

“You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever.” 1 Peter 5:9-10 (The Message)

I often think these days, “Woe is me.”

Might be more appropriate to think, “Woe is us.”

We are all in this together. We are all getting a dose of the Covid-19 impact.

That Covid-19 impact got closer for me today. How? Today’s local online newspaper reports that a nursing home, about two miles away, has several positive tests. Could I be next?

Where is the “hope” from the title of this entry? Here it is: The suffering will not last forever.

That does not mean that the Covid-19 threat will completely end. It could, hopefully, but that is not what the verse above means.

Remember that believers are “just passing through” this life. We are all terminal. There is an expiration date for all of us unless Christ returns before that date.

BUT believers have a somewhere with God after this life.

There will not be any suffering in that place. All will be new, including us. Our terminal parts will be exchanged for eternal parts!

The suffering we are going through now is real. There are so many varieties of hurts for all of us. I cannot work. I cannot enjoy a hobby I am heavily invested in. I cannot visit my family. I cannot worship at church or attend a men’s Bible study. And the list goes on…..for me. You surely have your own list.

But we are not without hope. Things will turn out well. In time, the varieties of “normal” we have experienced in this life will transfer into abnormal. I can only imagine!

 

 

 

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Why can’t I be Godly consistent?

“There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus does not change – yesterday, today, tomorrow, he is always totally himself.” Hebrews 13:8 (The Message)

I have Christ in me. Let Galatians 2:20 explain how: “I am crucified with Christ, and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life that I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Wouldn’t you think that with Christ in me, I would be Godly consistent? Frequently, however, I am ungodly consistent instead.

Good times – happy. Bad times – angry.

If Christ is in me, what is throwing me off? I think it is that I am often driven by circumstances.

Even though Christ is in residence in my life, and I want Him running it minute-by-minute, I often interfere. I push Him to spectator status and plow ahead on my own.

Sadly, I do this despite insisting that I want His Ways to be my ways.

There is plenty of proof that I cannot manage my own life in a consistently Godly way.

I must allow His consistency to overflow through me.

 

 

 

 

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The corona virus has made us all equal

“The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.” Ephesians 3:6 (The Message)

It is interesting that the virus has made everyone in the world equal.

No language barriers. No financial advantages.

Everyone wakes up with the reality that there is a virus in our midst. That it is beyond our control no matter who we are, or where we live.

The consequences of the virus being in our midst are real. We see numbers. We hear stories. Many seem so far away that we gather a sense of immunity. Then the local numbers pop up and we are brought back to the nearness of the danger.

The worldwide equality that the virus has brought is like our status before God. We are all His creations. We are all the same before Him. There are no front-row seats or backseats before God.

Today’s verse mentions an “offer” for everyone worldwide from God.

What is the offer? All sinners are unacceptable to God BUT He did something about our unacceptability.

What did God do? I am quoting “Life Application New Testament Commentary” (page 816): ‘God could only accept sinful people through a sacrifice that would cover their sins. Jesus Christ gave that sacrifice – himself! – through his death on the cross.’

Everyone is given the same offer: God has taken care of our sin problem by having Jesus die in our place. Jesus took the punishment we deserved. We are now acceptable in God’s sight if we will accept/believe what He did for us.

There are no coupons or special days involved. The offer does, however, expire when we expire. We either accept the offer in this life or lose out eternally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Forget later. What should I do now!

“I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do…” Ephesians 1: 17-18 (The Message)

Paul prays that the Ephesians will be as Godly as possible.

Paul does not suggest doing some things now and some things later, he leaves time-frames general. I think that I have been narrowing my prayer timeframes into long-range concerns.

Maybe it is time to change my focus.

I like to ask God for help with long-range things.

What say I start asking Him for help in the hour ahead instead of just long-range things?

Maybe my long-range concentration is messing up the immediate.

Instead of, “when should I move to our summer home,” I should be asking, “what chore(s) can I do where I now am in the next hour?”

I referred a few days ago to sensing I was at an airport, with all my gadgets, waiting to go on a trip to the Caribbean. I found that I could not get into the gadgets because of my concentration on my future location.

I have been locked in for weeks. By my estimation, I have waited restlessly for the interned time to end. My productivity has been minimal. I am even neglecting normal household chores. Why? Because my focus is on beyond the immediate. And I am, therefore, seriously neglecting the immediate.

I find myself caught up in online politics and Hallmark movies. The accumulation of those passive activities has turned me lethargic most of the time. Call it bored if you will.

Paul, the apostle, is not around to pray for me as he did beautifully for the Ephesians. I must pray for myself.

I pray that I will know Jesus so well that His thoughts can be my thoughts.

I pray that I will know Jesus so well that I get the next hour Godly right.

 

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