Promises; Not Problems
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
This weekend God afforded me the opportunity to go on a four-day personal silent spiritual retreat at the Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center. For the first three days, a men's group and a women's group were there. However, I spent most of my time in silence and solitude. Sunday morning the two groups left, and for 24 hours I was on the 300-acre premises back in the woods alone in complete silence and solitude hearing from God as I looked at the cross on a hill located directly in front of my window.
The church fathers say,“One should never go into the desert alone. He or she should take the whole community." That is not to say that the whole community should go. In others words, when a person retreats to seek God for self, the prayers and petitions of others should be addressed as well. Whether you gave me a request or not, I took you with me on my retreat for I prayed that God would perfect that which concerneth me. And if you are reading this, you concern me. (Psalm 138:8)
I had collected hundreds of written requests from members of my church and from my students. The first thing I did Friday upon my arrival was to offer each request openly and individually up to God. I later took the requests and burned them in a bonfire under the cross of Jesus, and I watched the smoke from the prayers ascend up before God. (Revelation 8:4) So, your burdens no longer belong to you. Begin to walk by faith knowing that your prayers have already been answered. And watch miracles happen!
Of the multitudes of things God spoke to me this weekend, here is what was most profound that applies to you. God wants me to tell the body of Christ (especially those whose prayer requests I offered up to Him) that most of what you requested has already been done. You are requesting the promises as problems. Instead, of continuing to request what God has already provided, God wants His people to thank Him and pray the promises; not the problems. For example, don't pray about your sickness, thank God for your healing. Don't pray about your lack, thank God for your abundant supply, etc.
People pray the problems instead of the promises for two reasons. #1 They don't know what God has promised. #2 It is easier to keep requesting than to accept the promises because along with the promises come accountability and responsibility which most people don't want. "For to whom much is given, much is required." (Luke 12:48)
Needless to say, God worked through me during my time of silence and solitude. I wanted to build three tabernacles there, but God would have me to come back to minister to others. (Matthew 17:4)
A Chosen Vessel
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
When a visitor plans to leave the Holy Land and wishes to take with him a souvenir, the merchant might suggest a piece of pottery. The shopper leaves it up to the maker of the pottery to select it. He hands over one of his choosing; one that he will never be ashamed to admit as his — even with its flaws and imperfections. The piece of pottery becomes "a chosen vessel." While it may look like all the other vessels to you, it is HIS chosen one. All of us may look alike, but only those who know Christ as their Savior are God's CHOSEN vessels.
If you belong to God, you are a chosen vessel. In the above scripture, Paul says that God "chose us in Him" to emphasize that salvation depends totally on God. God chose us, and when we belong to Him through Jesus Christ, God looks at us as if we had never sinned. He sees us through the saving power of the blood of Jesus. Believers are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9).
Adopted into the Family
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:5)
To adopt a child is to take voluntarily a child of another parent as one's own child. In the theological sense, adoption is the act of God's grace by which sinful people are brought into His redeemed family. When a child is adopted into one's family, that child has the same privileges as a biological child. We were adopted into His God's family before the creation of the world with the same privileges as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ.
Paul uses the adoption analogy to show the believer's relationship to God. Paul emphasizes that we were CHOSEN to be in the family. We have been adopted into the place of honor in God's plan (Romans 9:4). Paul also expresses the point that since we are adopted into the family not only are we to reap family blessings, but we are also accountable for abiding by the rules of the house.
If you have been saved by the power of Jesus' blood, then you have been adopted in the family with the same benefits of God's own child. But along with the benefits of the adoption comes accountability as well. Welcome to the Family!
Sharing a Personal Principle
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. (Ephesisans 1:11)
For many years I have been living by a personal principle that works. Whenever I am faced with a task, I always see the results before its completion. I think beyond the task itself to the results I desire. This principle works with all tasks, even the unpleasant ones.
This is not a new principle. It is not even my own principle. This principle is throughout the Bible, but many times it is overlooked. God used this principle when He created the world. God used this principle when He sent His only begotten Son to save the world. God used this principle when He created each one of us.
Seeing the end before it happens causes your expected results to gravitate to you. However, you still have to go through the process and do what you can IN the physical realm in order for the manifestation to take place THROUGH the spiritual realm.
Even though what you desire might not have taken place in your life YET; begin to see the end from the beginning. Then let God take care of the details in the space between the end and the beginning. It works for me EVERY time!
Passion and Purpose
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ... he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. (Ephesians 1:11 Msg)
There is no reason believers should not be experiencing a new burst of spiritual energy with two powerful avenues open for us during this season of Lent. In times past, we did not have this much reinforcement to help us embrace the true meaning of Lent; that is, to focus on Jesus and anticipate the celebration of His death on the cross.
On Ash Wednesday, Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ" was released to remind some and educate others about the suffering and death of Jesus, Our Savior and Lord. It has proven to be one of the few events which has caused so many people to either act or react.
Also on Ash Wednesday, people began studying for a second Lenten season Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life." This #1 bestseller is used in churches and Christian organizations to help people learn that God created all of us for a purpose.
Passion and Purpose. Two entirely different vehicles to help us grow spiritually. But they both point to the same end. The movie teaches us about the passion which should lead us to be passionate and turn to God. The book teaches us the purpose God created us which should lead us to be purposeful in all our doings.
Passion and Purpose. Experience both of them and fly high in the spirit not only during these 40 days, but also for the rest of our days.
Faith in Jesus and Love For Others
I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1:15)
Some people love God and have faith in the Lord Jesus, but they have absolutely no love toward other saints. Paul told the Ephesians that he had heard that they were balanced in both areas.
It is almost impossible to love God the way He wants to be loved without loving His people. You should find it strange to hear someone affirming their faith in God in one breath and putting down other saints in the next breath.
Be balanced in both areas: Love God with all your heart, and love other saints as well.
Living A Resurrected Life
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions... it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)
"What is a resurrected life?" you might ask. Good question! The word "resurrection" literally means being raised from the dead. Resurrection used in the figurative sense means broken or useless things have been restored to a functional state. For example, a company that failed and went out of business is reopened by a new owner. That company has been "resurrected." We were dead in transgressions when we claimed to run our own lives. When we became saved, we became resurrected into a new life with a new owner. We became resurrected spiritually. We became alive in Christ. We began to live a resurrected life.
Without Christ, a person is dead in transgressions and needs to be resurrected. Without Christ, a person is spiritually dead and is in need of a new owner. With Christ, a person lives a resurrected life and is alive with a new owner whose name is Jesus Christ.
Living a resurrected life simply means confessing that Jesus died, was buried and God raised Him from the dead that we might be saved. (Romans 10:9-10) Then allow that same power that raised Jesus from the dead to operate in our own life because of our new owner...Jesus the Christ! __________________________________________________________________________________
Freely Given; Not Earned
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not the results of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8)
Most people think receiving salvation is so complicated. There is nothing complex about being saved. Paul emphasizes that the way to receive salvation is so simple that anyone who wants to can understand it. Because it is so simple and ordinary, some folks reject the idea. They think they can earn salvation by working for it. Not so! Skill does not get us into God's presence, but faith in God does. God planned it so no one could boast that achievements were the reason for eternal life.
Salvation is totally from God through Jesus' death on the cross. There is absolutely nothing we can to become acceptable to God. Jesus did it all. No one can add to what Jesus has already done. We are saved by grace through faith; not through good works. After salvation, doing good naturally follows as we grow more in the love of Christ.
Lucky or Blessed?
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8a)
Larry King, the popular television talk show host, recently interviewed several people who had supernaturally survived unthinkable dangerous situations.
One young man shared how he had survived 48 hours after falling while hiking on a snow covered mountain. His younger brother hiked 21 miles in the snow to find help. Both brothers recounted their stories. Mr. King asked the final interview question, "Do you think you are lucky to be alive?" The brothers looked at Mr. King in amazement as if they were thinking the same thing. In unison both brothers said, "No, not lucky but blessed."
A woman reported she was the sole survival of an airplane crash. The final interview question was the same, and the reaction of the woman was the same as the brothers. "No, I am not lucky. I am blessed to be alive." Another young man reported how he had been mauled by a lion. His face and part of his head had been ripped apart. Yet he survived the attack and lived to tell about it. By now you would think Mr. King would have gotten the point. But once again he asked that same generic question, "Do you think you are lucky to be alive?" This young man went one step further than the others. He reported that he did not believe it was luck at all. He believed God was with him during the experience. In fact, the face of the lion was transformed into the face of Jesus Christ. Since then he has become a believer and is serving God.
Lucky or blessed? What's the difference?
Luck is a matter of chance. There is a chance something will happen and there is a chance something won't happen. Luck depends on circumstances. Being blessed, on the other hand, is a sure thing. Being blessed means things happen because of the grace of God.
Wouldn't you rather be blessed because of the guaranteed grace of God instead of trying to be lucky because of chance?
Good Works Won't Get You to Heaven!
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Did you know that 7 out of 10 Christians believe their good works will get them into heaven? And if that's the ratio among Christians, the ratio among non-Christians is probably higher.
It is good to follow the rules and to dot every "i" and cross every "t." It is good to help people, to pay tithes and to sing in the choir. It is good to be a Sunday School teacher and to usher at the doors of the church. It is good to honor your father and your mother. It is good to sit on the same pew during every worship service. Yes, all these things are good, but doing these things does not guarantee you a place in heaven.
If we could get to heaven by our good works, then we would have something to boast about. There is only one way to get to heaven. And that way is by God's grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, no boasting is allowed!
Things That Will NOT Save Your Soul
By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
While the following things are good in themselves, they will NOT save your soul.
- Church membership (singing in the choir, ushering, working in the church kitchen)
- The Lord's Supper
- Keeping the Ten Commandments
- Obeying the Golden Rule
- Doing the "best you can" or being a "good person"
- Serving in the armed forces or dying for your country
- Lodge, fraternity, or sorority membership
- Giving tithes
- Visiting the sick and shut-ins
- Getting along with people
- Shouting "Amen" in church
After you are saved, you will have a love in your heart to do the things mentioned above. However, those things will NOT save your soul.
This is what it takes to be saved: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved." (Romans 10:9-10)
The God-Planned Life
Created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has before ordained, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
If you are saved, then you are created in Christ Jesus. If you are created in Christ Jesus, then you are created unto good works. If you are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, then you are created for a life of service. This life of service was ordained for you before you were created. Every child or God has a God-planned life. And since we have a God-planned life, we should walk in it.
Several principles are embedded within one's God-planned life:
- God has a plan for every life in Christ Jesus.
- God has a plan for your life which no other person can fulfill.
- You can fail to enter into God's plan for your life by ignoring God's guidance.
- One way to miss God's calling may be by "choosing" your own calling.
- Your God-planned life is waiting for you to walk in it.
- God will aid you every step of the way in the life He has chosen for you.
Three major things don't happen when you do not walk in your God-planned life:
- You are NEVER fulfilled. It is like walking on a treadmill. You are moving, but you aren't going anyplace.
- You don't please God. He has given you a life to walk in, but you act as if God doesn't know what He is talking about.
- You don't serve the people who are waiting to be served through your God-planned life.
Every child of God may find and enter into his or her God-planned life. Ephesians 2:8 assures us of our salvation. Ephesians 2:10 assures us of our God-planned life. Just as we accept our salvation by faith, we should also accept our God-planned life by faith.
Your Special Assignment
God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10b)
God gave us general and special assignments. Those general assignments were given to everyone. They include obeying, loving, honoring and worshipping God. Special assignments are different assignments given to each one of us before we were born. What God said to Jeremiah also applies to us. "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work." (Jeremiah 1:5) Every person has a special work to complete. When we neglect to do that special work, it delays God's plan. Could it be that you are the one who are keeping us from world peace? Could it be you who trigger tragedies for others? Could it be your undone assignment that causes bad things to happen in the world? Well, guess what? The world is depending on you to do your part. The world is depending on you to take your rightful place in the world and make contributions that will benefit us all. If you are not doing your part, you are holding the rest of us up. So do your part!
Like Jeremiah, we were called and shaped before our birth. (Jeremiah 1:5, Job 10:8). God gave everyone a special assignment and shaped within us the character, personality, desires and ability to complete that special assignment. Our spirit is to connect with the Spirit of God to recognize the vision. With the vision comes the provision. With the provision comes the anointing which enables us to complete that special assignment with ease. That's one way to know you are working on your special assignment. You take pleasure in it, and it's so easy to do. Beware if you are doing an assignment and it has become a chore. Perhaps, you are not working on your own special assignment.
Depressed people, unhappy people, lonely people, people with mental and some physical ailments are those who have not recognized or who refuse to complete their special assignment. If they would trace their problem to the root, they would recognize the problem started when they began neglecting their special assignment for which they were created.
Ask God to help you discern your special assignment. Then pour yourself into that special assignment and let nothing or no one keep you from completing it.
And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19)
If you pour cookie batter into a star-shaped cookie mold, the batter is going to fit perfectly, and the cookie will be in the shape of a star or any other shape you used. Within each of us is a God-shaped mold. Unless we fill that mold with God-like qualities, we will never be satisfied and will always experience a void of some kind. The reason is simple. Nothing else will fit the mold God has made within us. Alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, riches, excessive shopping, overeating, or gambling will never be a perfect fit. These things might dull the pain and numb temporarily, but they can never give us everlasting inner peace. The hole in our soul is God-shaped, and only God can fill it perfectly. And when we fill the God-shaped mold with God-like qualities, like the cookies in their molds, we too will take on the shape of that which filled us.
Are you empty? Are you experiencing a void? Is there a hole in your soul? Fill it with the love and peace of God. "For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Psalm 107:9).
What Every Supernatural Act Involves
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
Supernatural acts transcend the laws of nature; however, every supernatural act involves a natural act. People can do the natural, but only God can put his “super” on it, and it becomes the “supernatural.” This means it happens above and beyond what we can ask or imagine. Even though the prefix “super” means “above,” it is interesting to note some important things about the word “supernatural.” First of all, without the natural, there can be no supernatural. “Super” would be just be a word by itself and “natural” would be a word by itself. Secondly, the prefix “super” is in front of the natural act to guide it through the process. The “super” is God’s unlimited power put in front of our limited power. However, our involvement is still necessary.
God can cause supernatural acts to happen out of the blue, but the Bible records many supernatural acts that involved a partnership when man did his part. The Red Sea did not divide until Moses did a natural thing. He stretched out his staff as he was commanded to do (Exodus 14:21). The Jordan River did not part until the priests did a natural thing. They stepped into the Jordan and the waters stood still rising into a single heap (Joshua 3:15) until all the Israelites crossed over on dry land. The walls of Jericho did not come tumbling down until Joshua and his men did some natural things (Joshua 6). Abraham was on his way to becoming the “Father of Many Nations” only after he followed God’s directives to leave his country and his kindred (Genesis 12:1-4).
What natural things can you do to be in partnership with God in the attainment of your own blessings? If you are looking for a job, then submit a resume for one. If you are purchasing a house, talk to realtors. If you are returning to school, get a college catalogue. Do something no matter how minute the act. It lets God know you are serious about the natural. Then, without a doubt, He will enter in and put His “super” on your “natural.” Unexpected things will begin to gravitate toward you. You will encounter people who will find favor with you. Resources will become available. Doors will open. Hearts will be softened, and even your enemies will be at peace with you (Proverbs 16:7).
Remember EVERY supernatural act begins with a natural act on your part. So, DO SOMETHING toward the thing you desire!
Check Your Spiritual Level
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 . . . (Ephesians 3:20)
You wouldn’t dare take a major driving trip without checking all the particulars on your car. You would make sure every part is in good operating condition. You would definitely check the level of your oil, gas, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid and every other liquid your car needs for safety as well as for
power to give you a smooth ride.
Just as you need to check your car for a safe and smooth drive, you need to
check yourself to make sure God’s power is at work within yoperating in the “dull” or “down-in-the-dumps” mode, perhaps the best thing you could do for yourself is to check your spiritual level.
What can you do to boast your spiritual metabolism? PRAY. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). PRAISE. It is pleasant and fitting to sing praises unto God (Psalm 147:1). FAST. Give up some worldly pleasures to let God know you are serious about getting a breakthrough (Isaiah 58). STUDY GOD’S WOthe promises God has made to you by reading, studying, meditating and applying God’s word to your daily life (Joshua 1:8). THANKSGIVING. Give God thanks for all He has done, then He will give you more reasons to thank Him (Psalm 100).
You can live according to the power of God at work in you when you begin using these spiritual disciplines. This list does not contain all the spiritual disciplines, but use these for a quick refill. They will boost your spiritual level and have you up and running in no time at all.
"According to . . ."
Now to Him that is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, ACCORDING TO His power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Oh, what a beautiful benediction Paul writes. Oh, if we could really understand what it means. We are so ready to accept the part of the verse about the unlimited things God is able to do, but there is a key piece that most people miss. Paul says the honor goes to Him who is able, and God is definitely able. God is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or dream of asking. Now comes the phrase that needs attention: "according to." The first part of the verse refers to how much God is able to do. The second part of the verse refers to the amount of His power within us. God will do ACCORDING TO His power that is at work within us; nothing more and nothing less.
Yes, God is able. And yes, God will! But only to the proportion of His power that is working in us. Therefore, we need always to stay prayed up and praised up!
Two Pictures: Yours and God's
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (Ephesians 3:20)
Have you ever imagined how things would work out whether the situations were good or bad? In our minds we picture the results of things before they happen. While there is nothing wrong with this technique, don't be disappointed if what you have envisioned turns out differently...turns out better than you thought. There are very good reasons why your picture might be unlike the one God has for you.
Based on the above scripture . . .
- GOD'S ABILITY. God sees the picture according to His ability to make it happen. You can only hope for things to happen.
- GOD'S SUPERLATIVES. Three superlatives describe God's ability: exceeding, abundantly, and above. As if one was not enough, there are three superlatives to describe how God can make things happen. What can you make happen without God?
- GOD'S POWER WITHIN US. God has put the Holy Spirit within us. And the picture we get is according to the power that is at work within us.
Based on that explanation, which picture should you seek? Yours or God's?
God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
When people hear the word "economy"undoubtedly they think about how much money they need for gas and groceries. They think about how much money they have versus how much money they need. The economy of God is not limited to money.
God's economy is different from what we think of economy. God's economy is the management of all we have and all we are. It includes money in addition to so much more. God's economy includes the efficient use of all resources. God's economy is the mode of operation of our affairs; all of them and not just our bank accounts.
The Greek word for economy is made up of two words: house and law. Economy refers to a plan or arrangement designed to manage a household. God is the wealthy householder. He desires to dispense His unsearchable riches (Ephesians 3:8) to all of His people, but to accomplish this immense task He needs a plan, an arrangement, an economy.
God's economy is based on God being the head of our lives. Let's allow God to be the one to dispense out in us what will bring good pleasure to Himself. When we begin to think of our lives as being part of God's economy, then the world's economy and our personal economy will be more than we could ever ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)
We fail whenever we rely on what we have. However, when we allow God to dispense Himself in us, we will always have everything we need. And that's God's economy!
The Golf Club
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. (Ephesians 3:20)
A story has been told about a man who took a few minutes to help a stranger learn to play golf in a foreign land. Several days later after the man returned home, he received a telegram saying, "Expect a golf club for taking the time to help me." The man was given instructions to pick up his gift at the post office. He cleaned out his car so he would have room for his golf club and headed to his local post office.
While standing in line waiting to be served, he wondered about the size of the golf club, how long it would be, what color it would be, how heavy it would be, etc. A thousand thoughts went through his mind. He couldn't wait to try out his new golf club. When it was his time at the window, the clerk asked him to sign a registered letter. The man thought this procedure was strange; yet he did as instructed. He took the letter and left the post office disappointed that the golf club had not arrived after all. In a split second the man began to pout, but he opened the registered letter. Inside he found a deed to a golf club in a wealthy section of town.
That's the way it is with God. When we do little things for God's people, God rewards us when we least expect it. While we might be looking for a golf club in the form of an iron stick, God in His tender mercies sends us a GOLF CLUB with trees, green grass and perfect holes.
Do you have a GOLF CLUB coming to you for the little things you have done to help someone?
No Unity...No Blessings
Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called into one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:3-4)
There might be a good reason you are not experiencing God's blessings in your home, work, church, or community. You might have already noticed that your blessings are in direct proportion to the unity in these areas. God will not bless that which is not unified.
Marriages, families, churches, ministries, businesses and friendships all need unity. They need to be based on the things that make them "one." Everyone must make a conscious decision to work together for the common good of the group. Everyone must agree to walk together. If not, they are unequally yoked. So the question becomes, "How can two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" (Amos 3:3) No agreement means no unity. No unity means no blessings.
There must be a common direction. There is discord when everyone pulls in a different direction. All must share common values and goals. Unless everyone is moving toward the same goal, conflict is bound to exist. If you want God's blessings for your surroundings, make sure everyone is walking in the same direction. So the question becomes, "Are you going my way?" Going in different directions means no unity. No unity means no blessings.
There must be a common destination. Perhaps you are walking in the same directions, but some do not intend to complete the journey. Instead, they get off the train at different stops. In order to be one, all must have the same destination. All must continue the journey together. So the question becomes, "Are you going all the way?" No common destination means no unity. No unity means no blessings.
In order to receive God's blessings for your marriage, family, church, ministry, business and friendships, you must make unity a key factor. You must be unified in reference to your agreement, your direction and your destination. It is only then that God's blessings will be manifested in your midst.
Otherwise, expect to remain without God's blessings. Remember, "No Unity . . . No Blessings!
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
One is the first number. Zero is not a number at all. Zero is the arithmetical symbol 0 denoting the absence of all magnitude or quantity. Zero is a state of total absence or neutrality. It is naught; it is nothing. Zero has no value. Therefore, the very first number is one (1). Then number one is a primary number. All other numbers depend upon one. It precedes and produces all other numbers; that is every digit is dependent upon number one.
There cannot be two firsts. One is God's number. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is the only God. "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). The number one stands alone, independent of all others. God doesn't need help in His accomplishments; therefore He is the one and only God.
Number one in the Bible means "unity" and "uniqueness." There is one body; the church made up of true believers. There is one Spirit; the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer individually also indwells the church collectively. There is one hope; the hope to be like Christ. There is one Lord; Jesus Christ who died for us all. There is one faith; the Christian faith based on Christ's death on the cross. There is one baptism; the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire. There is one God and Father of all; God Almighty who is over all and through all and in all.
The songwriter is right. "One is a lonely number." The number one does stand alone, independent of all others. God is independent, and we are dependent. But that's a good position for us to be in since the one on whom we depend is the ONE and ONLY true living God!
So Many Churches
There is one body and one Spirit (just as you were called to one hope when you were called) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:5-6)
While in the wilderness, the Israelites had only one place to assemble to worship God. The tabernacle was the tent the Israelites moved from place to place as they traveled in the wilderness. The tabernacle was always placed in the center of the camp to be accessible to the people and to let the people know God was always in the center of their activities.
With the recent snow, sleet, freezing rain, and ice this weekend, over 700 churches were announced closed on local television stations. One reporter said, "It is good to know there are so many churches in the metropolitan area." That does seem to be a good comment, but let's think about it for a moment. There were about 2 million people in the wilderness. How many tabernacles did they have? Did they have a different one in different areas of the camp? Or did they have just one in the center of the camp for everyone to enjoy the presence of God together?
So why do we have so many churches? Why should there be a Harmony Church and down the street there is New Harmony and further down the street there is Greater New Harmony? It must to have been some division in the "Harmony" churches to cause three separate churches. Do we have too many churches and not enough devoted Christians?
This is just something to think about.
. . . until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13)
What is a mature Christian like? A mature Christian is continually growing in Christ. A mature Christian is constantly thinking and acting more like Christ. A mature Christian is in the world, but not of the world. Even though sin is all around him or her, a mature Christian's way of life is not a pattern of sin. A mature Christian is one who keeps growing through Bible Study, prayer, praise, worship, giving, Christian fellowship and other spiritual disciplines. A mature Christian centers his or her life exclusively on Christ rather than on people and collecting material things. A mature Christian is one who has put off murmuring, complaining, gossiping and backbiting but gives testimonies about the love of Jesus instead. A mature Christian is one whose lifestyle demonstrates following the commandments of God.
Would you rate yourself as a mature Christian? Would others rate you as a mature Christian?
When you are angry, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26)
I questioned my son when he used the expression "righteous anger." I said I did not think the two words should appear together. I was wrong! A close study proved that not only is the expression "righteous anger" used, but also "holy anger." An example of "righteous anger" is when Jesus became angry enough to turn the tables over in the temple courts because the money changers were taking advantages of those who had come to worship. (John 2:12-17)
Righteous anger is NOT a sin. In fact, there are times when it would be wrong NOT to get angry! What then is "righteous anger"? "Righteous anger" is the emotion we should feel when there is injustice, social ills and evil going on in the world. We should be angry when people are oppressed, mistreated and exploited, or when the name of God is dishonored. It should make our blood boil to the point that we do something about it. There is something wrong with us if we see these things and they don't affect us.
Righteous anger is controlled anger. It is focused. It is channeled into healing and helping. The purpose of righteous anger is to defend the defenseless and to help the helpless. Righteous anger is ALWAYS to help others, NEVER to help one's self or ego. Jesus became angry not because of Himself but because God's house was used in vain and God's people were taken advantage of. Rather than helping the worshippers, the money changers were trying to make money for themselves and passing it off as a religious act. No wonder Jesus became angry.
Several things are worthy of remembering about righteous anger:
- Righteous anger is not toward the person. It is at the situation and the sin that has been committed.
- Righteous anger is a controlled anger that occurs infrequently.
- The act that provokes righteous anger should be taken care of immediately.
- The anger should be dealt with immediately before it becomes a passageway for the devil to enter your life.
- You should never go to sleep being angry. If so, you are more angry when you awake.
Instead of thinking of ways to get even when people make you angry, respond by seeking ways to change the dynamics of the relationship. It might mean responding with kindness, forgiveness and a prayer of blessing.
Let's not get angry WITH people. Let's get angry AT the situation, and then let's seek to do whatever we can to help bring about justice and fairness.
Be Angry, But Sin Not
Be ye angry, and sin not. (Ephesians 4:26)
In the Old Testament God became angry, and in the New Testament Jesus became angry. We, too, are commanded to be angry. Yes, you read it right. We are commanded to be angry. Christian character is evidenced by that which makes us angry. We are to love that which ought to be loved and hate that which ought to be hated and have a conscience on everything. We should exhibit an emotion against evil.
We should be angry about sin, but sin not.
Don't Give the Devil This
And do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27 NIV)
There are lots of things we are not to give the devil. However, we are warned especially not to give him a foothold. What does that mean?
We are not to give the devil an opportunity of any kind no matter how small. We are not to open the door wide enough for him to come inside and wreak havoc. And we are not to crack the door even to a small degree. That's giving the devil a foothold to get in. Once the foot is in, he can push his way through the door completely.
Sin is the devil's invitation to come into your life. Unconfessed sin is the password through which he can enter and set up residence. The devil's foothold becomes his base of operation. Once he gets a foothold, he pushes his way into your home and gets comfortable. He lies in your bed, eats your food, and uses your bathroom. He crawls up in your recliner, cuts on your television and have himself a good time while laughing at you because it was so easy to take over. Is this legal? Yes, it is! It is legal because of the sin that invited him in, and the unconfessed sin that keeps him there.
What if the devil is already in your home because you gave him a foothold? How do you get rid of him? The answer is perhaps easier than you expected. When you get home, cut on the light. While blinding the devil with Jesus who is the Light, begin to plead the blood of Jesus, and do what Jesus did. What did Jesus do? He spoke the word of God by saying, "It is written . . . " (Matthew 4:4, 7) and "Away from me, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10)
Once the devil leaves, how do you keep him out? Don't give the devil a foothold to return!
Are You Transparent, Translucent or Opaque?
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light; for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5:8-9)
Anything that is transparent is capable of transmitting light so that objects on the other side can be seen clearly. In other words, you can see right through something that's transparent.
Anything that is translucent is capable of transmitting light, but objects are not seen clearly on the other side. In other words, you can see images, but they are blurred.
Anything that is opaque does not transmit light at all. In other words, darkness is all that can be seen.
Which type of Christian are you? Can people see the "light" through your life? Then you are transparent. Can people see only blurred images because you are neither hot nor cold? You "talk" about Jesus when it is convenient, but on the other hand, you "walk" with the world. Then you are a translucent Christian, and that's the worst kind. Can people see only darkness in you? Then you are opaque. Your life is evil and dark reflecting absolutely no light at all.
"Let your light shine so that others may see your good works, but glorify God." (Matthew 5:16).
Which Church Do You Belong To?
. . . a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:27)
The seven churches of Asia Minor were not different from our churches today. They were random samples of churches that still exist all over the world. None of the churches were perfect, and none of our churches are perfect. If you are trying to find the perfect church, it will never happen. If it were perfect, it wouldn't be perfect once you get there.
The seven churches were given commendations, criticisms, instructions and promises.
The Church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7)
This church rejected evil and endured hardships. However, its fault was that it had lost its first love. Ephesus was instructed to repent in order to receive the tree of life. Today, so many of our churches are so tired up in doing good deeds that they have forgotten their first love . . . JESUS!
The Church at Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)
Smyrna was spiritually rich; had no criticisms; instructed not to be afraid and was promised a crown of life. Not many churches today are spiritually rich. They focus too much on being materially rich.
The Church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)
This church was commended for keeping the faith, but held to the teachings of Balaam. It was instructed to repent in order to receive hidden manna and a white stone with a new name. Like the Pergamum church, some churches allow so much idolatry that we wonder if anything is sacred anymore.
The Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29)
Thyatira was a compromising church that was involved in sexual immorality; tolerated the teachings of Jezebel; told to repent to receive the morning star. Some churches today excuse everything their members do whether right, wrong or indifferent. They say, "It's God's business!" and allow the church to run rampart.
The Church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)
This church had no commendations at all. It was spiritually dead; instructed to repent; promised a white robe and name in the book of life. Is your church like Sardis? Do the members go through the motions but bear no fruit?
The Church at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
Philadelphia had no criticisms; instead kept the word of Jesus; instructed to hold onto what they had; will be given a pillar in temple and the crown of life. There are not many Philadelphian churches left. Criticisms abound in most churches today as pastors focus on bigger budgets and more members instead of being the shepherd of Psalm 23 keeping their own sheep fed, watered, and comforted.
The Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)
This church was neither hot nor cold. Because it was lukewarm, it had no commendations; told to repent in order to sit on the throne with Jesus. Lukewarm churches today do as little as possible; just enough to be called a church. It is hard to distinguish if this church is a church or a social club. Have you listened to the music in some churches today? Have you seen some people dance in the churches today? If you didn't know you were in church you would think you were in a nightclub.
Which of the above seven churches do you belong to? Or is your church a combination of the seven? Is your church one that Jesus is coming back to; one without a spot or wrinkle? Is your church one that is run by the people or by the leading of God?
Evaluate your church and make the necessary changes to make it holy and blameless so it will not be overlooked when Jesus returns.
Obeying not as people pleasures; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Ephesians 6:6)
Every child of God should yield completely to God. Absolute surrender is the one thing that puts us in direct contact with God. We become totally united, completely connected to Him. We recognize that the breath we breathe is not ours, but God's. We realize that every righteous thought, word or deed is a result of absolute surrender. One condition for obtaining God's blessings is absolute surrender to Him.
Our hearts must be totally surrendered to God if we want to live in the fullness of His power and His joy. Perhaps you want to give yourself to God totally, but believe you can't do it on your own. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will. God is willing to work it in you. "It is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Simply pray this sentence prayer: "God, I yield myself in absolute surrender to you." Then go forth in faith believing that God walks with you and God talks with you. Go forth in obedience doing those things you that are pleasing to God. Go forth knowing that your life has been absolutely surrendered to the only One who can give you peace.
Changing of the Guards
Put on the whole armor of God . . . (Ephesians 6:10-20)
The above passage is quoted by so many Christians that it is unbelievable how few people know its background. Paul wrote four (4) epistles while in prison: Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Even though he was in chains, he was not in bondage. He was under house arrest with Roman soldiers chained to both sides of him 24 hours a day. Over 9,000 such Roman soldiers guarded the household of Caesar and prisoners such as Paul. Since Paul had the freedom to receive visitors and witness to them, the Romans soldiers heard the conversations. While Paul was dictating these four prison epistles to his scribe, the guards heard the letters and since faith comes by hearing the word, the guards became converted and had to be changed regularly.
Paul's situation inspired him to write that familiar passage, "Put on the whole armor . . ." While under house arrest and chained to two Romans soldiers, Paul looked up at them and wrote about the armor they were wearing: the breast plate, the shoes, the belt, the helmet, the shield and the sword. Yes, this is a good spiritual warfare passage, but it is more than that. Now when you quote this passage, perhaps it will be more meaningful to you.
Why Some Wives WON'T, DON'T Or CAN'T Submit to Their Husbands
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Submission is not modern-day slavery. Submission is not agreeing to become a doormat. In a marriage, both the husband and wife are called to submit. For the wife, this means willingly following her husband's leadership in Christ. Some husbands use this biblical principle as a license to subjugate, subordinate, and degenerate their wives. Therefore, wives use every tactic not to submit. This causes friction in the marriage. For the husband, the above scriptures mean putting aside his own interests in order to protect and care for his wife. For the wife, it means allowing her husband to be the head as Christ is the head of the church. Submission is not a problem in a marriage where both partners have a relationship with Christ.
Some wives won't, don't or can't submit to their husbands because they either don't know about or they don't embrace this Christian law of marriage. Some wives won't, don't or can't submit to their husbands because their husbands have not taken their rightful place as heads. No wife would mind being submissive to a husband who loves her as much as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25)
Paul did not give unlimited authority to husbands. The husband is the spiritual head of the family, and the wife should acknowledge and respect that leadership position if it is according to God's word. A Christlike husband would not abuse his leadership role, and a Christlike wife would not undermine that role.
A submissive spirit goes against society's standards, but it has and always remains God's standard for all believers. Submission never implies inferiority. Submission never puts someone in a subservient position. In submitting to the authority and leadership of her husband, a wife is really submitting to the Lord's authority.
Wives, submit to your husbands AS TO THE LORD realizing that the Lord has only your best interest in mind. And what wife wouldn't be willing to submit to a husband like that?
Why Some Husbands WON'T, DON'T Or CAN'T Love Their Wives
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)
Almost every married woman has either cried out to her husband or thought it in her heart that she felt unloved. Women have been known to ask their husbands, "Why can't you say you love me? Don't you love me anymore?" The husband usually responds, "You know I love you because I do this and I do that for you." A few months later, the same conversation emerges. Then there are some husbands who love their wives only in the flesh. They can't love their wives spiritually because they don't know how.
For every wife who feels unloved by her husband, read on. For every husband who had done everything he knows to do, but his wife still feels unloved, read on. There is pleasure in physical attraction, but there is no power. The power comes only from spiritual attraction. Compatibility in a marriage is fourfold: spiritual, physical, intellectual, and social. Spirituality is a must for a couple to grow. That's why the man and woman should be equally yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) However, spirituality is only one-fourth of what is needed. The couple can't study the Bible, stay in church, or on their knees all the time. The physical component of a marriage is also paramount, but the couple can't stay in bed all the time either. The couple's minds should be on the same page most of the time as they share together intellectually. It is detrimental to a marriage for one partner to think or say the other is "stupid." Socially, each partner should be able to get along with other people. They can't stay locked away from society. All four components must be operating at the same time all the time for a complete balance in any marriage. If one component is out of order, so is the marriage.
Most marriages fail because one or more of the above four components are missing or neglected. Another reason marriages fail or have lost their flavor is because husbands won't, don't or can't love their wives as Christ loved the church. How did Christ love the church? So much that he gave Himself up for her. (Ephesians 4:25b) How many husbands are willing to die for their wives? How did Christ love the church? Enough to make her holy and blameless. (Ephesians 4:26-27) How many husbands blame their wives for things they themselves are responsible for?
There is a reason husbands are constantly told by their wives, "You don't love me!" Men might love to their greatest capacity, but unless they love their wives as Christ loved the church, there will ALWAYS be those periods when the wife says, "But you don't love me!"
Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
For spiritual problems you need spiritual solutions. For spiritual battles, you need spiritual armor. The above scripture gives us the method of combating the devil. You must put on the WHOLE armor; not part of it. One or two pieces will not do. When you put on the whole armor, you are able to stand against the
stratagems of the devil. He knows your weakest points and will aim for those. If he cannot disarm you by one method, he will try another.
First, put on the BELT OF TRUTH knowing that God's word is truth. Secondly, put on the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Do the right thing at all times, and the devil will not have a foothold in your life. Next, have your feet shod with the preparation of the GOSPEL OF PEACE. Be prepared to go into enemy territory with the gospel of Jesus Christ that will bring peace. Then take the SHIELD OF FAITH so that when the fiery darts of the wicked one come zooming at you, they will hit the shield and fall harmlessly to the ground. Protect your head by wearing the HELMET OF SALVATION. Finally, the Christian soldier takes the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, which is the word of God. PRAYER is not mentioned as part of the armor, but it the atmosphere in which the Christian soldier must live and breathe in order to be in communication with the One who gives the marching orders.
No matter how hot the battle, the Christian should be able to stand. Don't run from the devil. Remember there is no armor for your back. Resist the devil, and he will flee from YOU (James 4:7).
What Should You Wear?
Put on the whole armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11)
After Michelle Obama appeared on "The View" a few weeks ago wearing a black and white dress, the stores couldn't keep the dress on the rack because women immediately ran out to buy it. Why?
After being introduced to Sarah Palin a few days ago, opticians cannot keep the eyeglasses like hers in stock. Women who don't need to wear glasses or who have worn contact lenses for years are ordering the glasses. Why?
Why does this happen? Doesn't a woman know that wearing a dress like Michelle Obama wears doesn't make her like Michelle Obama on the inside? Doesn't a woman know that wearing eyeglasses like Sarah Palin wears doesn't make her see things like Sarah Palin?
People do this because they believe if they can look like popular people, they will be popular. They believe they can have what these people have and be seen as these people are seen. While this is a natural reaction, it is not a godly reaction. God is not interested in us imitating others. God is interested in us imitating His Son.
Let's wear what God has ordained for us to wear. Let's put on the whole armor of God! (Ephesians 6:10-18) And that doesn't include a black and white dress or a certain style of eyeglasses!
What Does It Mean To Stand?
" . . . you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)
We hear the advice to stand in both secular and gospel music. The lyrics tell us: "Stand and having done all, stand." The songwriters tell us what to do without going into much detail explaining what the word "stand" really means. In Ephesians 6:11-14, Paul uses the word "stand" four times.
What does it mean "to stand?" First of all, let's identify what it doesn't mean. To stand does not mean to be at attention like the guards at Buckingham Palace or other places in England. They have to stand perfectly still and not move at all. They can't fan a fly away from their face. To stand doesn't mean to be motionless at all. What, then, does it mean to stand?
To stand simply means, "Still Trust And Never Doubt." To stand Who's Depending On You Today?
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. (Matthew 7:12)
We are all connected to some degree. And we are all dependent on one another to some degree. We come into contact with and help so many people during the day; many whom we are unaware.
Even if your role is not one of authority, someone is depending on you today. Someone is depending on you to give a word of encouragement, to provide some act of kindness or to help in some large or small way. On the other hand, somebody is going to help you; perhaps to the same extent that you have helped others.
Remember, someone is depending on you today. Don't let them down.
What To Do When You Don't Know What Else To Do
. . . and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13)
In times of personal crises, what do you do after you have done all you know to do? What do you do after you have put on the whole armor of God? What do you do after you have taken your stand against the wiles of the devil? What do you do after you have buckled the belt of truth around your waist? What do you do after you have put on the breastplate of righteousness? What do you do after you have shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel? What do you do after you have taken up the shield of faith? What do you do after you have put on the helmet of salvation? What do you do after you have prayed in the Spirit on all occasions with all kind of prayers and requests?
What do you do when you have said everything you know to say and done everything you know to do and the problem still exists? The advice is simple but hard to follow. We feel we always have to DO something. It is true that on occasions we must do, but then sometimes we are NOT to do. God said, "Be still and know I am God." (Psalm 46:10). Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow." (Matthew 6:34) Paul said after you have done all you know to do, STAND! (Ephesians 6:13) To stand is to maintain your godly position. To stand is to refuse to give up or to give in to what we see happening around us. To stand is to stay on the battlefield in the midst of trouble. To stand is the grand aim of the Christian soldier.
What to do when you don't know what else to do: STAND!
The Centipede Syndrome
For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the good news, so that you will be fully prepared. (Ephesians 6:15 NLT)
One of my favorite jokes is the story about a man who wanted a useful pet. He goes to the pet store and the owner insists that the centipede is the most useful pet. He says the centipede can cook, wash dishes, mop the floor and do laundry all in a matter of minutes. Being convinced, the man buys the centipede, takes it home and soon discovers that everything the pet store owner said was true.
He gives the centipede several tasks. It cooks dinner in 30 seconds, washes the dishes in 10 seconds, mops the floor in 20 seconds, does the laundry, folds the clothes and puts them away in less than 3 minutes. The man knew he had hit the jackpot with the centipede. Since he dreaded grocery shopping, he gives the centipede a list and sends him to the corner store expecting him to be back in a few minutes.
The man waits and waits and waits, but the centipede does not return. Thinking something might have happened, the man goes to look for it. He opens the front door and sees the centipede sitting on the steps. "I sent you to the corner grocery store five hours away. Why are you still sitting here?" the man asks." "I'm going! "I'm going!" the centipede exclaims. "I'm going as soon as I tie up my shoes!"
One can definitely conclude that the centipede with its 100 legs was not prepared for this particular task. It could do many things in a hurry as long as the tasks didn't involve its feet. According to Paul in Ephesians 6:15, you should always have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. (KJV)
Somebody is out there waiting for you to tell the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. But you are sitting on the front porch tying up your shoes. Let your feet always be fitted with the readiness to share the good news of peace through Jesus' death on the cross.
Tie up your shoes and get going!
What is Praying?
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
When we pray we come into God's presence, where we may present our praise, confessions, and requests. Praying is addressing God and honoring Him for who He is — the Creator of the universe and the One who made us in His own image. Praying is telling God what is on our mind no matter how trivial we think it might be. We can tell Him about our joys, pains, sorrows, hopes and anything else.
Remember to thank God for who He is as well as for what He does. We can talk to God the same way we speak to our closest friend. After we talk to God it is only fair that we wait for an answer. Let Him talk to us. Listening to God requires more patience than talking to him. But when we incline our ears expecting to hear from God, we will!