Good News in the Psalms

In my Old Testament Poetry and Wisdom course at Colorado Christian University, we discussed the Old Testament in the Bible. The Bible is divided into 2 sections—the Old and New Testament. There are 39 books in the Old Testament, one being the book of Psalm, which has 150 chapters, written by various authors, most by the notable King David. You may recall King David, the son of Jesse, who was a handsome mighty warrior and skillful musician, but was initially overlooked for the role as king (1 Samuel 16); who killed the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17); who was known by God as “a man after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14); and who committed adultery with Bathsheba and deceived and murdered over it (2 Samuel 11, 12). So, you see, the writer was a man who, like us, experienced the peaks and valleys of life.

The psalms have various genres, or a category or style of writing they fall into and are usually individual or communal. There are hymns, as Psalm 97, 103,117, 113 and 150. These psalms offer general praises of God, celebrate Yahweh’s kingship and sing Songs of Zion. Some are literal musical compositions sung by a communal group of worshipers. Other psalms are categorized as laments, as Psalm 13, 22, 41, 51 and 54. These are the most common psalms that “express the psalmist’s response to God when in a situation of need or affliction” (Lucas, 2003). In the psalm of lament, usually: “(1) someone feels falsely accused of some crime; (2) someone has an illness; or (3) it is an expression against some enemy invasion or trouble caused by enemies.” It’s true! Read one of the examples to get a better understanding. In his article, Psalms of Lament, Lester (n.d.) agrees with Lucas on the features of lament Psalms. He states, “In a lament psalm, a petitioner addresses God directly on the occasion of some calamity…” (Lester, n.d., para. 2).  There are also psalms of thanksgiving or trust in God, such as Psalm 32, 66 and 116. Thanksgiving psalms express thanks and praise to God for some specific act of deliverance that the psalmist has experienced. They are also a form of witness to God’s saving work, declared throughout the congregation. Psalms of trust are united by mood and may refer to God entirely in the 3rd person; however, there is scholarly debate as to which psalms belong in this category. There are also royal psalms, such as Psalm 2, 18, 30, 45, 89 and 110. Their distinguishing feature is the content of the psalm, which concerns the relationship between God and the King. Some of the royal psalms have a battle context. Other royal psalms speak of royal occasions or situations, such as in Psalm 2 and 10, and coronation psalms, that address the rulership succession in the Davidic dynasty. Lastly, there are psalms that provide wisdom for us. Examples of wisdom psalms are: Psalms 1, 34, 37, 49, 73, 111 and 112 (Lucas, 2003). It is important to note how within the psalms, overall attributes of God are revealed but also how those attributes relate to humanity.

Most of us are familiar with the psalms and have heard a few read in a sermon at church, recited at a funeral, or quoted as a liturgy at an ecumenical service—as Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd…;” or Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…;” or Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear…;” or Psalm 150, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord…” I wonder, however, if you’ve ever read Psalms 139? It’s one of my favorite psalms. As you’ll see, it seems to have all the elements of the type Psalms we just discussed. Most importantly, this is the Psalm that helped me in my battles with low self-esteem, low self-image and low self-worth. Through this Psalm, I dealt with my negative identity issues and problems I faced with rejection and isolation that travelled with me most of my life from my teenage years. Yes, issues from puberty can and do linger to adulthood if you don’t recognize them and/or honestly face them at some point in your life. Many people ascribe to me a sense of strength and confidence. Well, here’s where a lot of this came from—reading, studying, meditating on and understanding Psalm 139. You’ll understand after you delve into it for yourself. So, right here, right now, please STOP reading my blog and take a few minutes to read this magnificent, awesome psalm. Hear King David’s message to us about God, the Father, Creator of the Universe and what He (and King David) wanted humanity to know about God.


Finished? Great!  Now, let’s continue with our blog post.  It’s quite easy to recognize the central theme or focus of this Psalm, because King David opens verse 1 by showing us. He says, “O, Lord, You…”  As you read on, he continues to acknowledge God by referring to Him using the pronoun, “You,” or “Your,” or by saying “God” or “Lord.”  The reference to the pronoun you/your is repeated 30x in the NASB version of this reading. NASB is simply a version the Bible was written in (like the KJV version). God is the central figure of the text and the object of David’s conversation. David’s choice of verbs enables us to visualize God as a real, active being who functions. He says, “You search and know…” (vs. 1); “You know when…” and “You understand…” (vs. 2); “You scrutinize”(examine or inspect closely) and “are intimately acquainted…” (vs.3); “You know it all before it’s said…” (vs.4); “You have enclosed…” and “laid your hand upon…” (vs.5); You are Spirit; it’s everywhere… (vs.7); “You are there…” (v.8); “Your hand will lead…” and “Your right hand will lay hold…” (vs.10); “You formed…” and “You wove…” (vs.13); “Your works are wonderful…” (vs.14); You know the bodily frame…” (vs.15); “Your eyes have seen…” and “You have a written book you record in…” (vs.16); “You think many precious things…”(vs.17,18); “You have enemies…” (vs.20). It’s quite evident here that God is present, knowledgeable, and an active participant in life. Interestingly, though, not only is God the subject of the text, but there is a central object we see in the text as well, where David personally refers to himself as “me,” “my,” or “I.” Humanity then is the object of God’s ways, function, actions or emotions in the text. Who He is and what He does are on behalf of, for, or directed toward a human being, King David. “Me” is repeated 16x in this chapter; “my” 15x, and “I” 20x. This is another skill we learned in school to get to the intended meaning of a scripture text. Pretty cool, huh?

I want to conclude this month’s blog right here. In what we have discovered thus far, I believe we have gained enough insight to ponder and meditate on. It’s simple, yet a wealth of information. We discover several attributes about God in this psalm. We discover several things about ourselves in this psalm as it relates to God. We find a connection between Him and ourselves. David assures us of this as He speaks to God about Himself and is telling us, in essence, “God, you’ve done this, you’ve done that; you know this, you know that—all for and about “me.”

I invite you then, to go back and read once more Psalm 139. This time, however, where King David indicates “me” in the text, replace the word “me” with your name. It will now become more personal to you, and you’ll be able to internalize God’s intended message for you through this Psalm. What a mighty God…!

Be blessed until next time when we’ll look further into the attributes of God as revealed in this psalm and what it means for us! 😊

———-

References

Lucas, E. C. (2003). Exploring the Old Testament, Volume 3: A guide to the Psalms &    Wisdom Literature. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Calling New Members into Jesus Christ’s Body of Believers

Happy Independence month everyone!

I had planned a different post for July using another Scripture reference I felt addressed some important issues going on in our world today. However, through a medical condition I had, the Lord allowed me to understand a picture the Apostle Paul was painting for the church of Christ in his time, and for us today. The Scripture is found in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul is answering some questions the Corinthian church had, as well as giving them some general biblical principles on godly living. In this chapter, Paul is primarily discussing how members of Christ’s body have spiritual gifts and ministry callings that are used in the church. This is how this passage is taught or preached, and it is a proper interpretation. His theme is evident in verse 1 where he states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…,” and in the concluding verses 28-31, where he identifies spiritual callings members have (i.e. apostles, teachers, etc.).

When we get to 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Paul shifts his thought and begins to paint a picture for us by making an analogy of members of the human physical body to members of Christ’s body (the church). It reads,

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body .21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

I really enjoy Paul’s writings because he almost always highlights for Christians how in Christ either something has already been done for us, or he emphasizes a present state we are right now in, as in this analogy of Christ’s body. It is a mindset we are to adopt, a way we are to see ourselves. In verse 27, Paul argues, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” This was the Corinthian church’s status, and it is also the church’s status today. We belong, are included in, and are participants together with other believers in the universal body of Jesus Christ. As a unified whole, we are Christ’s body, following and representing Jesus Christ, the Head. Individually, I am a unique member of this diversified group. Paul wants us to have this picture in view so that we will respect the whole as being Christ’s and thus see each individual member as a selected, essential, equal part in this membership. (See Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:5, 3:6, 4:25, 5:30; I Cor. 6:15; Col. 1:18, 1:24, 2:19, 3:15)

On June 29th, I underwent a parathyroidectomy, a minor surgery where doctors removed an abnormal parathyroid gland from my neck due to hyperparathyroidism. This abnormal parathyroid caused me problems with: an elevated calcium level in my blood, kidney stones that developed over time in both kidneys, calcifications around my aorta, and osteoporosis. Oh boy! These ailments were indicative of an abnormal parathyroid which needed to be removed. Thankfully, we have 4 parathyroid glands, so removal of one would not be life-threatening; however, this tiny part (or member) of my physical anatomy was so important, that its going awry had contributed to my normal body function going off. This gland is so significant that, after surgery, I now need calcium supplements and should eat and drink foods rich in calcium to bring my calcium and PTH back to a proper balance. Isn’t this amazing?

Some Facts About the Body of Christ

Here’s the main point Paul is making for us in comparing Christ’s body to the human body.  Just as our physical bodies have various significant parts that help it function properly, so too individual members in Jesus Christ’s body help it function as Christ intended the church to function.

  • Christ’s body is also known as: the church, members, family of God, God’s people, assembly, citizens, saints, believers, congregation, disciples.
  • Christ’s body is formed, held and led by One—the Holy Spirit of God (vs.13). No other spirit controls or leads Christ’s body. Members of Christ’s body share an affinity with one another—the life and message of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. They are believers in Jesus Christ who have chosen to follow Christ and live by His Holy Spirit, who binds us all together. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, culminated into one all those who have placed their faith in Christ. It is by His Spirit we have been placed as members in Christ’s body for a specific purpose. Membership is not based upon: age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, culture, race, status, socio-economic class, education, good deeds, going to church, and/or spiritual giftedness, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (vs. 13).
  • Christ’s body is large and ever-growing (vs.14, 20). There are a lot of members in Christ’s body from all around the world. It’s been growing for centuries, ever since the twelve Apostles began preaching the Gospel throughout the world. The 3,000 souls who were saved from Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2 may have duplicated his actions and added 3,000 more souls as they preached. (You see my point?) The body of Christ is not specific to your one church congregation (vs. 14); your church congregation is inclusive and a part of the body, but it is not the only body of Christ. We must broaden our view of Christ’s body.
  • Christ’s body is unified yet diversified (vs.15-26). Not everyone is a “hand,” an “eye,” a “heart,” or as strong as another. You are uniquely significant to and needed in Christ’s body! If something happens to one, it affects the whole–whether good or bad. Just as the small parathyroid gland in my neck proved to be essential to my normal bodily function, so it is in Christ’s body. Members share an affinity in this group—serving the Lord Jesus Christ and sharing His good news message of the Gospel. We must then be respectful of, care and look out for one another. We can only do this as we visualize, as Paul suggests, how our physical bodies function. We are connected and what we do affects each other. Paul stresses each member’s difference, yet importance. Everyone is needed in Christ’s body. (Were examples of how the early church functioned recorded for us for a reason? See Acts 1:12-2:6, 2:42-47, 4:32-35, 5:12; 9:31, 12:5. See Acts 1:12-26, 6:1-7, 9:19-31, 11:1-18, 12:11-17, 13:1-3, Acts 15 and Eph. 4:13; Phil. 2:2.
  • Christ’s body is affirming and accepting (vs.15-18). If you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior but are finding some seeming to be more noble, wise, or spiritual attempting to convince you: (a) that you are NOT a part of Christ’s body because you do not do or act as they; (b) that you are NOT essential to Christ’s body because you are weak; or (c) that you MUST DO something more to be in Christ’s body, I am confident in saying, more likely than not, this is not coming from the Spirit of God. Jesus simply said, “Come…” (See Matt. 11:28-30; 2 Pet. 3:9.)

Membership in Christ’s body is always open for new members. Rev. 3:20 (ESV) says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Jesus Christ is knocking at your heart today, inviting you to become a member of His family, to know Him, to know God, and to enjoy life found in Christ. He is the truth for this life and the one to come, and He is the only way to God.  He said it in John 14:6 (ESV), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus could say this because as He walked the earth He is the only One who fulfilled God’s righteous standard and gave up His life so others could be saved. What a man! What a God! What a friend! Please, open your heart and come to Jesus today! You are welcomed regardless of what…

Let us know you did!


 

It Will Happen!

Wow! It’s been 8 months since I’ve last blogged. A new year has emerged. Another birthday has added to my years. Spring has sprung. And, I have completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies/Communications from Colorado Christian University. How time just flies by! Whether or not we are ready, time moves constantly and offers us new opportunities for change and/or growth. Things just happen in life, and sometimes we may find ourselves surprised by, overwhelmed with, or unsure about what time has brought to or taken away from us.

I hope you had an opportunity to review the Scripture reading I suggested in my last post to learn more about Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. As I pondered my relationship with Jesus recently and His help in enabling me to finish school while living with a disabling condition–multiple sclerosis, I was amazed by and grateful to Him. I experienced the friendship, support and strength of God as I never have. Thinking on God’s faithfulness made me wonder how anyone can live life without Him. Jesus Christ truly makes life different, exciting and purposeful! I’m a witness.

I discovered not only does time keep moving constantly, but so does the life of God, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. With Christ in your life, His Holy Spirit promises to guide us, teach us, comfort us, strengthen us and never, ever leave us. In this journey with multiple sclerosis coupled with my goal of completing my degree, I have just now experienced this to be true about God’s Holy Spirit. I can relate with Job where he states in Job 42:5 (NIV), “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” This experience for me has been orchestrated for a (set) time.

Many times, as Christians, we wonder why this or that has not taken place in our lives. We read and hear the word of God, but it does not seem to radiate or manifest in our lives. We have a Christian home, preach/teach, go to church, worship God and pray, yet there are many Scriptures we read that we honestly have not yet experienced for ourselves. We need not worry about this. God’s kingdom life is just that—His life. It is a life we as humans have no capacity of performing, comprehending, or putting together—except by the consistent, constant and faithful work of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives throughout time.

We learn about time in the wisdom literature poetry by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3 (NIV). He writes:

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Verse 11 emphasizes for us how God makes everything beautiful in its time, and, (in essence), how no one can (actually) fathom what God does. He reveals this in time–even the experience with Him we so desire, want, need and pray for. While this is not customary to what we thought or have been taught, Jesus sort of alluded to this in Matthew 11:28-30. In God’s Kingdom there’s no striving–for anything. We simply come and receive from God His gift, through Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit! Exhale…Aaaah! 😊

Be encouraged my friends!   Continue reading

Salvation Is a Big Deal

In salvation, the Bible makes it known that we became new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NASB) says, For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” New Christians need to know how once you believe in Jesus Christ, who died and resurrected to new life for us, did so to bring us into the life of God. Immediately upon our salvation, God transitioned us out from under darkness and into the kingdom of God. Our old way of being, thinking and acting—in darkness–is no longer where our identity lies. Our life and identity is now in God. Colossians 1:13-14 confirms this by stating, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

There are two opposite kingdoms—a dark one (controlled by sin and evil) and the kingdom of the Son, Jesus Christ (controlled by light and love). This is where we were placed the moment we received Jesus Christ as our Savior.  I emphasize the immediacy because for a long time, many Christians have not known about this work Christ did for them in salvation. Even many of us older Christians have accepted Jesus as Savior but have been erroneously taught (or not taught at all) how placing faith in Christ gives us a new identity. We are instantaneously children of God, children of the light, and accepted in God’s beloved.  This is the reason why the scripture verse states above, “we no longer consider anyone from a fleshly perspective.” God’s kingdom is spiritual and does not operate as we do or this world. This is important to know because new Christians can boldly begin their Christian journey by immediately receiving this truth into their hearts, mind and spirits. They can “hit the ground running,” so to speak. They can confidently proclaim their acceptance by God into his supernatural kingdom. Imagine how one’s actions would immediately change if this was the new focus of one’s thinking? “I have been rescued from sin and evil and brought into God’s eternal light and love” Do not let anyone try to deduce you or kick you out of where God placed you in salvation. You are no longer darkness, but light in the Lord. Think this way; act this way. Hmmm! (Take a deep breath, exhale and smile!).  Salvation is a miracle indeed!

To learn more about this new life God has given you, I recommend reading the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which biblical scholars term the Synoptic Gospels. They are the only books in the Bible that reveals to us who Jesus is. Why do we want to do this? Well, Hebrews 1:1-4 (Study Bible) tells us why, “On many past occasions and ways, God spoke to our fathers through the prophets.  But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So, He became as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is excellent beyond theirs.”  Our invisible God’s nature can be seen through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only One who accurately represents who God is. Jesus controls God’s kingdom and shows us God’s nature, what pleases God, and reveals God’s plan for humankind.  Therefore, He deserves our undivided attention this scripture is saying. Wow! These gospel narratives, written by the disciples (turned apostles) of Christ, are very important to read and study because in the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ is the One who connects us to God, is our new model, and the One we now follow, and no longer ourselves or this (dark) earthly way of doing things.  It is in these Synoptic Gospel books where Jesus’ life and public ministry is recorded and where we find out how God operates. Be encouraged and happy reading!  Continue reading

Inspired by Ephesians 1:3-13

As a long time Christian , I recently found astounding inspiration in this passage in Ephesians I wish I had learned about sooner. I want to share it with you. The passage begins appropriately for the situation facing the biblical audience. It’s a theological statement as well as a message to encourage the saints in Ephesus. Paul opens verse 3 with a praise, which is to be “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He continues in verse 3 suggesting a reason for this praise—“who has blessed us…” The word “blessed” is a Greek word (eulogeō) which means “to impart a benefit to someone being blessed.” The benefits imparted are not from the physical world but are spiritual blessings proceeding from “the heavenly realm,” where God resides and where believers have a share (Snodgrass, 1996). The blessings here are not indicative of the future, but are blessings we now partake of on earth because of the work Christ did for us on the cross.

The verse opens with a greeting by its author, the Apostle Paul, “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1).  Ephesus was a prominent city in Rome that housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World–the divine temple entity devoted to Diana (Artemis)—whom they worship and from which they made a lot of money. People travelled great distances to worship Artemis. The goddess was responsible for Ephesus’ prominence in business and also for the city’s immorality and wickedness. Sexual promiscuity, prostitution, sorcery and other sins were running rampant. However, saints were in Ephesus, who, with Paul, were proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, uniting in church fellowship and the teaching of God’s word. Included were new convert Gentiles and Greeks who were turning from their gods to the Lord.  As a result, believers were facing persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and involved in rioting.

Paul goes on in verses 4-13, it seems, letting us know what these imparted spiritual benefits are. These blessings have changed their life position. They are now united with God through Christ and must think and act this way, and not as they used to. These blessings are inclusive of all saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus, including converted Jews, Gentiles and Greeks who have put their faith in Christ. We will take a look at these blessings and the implications they had for the church of Ephesus as well as for believers today.

The first blessing bestowed on us by God is that“… He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4).  This thought of being chosen is confirmed in John 6:44, where Jesus lets us know, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” God is the initiator in bringing us to Himself.  He elected us as members of His family to be holy and blameless in His sight. This is a phenomenal blessing indeed! Many times in our lives, because of our actions, personality, past mistakes, or present predicament, we do not equate ourselves as being holy. This verse encourages us that God sees us as holy and blameless in His sight.  This is based solely on our identification and faith in Christ.

The next benefit bestowed upon us is that God, in love, “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (1:5-6).  The idea of predestination, again, has to do with the idea that God decided beforehand to bring us into the family of God. To think, the God of the universe had you in mind to specially select you as His child! This should exhilarate us with much excitement! It is important to note here, God decided this in love!  In our relationships with significant others, we express our dying love for each other. However, the God of heaven and earth first fell in love with us by deciding to bring us to Himself.  He freely delighted in and wanted to do this for us, because He is a gracious and kind God who loves to show favor.

Our next benefit also “in Him” (in Christ that is)—“we have redemption through his blood”(1:7-8).  The payment for sin required a sacrifice, which Christ paid when he shed His blood by dying on the cross. By putting our faith in His substitutionary death, He bought us back into right standing with God.  This payment also blessed us with, “the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding”(1:7-8).  God, in his wisdom, understood that mankind could never fulfill his righteous requirements, so Christ’s death, again, stood in our place, took the penalty we deserved in order to bring us to God. When we sin, we receive forgiveness when we ask. Christ, the great High Priest, intercedes to the Father on our behalf, asking God to remember the sacrifice He made for our sins. As such, God’s gracious nature forgives us on Christ’s behalf, all because we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior!

God has also blessed us because He, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put in effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:9-10). We are now no longer strangers, but heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17 NIV). As such, God has shared classified information with us, that once was hidden. As His children, we are now trustworthy to receive it. This mystery includes, I believe, God’s enlightenment about His plan of salvation which is through Christ. This plan was being worked on before the foundations of the world, since the creation and throughout the Old Testament—God bringing people to Himself in relationship. As we trusted Him, He has revealed to us that, at the proper time of fulfillment, everything on heaven and earth will come together under His rule. And everything will be back in order and under God’s authority. As believers, we understand and hope for this as we continue in our spiritual journey.

Another blessing we received is stated as,“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of  Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (1:11-12).  Believers were not just haphazardly chosen to live life aimlessly. God had a predetermined plan for our lives that He would work all things, within us and throughout lives, according to His will. This includes our good, our bad, and our ugly. God wants to show forth His glory through our life testimony. When we share it, the world will follow suit and give God praise. We cannot always fathom this in our painful earthly moments, but there is a larger picture God has in the heavenly realm which is oftentimes incomprehensible to us until God reveals it.  This too is indicative of such a great blessing we have as dwellers on earth living with a heavenly mindset–God chose us with a plan in mind! We surely are not “nothings.”

The final blessing addressed in this passage, and possibly the best of them all, states, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”(1:13-14).  “You also were included” mentioned here could be Paul’s specific address to the Gentile believers at that time who were not originally God’s chosen people.  He is encouraging them that they are now included (Snodgrass, 1996).  I believe we can safely assume also that this blessing would include all persons throughout all ages who would come to Christ. Upon conversion, believers in Christ receive a “seal” and a “deposit”—the promised Holy Spirit. This mark identifies us as God’s possession. The Holy Spirit’s mark also serves as our down payment, so to speak, to guarantee our place in heaven. To think, God has put a stamp of approval on us to walk through the pearly gates! This is comforting to know because this puts the forces of darkness–who roam throughout the spiritual realm–on notice that we belong to God; therefore they cannot harm us. It also comforts us that our place in heaven is secured. When we die and when the “times have reached their fulfillment,” our place in heaven is guaranteed through Jesus Christ. Nothing can alter this fact.

How blessed we are, ‘eh! Paul graciously addresses the significance of this perspective. Announcing these blessings to us shows us what God had in mind in times past, what they have afforded us in our present life here on earth, and the glorious hope of our future. This reality was needed for the biblical audience in Ephesus as well as for us today. While the extent of suffering, pain and persecution for Christ is not as prevalent today as it was in Ephesus, believers today do suffer for bearing Christ’s name. This letter’s message to the Ephesians saints, I’m sure, encouraged and provided them hope in their corrupt surroundings, during imprisonments, persecutions and rioting. Believers today can gain encouragement and hope as we live our daily lives in an increasingly ungodly world.

Paul’s challenge for the believers in Ephesus was to train their mindset to think like God, according to these spiritual blessings they had received. As we fellowship together in church, visit one another’s homes, work with one another, teach, and talk with one another, let’s also remind and encourage each other with these words.

I close with Paul’s most fitting opening acknowledgement, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.” The Apostle Paul got his own message first. He shows us in verse 17 where he prays, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” 

I too hope and pray that you will know that you are blessed! Embed these blessings in your hearts and minds. Speak them out of your mouth! They come with divine authority from a graceful God. They will enable you to think and act according to God’s will. They will remove doubt and fear as you face persecution and temptation. They will cause you not to shrink back. You will sense a closeness to God who loves and cares for you and will never leave you. Your assessment of yourself will change, and you will know, “I belong to God and within His family!”

Be inspired my friends, until next time!!!


“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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20).


References:

Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI.                  Zondervan.


If you have never heard about Jesus Christ or accepted Him into your heart, I invite you to do so now. The Apostle Paul told us in the Bible in I Corinthians 15:3-5, the “good news” about Jesus Christ. It says,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”
Jesus actually did this for you my friend. John 3:16-17, in the Bible says,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” So, you see here my friend God sent His Son to do all this for us out of a heart of love! Everyone’s looking for love. Here is the greatest love!
God wants you to simply believe and receive this truth about His Son, Jesus Christ. He died, was buried and rose again to bring you to God. I know it sounds hard to believe, but it is true! Won’t you believe and receive Christ as your Savior right now. Simply tell Him you believe this and ask Him into your heart. We would love to hear about your decision. Let us know you did!

Where Is Inspiration?

To me, inspiration is something that sets your entire being ablaze when you hear, read, see or feel it! It’s like a ray of sunshine that lights up your mind and emotions, compelling you to do something good, something different, something phenomenal! Inspiration propels humans forward, lifts their heads, and makes them want to run with enthusiasm!  It brings out the very best you.

I don’t feel, hear, see or read too much inspiration today. Unfortunately, it appears that negativity, hopelessness, despair, lies and belittlement has become a sought-after trend in society. Evil upon evil clouds our thinking, our hearts, our hopes and dreams. Where can we find any inspiration today?

Inspiration by Ellie is a Blog I hope will push someone forward. The Blog intends to bring inspiration to your life by considering the truth found in God’s word, the Bible. God’s word is filled with hope, encouragement, love, mercy and solutions to many of our societal ills we witness and experience.

The Bible was written by inspiration. In his book, Introducing Christian Doctrine, Millard Erickson defines biblical inspiration as“that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon the scripture writers which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation for which resulted in what they wrote actually being the word of God” (Erickson, 2001). Revelation brings the world God’s truth. In inspiration, that truth is relayed from a first recipient to others.

There are five theories of inspiration noted in Erickson’s text—one being the verbal theory. The verbal theory implies that the influence of the Holy Spirit’s direction superseded their thoughts but also chose the words to convey the message. The Holy Spirit’s work was intense and therefore produced the exact wording. This too I am able to believe. As Jesus said, “I always do what pleases the Father…,” why not the biblical authors during that time being writers who always wrote what pleases the Father? We recognize the Holy Spirit’s unusual, fierce, and powerful personality in the Upper Room in Acts 2. So, we should be able to believe His power so inspired the writer’s at that moment, that they literally wrote His very words in such a way that they themselves could not comprehend what was happening through them.

This verbal theory, then, is suggesting that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, spoken to ancient biblical authors by the Holy Spirit of God to transmit to humanity the truth about God, the truth of God, and the truth in God.  It is an accurate document God chose to speak to mankind.

As such, Inspiration by Ellie’s Blog seeks to bring the truths given to the ancient biblical authors and transmit them to bring love, inspiration, encouragement, hope and love to its readers. I welcome your thoughts, comments and criticisms.

Welcome to my Blog!

Ellie

Continue reading