Friday, July 21, 2006
I am remiss in updating my blog. This has been a challenging, yet inspiring week. I'm behind on my bible study, but will catch up tomorrow morning and give my thoughts on the balance of Ephesians, for those that come here for those insights.
On Saturday of this past week my 16 year old niece Sarah had a serious accident on an all terrain vehicle (ATV). While this is supposed to be a really fun sport, there are many accidents and even deaths on them. In this case, the ATV landed on her left arm and did severe damage to the bone, also severing a nerve. She had been camping on a mountain with her older sister's family in Wyoming. Fortunately a family friend was along that was an RN. They were able to get her airlifted to a hospital in Billings, Montana.
I found out early Sunday morning before I left for Chicago. While I wanted to go to be with my sister, I had a previous commitment at an industry conference. I spoke with my oldest sister, who agreed to drive up on Monday with her husband, so that made me feel a little better about not being able to go. On Monday, one by one, things started falling into place in such a way that let me know that I was really supposed to be there with my family. Priorities have a way of calling to you.
On Tuesday I arrived in Billings and went immediately to the hospital. By that time I had sent out a prayer request to my church, the Tres Dias team and friends. When I saw Sarah she was awake and talking. Since I hadn't really known what to expect it was great to see her at least attempting to smile. Her lips were still puffy (she broke her two front teeth) and her face was swollen and terribly scratched up on the right side. Her left arm was stabilized and bandaged. Her left foot was also broken, but not in a cast, as the bone was only slightly fractured on the top of the foot. By Tuesday afternoon, they had her up and walking. By nightfall she asked for her favorite meal from Taco Bell. Wednesday showed remarkable improvement in the healing of the skin on her face and she was able to move the fingers of her left hand more and more. The evening treat was a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, which lit her face up when she saw it!
Yesterday morning, we put Sarah and my sister Buff on a non-stop flight back to Seattle and they drove back to Bellingham Washington (near the Canadian border), where they live. The big treat when they got home was going to the dentist to see about getting her teeth fixed! On Monday she will go back down to Seattle to see the orthopedic surgeon to find out when he wants to begin the work on her upper arm. She will need muscle and tissue grafts to repair the loss of 1/3 of her bicep. She will need a alot of physical therapy, but after seeing how determined she is to get better, I know she will beat the odds.
It was inspiring to see her courage and also to observe how quickly her young body was regenerating itself. In just two days, the scars on her face were so much better.
Keep Sarah in your prayers!
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Weekly Reflections on Freedom and Love (Galatians 4-6)
Today is Sunday, I’m at 30,000ft as I write this, winging my way from Tampa to Chicago for a corporate travel conference. It occurs to me that I am traveling farther today than Paul likely traveled during his entire time on earth.
Paul remained true to form throughout the balance of Galatians 4-6, with every verse reminding the Church that we are called to freedom and love and that slavery to anything - religion, lifestyle, rhetoric - is just that, slavery. Why choose to be bound, when freedom is available for the asking?
Galatians 5 v13-15 says “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out! In no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?”
This reminds me of when our children choose to disobey Michael or me (or both!). It always falls upon us to tell them that they can choose their actions, but not the consequences. One thing I know, is that when Kiera and Sergey choose to love each other and to be kind and to honor Michael and I as their parents, that the consequence is a very good one. Love is freedom. It is so simple. I guess it is almost too simple, since so many people seem to either miss it or reject the notion.
Paul reminds us in Galatians that Abraham had two sons: one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. In the days of Hagar and Sarah, the child who came from faithless connivance (Ishmael the son of the slave) harassed the child who came—empowered by the Spirit—from the faithful promise (Isaac the son of Sarah who was both free and blessed by God with a son very late in life).
Throughout this week we witnessed intensifying conflicts in the Middle East. 2000 years later, the sons of Ishmael and Isaac are still at war and annihilation in this day of nuclear weapons is certainly possible. [Lord I pray for peace in the Middle East, even though it seems so very far away right now.]
Galatians 6 goes on to provide very practical instruction, what I call life lessons. Further to the part of chapter 5 that talks about the fruit of the Spirit (e.g. the consequences of living in love and freedom), here Paul reminds us that whatever we sow, we will reap. It isn’t possible to plant an apple seed and grow an avocado tree.
So, today, choose love and choose freedom. Be kind, accept the kindness of others. Forgive and accept the forgiveness of others.
My friend in Mozambique wrote me yesterday and told me that all of her skirts were stolen yesterday off the clothes line. Remembering that she can’t just pop over to the Super Walmart to get new ones, she really had to choose to forgive, rather than be angry over her loss. She When she forgave, she experienced freedom and then the overwhelming flood of God’s love. She reminds me with her own life lessons each day, how real God is and how true to His word.
Today I ask all who believe in the power of God to pray for my niece Sarah. She was in an ATV accident and broke her arm, her foot and some teeth. She has both nerve and vascular damage and they fear that she might lose her arm. I also lift up Cathy and Gail who both have cancer and my friend Lynn’s brother Clarke, who has been diagnosed with ALS. Also Clarke and his family live in Israel, so I also pray for protection for them.
Thanks for sharing my life and reflections this week. May you feel the power of his love and the fruits of the freedom that He has for you as a free gift today.
Next week, on to James, which begins with a discussion of the pressures of life. Let’s home there aren’t life lessons that accompany this one!
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Galatians 2 & 3 What exactly is the gospel anyway??
I have a dear friend that is spending the summer in Mozambique working with a mission for children and the poor. As I read Galatians and the battles between the religious over the law, many of her emails from Africa come back to mind.
Over and over again she tells me that God's message is really just all about love and loving one to one, face to face. Where she is, there is no time for discussions of the law or of religion. Only showing love and letting others see God through that love is all that matters. Some days there is very little food and for many days there was no rain. There is witchcraft and true evil. Children are dying. Again, only love and faith get them through the day and bring people to the Lord. Not some fancy wordsmithing of the gospel. Just love.
I had a long day today - a good one, but found myself getting weary of the discussion in these two chapters of Galatians. I know that is not the spiritual thing to say, but perhaps it is my lack of tolerance for small talk or perhaps it is that the Galatians were making it all about them and not about God. I have never been one to get sucked up into purely philosophical discussions and religiosity affects me that way too. The religious battles of Paul's day must have worn him out too.
In the Message translation Galations Chapter 3 starts with "You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives." Paul is referring to the whole preoccupation with the law. Verse 9 states "anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure". This too refers to the law and how futile it is to try to keep from doing things that are wrong.
I'm not going to include the full post of both Chapters tonight. If you want to read it for yourself, here is the link to the BibleGateway site to the Message translation, which I find easiest to understand for the "non-scholar".
For me and my house, we will focus on LOVE and the giver of love. Learning to love, showing love and loving the unlovable. Now that.... is the message. It beats the law hands down.
Monday, July 10, 2006
When I read this chapter, I was struck that Paul (who in other letters is encouraging to the church) was so blatant in pointing out that the church was not living up to his expectations. Instead of bringing forth the Message of the lamb, he roared more like a lion in this chapter.
You have to remember that Paul, who used to persecute Christians (literally), has come to love and serve the Lord that he abhorred. This is about as dramatic a conversion as they come. And still the Church didn't "get it". They didn't understand what he was preaching to them.
My favorite verse here is v11, "this great Message I delivered to you is not mere human optimism. I didn't receive it through the traditions, and I wasn't taught it in some school. I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ."
I was raised in the church. My father was the pastor. I heard the Message every week and as mentioned in previous posts, I just didn't get it. It didn't have one bit of an effect on my behavior or my thinking. Of course the Presbyterian church is not well known for dramatic conversions or the transformational impact of the gospel of Christ. Those who attended our church were always well dressed and polite. In fact, when my dad would reach out to the poor and invite them to church, it made the church members pretty uncomfortable. And when he started having prayer meetings mid-week with the lonely, downhearted and outcast, or had them share in church on Sunday how God had changed their lives, it made them downright angry and they kicked him out of the church. Really.
Many of you have seen the Church do similar things that do not agree with the teachings of mercy, grace and Love that Jesus shared when he walked the earth. Perhaps they happened to someone you love (like it did with my Dad) or perhaps it was to you. Or worse, perhaps the church you attend or have attended in the past really didn't teach anything that was life transforming or even encouraging. Pleasant noise and music, but not really worth skipping a Sunday morning of boating, golfing or just staying in bed with a great cup of coffee and the New York Times.
Paul didn't want to hurt the Galatians. What he was trying to accomplish in this letter was to get them to understand the transforming power of Jesus on his very own life and to encourage them that if he could be saved from his base nature, then anyone can. And he wanted them to see his transformation for the miracle that it was!
Sin sounds so dark and ominous. Perhaps you live a pretty good, clean life and are generally nice to people, perhaps even contributing to charity. And you might even describe yourself as relatively happy most of the time. You are happy for others that find their faith to be important, but it hasn't really got a place in your life.
As we will see in the balance of Galatians, God isn't impressed with outward appearance and there is nothing we can do to earn His love anyway, so it isn't about the "dos and don'ts" of the religious. It is a free gift. And if our lives are good when we meet Him face to face for the first time, then it only gets better and better!
My prayer today is that if you have met Him face to face that your walk would be deepened by sharing in this study.
If you don't know Him - perhaps have just "visited His house" or "read his Words", but haven't truly had an encounter with him, I pray that you would take time to let him show you His face. Most of you know the verse found in Matthew 7:7 - Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened. Again, I find the Message translation refreshing here:
7-11"Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing. You're at least decent to your own children. So don't you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
What do you need in your life today?
Sunday, July 09, 2006
It's a quiet Sunday afternoon. Michael has been sick all week, so is resting. His niece and her two children are visiting, so the kids are all across the street at grandmas, playing. Tomorrow Kiera leaves for camp - the first time! I am not traveling at all this week (the first time in at least 3 months that I'm home) and Kiera is going to be gone all week. Sigh...
From a business perspective, the last 10 days has yielded some disappointment. We were advising two separate clients who were working toward acquiring other companies, and both were outbid by others at the 11th hour. The potential of more work immediately ensuing from those clients, seemingly dashed (at least for the time being).
At the same time, a new client emerged, a referral from a colleague and the work that they want to pursue dovetails perfectly into another venture that we have been planning for months now. That is really the story of my business life - one opportunity out the window and another walks through the door.
Have you ever looked at your past, at the things that at the time were really devastating and then look at what happened as a result? The good things that came out of the bad? Or looked at people that you would have never met if circumstances hadn't occurred the way that they did?
Nearly 20 years ago I was up for a promotion to a training job and one of my colleagues at American Airlines/Sabre got the job instead. I really felt awful about it and watched her rise in the ranks, gaining the accolades, wishing that it were me. But about 6 months later I was selected for a special project. I had previously been a documentation analyst in the development group, but was picked to explore a new business opportunity.
I had to investigate it from the ground up - doing the research, looking at competitors. In short, creating the full business plan to determine whether we wanted to build a new capability for the corporate travel marketplace or buy it. I ended up leading a team that acquired a company and then being responsible for integrating it into the Sabre division, ultimately becoming a Senior Director in the Company, with the responsibilities as acting CEO of the new group. All at age 28 -- me the college dropout!
Out of my disappointment in the other woman's gain and my loss, came the foundation for a career that I love. Had I gotten the other job, there is no telling what I would be doing today.
We can't generally see through disappointment to the other side and the good that can result, particularly when we are in the thick of the emotion that ensues. Sometimes all we see are knots and loose threads, not aware that a gorgeous tapestry is emerging on the other side.
My favorite verse of all time is from Psalms, Chapter 139 verse 13, which says that when I was still in my mother's womb, that He fearfully and wonderfully made me and that His eyes saw my unformed substance and in His book were written all the days that were ordained for me -- when as yet none of them had even occurred!
Romans 8:28 says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
I am so thankful that I don't have to rely on fate or chance to take me to the next place in life. By choice, I live by faith in a plan created from the foundations of the earth. A tapestry that is unfolding, one panel at a time. I can't wait to see what He has for me next!
What state is your tapestry in today?
Image courtesy of the GoldenTapestry.com - Children's Tapestry of Hope
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Ephesians 6 - Life's Hierarchy
One of the things about life is that there are some things we choose and others that are thrust upon us.
The first part of Ephesians 6 outlines for us some of the things that we can't change. Children should honor their parents and slaves (employees in the modern day) should honor their masters (the boss in our vernacular).
The choice comes in in how we approach these situations and whether or not we recognize that God is in control (whether we acknowledge that or not, He is the ultimate CEO of the universe).
Continuing that analogy, in families, husbands are the President, with their wives as the Vice President and key advisor. The older kids are middle management, learning to make their own decisions and the little kids are the entry level employees!
If the husband doesn't recognize his role or isn't properly equipped with God's Word, often the wife takes the President role and pushes him down to middle management or worse, entry level. So it is important that husbands understand what God wants them to do and understand how wonderful it will be when they allow God to work in them to become the leader and warrior that He intends them to be.
Now in any healthy company, the President has many advisors and he or she rarely makes autocratic decisions. In a company where the President is an autocrat, you won't find morale to be very high. I can speak for myself as the CEO and President of my company that it is much more fun to be in control than having someone tell you what to do! But with that priviledge, comes responsibility. And one of those responsibilities is to build up those that rely on you so that they will be stronger and richer having been affiliated with you (and under your leadership).
What Ephesians 6 tells us is that we will be much happier if we both recognize authority and take the position in our families and society that God has blessed us with.
Now the really cool thing is that beginning in verse 10, he promises to equip us properly for our role. For those that don't get in that particular line (thinking they have to do it all themselves), the responsibility can be a heavy weight.
One of the reasons that I am including the Message translation of the Bible in my BLOG each day is that I want visitors that don't know the power of God to better understand what the Word is really about. While it may lose a little in the translation (certainly some of the piety of the Thees and Thous of the King James Version), if even one person comes to know Him through this Blog, then the time invested is worth it.
Blessings to all who read this. May you find your place in the hierarchy of life and find the peace of the creator of the Universe, the CEO of life.
To quote verse 23-24 in the Message translation "Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ."
Ephesians 61-3 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. "Honor your father and mother" is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, "so you will live well and have a long life." 4Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.
5-8Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don't just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ's servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you're really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.
9Masters, it's the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.
A Fight to the Finish10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13-18Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
19-20And don't forget to pray for me. Pray that I'll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.
21-22Tychicus, my good friend here, will tell you what I'm doing and how things are going with me. He is certainly a dependable servant of the Master! I've sent him not only to tell you about us but to cheer you on in your faith.
23-24Good-bye, friends. Love mixed with faith be yours from God the Father and from the Master, Jesus Christ. Pure grace and nothing but grace be with all who love our Master, Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5 - The light shines on us
Have you ever looked under a rock or somewhere else where the sun never shines? Ugh.... unless you are fond of bugs and other nasty things, it isn't a pleasant sight.
When our daughter was born, she like many babies, was a bit jaundiced. The way to get rid of it was to put her in the sunlight for a few hours a day. The sun was the cure.
Well, Ephesians 5 talks about a different kind of light - SONlight. If each minute of each day we thought of the beam of His light on us (His love), we might behave differently.
With two small children, I have to admit that each year as December gets closer, we play the "Santa is watching" card on more than one occasion to get their behavior to line up with our expectations. Now, in general I'm not fond of using fear as motivation for behavior, but it does snap us back to reality to believe that someone is watching our every move.
The good news is that someone is watching over us, but not because He is waiting for us to trip up. No, our heavenly Father watches over us and shines his light on us because He loves us and the light of His love is healing and encouraging. And, we don't have to earn it. It is FREE.
Thank God for that! So that frees us to read his Word and listen to what He says and know that His instruction is for our good. We don't have to fear his retribution, but look for His light to shine the way to a really wonderful place. A place of peace and joy where we can focus on each other and not on bad things or recovering from mistakes.
Whew...... light is good and good things happen in the light. That is where I want to be!
Oh, and did I mention how much I like the way "The Message" translation portrays verses 25-28 (see below)!! (and yes, I am also happy to be subject to my husband as the head of our house and our family!) Amen and amen!
Wake Up from Your Sleep1-2Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
3-4Don't allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don't talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn't fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.
5You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
6-7Don't let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don't even hang around people like that.
8-10You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You're out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.
11-16Don't waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It's a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
17Don't live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
18-20Don't drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
Relationships21Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.
22-24Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
25-28Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ's love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They're really doing themselves a favor—since they're already "one" in marriage.
29-33No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That's how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become "one flesh." This is a huge mystery, and I don't pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Ephesians 4 - Living a pure life
Wow, what a chocked full chapter! My key takeaways were that we should run headlong toward what God has for us, understanding all the way the role that the rest of the body of Chris plays in our lives and also the importance of really starting fresh. We can't be pure on our own, but with His help, we can start each day with a clean slate, leaving behind our natural man, each day looking more like Him. oh yeah .... and we shouldn't go to bed mad at our spouses.... (or anyone else for that matter!)
You know how when you spend a long time with someone, that you begin to look alike? Some people are even said to resemble their dogs! I just know that after 30+ years of being a born again Christian, I should certainly resemble him more than I do. It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget what is really important, to forget to be kind or generous with others and to remember what we are here for.
There is a song that Amy Grant sings called "Her Fathers Eyes". This is my prayer today, that I would remember the message of this verse and have people say that I have my Father's eyes.
And my face may not grace the mind of everyone in the world.
But thats all right, as long as I can have one wish I pray:
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say,
Shes got her fathers eyes, Her fathers eyes;
Eyes that find the good in things,
When good is not around;
Eyes that find the source of help,
When help just cant be found;
Eyes full of compassion, Seeing every pain;
Knowing what youre going through
And feeling it the same.
Just like my fathers eyes,
My fathers eyes,
My fathers eyes,
Just like my fathers eyes.
And on that day when we will pay for all the deeds we have done,
Good and bad theyll all be had to see by everyone.
And when youre called to stand and tell just what you saw in me,
More than anything I know, I want your words to be,
She had her fathers eyes, Her fathers eyes;
Eyes that found the good in things,
When good was not around;
Eyes that found the source of help,
When help would not be found;
Eyes full of compassion,
Seeing every pain;
Knowing what youre going through,
And feeling it the same.
Just like my fathers eyes,
My fathers eyes,
My fathers eyes,
Just like my fathers eyes.
My fathers eyes,
My fathers eyes,
Just like my fathers eyes.
Ephesians 4 (New Living Bible)
1Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.
4We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. 7However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. 8That is why the Scriptures say,
"When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people."[a]
9Notice that it says "he ascended." This means that Christ first came down to the lowly world in which we live.[b] 10The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe.
11He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
Living as Children of Light17With the Lord's authority let me say this: Live no longer as the ungodly[c] do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19They don't care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed.
20But that isn't what you were taught when you learned about Christ. 21Since you have heard all about him and have learned the truth that is in Jesus, 22throw off your old evil nature and your former way of life, which is rotten through and through, full of lust and deception. 23Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. 24You must display a new nature because you are a new person, created in God's likeness--righteous, holy, and true.
25So put away all falsehood and "tell your neighbor the truth"[d] because we belong to each other. 26And "don't sin by letting anger gain control over you."[e] Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil.
28If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need. 29Don't use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30And do not bring sorrow to God's Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. 32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Ephesians 3 - It's all about love
Tina Turner sang a song called "What's Love got to do with it?". Well, although chapter 3 continues the discussion of how we Gentiles have been adopted into God's family, along with his "chosen" people, my favorite verse is verse 18 where it talks about grasping how wide, how long, how high and how deep is the love of Christ. I don't know about you, but I love being loved and love has everything to do with our relationship with the creator of the universe.
Ephesians 3 tells us that His love surpasses all knowledge. I am thankful that His love is not bound by my imagination or my experience. I need that kind of love in my life.
But also it is a message of inclusion. For those that have always felt like outsiders, this chapter reminds us that we all get to partake in his love, it isn't just for the original "Chosen". We are all His Chosen people.
I pray for a glimpse of the power of His love.
The Secret Plan of God1-3 This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you're familiar with the part I was given in God's plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.
4-6 As you read over what I have written to you, you'll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God's Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order. The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I've been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.
7-8 This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
8-10 And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
11-13 All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we're free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don't let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you'll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ's love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.
20-21 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Glory to God in the church!
Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus!
Glory down all the generations!
Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Ephesians 1 - Adoption into God's Family
Yesterday I forgot to post on the study verse for the day. Our church is doing a day by day study where we keep our individual insights on our blog. We also comment and share on each other's blogs. It is a good way of being accountable. To read more about this or to set up your own group, see http://dbrag.org.
This chapter of Ephesians has special meaning for me, as my husband and I adopted a little boy (Sergey) from Russia in 2003. We learned the personal meaning of adoption and what it means to give everything that you have and everything that you are to another. That (and more) is what God did for us in adopting us, giving us Jesus as our brother.
If you know my family, it is easy to see how close Kiera (our natural daughter) and Sergey are. He couldn't be closer to her if he were her biological brother.
Michael and I made a choice to bring Sergey into our family, the focus of our love - giving him a chance to be whole, something that would quite possibly have eluded him if he had not been adopted.
I've highlighted my favorite parts of Ephesians 1 in a contemporary version of the Word called the Message. I want to be first in line to receive his "utter extravagance"! How about you?
Ephesians 11-2 I, Paul, am under God's plan as an apostle, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful believers in Ephesus. I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
The God of Glory3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He's the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth's foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.
7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
11-12 It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, 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.
13-14 It's in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what's coming, a reminder that we'll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
15-19 That's why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn't stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I'd think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!
20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ's body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
Ephesians 2 - Freedom
Today's verse paints a wonderful picture of where we have come from (being totally and utterly without hope) to a place of belonging - a place of freedom.
I love the way "The Message" translation puts it. "V1-6 It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us."
I am thankful that God didn't lose his temper. He had every right. But instead he showed us mercy and displayed his amazing grace. We can't take credit. It is all about him.
At Tres Dias in April, I was impressed at how God knitted together people from so many different backgrounds. This chapter also addresses that.
"God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home."
I am glad to be a part of the new temple. I am working on making my temple a holy place for Him to reside and to take better care of my physical temple. Today is day 2 of working on that - eating right, working out, making good choices.
Happy fourth of July - may you experience His freedom today!
He Tore Down the Wall1-6 It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It's a wonder God didn't lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.
7-10 Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
11-13 But don't take any of this for granted. It was only yesterday that you outsiders to God's ways had no idea of any of this, didn't know the first thing about the way God works, hadn't the faintest idea of Christ. You knew nothing of that rich history of God's covenants and promises in Israel, hadn't a clue about what God was doing in the world at large. Now because of Christ—dying that death, shedding that blood—you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything.
14-15 The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.
16-18 Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.
19-22 That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.
Monday, July 03, 2006
In April of this year, my husband Michael and I were invited to each attend a weekend known as Tres Dias. Knowing little more than that it was a Christian retreat, we accepted the invitation from our neighbors Greg and Felicia.
To say that it was life transforming would be to minimize the impact that it had on both of us. I have been a born again Christian since 1974. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, I had attended church all my life, but had never had a personal encounter with the creator of the universe. When I was 17 I turned my life over to the Lord and enjoyed fellowship in a little church called "The Church of the Risen Savior" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Over the course of the last 36 years, I have been all around the world, gotten married, become a mom, started a company.
Through it all, I have had ups and downs in my faith, but have always been blessed with a knowledge of His saving grace. I have consistently been guided by His hand in my personal life and our business, but did not truly understand the meaning of grace until attending Tres Dias.
The spiritual director of our weekend was Randy from Grace Church in Largo. He told a story about a man who heard his small daughter swearing while she was playing. She had obviously heard the words from someone else, perhaps from school. He sat her down and talked to her about using the Lord's name in vain. He gently told her that if he heard her swearing again, that he would spank her with the paddle 7 times. A few weeks later, he was in the garage working and she was around the side of the garage and he heard her swear. He proceeded to give her an incredible lesson - on that is now indelibly imprinted on my heart.
He told her that she deserved to be punished, as she had disobeyed him and dishonored God. To receive 7 spanks would be justice for what happened. Instead of spanking her, he sent her to her room to think about what she had done. He told her that that was mercy, as she didn't get what she deserved. Then, a little while later, he went in to her room, gave her a hug and told her that he was going to take her to get an ice cream cone. When they were at the ice cream parlor, he told her that this was a demonstration of the grace that God has when he deals with us, as He gives us what we don't deserve.
Throughout the Tres Dias weekend, we sang a song from Isaiah 62:4 that talked about receiving a new name and becoming a new creature in Him. Many of the women that attended came from a position of weakness (wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid) and needed strength. As a successful professional who owns my own business, I walked in feeling strong, but nevertheless, He had a plan for my life and a message for my heart. The song goes on to say:
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One,
Faithfulness, Friend of God,
One Who Seeks My Face.
I already naturally enjoy confidence, joyfulness and a feeling of overcoming the challenges of life. I was raised to understand faithfulnees and being a friend through the message of unconditional love bestowed on me by my parents.
What I had not experienced, except in the early days of my walk back in the 70s, is turning my eyes toward Jesus every day as the foundation for what I will face and ultimately being known as one who seeks His face.
Now you know, as they say, the rest of the story. I am being transformed and long to be identified as One who seeks His face.
I am new to blogging, but look forward to what God has for me.