Archive for the month “October, 2011”

Pondering the Passages: Ephesians 3:14-21

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red):  14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This passage has always been one of my favorite passages in the NT. It has weeks of ponderable stuff in it. For the sake of this post I’m going to focus on verse 16. This is one of about ten “3:16” verses that has beau coup truth in it. Some thoughts…

Praying for his friends to experience power was at the top of Paul’s prayer list – When I read here (and elsewhere in Paul’s epistles) what and how Paul prayed for his friends I am challenged to overhaul my pitiful prayer life. I readily admit I am a terrible prayer. I do not pray often enough. I do not pray bold enough. I do not pray tenacious enough. And when I do pray it is mostly puny, unbelieving prayers. I often wonder do I even believe in the power of prayer. The answer of course is “yes”. And the answer of course is also “no’. To quote my son (who tweeted this last week): “I wish I believed what I believe!”. Paul believed in prayer and he believed that his praying would make a significant difference in the people he prayed for. He saw a church filled with anemic, weak-kneed Christians and decided to something about it – so he prayed!

Power comes from God – The passage says that power for believers comes “out of (God’s) glorious riches.” Worldly power comes from status. From fame. From wealth. Spiritual power comes from God and manifests itself quite differently. It shows up in the form of faith (v17) and love (v18).

Power comes through God’s Spirit – Every believer has the Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside them. And yet how many of us are living spirit led lives? We like to be in charge. It is very difficult for us to relinquish control. But if power is going to be unleashed through us then we must be willing to submit to God’s authority and surrender to His supremacy.

Enough commentary on my part. I think I’ll close out this post by writing out a prayer. If you have never written out your prayers it is a great exercise to pursue because it makes you really think through what you are praying and not just go through the motions of prayer – which is something most of us do all too often.

Father,

I want to acknowledge that You alone are God. And I want to acknowledge that more often than not I live my life on my terms and not Yours. I confess that I like to be control and I have difficulty living a surrendered life. I confess also that I am weak kneed and anemic in my faith and I do not have the strength of Your power fueling me and filling me to live a Christ exalting life. As Paul prayed for his Ephesian friends I also want to ask that out of Your glorious riches that you would empower me so that I can I live by faith; that I would expect great things from you and attempt great things for you. That I would grasp the magnanimous love of Christ and display this love to people who feel helpless, hopeless, and unworthy of Your love.

And I pray for my church. That together, with contrite hearts, we would quit trying to find favor in Your eyes by doing a lot of religious stuff, and instead call upon Your grace and mercy and compassion to rescue us through the power of the gospel and empower us  to be agents of reconciliation in our community and around the world. That the gospel would magnificently triumph through us as we courageously take Your Word to our schools and workplaces and neighborhoods. That we would not expect people to come to us but that we would go to them. That Your Spirit would revive  a city that is morally decayed and spiritually decrepit as the saints of Ridgecrest  jubilantly advance the gospel for the sake of Your great and matchless Name.

Amen and Amen!

I’m just sayin!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 John 2:15-17
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 John 2:17

Pondering the Passages: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I’m gonna go ahead and admit it – I am not in very good shape right now. I’m not in bad shape. but I’m not in good shape. It hasn’t been all that long thought since I was in very good shape. Not too long ago I competed in a Sprint Triathlon. I was biking 12-20 miles a week, swimming about 2 miles a week, and running several miles a week. That was 2007. Then in 2008 I completed a rigorous 3 month fitness program called P90X. I was pretty studly for a 50 year old guy if I do say so myself. As I think back I’m pretty amazed that I did both of those. And as I think back there are a couple of reasons why I was able to do so.

1) I had a goal in front of me that provided motivation –  There was an end date and there was a reward for seeing both fitness programs through to the end. The same can be said for our faith. There is an end date and a reward. We know that Jesus is going to return. We know that there will be rewards in heaven. What we don’t know is how far away the end is. I think this negates the motivation factor for many of us. We need a tangible, attainable goal to keep in front of us. So I would suggest creating some tangible, attainable goals that will get you a little bit closer to the big goal. Here are a couple of mine that I presently have: a) Ponder one passage a week for a year and blog about it (this one you are familiar with); b) Memorize Ephesians 1 by June of 2012. I have several others that I’m hoping to add that have to do with developing a healthier prayer life and reading great books – just not implemented yet.

2) I had a team of guys that I trained alongside to encourage me – in both instances there were often times when I just did not feel like training but because I was expected to be at the park for a bike ride or expected to be in The Loft for a workout I showed up. The same is true spiritually. We need the accountability and encouragement of our faith comrades to keep pursuing the goals that we have set for ourselves. Otherwise, more often than not they will often fall by the wayside. This is certainly true for the 2 I mentioned for me above. In the case of “a”, knowing that I have a blog audience (however small it may be) has kept me pondering now for 10 months. And the encouragement I get along the way certainly helps. This past Sunday, a friend mentioned how much they enjoyed my post on Mark 12 last week. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way to motivate me to keep pressing forward. For “b”, the fact that a number of others in our student ministry are also memorizing Ephesians 1 keeps me working on the verses each week. I know that at any time they may ask me to say the verses that I am also holding them accountable for.

So I guess it’s time to get in shape. Both physically and spiritually – lest I run like a man running aimlessly. And I’ll admit too that I would like one of them thar prizes that Paul talks about.

So how is your training going? If you want, let me know what you are doing to stay fit and i will try to encourage you along the way to keep at it. And you can do the same for me.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Ephesians 3:20-21

Pondering the Passages: Mark 12: 28-34

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

So I want to make note of a few things about Jesus’ answer  to the question he was asked. The first part of his answer is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. But I want you to see His answer in the context of what comes before and what comes answer. So here is Deuteronomy 6: 1-8: 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.  4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Note what comes before His quote (in Deuteronomy): God does not give us laws and rules just because he wants to keep us under his thumb. He gives them to us for two reasons: to provide for us and to protect us. His promise here is that the keeping of His commandments will mean that 1) it will go well with us and 2) we will increase greatly. Two pretty studly reasons to obey.

Note what comes after His quote: In Mark Jesus adds an addendum to “Love the Lord…: He also says that we are to “Love our neighbor…”. Seems to me that Jesus is saying if we love God then it is going to translate into love for people. In other words, we can’t get away with with just saying that we love God. We have to back it up by showing love for God by loving people. He ups the ante – as he often does. Its easy to say you love God. Its a whole lot harder to demonstrate love for people.

Note what comes in the middle of His quote: Jesus slips in a few words that are not found in the OT passage. “With all your mind.”  How do you love God with all your mind? Here are a couple of thoughts: 1) You don’t pollute your mind with trash that is offensive to God. 2) You exercise your intellect to defend the gospel and to teach and train believers with God’s Word. 3) You THINK! – you don’t put your mind on cruise control. You use it to filter out the lies that the world throws at you and you use it absorb truth. The mind is the gateway to the heart. (See Romans 12:2)

Note what doesn’t come after His quote: I find it interesting that when Jesus was asked this question that he answered it very succinctly. Here was a man who was interested in discussing spiritual things with him and Jesus didn’t preach at him or go into a long monologue discussing great commandments in the Scriptures or even whip out a tract and tell him how to get saved. He simply answered simply. He let the seeker drive the conversation at the pace that he was comfortable with. Hmmm – seems like a good lesson.

I”m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Next Week’s Memory Verse: 1 Corinthians 9:24

Pondering the Passages: Hebrews 3:12-14

This Week’s Passage and Memory Verse (in red): 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first.

These verses, and the context of the verses around them talk about finishing what we start. There have been too many “Christians” who have flamed out before crossing the finish line. Too many who have turned their backs on God, given up, and gone back to a life that was safer and more familiar. I put the word Christians in quotation marks because they are Christians in name only – not in reality. The author of Hebrews gives us a few clues here about how to finish what we start. Let’s take a quick look at them.

v 12) Guard your own heart – Clearly, according to this verse, part of the responsibility, if not most of it, is ours. What are some things that we can do to “see to it… that we do not turn away”. I believe one of the most important things a believer can do is to put himself in community with others who are seeking to know God and to live holy lives. It is in community where we can hear the Word of God taught. It is in community where we can see lives that have been transformed by grace. It is in community where we can both get and give encouragement.

v 13) Guard your neighbors heart – One of the best things we can do for others is to encourage them – to intentionally build courage into others lives. When we lose courage we become very vulnerable to “sin’s deceitfulness.” We need to be around others who are fighting a good fight so that we can feed off their courage. But we need to also make sure that we are doing what we can to fuel others with the courage that they need. And this needs to be done daily. Today! Not once or twice a week when you might run into someone at church. Here is a truth that you can take to the bank – someone that you will come in contact with today needs to be encouraged. I promise. Be proactive. Do something about it.

v 14) Once saved always saved?? – So is this verse saying that if we do not hold firm to the end in what we believe that we do NOT share in Christ or that we can lose our salvation? Not at all. It is saying that the proof that you believe in the real gospel of Jesus Christ is IF you hold firm to the end. We are talking about the doctrine called “perseverance of the saints.” And this is the best way that I know how to define it: Perseverance of the saints means that those who persevere are the saints. Those who do not persevere, who do not hold firm to the end, are not the saints of God. And the context of the verse makes it clear that we need others in the body of Christ to give us the courage that we need to “hold firmly to the end.”

So encourage someone today. And if you are having a hard time finding someone that needs to be encouraged then I am just an email away.

I’m just sayin’!

Next Week’s Passage: Mark 12:28-34
Next Week’s Memory Verse: Mark 12:30

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