It is your Choice, light or dark?

Paul gives us a list of what characterizes a non-believer in contrast to true believers.  The Ephesians were new converts, still learning and growing in faith.  They had recently come out of idolatry and had many old habits to rid themselves of as they endeavored to grow more and more like their Savior, Jesus.  Paul was very forthright with them letting them know what behaviors were OUT and would not be tolerated or found in God’s Kingdom.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him. 7 Don’t participate in the things these people do. 

ephesians 5 8For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!

In the midst of this list of things to avoid you find verse 4b let there be thankfulness and 8 be people of the light!    Paul wants them, and us, to know that belonging to Christ, being a believer involves a life filled with thankfulness and light!  Praise God!  God does not want us to cling to old sinful behaviors and attitudes but to shed them and walk in His light.  Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  He is the light that dispels all darkness and evil.  I love 1 John 1:5 and 7 “This is the message we have heard from him and 1 john 1 5proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”   There is hope, forgiveness and life in the light of Jesus.  Choose to walk in it and be ready to be clean, whole and made right with God.

Paul wanted them and us to see the contrast between their former lives and their new life in Jesus.  Light and dark, hope and despair, freedom and condemnation, forgiveness and being held by sin, Christ makes all the difference in the focus and direction of our lives.  Listed side by side light overwhelms darkness.  Light is open, pure, holy and welcoming and the darkness of sin brings shame, hiding and imprisonment.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead I can choose light and life with Him.   Choose the light of  Jesus today.

Linda

Being real imitators = Life filled with Love

Paul begins Ephesian Chapter 5:1-2 having arrived at a conclusion as to how believers ephesians 5 1-2in Jesus should act.  “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us  and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”   He exhorts us to imitate GodWhat does that mean to you?   Think of God’s attributes and consider the ones that He desires we have – like being forgiving, loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, thankful, pure, holy, ….  God desires that we follow Christ’s example and imitate Him because He dearly loves us and we are His children.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross pleased God as it redeemed all mankind from death and enabled us to come before Him.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be imitators of Jesus and have lives filled with love.

Where do you need to imitate Christ in your life?  With your family, at work or school, on committees or groups you belong to??   Living a life of authentic Christianity is a call to sacrifice, humility and openness before God.  I love Philippians 1:6 because it assures me that I am not in this struggle to live for Christ alone,  “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Philippians 4:19  assures me that He has what I need to live for Him, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”   We can have hope that God Jesus-likewill finish what He started in us when we became believers.  He always completes what He starts!  We can do this because God has the resources for all our needs.  We just need to ask and be willing to serve Him.  Be imitators of Christ today and experience His love in your life.

Linda

Straight talk by Paul (points us to Christ like behavior)

In this last section of Ephesians 4 Paul gets down to serious talk about sins that he has seen or heard of among the believers.  He mentions lying or speaking untruthfully with each other.  Anger that is not righteous but rooted in resentment, hostility or jealousy.  Also some had been thieves prior to becoming believers, and Paul tells them they must work and be useful so they will have things to share with those in need.  He mentions gossip or unwholesome talk, saying things that bring others down instead of building  them up.  He straight out tells them to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger fighting, backbiting, slander, and any and all kinds of malice.   All of these things are undesirable and incompatible with a life given to Christ.

Several verses jumped out at me in this section, Ephesians 4:26, 30 and 32.  26 “Be angry ephesians 4 26and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”  This verse is frequently said, “don’t go to bed angry”.   Anger that is rooted in sin is filled with resentment, jealousy, bitterness and even hatred.  Paul is saying, anger is a valid emotion but do not let it be for the wrong reasons.  Jesus was angry with the money changers buying and selling in the temple and threw them out (Matthew 21:12).  He was angry with the Pharisees for wanting to trap him and keep a man from being healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5).  Both of these were cases of righteous anger.  They were not rooted in self but in wrongs done towards God.  When we harbor or coddle our anger, it will fester and grow.  Paul is telling us to not let that happen as the results will be harmful to us and to those around us.

30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”   What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?   As a believer, Jesus’ Holy Spirit lives within us.  When we deliberately sin- steal, lie, cheat, act with wrong motives in anger, harbor bitterness, etc, it grieves the Holy Spirit that is within us.  God hates sin and doing sinful acts gives His Spirit grief, or makes His Spirit sad over our sin.  Paul reminds us that when we received Christ,  we were sealed by God’s Holy Spirit forever.  That is a wonderful privilege and honor,  and we should love Jesus enough to desire to not deliberately sin against Him.

32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  I love this verse as Paul lays it out directly for us as to what kinds of actions should characterize a believer.  These will bring delight to our Savior.  They should be our response to His marvelous forgiveness and grace.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,  we are made for righteous actions and thoughts towards ourselves and others which bring joy to God. 

ephesians 4 32Focus today on right living, good thoughts and actions towards others, putting away all bitterness, jealousy, anger …..  Don’t let  yourself fall into anger over your current circumstances,  but look for the good and seek to see how you can ‘be Jesus’ to each one you speak with today.

Linda

 

Full text in the New Living Translation:

25″ So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’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.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,  guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Do you reflect Christ? If so, do others see a difference in you??

ephesians 4 17-24In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul describes to the Ephesians what man is like in mind, body and action without Christ and then contrasts it to their present state of mind, body and actions with Christ in their lives.

Without Christ- verses 17-19Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”    Before they came to know Jesus, their minds were confused about God, they were ignorant of what a life with God could be like, they had hardened their hearts to the things of God and they practiced all kinds of immorality in their lives.”  

With Christverse 20-24  “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true ephesians 4 20righteousness and holiness.”     Knowing Christ has changed them and will change us from the inside out!  The truth of who Jesus is and what He did on the cross transforms our thinking, our hearts and motivates us to speak and act as unto God.  Paul calls it putting off the old nature, the way we did things before faith and putting on a new self.  This new self is rooted and grounded in Jesus and His righteousness and holiness.

Paul challenged the Ephesians to put off the old and put on the new, make being a believer a conscious choice that involves a change of mind, body and actions.  Giving yourself to God wholeheartedly allows the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out and makes you new in Christ. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be a new creation in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way,  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Christ in our lives, hearts and minds brings transformation for our good and His glory.

2 Corinthians 5 17Be that transformed believer today! Reach out to others in love.  Call, text, email, have a Zoom gathering, Face Time or use Google Chat or Duo with someone in these troubled days showing them you care about them and stand with them in the name of Christ.

Linda

4th Sunday of Lent, 2020 Facing the world through Christ not the virus

We had some amazing truths this week in Ephesians 3 and 4 that affirmed who we are in Christ and the purpose God has for believers’ lives.

  • we have the privilege and obligation to intercede on behalf of other believers.  Ephesians 3:14-19   PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for one another!
  • we have His indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us with His love for His glory and our good. Ephesians 3:20-21   Empowered to give and show LOVE!
  • we are indwelt, empowered and enabled to act and be more and more like Jesus as we grow in Him.  Ephesians 4:1-3    Sanctification-growing more like Jesus!
  • we are one in Christ, specially gifted through His grace.   Ephesians 4:7  Show His grace to the world around us.
  • we can trust God’s Word to grow and mature us so we can be fully and completely equipped to live for Him. Ephesians 4:11-13   God will bring growth in our lives so we can serve those around us in Him.
  • so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.   Ephesians 4:14-16   We can be contributors to the body of Christ as we work together in unity of love and Spirit.

God teaches us we need to pray for others, be indwelt and empowered by His Holy Spirit, are gifted by His grace, can be fully equipped through His Word to serve others, and grow ourselves more and more like Christ.  What powerful messages for our times!   Our togetherworld is in need of Christ and His redeeming love, our love as believers and the Truth of His Word.   Endeavor to reach out to others this week in love, pray for those hurting around you, look for His truth in the Word of God as you open it this coming week. Read the Book (the Bible) to grow in wisdom, truth, love and knowledge of God.

Linda

Don’t be a victim of the winds, going to and fro!

In Ephesians 4:14-16 Paul expands on the truth from yesterday, we can trust God’s Word to grow and mature us so we can be fully and completely equipped to live for Him.   But what do we do if new ideas come along that seem to contradict what we know about God?   We are reminded in James to look out for doctrines that would sway us away from the truth of the gospel and lead us astray.  James compares our vacillating on truth to the effect of the wind, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”  James 1:6   Likewise, Paul concludes in Ephesians 4:14-16 that being grounded and rooted in God’s Word will keep us stable and lead us to lives that contribute to the body of believers. 

ephesians 4 14Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit 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.”

If we desire to move towards maturity in Christ, we need to be grounded in the truth of the gospel, knowledgeable about what scripture teaches  for righteous living and willing to stand firm on God’s Word of truth.  Paul says that this grounding in truth will lead to fuller, richer lives that ephesians 4 16will build up the body of believers and help the whole body of Christ (the church) be stronger.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can mature into Christians that support and love one another.

What are you doing to grow in maturity?  Do you attend church regularly and mediate on what your pastor is preaching on?  Are you in a Bible Study group at your church or elsewhere?  Growing and maturing in Christ does not happen by chance but requires attention to the Word and study.  Be growing in Christ and open to the Holy Spirit’s leading when He presents you with an opportunity for growth.

Linda

Here are two International Bible Study organizations that have classes throughout the world.  Check them out and see if they are near you.  Right now all classes are on-line due to the virus, but they are still going strong as our God is unstoppable.

Bible Study Fellowshiphttp://www.bsf.org

Community Bible Studyhttp://www.cbs.org

 

Promised Growth- are you seeing it? If not why not?

When Jesus came to earth, He fulfilled the plan of salvation and provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  After His return to heaven, He promised a helper would come to empower us to take His message of salvation, forgiveness and love to all the ephesians 4 11world.  In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul explains some of the resources the Holy Spirit gives to believers (His church) so that we might live fully equipped lives for Christ.  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”   Not all believers are called to be pastors or teachers but all of us are called to be recipients of good godly teaching so that we may be equipped to do God’s work.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can trust God’s Word to grow and mature us so we can be fully and completely equipped to live for Him.

Where are you getting your good godly teaching? Is that teaching based on the Word of God or is it more a social, feel good type of message?  2 Timothy 3:16-17 promises 2 Timothy 3-17God’s Word is complete and sufficient for our training in right living.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 

Ask God to guide you to a place of worship that stands on the Word of God and gives it out regularly.  You will be blessed.  

Linda

P.S  Due to the Corona Virus, this Sunday, March 22, 2020, my place of worship will be live streaming  the service. Tune in to YouTube:   wearecrossroads  at 10:15, the service begins at 10:30 AM PST     If you miss it live, that’s okay- it is still there for your viewing or reviewing thanks to YouTube.

The Cross = oneness and giftedness in Christ!

Ephesians 4:4-7 is a beautiful passage to be cherished by believers.  We are all called to be a part of God’s family and share in what we have in Christ,  and yet God sees us as epheisans 4 4-7individuals with different needs.

“For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.   There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all,   who is over all, in all, and living through all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.”

God,  the creator,  who is Sovereign, Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient  is our Heavenly Father.   He is in everything we do, everywhere we go and in every action we take.  We are to be in His presence daily, walking with Him and letting His Holy Spirit guide and direct us.  I love the fact that we are individuals before God.  He gave us special gifts through Christ when we became believers.  Each one of us is seen as useful and productive for the kingdom and are given gifts so we can successfully work and live for Him.

Do you feel isolated or a part of the body of Christ?   Are you connected in meaningful ways to other believers?  What about your gifts?  Are you using your God given talents to accomplish work for the Lord?  Lent is a time of reflection.  Ponder what your gifts may be, read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 to seek clarity about gifts, think about the things you do for others in Jesus’ name- what brings you the most joy and peace?   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,  we are one in Christ, specially gifted through His grace.

ephesians 4 7May you be lifted up as you pray and meditate on the power of God’s family in your life and your gifts.  Be encouraged as God has special gifts for each of us though the grace of Christ!

Linda

Be All that You can Be!

Ephesians Chapter 4 begins with an impassioned plea by Paul to the Ephesians to live a life worthy of being called a believer, one who in faith decides to follow Jesus.

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3

eph-4-1Paul begins with ‘therefore’ as he wants his reader to remember all the points he has made so far in his letter about unity, love, the power of God and loving and serving each other. He sees himself as a slave or bond servant of Christ.  Paul is totally committed to Christ and to them in love.  He is willing to do what ever is need to tell other about Christ and the freedom available through faith in Him.  Paul has experienced the transforming power of Christ in his life and sees the fruits of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is calling all those who follow Christ to step up and be followers in name and deed.   Paul wants the Ephesians Christians to treat each other with love, patience, gentleness, humility, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and walk and work together in unity.   It is a tall order, but one that Paul knows they can live up to through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

What about you?  Do you see yourself as one who serves others in humility with love and gentleness?   When you are involved with other believers and unbelievers,  do they see Christ in you?  Lent is a time of reflection, a time to examine our lives, thoughts, deeds, motives and heart.  Look at what Paul is asking through the lens of the cross.  He is challenging you to be worthy believers,  but not in your own power but through His.  Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are ephesians 4 2-3indwelt, empowered and enabled to act and be more and more like Jesus as we grow in Him.

‘Be all that you can be!’ is a slogan made famous by the Army.  However, it is our commander, Jesus, who empowers us to be all in Him.  Endeavor to live that way today as you seek to relate to others in Jesus’ name being all He has made you to be!

Linda

How Big is your God? He is ABLE!

Ephesians Chapter 3 ends with a powerful benediction to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers.  He eloquently tells them and us about God, who He is,  and His power as seen in Christ and the church. God’s is: glorious,  omnipotent in power, provides us with His indwelling Holy Spirit,  has power that endures for  eternity and has a plan that lives from generation to generation.

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

What comfort do you receive from reading these words?   I am encouraged even in these difficult times that our God is bigger than any virus, is Sovereign over heaven and earth now and in the future. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and Ephesians 3-20 He Is Abletoday and forever.”  God is able to do even greater things than which we could even think to ask Him to do in our lives for Him.  2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. “  God does not give us His Holy Spirit to indwell us without reason and purpose. John 3:16 shows us God’s purpose  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”    Romans 5:3-5 shows the Holy Spirit at work in our lives for a purpose.   “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”   God loves us and desires that our character be refined and matured.

Use Paul’s words today as you pray.  Stand on the hope you have in Jesus, the power of His Spirit to lead and guide you, and God’s unfailing love for you.  God has a purpose for you, for your life and He desires that you know Him and live and grow in His love.  His love is transforming for now and into the future.  Because Christ died on the cross and Ephesians-3-21rose from the dead, we have His indwelling Holy Spirit to empower us with His love for His glory and our good.

Reach out to others today, however you can, and let God’s transforming love flow through you to them in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Linda