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 6 Part 1–Living a God Honoring Life

Paul begins to wrap up the book of Galatians by giving some direct instruction about selfless living. Be gentle in restoration–As a family, Christians need not be the ones that judge others or say, “I told you so!” Christians do not ignore sin, but, they prayerfully and lovingly draw people back to the Lord. Still, while being gentle, there is no need to give license to sin or to forsake the truth. 

Carry each other’s burdens. As a body, we always arrive first to pitch in and we never judge or keep score. Have a healthy and real view of your life and your actions.  Work hard, carry your load and be gracious to all. The reality is that we do reap what we sow. Paul calls us to sow a life that honors God and feeds our spirit.  Not one that honors ourselves and feeds our flesh. If we will, no matter how difficult life becomes, at the proper time–we will receive a harvest. In the meanwhile, just be selfless and do good to all people! Especially do good to believers!

This is the picture of living like Christ– it’s not about checking boxes, it is about loving and serving God and others.  It is about dying to yourself and taking up your cross every day as you follow Christ!

God Bless You

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Galatians 3 Part 3 and 4 Part 1–The Power of Heirship

The “help” is always treated differently than family. Paul was explaining to the Galatians that when one comes to Christ they are adopted as God’s children. As one of God’s children, we are heirs to His Kingdom. Being an heir has so many implications that do not come with being a servant.  Still, as a child, heirs are often raised by nanny’s, tutors, coaches and other hired help that train and mold the heir into a productive and prepared adult.  Paul likens living under the law as the same process as being under the guardianship of a coach or nanny.  

The law helps to direct and guide Christians into the right life as God’s kids, but, like hired help, law and rules were never seen as our parent or real guardian. Christians are therefore free from the law and are subject only to the leading of God the Father.  There is no set of rules or checklists that will ever free men from the penalty of sin.  There is never a level of behavior that makes one good enough to restore one’s relationship with God.  

The freedom from sin and restoration as Christians come from our relationship with the Lord. We are heirs to His kingdom. As adopted children, we are completely accepted no matter our status, gender, race or level of behavior.  We are free because of who we are in Christ and whose we are as God’s adopted children.  Paul makes it clear–beyond that distinction, nothing matters.  We live as heirs to the kingdom of God and honor God with our daily lives. We do not live that way to attain something we already have; instead, we live that way because we are free from the hold the world had on us as slaves.  Help me, Lord to walk freely and to honor You!

God Bless You

Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.[b] 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Paul’s Concern for the Galatians

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces[d]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

2 Corinthians 11–There is Still Only One Gospel

Paul next took on another difficult issue–variance in the Gospel. Many Jewish Christians of the time were displeased that the Gospel spread to the Gentiles. There was a council called in Jerusalem and the leadership (Which included Peter, James, and John as well as Paul and others) agreed after much prayer and discussion, that the Gentile Christians were only responsible to accept Christ and follow Him.  They were not subject to Jewish circumcision or dietary laws. 
 
So as Paul returned to the mission field, he was being followed and criticized by these Jewish Christians. They claimed that for the Gentile Christians to be truly saved, they had to follow Jewish tradition, dietary and circumcision law.  So Paul was being discredited as an apostle and as a teacher.  In the process, people were being drawn away from following Christ and causing division. So, Paul was calling those teachers out as frauds and telling the church that the gospel remained simply to know Christ and to follow him.  It required nothing extra. It was bad enough that they were undermining Paul’s ministry, but, they were also teaching doctrines that simply did not line up with the truth. 
 
Then and now, our salvation comes from accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives–nothing more. There is no dress code, dietary law, traditional holiday to follow–we simply need to trust God and follow Christ.  Amazingly, that looks different to different people.  Some walk-in freedom to eat or drink in moderation; while others abstain from certain food or drink. Some folks dance and go to movies–while others completely refrain from those forms entertainment. Bottom line–salvation is still knowing Christ personally and following Him daily. If He leads you to live a structured and disciplined life, awesome! If he leads you to relax and enjoy socializing in the world–great. We are neither to judge or condemn. 
 
Jesus said it best, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness–and all these things will be added to you!” Matthew 6:33
 
God Bless You

I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness. Yes, please put up with me! I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”[a] I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way and will continue to do so. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

2 Corinthians 8–Giving From The Heart

Paul was addressing another difficult subject–giving. The Church in Jerusalem was in dire straits. They had been persecuted by the Jewish community and by Rome and it left them decimated.  Paul was asked to collect an offering to support the Church. The Corinthians had assisted before, but now they hesitated in giving–(partly because of Paul’s disciplining of them).  So Paul confronted the issue directly–please give what you can not because of obligation, but for the simple ability to trust God and see him work.
 
Nothing has changed. God does not tax his kids. He asks us to give generously to support the church and His plan. Often we give out of wealth, but sometimes we are called to give from our poverty. It is that giving that defines our faith. He will provide and he will bless our generosity.   We take steps of faith in giving and we watch God use what we have given to touch lives. We have no expectation for a return but know that God will prepare, protect and provide for us! We simply have to trust him in all things, even in giving back.
 
God Bless You

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

10 And here is my judgment about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.

2 Corinthians 6 Part 2–The Critical Nature of Being Aligned

It is difficult to do life. Everyday pressures, expectations, and circumstances wear us down and push us to the edge.  It was the same during Paul’s time. People were doing jobs, getting married, raising kids and dealing with life’s pressures and without technology.  In the midst of that, Paul tells the people do not be unequally yoked. As a married couple, it is critical to be aligned. in life, we need to be aligned with those we count on to walk through life with us.  If we are not, it adds a layer of complexity in an already complex situation.  Is it doable, sure! Is it difficult–you bet! Bottom line Paul told the Corinthians–get aligned.
 
In our time, it is equally important to be aligned. Believers should consider faith as a critical component for marriage. If a couple does not share the same faith, it will mean strife at every major event. Going through a crisis together and aligned is often the only thing that allows the family to pass through to the other side. There is little in the world that encourages such alignment. Yet, when we see families aligned in faith, there is so much more harmony and unity in good and bad times.  They operate with a purpose and a perspective that is bigger than themselves. In Paul’s time and now, folks must consider faith a critical component in choosing a life partner and in raising a family!
 
God Bless You

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial[b]? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”[c]

17 Therefore,

“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”[d]

18 And,

“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”[e]

2 Corinthians 6–Mission First, Despite Struggles

Paul realized better than most that his mission would be difficult and that God’s grace had to be sufficient to meet his needs. The Corinthian Church was a wealthy church, but the people had no intention of supporting Paul.  So as he ministered, he also made tents.  The tents supported the ministry. Further, Paul knew that it was a spiritual war and that the enemy and life would throw everything at him to neutralize or at least minimize his impact on spreading the Gospel across the world.  So Paul very kindly, but directly lays it out–We are ministering despite poverty, beatings, accusation, imprisonment, loneliness near-death experiences, sadness–in short, NO MATTER WHAT! Paul knew that the more impact he was making, the more difficult the battle would become.  So in his journey–he said, “Bring it on!”
 
What about us? Do we have the same call? Yes! We are to minister no matter what. We need to press on knowing it will not be easy and sometimes it will be darn near impossible.  We should never expect this life to be easy. But, we can cling to the promise that the difficulties we experience now are nothing compared to the blessings that await us if we trust and follow Christ. (Romans 8-18) We have to look past the struggles and focus upon the prize–salvation to all who believe.  Is it worth the struggles? ABSOLUTELY! That is why we must continue to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness–If we will, He will supply the rest. In good times and difficult times, God prepares, protects and provides, we simply have to trust Him!
 
God Bless You

As God’s co-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”[a]

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

Paul’s Hardships

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying,and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.