Just One Question

Grace's trophyPaul makes it quite clear in Ephesians 2 what we are apart from Jesus Christ:

  • Dead in our transgressions and sins (v. 1)
  • Following the ways of the world and selling out to satan’s dominion (v. 2a)
  • In obstinate opposition to God (v. 2b)
  • Living only for our own wicked cravings (v. 3a)
  • The objects of God’s righteous wrath (v. 3b)

The penalty is a death sentence. Yet God made Jesus—the perfect, sinless One—to be sin in our place so that God’s judgment would fall on Jesus Christ instead of us. That is what Paul describes as God’s great love and rich mercy (v. 4).

Mercy means not getting the punishment we should have received.

It would have been enough if God stopped there by showing mercy, but He didn’t! God brought us back to life, saved us from eternal damnation, and raised us up with Christ to a position of honor (vv. 5, 8-9). What did this? God’s amazing grace! 

Grace means getting blessings that we never should have received. 

God did this in order that we might be trophies of the incomparable riches of His grace and His kindness… (v. 7).

Gordon MacDonald said, “The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace.

So just one question…

What does the world learn about God’s grace by watching you and me?

Atomic Spiritual Power

Atomic spiritual powerI was so excited while listening to Tom Kaastra’s message in our series on Ephesians yesterday! To really reflect on the power God wants to see operating in our lives is almost mind-blowing! 

In Paul’s lengthy prayer for the Christians in Ephesus, he three times says he is praying, “For this reason” (Ephesians 1:15; 3:1; 3:14). And every one of the reasons has to do with power or strength. In fact, Paul uses four Greek words for power in his prayer to try to convey the magnitude of God’s awesome power. This power can be summed up two ways:

  • Quantity (resurrection power): That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead (1:19-20).
  • Quality (love power): And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love surpasses knowledge (1:17-19).

Notice that this power only comes to me through the Holy Spirit, and resides in my “inner being” (3:16) and “within us” (3:20). It is power waiting to be released! 

Think of this Holy Spirit power in terms of atomic energy power. The awesome power in the atom has been around since Genesis 1:1, but it was hidden from human awareness until July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM, when the first atomic bomb was detonated. People couldn’t release the power because they didn’t know that it was there! In similar fashion, Paul wants us to know what sort of atomic spiritual power is available to us.

Paul’s prayer is that we will intimately know this power (1:18), and that we will release this power (Ephesians 3:20; Colossians 1:29; Philippians 2:12-13). The Holy Spirit is not released through dormant people, but through people who are moving toward Him and willing to let Him move through them.

There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who are…

1. …designed by God to be adopted into His family and to do great things, but are dead apart from Him.

2. …designed by God to be adopted into His family and to do great things, adopted into His family, but not using the power He has provided.

3. ..designed by God to be adopted into His family and to do great things, adopted into His family, and fully operating in His awesome atomic-like power.

In what category are you? What’s holding you back for all that God has planned for you?

Hyper-Mega Dynamite

Ephesians 1-19One of my favorite scenes in the movie Elf is when Buddy is discovering all the amazing human things in New York City. In a public restroom he stands up on the toilet in his stall to shout to the person occupying the stall next to him, “Have you seen these toilets? They’re ginormous!” It was so amazing to him that gigantic wouldn’t cut it, and neither would enormous, so he combined them together … it’s ginormous!!

When I read Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus (see Ephesians 1:17-23), I get the sense that even the well-educated apostle was having difficulty finding enough adjectives to describe the amazing inheritance we have in Christ. He mentions things like…

  • Out-of-this-world wisdom,
  • divine revelation,
  • deep and intimate knowledge of God,
  • a flooding of heavenly light,
  • supernatural hope, and
  • an overflowing, incalculable, inestimable, eternally-compounding inheritance!

But then he comes to God’s power and his vocabulary almost fails him. Like Buddy the elf, he starts putting words together to try to convey the vast majesty of this power.

Most Bible translations say something like incomparably great power. But when you look at the Greek you see prefixes like hyper! and mega! and you realize that Paul is saying it’s so beyond gigantic or enormous … it’s ginormous!! 

The word for power is “dynamis,” and many people have said that God’s power is like dynamite. But they have it exactly backwards! Dynamite has only been around for 200 years. When dynamite was created it was named after Christians who were living in the hyper-mega, ginormous, dynamic power of Jesus Christ. Christians’ power wasn’t named after dynamite; dynamite was named after empowered Christians!

This is the power in which Christians can live everyday in every way! This is the power God has for you! If you’re living in anything less than hyper-mega dynamite power, perhaps you should pray for yourself the prayer that Paul prayed for us! 

We’ll be continuing our series in Ephesians this coming Sunday, and I’d love for you to join us.

Adopted By God

Adopted By GodWe have been working through our series on the Book of Ephesians, and I am so excited to share the speaking responsibilities with Tom Kaastra. Tom pastored a church in the Detroit area for nearly 40 years, and he is bringing such a richness of knowledge to this series!

“If you had one son in whom you found unspeakable delight, would it not be normal as a father to want many more? It is exactly so with the Eternal Father, Who by nature and choice, has desired and purposed to have a vast family of human-divine sons who are just like His Only Begotten Son.” —DeVern Fromke

The opening section of Ephesians 1 is just loaded with words of God’s delight:

  • …it gave Him great pleasure… (v. 5)
  • …the glorious grace He has poured out on us… (v. 6)
  • …He is so rich in kindness and grace… (v. 7)
  • …He has showered His kindness on us… (v. 8)
  • …His own good pleasure… (v. 9)

Not only is God’s delight so ample in this section, but so is be the praise toward God which should be bursting out from us:

  • …all praise to God… (v. 3)
  • …so we praise God… (v. 6)
  • …we bring praise and glory to God… (v. 12)
  • …we would praise and glorify Him… (v. 14)

What is this thing in which God is so delighted, and for which we should be so filled with praise?

It is quite simply this: God has revealed Himself to us as a loving Father, His Son has made it possible for us to come into God’s family, and the Holy Spirit has given us the assurance that we have been adopted by our Heavenly Father.

That’s right … God’s plan was to adopt you into His family. When did He come up with this idea?

  • …before He made the world… (v. 4)
  • …God decided in advance to adopt us… (v. 5)
  • …a plan to fulfill His own good pleasure… (v. 9)
  • …He choose us in advance and He makes everything work out according to His plan… (v. 11)
  • …He promised long ago… (v. 13)

God loves YOU so much that He had a plan from before the beginning of time to adopt YOU into His family. That’s what Jesus made possible through His death on the Cross, and what the Holy Spirit is constantly trying to reveal to YOU!! WOW!!

Please join us next Sunday as we continue our study on this amazing book in the Bible.

What God Will You Choose?

What God:godMy friend Chuck and I have a sort of shorthand when we talk. We’ve been through so many experiences together, that now just a single word can bring to our minds the fullness of that time, with all of its tears and laughter. Someone listening to one of our conversations might not get the full impact, but we sure do!

It’s the same way when we read one of the Apostle Paul’s letters. He is writing to a church or an individual with whom he had a rich, personal experience. So when he alludes to something, those friends who went through that experience with him recall all of the fullness. When reading the letter to the church at Ephesus, you can experience some of that fullness by reading about Paul’s experience in that city in Acts 19.

In Acts 19 you will meet the followers of Jesus who were already there and see them get baptized in the Holy Spirit … watch Paul teach for three months in the synagogue before the Jewish troublemakers run him out … see Paul lecture for the next three years in the Hall of Tyrannus, so that everyone in that province heard the Word of God … see how God authenticated Paul’s ministry with miracles … experience those who tried to counterfeit what Paul was doing … see many in that city turn from their witchcraft and idol worship … and finally experience the tumult of a near-riot started by the merchants who were losing their income on sales of mythological trinkets because so many were turning to Christ.

With this backdrop, you can then understand why Paul uses such specific language in the opening greeting of his letter to Ephesus (see Ephesians 1:1-3). By doing so he is contrasting the followers of Jesus with the followers of Artemis—

  • Christians for whom God has a specific plan (“by the will of God” [1:1a]; see also 1:4 and 2:10) versus Artemis’ followers who felt like they had no choice (Acts 19:26).
  • Christians who are called saints (set apart for God’s special use) and faithful (trusting Jesus implicitly [1:1b]) versus those followers of Artemis who are self-serving (Acts 19:24, 25).
  • Christians who experience God’s grace and peace (1:2) versus those followers of Artemis who did not even know why they were there (Acts 19:32).

But the most specific language is in Ephesians 1:3—Praise be to THE God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (emphasis added)….

  • Not “a” god, but “THE” God.
  • Not a god that needs to be appeased, but THE loving Father.
  • Not a god that may or may not be able to respond, but OUR Lord Jesus Christ Who overcame death, hell and the grave so that our sins can be forgiven!

The question Paul invites the Ephesians to consider is the same question we must consider:

What God / god will you choose?

We will be continuing our study on the book of Ephesians next Sunday, and I would love to have you join us!

The Journey Begins

Tom KaastraAs Tom Kaastra introduced our study of Ephesians he said, “There is no other book in the Bible that is as exalted in its thought and yet as earthly practical.” Our series is called Sit Walk Stand (three words that Watchman Nee gave to the overview of Ephesians), and Tom shared what those mean.

Sit—(1) to be in a place of authority (Ephesians 2:4-7; Hebrews 1:3); or (2) a rest from work. We sit down to enjoy what Christ has done for us, we don’t work to try to achieve it for ourselves. “God works and then He rests. We are invited to rest and then work” (Watchman Nee). Look at the Creation story: God’s seventh day of rest after working six days was man’s first day of rest before he started working.

Walk—an act of progression modeled by Jesus (Ephesians 4:1-3). A typical rabbi built a synagogue and invited people to come to where he was. Jesus always went to where the people were, and He invites us to follow Him in this walk. We cannot have a “just Jesus and me” mindset. If Peter wanted to walk with Jesus, he had to walk with Matthew too; there are no Lone Ranger followers of Christ.

Stand—firmly in place for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-17). Ephesians deals with our warfare against satan more than any other book in the Bible. Sadly, George Barna reported that 60% of Christians think satan is a only a “force,” not an actual person. Paul uses this word stand as a military term to place our feet in a position ready for action.

ConclusionsConclusions:

  • Keep your head in the clouds resting in the embrace of Jesus, while you are
  • Keeping your feet on the ground walking with others, and
  • Keeping your feet on the ground standing against satan.

Join us next Sunday as we continue our look at this amazing book.

Sit Walk Stand

Sit Walk StandThis coming Sunday we begin a new series at Calvary Assembly of God called Sit Walk Stand: A Study In The Book Of Ephesians.

Why Ephesians? Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, who preached 232 sermons on this book to his packed-out church, said, “It is very difficult to speak of Ephesians in a controlled manner because of its greatness. Many have tried to describe it. One writer has described it as the crown and climax of Pauline theology. Another has said that it is the distilled essence of the Christian religion, the most authoritative and most consummate compendium of our holy Christian faith. What language! And it is by no means exaggerated.”

It is my desire that the congregation of Calvary Assembly of God be as biblically literate as I can encourage and resource them to be. So Tom Kaastra, a 38-year veteran pastor, is going to co-teach with me, and we’re going to spend the next 6-weeks mastering this powerful epistle. Then we’ll pick it up again around this same time next year, as we continue our way through the entire letter.

The name of our series—Sit Walk Stand—comes from Watchman Nee, who wrote, “Of all Paul’s epistles, it is in Ephesians that we find the highest spiritual truths concerning the Christian life. The letter abounds with spiritual riches, and yet at the same time is intensely practical.”

Please join us this Sunday at 10:30am.

Praying ‘Round & ‘Round

There are lot of different ways to look at the function of prayer, but please allow me to share one more with you. Perhaps this prayer cycle will help you see the value of each aspect of prayer.

Prayer cycle

(To download a PDF of this file, click here → Prayer cycle)

Each step in this cycle helps facilitate the next step. If any step breaks down, the whole cycle of prayer can grind to a halt. But as any part of the cycle is strengthened, the whole cycle expands and grows in potency!

  • We need to be be assured that God’s Word is true when it says to come to Him in prayer.
  • Once we are assured that God’s Word is true, then the Holy Spirit will illuminate His Word to our present circumstance, giving us the mind of Our Lord. This is called discernment.
  • Having discernment will bring us the peace that knows God hears us, and that God is working on our behalf and for His glory.
  • All of these steps flowing together allow us to pray and live in greater boldness, which fuels the whole cycle again.
  • At the heart of this cycle is the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, who helps us at each step along the cycle of prayer.

Here are some Scriptures that correspond with the various steps in the cycle:

AssuranceIf you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)

DiscernmentBut the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

PeacePeace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

BoldnessAfter they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31)

Holy Spirit EmpowermentIn the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:26-28)

The only way I know of to learn how to pray better is to pray more! Don’t wait for a better opportunity to begin to pray … Start right now!

Next Sunday I am continuing our series on prayer. If you are near Cedar Springs, please join us!

Sunday Recap

Another great Sunday worshiping with my church family and learning more about prayer! Here are a few take-aways that I hope encouraged you today.

Salt & Light - prayerPrayer isn’t supposed to look like this Jonny Hawkins cartoon!

In the cycle of prayer, your level of peace will determine your level of perseverance. This is why it’s so important to be immersed in God’s Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to give you His discernment. Keep on praying!

“The worst of it is that we can believe God about everything except the present pressing trial. This is folly. Come, my soul, shake off such sinfulness, and trust your God with the load, the labor, the longing of this present.” —Charles Spurgeon

“God’s silences are His answers. … Some prayers are followed by silence because they are wrong [this is where we need God’s discernment], others because they are bigger than we can understand [this is where we need His peace].” —Oswald Chambers

God was going to give Hannah a son, but the time was not yet right. God needed a strong man in a dark time, and it wasn’t dark enough yet! (see 1 Samuel 1:1-17)

God feels & sees

In the meantime, remember this: God feels all of your infirmities, and He sees all of your tears.

God’s Answers Are Bigger

I’m studying for our current series on prayer at Calvary Assembly of God, and I came across this amazing story (see John 20:10-15). I’m not sure if we will have time to get to it during this series or not, but in either case it’s just too good to hold back any longer …


If you are praying for something right now and the answer hasn’t arrived yet, keep on praying. God is doing something in the waiting time. Perhaps He wants you to modify your prayer, or perhaps He has something even bigger in store for you, bigger than you could have even imagined.

Keep on praying!

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