Apostle’s Prayer

Ephesians 1:16
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers . . .”

Prayer is the place where we express our greatest desires. It is at the Throne of Grace our hearts pour out their deepest cries to God. Paul spoke to the Romans about those times when our hearts cry is so great, it is manifested with “groaning’s that cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). Here we find the Apostle crying out in prayer for the saints and we learn what his greatest desires are for the Christian. His prayer consists of four requests.

“May God give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him . . .”

Jesus defined eternal life as “knowing God”. It is when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, that we begin a relationship with God. Paul’s plea is for us to know Him better. The knowledge that He is speaking of is not the knowledge of information, but of relationship. He wasn’t praying for us to simply know more facts about God, but that we would experience more of God. This is something that will happen as, daily, we spend time with God, in the pages of His Word, and apply the things we read to our daily living.

“That you may know what is the hope of His calling . . .”

Next Paul prayed that having begun to know God better, we would get to know His calling on our lives. Discovering the will of God for our lives is a daily adventure, but can be guided by understanding some general principles about the call of God. According to Scripture, we have been called out of the world. That does not mean that as Christians we are to isolate ourselves from anyone who is not a believer, but we are to separate ourselves from the behaviors we practiced before coming to Christ. We have also been called to holiness. Holiness could be defined as living in a way that is well pleasing to the Lord. As a Christian, our first goal with every decision we make, or activity we are involved in, should be to please God. We have also been called to service. As a Christian, we are part of the growing Kingdom of God, and should be actively participating in seeking to win others to Christ.

“What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints . . .”

The word inheritance speaks of something that is received. When a person dies, they often leave a will which distributes their goods as they wish. Because of the death of Jesus, all who trust in Him for salvation receive eternal life as an inheritance. It is a free gift given in response to simple faith. That being said, notice Paul is not praying regarding our inheritance but His. What is the inheritance Jesus received as a result of going to the cross? Simply put, His inheritance is you. Hebrews 12 tells us it was the joy of receiving you as an inheritance that motivated Him to endure the suffering and shame of the cross. Think about that. Jesus considers us to be a rich and glorious inheritance, worthy of all the suffering He was forced to endure at Calvary. One of the most important things we must settle, if we are going to follow Jesus, is that He loves us and wants to do great things in and through us.

“What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe . . .”

Finally, Paul prays regarding the exceeding, great power of God. This power is more than sufficient for any obstacle in its way. That is not true of my power. There are many things I cannot lift, push, climb over, under or around, but the power of God is more than able. Perhaps the most encouraging thing Paul says about the power of God is that it is “toward us.” In other words, when we decide to follow Jesus, the exceeding, great power of God is now on our side, enabling us to walk with Him and serve Him. There are so many obstacles that seem to impede our walk with God. We face the difficulties of our own flesh, as well as the fears connected with any task into which He leads us. We can be encouraged by the fact that whatever He calls us to, He has the power to accomplish. As always, we cannot focus on our weaknesses, but must fix our eyes upon His strength.

Let’s pray these same things for ourselves and for one another.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Song Of Songs 3- The Honeymoon Experience
Song Of Songs 4- My Love

 

Avoiding Oppositions

Galatians 6:12
“As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.”

fight.jpgGalatia was located northwest of Syria. It was a region consisting of such places as Tarsus, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. It was the location of Paul’s first missionary journey. As Paul and Barnabas traveled throughout Galatia preaching the Gospel, many trusted in Christ and churches were birthed. While nothing matches the thrill of seeing someone come to Christ, the preaching in Galatia came at a very high price. It was there, Paul was beaten and left for dead. Some suggest, the vision problems that plagued him, were a result of the severe beating he endured at the hands of those who rejected Christ. This persecution was initiated by the Jewish people who refused to accept that Jesus was the Christ. After Paul and Barnabas departed, these young Galatian converts were left to endure this hostility. They would be ridiculed, bullied, harassed, threatened and more, all because they were living in a way that was not deemed culturally acceptable.

Not long after Paul departed from Galatia, a group of men arrived from Jerusalem and gathered the churches together. Exploiting the fact they were from the church in Jerusalem, and claiming this as their authority, they instructed these new believers that they must observe the ceremonial laws of Moses. These laws included diet, days of worship and circumcision for all male believers. This message, while unbiblical, was widely accepted because it would cause the Christians to better fit into the culture.

We see much of the same things happening today. As Christians, we are constantly ridiculed by the media and seen as a group of backwards-thinking, intolerant, Bible-thumping simpletons who must be silenced. I heard a man say, the reason he did not accept the Bible’s viewpoint on marriage is because he is not from the past. This constant attack can become very tiring. When we are continually looked down upon and classified as intolerant extremists, we can grow weary, cower and even be tempted to alter the Word of God, in order to fit in. Just as Paul warned the Galatians against accepting the aberrant teaching of their day in order to avoid persecution, we must remain faithful to the teaching of the Word of God, even as we see hostility against it on the rise. Keep in mind,“the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for any who believe” (Romans 1:16). We are still seeing people’s lives transformed as they make decisions to follow Jesus.

Stay the course, keep the Word, follow Jesus, and let’s see Him transform our world, one person at a time.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Song Of Songs 1- You Are Beautiful
Song of Songs 2- Don’t Wake That Up

Taking A Stand

Galatians 5:1
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

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Sin is like a shackle that holds us in bondage. When we receive Christ, those chains are broken and we are set free; sin no longer has dominion over us. However, it is possible to let sin back into our lives, and we become enslaved to it once again. In order to ensure our freedom from sin, Paul exhorts us to “stand fast.” This term is used to speak of not being easily moved. It is a term that would describe an offensive lineman in football. He knows that at the snap of the ball, there will be a full-fledged attack on the quarterback. The realization of what is coming causes him to prepare to stand. In the same way, as Christians, we must realize we are under attack.  The attack is an attempt to get us bound in the sins from which we were set free, when we came to Christ. Your freedom in Christ is way too valuable for you to be toying around with sin.

Galatians 5:7 “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Notice the word “ran” is in the past tense. Simply put, these Christians were at one time “charging forward” in their relationship with Christ; but that time is over. Something happened that caused them to stop running. Perhaps they slowed down to a walk, a stroll, or even stopped moving forward altogether. Paul exhorts them to examine their walk with the Lord to see what happened. What person or event has led you to stop running toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus? That is a very important exhortation and one we must take seriously. How would you describe your current relationship with the Lord? Are you running, walking, standing still or falling backwards? If you are not running, take inventory and figure out what is holding you back. For some, it is the addition of things to your life that act like an anchor, keeping you from moving ahead. For others, it is the lack of church attendance, Bible reading, and Christian service, that keep you from moving ahead.

Galatians 5:16 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”

Finally, Paul exhorts us to walk in the Spirit. This is the secret to both standing and running. Walking in the Spirit is a bi-product of determining we want to live lives pleasing to God, and is accomplished by abiding in Jesus. When we will sit before the Word of God, and let it write on the tablet of our hearts, we will know what things are pleasing to the Lord, and what things are not. It is when we lay out our lives before the Lord, we will be strengthened to withstand the temptations of the flesh and be able to move forward in our walk with Christ.

Take time, now, to evaluate your life. Are you running forward, or being held back by some sin? Then take time to lay your life open before the Lord and ask Him to fill you with His Spirit, that you might live well pleasing to Him today.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 11- Whatever You Want
Ecclesiastes 12- It’s Science 

Moving Forward

Galatians 4:8-9
But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

Paul is reminding the Galatians that many of the behaviors and activities they were involved in, before coming to Christ, are no longer fitting. Before accepting Christ, much of our existence is spent trying to find the meaning of life, or at least some semblance of meaning. We realize something is missing, and continually search for it. We may party for while, thinking that will make us happy, or get involved in a relationship or multiple relationships, all in pursuit of filling a void or adding something to life. Some are able to realize the inability of these cravings to satisfy, and move on to something else. However, many become addicted and find themselves in bondage to the very pursuits that falsely promised freedom. Whatever your story is, you will not find life’s missing puzzle piece until you come to Christ. It is in Christ that we are made complete. “. . .and you are complete in Him, . . .” Colossians 2 :10

Paul wrote, when we come to Christ we are redeemed with the blood of God, adopted as sons of God, filled with the Spirit of God and we become the heirs of God. Those are amazing benefits, especially when we consider all we did to receive them was believe Jesus Christ is the Savior, and invite Him to rule our lives. The moment you received Christ, those things became true of you. If you felt like a different person it was because you were. We might say, you are now a complete person.

Now that you have been so dramatically changed by Christ, the things you once sought in life are no longer necessary. Returning to those trappings, would be like an idol worshipper meeting the true and living God, then returning to bow before his little clay image. We would say to that man, “You don’t need those things any more.” In the same way, you don’t need to go partying, live in an ungodly relationship, or use sin as a stimulus in life any longer. YOU KNOW GOD and you can experience the life that is found in Jesus.

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 9- You’re Are Not Alone
Ecclesiastes 10- Price Cut

Tutor

Galatians 3:24
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

The law Paul refers to is what is commonly known as the Ten Commandments. This law is distinct from all other laws in its source and in its purpose. We are surrounded by laws written by men and designed to be kept. The Law of God was written by the hand of God; its purpose, to reveal that we are incapable of living up to His standard of righteousness. When confronted with the Gospel, many will claim they are good people, trying to honor God by keeping the commandments. Anyone who makes that statement, completely misunderstands the commands of God. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how we measure up.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

God demands first place in our lives. If anything ranks higher in your life than God, and seeking to please Him, you are guilty of breaking the first commandment. Jesus elaborated on this commandment saying, we must love God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). That is a tall order, isn’t it? It requires that we ask ourselves, “Is there anyone or anything more important to us than living to please God?” If we are involved in an ungodly relationship, or ungodly practices within a relationship, we are guilty of breaking the very first commandment. That should be enough to prove to any honest person, they are not keeping the commandments of God. However, for the sake of argument, let’s look at one more.

Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.”

Stealing is defined as taking something that does not belong to you, without the permission of the owner. Stealing is not determined by the value of the item taken, but rather to whom the item belongs. The first recorded act of stealing is found in Genesis chapter three, when Eve took a bite of a piece of fruit that did not belong to her. God took that action very seriously. He did not wink at it, suggesting it was only a little sin that did not matter much. Her act of taking what did not belong to her, and her husband following suit, resulted in their banishment from the garden and sin entering the world.

Clearly, none of us are living up to the commandments of God. If that is true, why then, did God write them? Most laws are written to be observed. When I was a school teacher, I had a list of standards written on the wall of my classroom. Every student could look and understand clearly what was expected of them while in my room. God gave His list of standards to show us we are not capable of meeting them, and each of us is in need of a savior. Like a tutor who sits beside a student to help them understand a concept, the law speaks to each of us, explaining that we cannot save ourselves. No work we have ever done can erase the sins we have committed. We must cry out to the One who saves. Paul wrote, “the Law was a tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” It is when we recognize we are sinners and Christ is the Savior, that we will cry out to Him to rescue us. Paul went on to say,

Galatians 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

When we put our trust in the Savior, all of our sins are forgiven and we become the children of God. Instead of pretending we are good enough, it is time to honestly evaluate ourselves in light of the standard of God. Then we must cry out for Him to forgive us of our sins and and make us His children.

Pastor Jim
Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 7- Pain And Gain
Ecclesiastes 8- When Nothing Happens

Breakdown

Galatians 2:18
“For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

Many different metaphors are used in the Bible to describe what happens when a person receives Jesus Christ. We are born again, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, made alive, and much more. Each of these is designed to reveal different aspects of salvation. Being born again speaks of our new lease on life, being forgiven asserts that nothing from our past will ever be held against us, and being made alive points out the fact that salvation is a supernatural work of God, which cannot take place without the Holy Spirit.

There is another very important aspect of Salvation that Paul alludes to in this verse. When we believe in Christ, we are set free from the sin that once held us captive. Like Israel, under the Egyptian yoke, we were held captive by sin until Christ set us free. What our resolve could never accomplish, Christ did through the cross. The moment we believed, there was a freeing from many of the sins that gripped and held us captive. Paul now warns of the danger of becoming bound again to the very sins we escaped.

Galatians 2:18 “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.”

One of the great mistakes many Christians make, is to think they can outgrow the temptation of sin. We only need to scan the pages of Scripture to find that great, godly, and mature men, fell into sin when they built again that which had been destroyed. Let’s be careful not to open doors in our lives that should be closed up tight, or to walk down paths that will cause us to fall.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 5- You Can’t Take It With You

The World

Galatians 1:4
Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”

We spend a lot of time, effort, and energy, seeking to determine the will of God for our lives. Right now, many of us are facing circumstances where we are not exactly sure what God wants us to do. Should I go ahead with Plan A or is it time to implement Plan B? Should I take the new job, or wait this one out a little longer? Should we let the kids do this, or is it best to wait till they are a little older? Needless to say, we are plagued with questions that we need the will of God to answer. While this text does not address those questions specifically, it does give us some keen insight into the will of God for our lives. Paul associates the will of God to the giving of His Son and delivering us from evil.

The Bible has much to say regarding God’s relationship to the world. We are told, because of sin, the inhabitants of the world live separated from God and will die separated from Him. We also read, the love of God moved Him to send His Son to redeem us from the curse of sin, making it possible for us to have eternal life. As we walk through the Gospel stories, we find that Jesus was the friend of sinners. It is common to find Him talking, walking and eating with sinners in order to draw them out of sin and into relationship with God. We can conclude, whatever the will of God is for our lives right now, it is wrapped up in a desire to use us to declare the Gospel message to the lost. Your current circumstances are divinely ordained to reach others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Bible also has much to say about our relationship with the world. This verse reminds us, it is the will of God that we be delivered from this present evil age. The word delivered means to be rescued. Jesus died to set us free from sin. It is always sad when we see a brother or sister in Christ tangled in sin. Paul had a friend named Demas, who once served Christ along-side him, but later left because he fell in love with the world again. Sadly, Demas is not an isolated case. Many who begin to follow Christ, stumble along the way, getting tangled up in sin. Paul reminds us that it is the will of God for us to be set free from sin. Sometimes, we are drawn away from the Lord because of perspective. We look at sin as something harmless and enjoyable, while God declares that it is evil. Rather than looking at sin the way it is portrayed on the TV screen, we should look at it as it is described in the Word of God.

As you seek to determine what God wants you to do today, remember that He loves the world and hates sin. He desires to keep you from sin and use you to lead others to Christ.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Ecclesiastes 3- Like Animals 
Ecclesiastes 4- Unbreakable