Putting God's Word into Practice…

Psalm 78 ~ Forgetting God

Each morning I read a psalm to pray and prepare my heart for the verses I am going to study more deeply.  This morning I went a little deeper into the psalm because I felt like it tied to Ephesians 3:20 which I studied yesterday.  My goal is to quickly summarize the psalm and tie it to Ephesians, but my great hope is that you will read Psalm 78 for yourself and spend time “remembering” God’s faithfulness in your own life and sharing those stories with others.

Psalm 78 is a history lesson of the life of the Israelites.  God miraculously sprung them from their Egyptian captivity and supernaturally provided for them in the wilderness, yet they forgot God and forgot to tell their children about His awesome works.   

Forgetting God results in disobedience, rebellion, wavering commitment and unfaithfulness. They sinned against God; they tested God, they made demands of God; they failed to believe and trust Him. (17-18) In spite of God’s supernatural provision-despite His wonders–they did not believe in Him! (32) This not only destroyed their faith, but also the faith of the next generation!

Psalm 78:38-42 YET HE, BEING COMPASSIONATE ATONED FOR THEIR INIQUITY AND DID NOT DESTROY THEM; he restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath.  HE REMEMBERED THAT THEY WERE BUT FLESH, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.  THEY DID NOT REMEMBER HIS POWER OR THE DAY WHEN HE REDEEMED THEM FROM THE FOE.

God, in compassion, atoned for their sin–their egregious forgetfulness.

  • We forget God=God remembers us
  • We are faithless=God is faithful
  • We grieve God=God redeems us

If you have been redeemed by God, do you think often about the day He saved you from the Enemy? Do you recall and retell His faithfulness to rescue your life?  When God provides for you, do you declare His deeds to others?  When God answers prayer do you proclaim His wonders?

Sadly, not unlike us, the Israelites continued in their unbelief, their distrust and their unfaithful, discontent ways. They lost the reverence and awe of their Holy Redeemer and Provider. So the Lord let them have their way (78:29, 78:59-64, Romans 1: 24, 26, 28). He turned them over to man and let them walk the road to captivity and destruction.

But our great God did not leave them as captives, He rescued them again and again.  He set up an everlasting kingdom starting with David and ending with Jesus-the Eternal King!

There are consequences to forgetting God.  If we claim to follow God, but are held captive by fear, anxiety, worry, distrust, discontentment, etc…be behave treacherously toward our Creator and Redeemer and grieve His heart.  We can also destroy the hope of the next generation.

Psalm 78:4, 6-8 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done…that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, SO THAT THEY SHOULD SET THEIR HOPE IN GOD AND NOT FORGET THE WORKS OF GOD, BUT KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

So why did this chapter make me think of Ephesians 3:20???

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…

I am not asking or thinking big enough!  I am not expecting God to blow my ideas out of the water with His ability to do abundantly!  I want to experience more of His supernatural presence, power and deeds so that I have some great teachings and stories to share with my kids so that they will put their hope in the Lord! That is an unshakable legacy to leave with the next generation!

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Ephesians 3 ~ Abundant God

God’s plan for the church: The eternal purpose of the church is to make God’s wisdom known and for its leaders to proclaim the “unsearchable riches of Christ.”  The pastor/church who’s focus is God’s wisdom and the riches of Christ will never run out of “material” because both are found in abundance!  This is all accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, with boldness and confidence that comes from faith in Jesus.

God’s plan for His people:  God wants us to be strengthened with power through the indwelling Holy Spirit who is guaranteed to all who believe in Jesus by faith to know His measureless, knowledge-surpassing, abundant love for us.  My pastor paraphrased this way, “Brace yourself–get ready to experience God’s love.”

Personal reflection:  It is so easy to lose sight of God’s love and think life is about our  performance.  We can do far less striving in our own strength than resting in the strength of God’s limitless love will accomplish through us!

GOD IS ABLE TO DO FAR MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK! That’s my God!  All that His people accomplish in His strength is always, only for His glory! Why would we settle for less than God’s perfect plan for spreading His wisdom, grace and love! We need to ask and expect more from our God–He is longing to do it!

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Ephesians 2:11-22 Peace and Unity

The ideas of peace and unity are mentioned in this short passage 12 times.  (14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22) Peace in our relationship with God the Father and others, and unity with God the Father and others.  All of this peace and unity is only possible by the blood of Jesus (13) through the cross of Jesus(16)!

There are so many great promises that are available “in Christ:”

  • In Christ, all people are brought near to God the Father
  • In Christ, all people are united
  • In Christ we all are a new creation
  • In Christ we all are reconciled to God
  • In Christ racial hostility is killed
  • In Christ we have access to the Father
  • In Christ we are all members of God’s family/house
  • In Christ the family of God is being built into a holy temple
  • In Christ we each become a holy dwelling for God by the Spirit
  • In Christ we are fellow citizens in His kingdom: receiving exclusive rights, protection, provision and under His good and kind authority.

In Christ all things are possible–even unity and peace!  When we focus our churches and personal lives on anyone or anything else, we are sowing seeds of discord!  Christ must fill all in all!

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Ephesians 2:1-10 Gifts that Keeps on Giving

I’ve noticed that there are generally two responses to overwhelmingly great gifts.  One is an “I don’t deserve this” guilt response and the other is abundant joy and gratitude.  Last Christmas after 17 years with our same Magnavox TV–we named her Maggie–our friends gave us a generous gift card to Best Buy to purchase our first flat screen, light weight, current century TV.  Which reaction do you think is more favorable for the giver to see?  How often do we think about the supernaturally generous gifts that God has offered to us?

WE WERE dead in our sins, living only for ourselves in the passions of our flesh and desires of our bodies and minds; BUT GOD sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to die for our sins.  He is offering us a free gift of salvation.  He longs for us to experience the riches of His mercy and great love and the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness.

Is that my view of God?  Have I spent time thinking on His mercy, love, grace and kindness lately?

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this in not your own doing; IT IS A GIFT OF GOD, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

His grace AND our faith are the requirements for salvation and both are gifts from Him.  Did you catch that?  Our faith to believe comes from God. We cannot boast in our faith or in our works.  We boast only in the Lord because we bring nothing to the “salvation table.” No works will save us, nor any belief that we muster up on our own.  If that were the case, we could save ourselves and Jesus would never have had to die!  We would never experience His mercy, love, grace and kindness.

Grace and faith are just two of the gifts; God also gives us purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  

Good works do not lead to God and Heaven; but salvation by grace alone and through faith alone leads us to do good works.  Apart from God there is no “good;” there is only self! In Jesus Christ we have a bigger purpose. He created good works for us to do!

Am I walking in my purpose? Do I get up each morning seeking to do what God pre-planned for my life?

God’s overwhelming gifts to us are grace, mercy, love, kindness, salvation, and faith.  When we “open” those gifts do we respond rightly–with gratitude and joy?  Or do we scoff at and reject the gifts?  We can bless God in our response to His generous gifts.

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Ephesians 1:15-23 Prayer and Inheritance

Paul opened this section by confirming the Ephesians reputation for great faith in God and love towards others.  He still wanted more for them, so he faithfully prayed.  What requests did he take before God on their behalf?

  1. That God would give them wisdom and reveal more about Himself to them.
  2. That God would open their eyes to the hope they have in Him.
  3. That they would experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power and might in their lives.

But here is the part that knocked my socks off!  We are Christ’s inheritance!  He looks forward to enjoying us forever.  My last will and testament reads: My soul I bequeath to Jesus Christ!

Eternal life with Jesus is the hope of the believer.  Sadly, we need reminded of that sometimes.  Life takes over and we forget our eternal hope.  Jesus never needs reminding–He knows the price He paid for us and can’t wait to be united with us.  Think about it: The One who’s name is above ALL names, who has authority over all things, who needs absolutely nothing considers us a glorious inheritance!  Based on 2:7, Jesus can’t wait to spend eternity showing us the immeasurable riches of His grace and kindness.

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Ephesians 1:1-14 So Much to be Thankful For!

Paul was chosen by God’s will to minister to the believers in Ephesus.  He called the recipients of his letter “faithful.”  In Revelations 2:1-7 Jesus said that the Ephesians had a lot going for them.  They toiled for Christ.  They patiently endured, hated evil and tested false prophets, endured patiently and tirelessly for Jesus’ sake.  In a word, they were faithful.  Paul also knew something of this hard work and patient endurance, as he probably was writing to them from house arrest in Rome.

Today, I want my Thanksgiving 2012 focus to be on the truths found in verses 3-14.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us IN CHRIST with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us IN HIM before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us IN THE BELOVED.  IN HIM we have redemption through HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of HIS GRACE, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth IN CHRIST, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things IN HIM, things in heaven and things on earth.

IN HIM we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope IN CHRIST might be to the praise of his glory.  IN HIM you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed IN HIM, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In addition to all the great promises found in those verses that can be claimed by all who believe in Jesus Christ, we also have the guarantee that all things in all times are working according to God’s perfect purposes and wise will.  Everything mentioned should fill our hearts with praise and glory for our great God.

I encourage you to take some time to thank your Savior today!  And if you don’t know Jesus, today could be your day!  Admit your sins, ask for His forgiveness and rest in His promises.

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Galatians 5:22-6:18 Bumper Crop

When my son was little, he loved The Wiggles.  They had a song that went like this: “Fruit salad…yummy, yummy!  Fruit salad…yummy, yummy!  Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy fruit salad!”  Deep-I know!  But it’s what I think  of when I think about life filled with the fruit of the Spirit–appealing to look at, serve to others and healthy and delicious to taste!

I found it interesting that chapter 5 ended with a warning in regard to the fruit of the Spirit and chapter 6 kind of picks that theme up.  If our flesh takes over, the fruit we have can cause us to become conceited and think more of ourselves than we ought, or we could start looking around and envying the fruit of others.  If we plant the seeds of spiritual fruit in envy or conceit, we won’t harvest anything except corrupt, rotten fruit.

The fruit of the Spirit {love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control} is not just meant to be looked at or consumed and enjoyed, it has seeds that need to be planted.  When we plant the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit, this shows we really have the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit has been given to us as our seal until we are home with Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14).  That’s why it says in 6:8, if we sow to the Spirit, we will reap from the Spirit eternal life.

The opposite of conceit and envy is doing good.  Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit.  We need to be planting goodness all over the place.  We are only able to do good to EVERYONE by surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  That is the only way to be sure our motives are pure and we are humbly serving.  His power to do good through us also prevents weariness!  When we try to do good to EVERYONE in our own strength, we will tire out!

When we remember that we have been crucified with Christ, along with our worldly passions and desires, nothing else matters except sowing the fruit of His Spirit and the joy of the coming hope and harvest!

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Galatians 5 ~ A Life That Counts

A life that counts is described as “faith working through love.” (6) Christ set me free for the purpose of “serving others through love,” (13) not for serving my fleshly desires.  I have been gratifying the desires of my flesh.  There are a list of specific actions that Paul wrote in regard to gratifying our flesh in verses 19-21, but he ended the list with “and things like these,” broadening the scope of what selfish living looks like.  

I know deep down in my heart when I am living selfishly, but I also believe by looking at the opposite results of living by the Holy Spirit, we can examine our hearts.  If the following words can describe our daily lives and interactions with people, flesh is winning the battle in our hearts:  loveless, joyless, strife-filled, impatient, unkind, bad thoughts toward others, faithless, uncommitted, harsh, snippy, hard/cold heart, no self-control in words, actions, food/beverage intake, etc…

A life lived to gratify self is a wasted life!  There is only one remedy:  THE HOLY SPIRIT.  The Holy Spirit is the presence of God dwelling in the souls of those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior and accepted the free gift of forgiveness and grace that He offers.  Living and walking by the Spirit results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (22-23)

I don’t have to live for me. I don’t have to make every decision based on how it impacts me.  I don’t have to be nice to others so they like me or live my life to please people.  I have been set free by God to really love and freely give my life for others.  My fleshly desires and passions have been crucified with Jesus Christ so that I can be filled with His passions and desires.  God’s passion is people–to sacrificially love ALL mankind.

Will I yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading or will I give in to my selfish desires?  I know that God has more and better for me than I could ever want for myself, and that He has set me free to love and serve others.  I want my life to count, so Lord, help me to choose to walk with, follow and live by Your Spirit in my life today.  Help me to put myself aside to lovingly serve my family, friends, neighbors and strangers today. In the Powerful name of my perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, I ask~Amen.

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Galatians 4 ~ Motives

I read and re-read this chapter.  It was difficult at first to know how to apply it.  Then it hit me!  God was asking me to examine my own heart in regard to serving His people.

I am desperate to see God changing people’s lives. But what undergirds that desire?  If it is to make me look better or to have them make much of me, then it’s wrong.  Let me give you an example of how this has been evident in my heart.  Let’s just say I give advice to a friend one day and the next week, she is saying that very thing to someone else as if she came up with it.  My initial reaction could be, “I said that first to you.  That’s my wisdom.”  Pure motives would be thankful that she heard what God wanted her to hear and that she was applying it and thankful that God gave me wisdom to share.

Moving on…these are the motives I came up with for wanting to see Christ changing lives:

  1. To see people experiencing the joy and freedom that comes from obeying God’s Word.
  2. To see Christ’s power on display in transformed lives.

Holy God, when my motives are wrong and selfish in ministering to your people would you please show me through deep conviction until the heart of Jesus for others is formed in me?  Help me to serve out of a pure heart and give me a desire to see people’s lives changed for your glory alone!  God, I’m willing to be in anguish until Jesus’ image is on full display in the lives of those you ask me to serve. In Jesus’ holy name I ask, Amen.

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Galatians 3 Following Rules vs. Being of Faith

Rules verses faith is a constant thread throughout the New Testament.  I would grow weary of hearing it, except it’s good news!  And who doesn’t love to hear good news!  People who live under faith receive a promise, while people who live under the law receive a curse.  It seems like a simple choice, but for some crazy reason, even those of us who believe it sometimes find ourselves slipping back into a life of laws.

My husband said in his message on Sunday, the Law is like a pair of tight jeans.  Every time you put them on you feel either really fat and shameful OR you think you look better than you really do!  The law can only do two things: make you feel shameful failure or make you feel self-righteous.  There is no hope or promise, unless we allow the law to point us to Jesus.

The opposite of trying to follow the rules to earn right standing before God is FAITH!  Faith gives us God’s Spirit (3) to live and work among us (5).  Faith justifies us–makes it just as if we had never sinned (8).  Faith blesses us (9), sets us free (23), and makes us part of God’s family (26).  When we are adopted into God’s family we enjoy the privileges of belonging to Him–protection, provision, unconditional love.  We have an obligation to represent the family name.  We receive the same inheritance as Jesus Christ–namely eternal life with Him in a new home.

Paul uses one word to describe people who suppress the Spirit, forfeit faith, and nullify grace by following rules–FOOLISH!  Man, I don’t want to be a fool.  I don’t want to go out in public with tight jeans on, and I don’t want you to either.  

Lord, help us to throw away anything in us that makes us turn to ourselves for righteousness.  Help us to walk in faith, putting on Jesus Christ alone for our salvation and allowing the Holy Spirit to change us day by day into His image. In the powerful name of my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, I ask this.  Amen.

P.S. As I was rereading the verses just now, it also came to my mind that the Law divides us, while faith in Jesus unites us.  Think about all the Christians and Churches you know who have parted ways over rules!!!  Faith in Jesus brings us together.  When we put on Jesus, we are one in Him.  All differences melt away.  We “see” Christ in each other.  We are still distinctly different, with different roles, gifts and paths, but Christ binds us together with the goal of loving people, stewarding grace, reconciling people to Himself, and magnifying the greatness of God.  “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.  We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.  And we pray that all unity may one day be restored, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

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