Ephesians 1 Part 1–God’s Spirit Our Hope of Glory and Unity

The Book of Ephesians was Paul’s guide to the churches of the significant truths that come with being part of the family of God.  One overriding truth was the idea that from before creation God knew His chosen and wanted to be in a relationship with them.  God wanted to adopt those willing to receive Him. He did not form acquaintances or friendships–He adopted them as full heirs to the kingdom. While there is great diversity among those that came to know Christ, God has called for unity among them.

In addition, God left His Spirit as a mark, a deposit, and a guarantee that those who receive the Lord are forgiven and predestined to spend eternity with Him. His spirit is our hope of glory.  If we trust the Lord, the Spirit will guide and comfort us through good times and bad. It is the Spirit of  God that drives us forward and carries us through the most challenging of days.  We can rest assured that the Lord is with us and draws us to Himself and to each other as a community and a family. Thank You, Lord, for your promise and the Holy Spirit our reminder and guarantee of your covenant with us!
 
God Bless You

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Galatians 3 Part 2–The Law will Never Yield Salvation

Paul was trying to help the Galatian people to understand that they needed only to follow Christ–not the Jewish Law. He was attempting to show the people that while the law certainly had value, it was never the value of forgiveness or restoration of relationship with God.  In effect, the Law helped people to see they could not do life on their own. The harder they tried, the farther they fell away. It was therefore critical that God offers an alternative–Jesus.  Jesus took on the curse of the Law so that men could have a relationship with God and be forgiven for their sin.
 
In our lives, we simply will never be good enough on our own to keep the entire law.  So, if we look to the law for our salvation, we are doomed.  So, as Paul told the Galatians, we are justified by our faith in Christ. We are not counting on a good scorecard for keeping the rules. If we were, we would all come up way short and not have any hope for the future.  But according to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!”  We need not rely on our great behavior to win God’s favor–no, we simply need to rely on Christ and the promise of salvation in Him.
 
God Bless You

Clearly, no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

2 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Spiritual Warfare

Paul was defending his ministry. Specifically, He was defending his approach to ministry.  His letters were and are packed with power. But, as Paul was sending the messages by letter many argued he was only bold from a distance. I am sure that there were days when Paul thought, “I gave up my life and role as a Jewish leader–for this???”  But Paul made clear that we are in a spiritual war. It is a battle that requires spiritual weapons.  We use those weapons for tearing down the strongholds in our, lives so that we can follow God closely. Paul faced the battle daily, he attacked it with prayer, study and continued faith in the God that brought him across the known world to bring Christ to the Gentiles.
 
In our lives, the formula remains the same trust God, follow Him read His word, pray–and remember our battles are spiritual ones.  We can never give up, give in or simply ignore the daily battles we face.  We have to attack them with the faith that God is with us and will assist in tearing down the strongholds in our lives.  We, as His children, can fully rely upon God to carry us through the battles we face.  We simply have to trust and follow him–no matter where that takes us.
 
God Bless You

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.

You are judging by appearances.[a] If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do. So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it. I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters. 10 For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” 11 Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.

I Corinthians 13–The Impact Love Has on our Faith and Our Ministry

Paul came to what many would call the climax of his letter to the Corinthians. It was the discussion to end all questions about Life, sacrifice and talent.  It reframed the entire discussion of faith into one single word. Love. Paul starts the discussion with what love is not–1. Love is not saying the right words or teaching the right doctrines–because to do so without love is both noisy and annoying.  2. Speaking the truth and foretelling the mystery of life is not love; to do so without love is worth nothing. 3. Personal sacrifice in deed or death is not love, because making a sacrifice without love gains one nothing.
 
Paul then addresses what love is–it is patient, it is kind, it is humble, selfless, graceful. It does not act brash, rude, boastful nor does it snicker at the sins and crimes of others. Love rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, endures all things, it is always hopeful and always positive about others.  Love is quite simply what we are all about.  
 
When operating out of love the “religious activities” naturally occur.  Amazingly, they are more beautiful, helpful and meaningful when they come from the love we have for God and for one another. As in everything else in Christianity God looks at our hearts, not our deeds.  If our heart is right, the deeds happen. But using the deeds as a way to gain approval, when done without love is a distorted mess. That is the heart of love and that is the heart of ministry.
 
God Bless You

 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Accountability and Faith

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand–God set standards and kept his people accountable. Israel literally followed God for 40 years prior to taking the promised land. Each day they followed the cloud, each night they saw the pillar of fire.  In the midst of the journey they saw seas parted, manna provided water shooting out of rocks…Still, they grumbled, they sinned and they worshipped idols–WITH GOD RIGHT THERE!!!  As a result, God made the people accountable, they died, they wandered in the desert they never experienced the blessing God intended for them.  Still, He loved them and wanted for them to have all they were promised.  Paul summed it up this way–There is nothing that they or you face–that is not common to everyone. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. Also, all temptation is a choice, and with it comes a way out to not fall into sin.
 
Nothing has changed.  We are a blessed nation. God has provided us freedoms and opportunities few have ever seen. With that comes the temptation to worship idols, to selfishly take without giving back to be prideful and haughty and to forget that it is God that provides and be grateful for what we have rather than being bitter for what we lack.  We have opportunities each day to trust and follow God–in both good times and bad.  We can never forget that we do not have to choose to sin, to be ungrateful or to forget that HE is Lord and I am not.  The struggle is real–every force in the world draws us away from God. We do have the glory of God displayed throughout creation to remind us of God’s supremacy and presence–much like the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire Israel followed. We must continue to trust God–even when it seems impossible. We must remain faithful to the end, just as HE has!!!
 
God Bless You

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I Corinthians 9 Part 2–Being Adaptable and Disciplined

Being a minister of the Gospel was no easy task.  It required adaptability and discipline.  Paul broke the mold.  He was not simply preaching to the Jews in the local synagogue, He crossed Europe and Asia preaching to any and everyone that would listen. He preached to people in a way that met their culture and welcomed into the family of God as they were.  He never was paid for his efforts nor did he expect to be.  He was called by God to become everything he was not to advance the Gospel across the world. So, Paul told the Corinthians that they also needed to be adaptable as they shared the Gospel.  They needed to quit worrying so much on whether people fit the mold for Christianity and start to focus on getting this message out to those the Holy Spirit could touch and redeem.
 
In our day and culture, we also need to be disciplined and adaptable.  The older I become, the more real the idea that I need to adapt to be effective becomes.  My kids are adults and their kids will not respond to the things that drew me over 50 years ago.  We need to keep the message real, relevant and in front of people.  We need to sense the urgency of the Gospel as Paul did.  We cannot be offended or afraid as we tell others about Christ.  He will do the leading and saving– we simply need to be disciplined and adaptable as we spread the message.  Help me, Lord to continue to speak the truth without fear or prejudgement.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I Corinthians 9 Part 1–Giving to Ministry Opportunities

In a world of bi-vocational ministry, Paul speaks out and calls the Corinthians to task.  It was important to Paul not to let anything take away from the message. He did not mind working as a tentmaker to support himself if that meant the word would be spread.  But, Paul made it clear–Ministry is a job, a career a life pursuit.  Those that go after that life pursuit, should be compensated.  It is not wrong as a pastor to expect the folks that you pastor to support the ministry. It was not wrong then and it is not wrong now.
 
In modern ministry, there are so many places to serve. Churches, missions, para-church organizations, foundations and a host of ways to serve. People are bombarded with requests to give and to serve and people become weary and skeptical about giving to causes.  The truth is, however, God calls these men and women to serve and to minister.  In 1st Thessalonians 5:24 it says, “He who calls you is faithful and He will do it!” Those in ministry cling to the hope and truth of that verse. We who are not in professional ministry have to be ready to accept God’s call to give and allow God to use what we give to advance the Gospel. Do not allow the enemy to rob you of the blessing of giving by making you skeptical of the ministry.  Be sensitive to God’s lead and allow Him to bless your gift and you as the giver.
 
God Bless You

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas[a]Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?

Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk? Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”[b] Is it about oxen that God is concerned?10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. 11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? 12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.