Bended-Knee Prayer Experience

 

 

 

Bended-Knee Battle Ground

 

 

 

A 3-Month Prayer Experience

 

 

 

2016

 

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”

Ephesians 3:14 NKJV

 

 

 

3 Devotions per Week

for

13 Weeks

 

 

Roger Neal Rearden, Pastor 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

 

 

Week 1 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, I am blessed.

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,…”

Ephesians 1:3 NKJV

 

            We live in a world of “what’s in it for me?” and “what have you done for me lately?” thinking. It has invaded our society and distorts our way of looking at the world around us. This view of life has people thinking that they deserve more. That somehow they are missing out on something, or someone is holding out on them.

But to you and I, as believers in Jesus Christ, God has a wonderful answer. He is holding back nothing of the good things for those who love Him and follow Him. Paul says in Ephesians 1:3 that God the Father deserves all of our praise and adoration, because “Why”? Because He has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings found in heaven. God is withholding not one thing from those who have surrendered their lives to Him.

            There are two important keys to remember if we want to access these blessings. One, these are spiritual blessings, not earthly riches. God has never promised us health, wealth, ease of life, or any such things. He promises spiritual blessings! We have forgiveness of sins, grace, mercy, love, God-sized power, discernment/wisdom, peace, joy, and much more.

            Secondly, we have only one access to these blessings – Jesus Christ. Throughout the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares the key to the Christian life to be “in Christ.” Jesus Himself proclaimed this truth in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The truth is in Christ – I have everything I need. In Christ, I am blessed beyond counting. With King David I can say, “My cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5).

 

 

Week 1 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, I am chosen.

 

“…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,…”

Ephesians 1:4 NKJV

 

            Hear the words of an old hymn by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922):

                        I am so happy in Christ today,

                        That I go singing along my way;

                        Yes, I’m so happy to know and say,

                        “Jesus included me, too.”

 

                        Jesus included me, Yes, He included me,

                        When the Lord said, “Whosoever,”

                        He included me;

                        Jesus included me, Yes, He included me,

                        When the Lord said, “Whosoever,”

                        He included me.

 

            Before God formed the world, He chose you. Before you ever took your first breath of life, God chose you. Long before you knew to choose between good and bad, the God of eternity chose you.

            In Christ, God chose to make you holy – no sin, no faults, no blemishes – through Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross.

            In Christ, God chose to make you blameless – Jesus bore our blame on the cross, along with all our shame. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

            Why would God do this? Love! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

 

 

Week 1 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, I am God’s child.

 

“…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Ephesians 1:5-6 NKJV

 

            There are many terms one might use in referring to our relationship to God. Disciple, servant, church member, slave, sheep, forgiven one, the saved – all these and more have merit. They can help us identify who we are.

            Yet, in Ephesians the Lord teaches us of a very special relationship He desires with us. We are adopted into God’s family as a child of God. How special is that? And the Lord as our heavenly Father has taken all the steps to complete the adoption. How has He done that?

“By Jesus Christ” Ephesians 1:5 tells us.

            The Gospel of John declares of Jesus: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:11-13).

            In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we find: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17).

            Say it out loud, “In Christ, I am God’s child.”

Think of Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself on the cross for our sins. Never forget what Jesus did in order that you and I might be God’s child. How powerful then to know God gave His only Son that you and I could be His children.

 

 

Week 2 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we are loved.

 

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,…”   Ephesians 2:4 NKJV

 

            It is said that the great German theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) once declared that the greatest words of theology were found in a little song sung mostly by children:

                        Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so;

                        Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong.

                        Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me,

                        Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

                                    (Words by Anna B. Warner, 1820-1915)

 

            Do we ever get tired of hearing that we are loved? We may be flattered to know someone notices us, because we are cute, handsome, smart, witty, funny, good at sports, etc… But to hear, “I love you.” Well that touches us at a deeper level.

            In chapter 2 of Ephesians, Paul makes a distinct move from “you” to “us,” form “me” to “we.” We especially see this emphasis in verse 4 when the spotlight is on this great love of so merciful a God. The Lord does this on purpose to help us realize that God’s love is for everyone.

God’s love is not a selfish love, like our love can be. God’s love must always be seen as “in Christ” – always reaching out, always to be shared, an ever-widening circle of grace and mercy to the undeserving, to the unexpecting, to the many who feel unloved and unloveable. A merciful God speaks gentle by way of the cross, “You are loved.”

 

 

Week 2 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we are not alone.

 

“…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,…”

Ephesians 2:5-6 NKJV

 

            Someone has said there are no Lone Rangers in the Christian life. How true! We are not meant to struggle along on our own. And yet, so many times we do. We think as if we are alone. We act as if we are alone. Success or failure – all ours to claim.

            Notice Paul’s choice of words: “we,” “us,” and “together.”

The Christian life is a shared life. Thank the Lord that it is by God’s grace

we are saved, not by our good deeds or ability. But also, thank the Lord that by His grace we are not alone in this life.

            Look at the emphasis of this verse. In Christ we are “made alive together.” In Christ we are “raised up together.” In Christ we “sit together in the heavenly places (we are together on the spiritual level).”

The Lord knows how much we need human contact.

            Go visit our elderly brothers and sisters who are in assisted living, in a nursing facility, or bound mostly to their home. Go see someone in the hospital or one who is confined mostly at home because of their health – see what a difference human interaction makes. Then add in our fellowship in Christ. Jesus Christ is “Who” we have in common as believers.

 

 

Week 2 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we experience grace.

 

“…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”   Ephesians 2:7-9 NKJV

 

            Someone has done an acronym for grace:

G = God’s, R = Riches,             A = At,             C = Christ’s, E = Expense

This acronym is right on target. When we surrender our lives to Christ in response to His sacrifice, believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior, we receive the riches of heaven’s blessings – forgiveness of sin, adoption into God’s family, a home prepared for us in heaven, the mercy of God the Father.

            Yet, the Apostle Paul takes a different path when he refers to grace. He calls it the kindness of God. He follows the same thought in Titus 3:4-7 where he begins, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (Titus 3:4).”

            Have you ever been overwhelmed, awed by kindness? Someone came up with a Christian outreach idea called “Random Acts of Kindness.” Others have taken that idea and given it a more churchy title, “Servanthood Evangelism.” I prefer the original, personally, and I think the Apostle Paul would, too. It is fun to be in on doing “Random Acts of Kindness” in the name of Jesus Christ, but humbling to be the recipient.

            A few years ago I took my wife and two sons out for dinner at a local Greek restaurant where we love to eat when we can afford it. As we finished we noticed the bill had not come. Thinking the waitress had just been busy and forgotten, I got her attention and asked to pay. She informed us that our bill had already been paid in full by someone else who had already gone. She knew no name to give us, only that another couple said they wanted to do us an act of kindness.

            How like our loving heavenly Father!

 

 

Week 3 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we have purpose.

 

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:10 NKJV

 

            Most everyone wants to feel like they have something worth contributing to the life around them. Having a job not only puts money in our pocket, but it gives meaning to our life – purpose.

God is at work. He was at work in creation. He is at work now. Jesus declared, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17), and, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel” (John 5:19-20).

Through the Apostle Paul’s eyes we see that God is at work on us. “We are His workmanship.” In Philippians 1:6, Paul writes, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

The Psalmist David would agree, as he wrote in Psalm 139:14, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”

This same God who is at work in our world and in our lives, has purpose for us also. To the prophet Jeremiah the LORD said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; and I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). To Peter and Andrew Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). And to the disciples Jesus declared, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

 

Week 3 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we are family.

 

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one,…”             Ephesians 2:13-14 NKJV

 

            “Made both one.” What an amazing thing God has accomplished through Christ! God has taken complete strangers and made them family. Specifically here in Ephesians 2 Paul is referring to Jews and Gentiles being made one in Christ. Jews who have been raised on the Scriptures, and who have been taught about God. Gentiles who were “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Through Christ, the Lord has brought these together – not just to get along or co-exist, but to be family.

            How has God done this? “By the blood of Christ” He has brought them into a relationship with the living God. They are no longer strangers, but adopted into the family as children of God.

            But how can people so different find common ground and common purpose? How can they put their differences aside and love one another? The answer again is Christ Jesus. “For He Himself is our peace.” When we come to peace with God in our own hearts “by the blood of Christ,” then we can come to peace with others who have also come to God by way of the cross.

 

            “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love;

            The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”

                                    (Words by John Fawcett 1740-1817)

 

            “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,…”

                                                Ephesians 2:18-19 NKJV

 

Week 3 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we reveal God’s mystery.

 

“…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery,…”

Ephesians 3:8-9 NKJV

 

            Do you like a mystery? Can you stick with it until the mystery is revealed, or do you jump ahead to the end to find out the answer?

            As servants of God and children of the Father, we have the privilege of sharing with the world the mystery of God. What mystery you might ask? Why -- the mystery of Christ Jesus!

            Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise made through the prophets hundreds of years before He came. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;” (Isaiah 9:6). “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

            The Gospel of John says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

            We are honored to tell the wonderful story of Jesus! Does it make a difference? In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Angola Prison in Louisiana was known to be the bloodiest prison in all America. The sense of hopelessness among the prisoners led to much violence. In 1995, Warden Burl Cain, realizing change must take place first in the heart, made a partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to provide a program of training in Christian ministry. Prisoners came to Christ and began to share their faith. Hope and new life began to spread. Today Angola may be one of the safest prisons in America.

            As we share the good news, do we believe God can change our community. The mystery of God is ours to share. Then see what God does as He transforms hearts and lives through Christ!

 

Week 4 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we have boldness.

 

“…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence

through faith in Him.”          Ephesians 3:12 NKJV

 

            The boldness we are referring to is a trust in Christ that encourages us to take a step of faith. Do we trust only in what we see and can count on? – that is not faith. Do we believe Jesus? Are we willing to follow His leading, not knowing the outcome?

            One young man by the name of Evan Roberts had that kind of boldness. His was a boldness that came out of his prayer life. In 1904 Wales was at a low point for church attendance and religious life. Apathy and sinful behavior, on the other hand, were running high. This young man, Evan Roberts, had been praying for 13 years. He took a bold step and left working in the coal mines to attend school, because he sensed the Lord’s call to vocational ministry.

            God put a message on his heart for his home church. At a Monday evening gathering with 17 young people, he shared his four point message, and all responded with a desire to obey Christ. They began meeting nightly, with a growing attendance and more responding. As Christians got their hearts and lives right with God and others, the Lord began to convict unbelievers of sin and many turned to faith in Christ. In six months over 100,000 people had professed faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

            The change in so many people’s lives began to change the society in Wales. Crime dropped off so much that police officers and judges had little to do. Taverns went out of business because of the sharp decline in drinking alcohol. Family life was affected for the better. Even the animals used in the coal mines had to be retrained because of the clean language now being used by converted miners.

            All this change happened in Wales, because one young man put his confidence in God -- a boldness born out of prayer.

 

Week 4 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we do not give up.

 

“Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.”   Ephesians 3:13 NKJV

 

            Have we thrown in the towel? Have we given up? We still attend church service, at least Sunday morning. Maybe we even go to Sunday School and Wednesday prayer and Bible study. Attendance may not be the question, but apathy is. Webster’s Dictionary (1966) defines apathy as a lack of strong feeling; a lack of interest or concern. When we read about revival and spiritual awakening, apathy among the church is a key

point of concern. It shows in our prayer life, in outreach, in church attendance, in giving, …

But why? Why do we have an attitude of unconcern, of giving up?  We can put the blame on our health, our age, our job, our pastor, our family, our situation --- but the key is our faith in God. Paul pleaded with the church at Ephesus, “do not lose heart.”

George Mueller was a man who did not give up! A pastor in England during the 1800’s, he saw God’s people becoming very discouraged. Like many today they no longer lived in expectation of God doing anything unusual. Their lack of trust in the Lord was shown by their lack of belief in answered prayers. They had little faith.

Mueller was led by God to pray, and in this time he began to pray for God to lead him to a work that could only be explained as an “act of God.” George wanted the people to experience again that God is a faithful, prayer-answering God. He trusted in the verse “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). 

When George Mueller felt God leading him to do a work, he prayed for the resources needed, but told no one of the need. By the time of his death at age 93, this man was used of God to build four orphan homes that cared for 2,000 children at one time, he had started the Scriptural Knowledge Institute for distribution of Scripture and religious education, he had distributed over eight million dollars that had been given to him for ministry work, and had provided for over 10,000 children through the orphan’s homes. His own worldly possessions amounted to only $800. He did not give up!

 

 

Week 4 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we rely on prayer.

 

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…”

Ephesians 3:14 NKJV

 

                        Hear our prayer, O Lord,      Hear our prayer, O Lord;

                        Incline Thine ear to us          And grant us Thy peace.

 

                                    (Hymn based on Psalm 143:1)

 

            Because of all the things in life that attack our sense of peace, we need prayer. For our many needs that we cannot begin to meet, we need prayer. To find healing and forgiveness, we need prayer. In the midst of our darkest night, we need prayer. When our soul longs to hear from God, we need prayer.

            In the 1950 edition of The Bible and Prayer by Robert G. Lee, he makes a very visual statement on what prayer is. Lee says, “Prayer not only draws the great God into a small heart and drives the hungry soul out to a full God, but is that which brings two lovers, God and the soul, into one joyful room” (page 34).

            Lee goes on to say, “Many believe that man is at his best in prayer, that great men rise to the highest peaks of lofty life when they pray, … that prayer is our God-given weapon against Satan, … Many believe prayer is the greatest force in Christian service and the most neglected force in Christian service. … Many believe the greatest need in the world today is for praying Christians” (pages 44-45).

 

Week 5 – Devotion #1  

 

In Christ, we are called to a purpose greater than ourselves.

 

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, …”

Ephesians 4:1 NKJV

 

            Sometimes even the work of the church can become routine, ordinary, a day-to-day chore. Yet, when we realize Who we serve – God, the living God, creator of all that is, Savior, Redeemer, the lover of my soul – what we do takes on a whole new meaning. No matter what we do on a daily basis: mechanic, plumber, carpenter, teacher, preacher, weatherman, retired and playing golf, …  We serve the King of kings and Lord of lords. In and through our days we have the privilege of being “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul was a prisoner in chains, yet he saw himself as a representative of Christ.

            Read the words of this hymn out of The Celebration Hymnal.

They took the familiar hymn focused on men and altered the words to apply this wonderful message to the entire church.

 

“Rise Up, O Church of God”

 

1. Rise up, O Church of God!     Have done with lesser things;

    Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O Church of God!     His kingdom tarries long;

    Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O sons of God!       The Church for you doth wait,

    Her strength unequal to her task, rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!     Tread where His feet have trod;

    As followers of the Son of Man, rise up, O Church of God!

 

(Words by William P. Merrill, 1867-1954)

 

 

Week 5 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, our attitude matters.

 

“… with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”     Ephesians 4:2-3 NKJV

 

            The great conductor Leonard Bernstein was once asked which instrument was the most difficult to play. He thought for a moment and then replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, pg. 198, Michael P. Green, 1989)

            In the Christian life, it not only matters what we do, but with what kind of attitude we do it. Why? Paul says, “To keep the unity of the Spirit.” One of the most obvious problems in America today is our lack of unity – people are so divided. We cannot get along. That attitude finds its way into the Church. It is part of the reason we have so little hope among Christians.

            Attitude matters. And our attitude is to be based on love. God’s love for us, and our Christ-like love for one another. Tertullian, an early church leader in North Africa, wrote, “It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Look!’ they say. ‘How they love one another! Look how they are prepared to die for one another.’”

 

What Is Love?

 

                        It’s silence when your words would hurt.

                        It’s patience when your neighbor’s curt.

                        It’s deafness when the scandal flows.

                        It’s thoughtfulness for another’s woes.

                        It’s promptness when stern duty calls.

                        It’s courage when misfortune falls.

 

 

Week 5 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we together serve one Lord.

 

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 NKJV

 

Do you think God is trying to tell us something? One…one…one… Bible scholars say whenever the Bible repeats itself, pay close attention. Is there something here God is wanting us to get a clear picture about?

Many people in the church today have never looked back at church history enough to realize that in the early New Testament days there were no such things as Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Non-denominational churches, or any other groups. There was just the Church. Now there are important reasons that Christians have formed different groups down through history.

But when we look back at the early days of church planting in Corinth, in Antioch, in Ephesus, and further, the Lord speaking through the Apostle Paul wanted all of the Christians of that day, and our day, to understand their unity is in Christ. We are one in Christ, and together we serve Him.

Sir Charles Reed (1819-1881), member of England’s Parliament, once told of an old book in his library that came from his grandmother. It was a book describing all the various religious sects, or groups. On the fly-leaf of this book, his grandmother had drawn the rough image of a wheel. On the spokes of the wheel, she had written the names of the various religious groups. On the hub at the center of the wheel, she had written “Christ.” Underneath this wheel his grandmother had written this legend: “The nearer to Christ, the nearer to each other.”

    (2500 Best Modern Illustrations, pg. 368, Rev. G.B.F. Hallock, 1935)

 

 

 

 

Bended-Knee Battle Ground

 

A 3-Month Prayer Experience

 

Part 2

 

Week 6 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we are gifted to serve.

 

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. … And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, …”

Ephesians 4:7, 11 NKJV

 

            “Serve” – not a popular word among some people, yet a common word in the New Testament, especially concerning the activity of the church. Where does this idea come from? From Jesus. Jesus declared to His 12 disciples, “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:27-28)

            The Bible is very clear that to serve Christ is an honor that the Lord Himself has gifted us to do. In Ephesians 4:7, Paul points out that this gifting is the “grace” of God. In the original Greek, the word “gifts” is “charismata.” This word is derived from the Greek “charis,” which is translated “grace.” The suffix “-ma” means “the result of grace,” making gifts the result of God’s grace in man. Thus we are not being forced into service, as if by the hard hand of God, but rather we are blessed into serving Christ and serving one another by the grace of God.

            In 1 Corinthians 12 we find, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. … But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (12:4-6, 11)

            Every member in the body of Christ has experienced the grace of God. It is by grace we are saved. It is by grace we live. It is by God’s grace we are gifted to serve. It is by serving that we proclaim Jesus Christ.

 

Week 6 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, using our gifts matters to the whole church.

 

“… for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, …”

Ephesians 4:12 NKJV

 

            If you grew up on a farm, then you had a job to do. You may have collected the eggs, fed the chickens, milked the cow(s), weeded the garden, planted corn, baled hay, cleaned out stalls, or split wood, just to name a few. My point is you probably did not sleep late every morning, or watch television all day. Whatever task you were given to do benefited the entire family, not just yourself.

            It is the same with the church. You and I have been blessed by the Lord with gifts with which to serve Christ, and using those gifts matters to the well-being of the whole church. Romans 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.”

            The Apostle Paul uses a word here in Ephesians 4:12 that is a key term to understand: “edifying.” Edifying means “building up.” Thus, in the context of this passage, God has poured His grace upon us in the form of spiritual gifts that are to help equip us in the work of Christ, so that He may “build up” the body of Christ – which is the church. As members of the church, you and I do matter to the health of the whole church.

            Someone has said that the church many times looks like a dysfunctional family. This may be because some are not using their gifts to serve Christ. Some may think that they have nothing to offer. Others may feel like their gifts do not make any difference. Hear again the Apostle Paul: “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” (1 Cor. 12:18) And, “… those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor. 12:22) Finally, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” (1 Cor. 12:26-27)  

 

 

Week 6 – Devotion # 3

 

In Christ, we help each other grow to be like Jesus.

 

“… till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness

of Christ;”     Ephesians 4:13 NKJV

 

            Can my life have any effect on another in their relationship with Christ? We may think not. But it is amazing how the Lord can use one life committed to serving Christ to impact the lives of others, many times with no knowledge of it.

            Consider the life of one man – David Brainerd. Born in 1718 in Massachusetts, Brainerd only lived twenty-nine years, yet his walk with God impacted others. David Brainerd was a missionary to the Indians (Native Americans) along the Hudson River and Delaware River in early America. He preached only three or four years.

            When young William Carey in England read about David Brainerd’s life of hardship as a missionary, it influenced Carey toward missions in India. Jonathan Edwards, who was Brainerd’s father-in-law, was deeply moved by his life and death, and was used to ignite the first Great Awakening. John Wesley, founder of Methodism, was profoundly influenced by the life of David Brainerd and encouraged others to read  Brainerd’s life story carefully to revive God’s work in England.

 

 

Week 7 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, our faith is solid.

 

“… that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, …”

Ephesians 4:14 NKJV

 

            In terms of relationship, I will always be the child of Elbert and Edith Rearden. Yet, my Mom and Dad would never have wanted me to stay immature and spoon-fed. In the same way, we are always the child of God by faith in Christ, but we are to grow spiritually in our understanding of the Word of God and His work in our world.

            How do we become solid in our faith in Christ Jesus? By reading the Word of God – Bible study – and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through the Word. We grow in faith by being in fellowship with other believers, learning together, praying together, and helping one another to live this life in Christ.

            In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul writes, “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.” To the Hebrews we find the writer calling them “dull of hearing” going backwards in their faith when he declares, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12)

            It is essential to every believer to stay in the study of God’s Word.

There are those who would deceive, and lead us astray. In Paul’s last words to the church in Rome, he sends this warning, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”

(Romans 16:17-18)

 

 

Week 7 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, what is behind our words does matter.

 

“… but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ -- …”

Ephesians 4:15 NKJV

 

            I had a supervisor once on a job who generally treated me very well. But there was one thing about his personality I had to learn from my co-workers early on in my time there. Sometimes he would make a rather humorous comment about my work, and I thought he was just being funny. I learned from my co-workers that it was really his way of a put down. If he was disappointed in your work or performance, he would throw out a humorous one-liner. Once I understood him and his ways, we got along well, because I knew how to meet his expectations. But I had to learn how to read what was behind his words.

            The Lord is teaching us in Ephesians 4:15 that we are to speak the truth. The truth of God spoken by a fellow believer who is trying to help us be more like Jesus is worth its weight in gold – it is valuable. None of us are perfect. We all could use some help from time-to-time to live this life in Christ. But God is also concerned about what is behind our words of truth.

            “Speaking the truth in love.” Catch that emphasis from the Lord’s mouth to our ears – “in love.” Maybe we should always have John 3:16 in our hearts and minds to help us remember that Almighty God has chosen to deal with us in the attitude and nature of love: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …” In Hosea 11:4 God says of His dealing with a rebellious Israel, “I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love.” And Mark is the only one of the Gospels that tells us that in Jesus’ encounter with the rich man who is asking about eternal life, “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, …” (Mark 10:21) This is Jesus’ attitude toward the one who turned away.  Did Jesus speak truth to this man? Yes. But He spoke in love.

 

 

Week 7 – Devotion # 3

 

In Christ, every believer has a part in building up the whole church.

 

“… from whom the whole body, joined together and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”    Ephesians 4:16 NKJV

 

As members of the body of Christ, we can be compared to pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has protrusions and indentations. The protrusions represent our strengths (gifts, talents, abilities), and the indentations represent our weaknesses (faults, limitations, shortcomings, undeveloped areas). The beautiful thing is that the pieces complement one another and produce a beautiful whole.

            Just as each piece of a puzzle is important, so each member of the body of Christ is important and can minister to the other members of the body.

            Just as, when one piece is missing from the puzzle, its absence is very obvious and damages the picture, so also is the whole weakened when we are absent from the body of Christ.

            Just as, when each piece of a puzzle is in place, any one piece is not conspicuous but blends in to form the whole picture, so it should be in the body of Christ.

    (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, pg. 68, Michael P. Green, 1989)

 

 

 

Week 8 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we put off the old us.

 

“… that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lust, …”

Ephesians 4:22 NKJV

 

            There is a video produced by Focus on the Family titled, “A Man Called Norman” (1988). This film features Mike Adkins telling of his personal experience with a strange neighbor called Norman. At one point in the story, Mike tells of taking Norman to the store and buying a new suit. But before he will help Norman get dressed in this brand new suit and tie, he tells Norman, “It is time.” Norman asks, “Time for what?” Mike says, “Today, Norman, you are going to get a bath.” Norman’s response is, “It’s been a long time.”

            The Apostle Paul uses a visual image to help us grasp the spiritual transformation that must take place in our lives. The image is of taking off old dirty clothes, soiled and stained by the corruption of our old sinful way of life. These old clothes must be taken off in order to put on the new, clean clothes. Paul is saying that to walk in new life with Christ, we must make a definite change in our life. Our language, what we listen to, what we read, our attitude – all things about our life style must come under the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit.

            What a picture Paul paints for us! Who would put new, clean clothes on over top of old smelly, dirty clothes? Some Christians are not happy, not satisfied, with their life in Christ, but the problem is with the old life of which they will not let go. They want all the blessings of the new life in Christ, along with the promise of eternal life, yet they are not willing to let go of the old in order to put on the new. They are the same selfish, self-centered person that they were before Jesus.

You see, what the Lord is getting at is not our clothes, but our heart.

 

Week 8 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, say hello to the new you.

 

“… and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.”    Ephesians 4:23-24 NKJV

 

            One of my favorite Bible stories will always be of Jesus’ encounter with  Zacchaeus, the tax collector. In Luke 19:1-10 we are told of how Jesus was passing through Jericho, and Zacchaeus climbed into a sycamore tree so that he might see Jesus. But Jesus stopped by the tree, looked up into the tree, and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Well, Zacchaeus did come down, and Jesus went home with him, and it changed this man’s life.

            Zacchaeus said, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four-fold.” Jesus response to this sudden attitude change was, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

            This beautiful story reminds us that when our hearts are truly changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ, then God creates a new person. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 says, “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

            And again in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

            “New!” How quickly would we give up old dirty, stinky clothes to put on brand new, clean clothes. Our newness is God’s creation, not anything of our doing. Why should we hold on to the old life when the new life God offers is so much better – and lasts forever?

 

Week 8 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we are about building up, not tearing down.

 

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.”

Ephesians 4:29 NKJV

 

            Our first thought here is what some call a “potty mouth” – a very poor choice of words. When I was a teenager, my pastor, Rev. Ezra Meador, was very clear on the subject of using profane language. He would say, “You cannot sing God’s praises on Sunday morning, then curse His name during the week, and expect God to bless you.” A foul mouth certainly imparts no grace to its hearers.

            Yet, I believe the Apostle Paul is taking us farther than just bad choices of words. Paul was always concerned about building up the church. His fear was those who would tear it down. In Ephesians 4:29 Paul says speak that which is “good for necessary edification.” Remember, edification means building up.

            Even in the early days of the church, there were those who, by their “talk,” were not building up, but tearing down Christ’s body, the church. In 2 Thessalonians 3:11, we find, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” And in 2 Timothy 2:16-18, “But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”

            In the churches of our day, the “corrupt communication” can be seen in the attack upon church unity, creating division and dissention. The next time we are about to say something, perhaps we should stop and think first. As a follower of Jesus Christ, is what I am going to say building up or tearing down? 

            Words can build up, encourage, educate, strengthen, and help disciple another. But words can also discourage, hurt, tear down, humiliate, and destroy. May we learn to be careful with our words.

“Therfore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19-20)

 

 

Week 9 – Devotion # 1

 

In Christ, do nothing to cause the Spirit of God to grieve.

 

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”     Ephesians 4:30 NKJV

 

            We may know what it feels like to get hurt, and even to cry.  The pain may be intense for a time, but then it is soon gone and we move on to the next thing. Grief is different. It seems to go deeper and stay longer.

            The LORD instructs us in Ephesians 4:30 very simply “do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” This awakens my mind to the realization that God cares deeply for how I live my life. God is not untouched or unmoved by what He sees and hears. Rather than finding joy in me, the Spirit may be led to grieve because of me. In the days of Noah, we find, “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Genesis 6:6)

            We want God to rejoice over us. How can we know what would grieve the Holy Spirit? The Apostle Paul answers that question in the next verse. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (loud quarreling), and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)            

We cannot forget the context of this passage in Ephesians 4. God wants our focus on building up, not tearing down. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

 

 

Week 9 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we learn how to treat one another.

 

“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another,

just as God in Christ also forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

 

            Someone has said that the best things in life we learn in kindergarten – be kind to others, share, listen when the teacher is speaking, take a nap, … It is true. We learn some of our basic skills of life early in childhood.

            The Apostle Paul takes us to the Jesus school of life – how to treat others. The “golden rule” at one time was a standard for most everybody, whether they were Christ followers or not. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12)

Or more commonly quoted: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

            The Lord gives us a foundation for treating one another – “just as God in Christ also forgave you.” As Jesus followers, our guide is Jesus, not ourselves. What does the Bible teach about how God deals with us?  In John chapter 13 we find Jesus humbling Himself to wash the disciples’ feet at the table where they celebrate the last supper. In verse one we read, “… having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” While at that same table, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34)

            We see the tender-heartedness of Christ toward Simon Peter, the one who would soon deny Him three times, as Jesus declares, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) In Jesus’ darkest hour we hear Him cry out to God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

 

 

Week 9 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we have the greatest example of how to live this life.

 

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”  Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV

 

            Our life in Christ is not a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of life. For the Jesus follower, God calls us to a “live as Jesus lives” way of life. The Apostle Paul encouraged others to follow him only as it showed them how to follow Jesus: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) In Ephesians 5:1 he reminds us of our relationship with God the Father as he calls us to “be imitators of God as dear children.” Hear the message from this favorite hymn:

 

1. Down in the valley with my Savior I will go,

                Where the flow’rs are blooming and the sweet waters flow;

                Everywhere He leads me I will follow, follow on,

                Walking in His footsteps till the crown be won.

                    Refrain –

                    Follow! Follow! I will follow Jesus!

                    Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on!

                    Follow! Follow! I will follow Jesus!

                    Everywhere He leads me I will follow on!

            2. Down in the valley with my Savior I will go,

                Where the storms are sweeping and the dark waters flow;

                With His hand to lead me I will never, never fear,

                Danger cannot fright me if my Lord is near.

            3. Down in the valley, or upon the mountain steep,

                Close beside my Savior will my soul ever keep;

                He will lead me safely in the path that He has trod,

                Up to where they gather on the hills of God.

(William O. Cushing, 1823 – 1902)

Bended-Knee Battle Ground

A 3-Month Prayer Experience

Part 3

Week 10 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, how we live matters.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

Ephesians 5:8-10 NKJV

Here in this passage of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul once again contrasts the old life before Christ (outside of Jesus) with the new life we have in Christ. A key word is “were,” pointing to the fact you are now different because of Christ. As Paul declared to the Christians in Corinth,

“old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The metaphor Paul uses is age old – light versus darkness. Light represents the good, holy, godly. Darkness always represents evil, ungodly. He says this was what we once were, darkness, and thus, how we lived.

But now – Paul declares – “you are light in the Lord.” You have been transformed. You have been changed. So why live like darkness anymore? We are called to “walk” or “live out our life” in the light, seeking what is pleasing and acceptable before God the Father.

Paul says the “fruit”, or “evidence,” of a life lived in the light is:

 

goodness = kindness, benevolence, desiring to help others

righteousness = regarding the rights of others, giving to both God

and mankind that which is their due

truth = what is spoken, but also truth in idea, sincerity, and

straightforwardness

(W. Curtis Vaughan, The Letter to the Ephesians, 1963, pg. 109)

 

As Malcom O. Tolbert suggests in his study Ephesians: God's New People (1979, pg. 110), the will of God is not discerned in a vacuum, but by people who, “first of all, want to please God” and “who are engaged actively in life, facing its difficult decisions, involved in its demands.”

In fact, how we live does matter to us and to the Lord!

 

 

Week 10 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we cannot lose sight of God's purpose for our lives.

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5;15-17 NKJV

The passage here reminds one of the encouragement of Solomon, found in Proverbs:

 

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion – a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:2-7)

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:3-6)

 

How do we keep sight of God's purpose for our lives? Sometimes we feel like a sailor on a stormy sea with no land in sight. We may feel like we have lost hope, even lost faith. But like the sailor, we cannot base what is happening right now on how we feel about it, our emotions. We have to look, first, to what we know. A sailor would act on his experiences of what does one do during a storm – batten down the hatches, lighten the load, put someone up top to lookout, keep someone at the helm to guide the ship, and do not lose your head. In the midst of Job's worst days, the patriarch of faith declared, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth.” (Job 19:25) David cried out, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Secondly, we seek God in His Word. Never stop learning, especially from the Bible, God's anointed word of hope and wisdom.

Third, learn to “redeem the time.” God's purpose in our life is to reveal Jesus the Christ to a world desperately in need of Him. Let the love and grace of God flow through our lives, especially during the storms!

 

 

Week 10 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we have an unlimited resource.

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, ...” Ephesians 5:18 NKJV

I saw my first real-life wino on the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts, while visiting the city for a Division II college basketball championship. I was a junior at Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro, Kentucky, and a long way from home. The wino we passed was actually on the steps leading up to a church. Outside the church building there was the noise of city traffic, busy sidewalks, litter, and ... a wino, clutching his brown bagged bottle and trying to sleep in the morning light on concrete steps.

Inside the church building were antique pews, a beautiful tapestry, a lovely pipe organ, and the serenity of a holy place set aside for prayer. The pastor gladly showed us around, giving us a historical and spiritual lesson.

We live in the midst of a fallen, dark world that would make us drunk on the evil of it. But in Christ we have something so much better. Actually, we have someone – the Holy Spirit, third person of the Godhead,

the very breath of God.

Paul says we can be “filled” with the Spirit. In the Greek this word filled means a continual filling. It means more than a one-time experience.

Daily we can experience the unlimited resource of God's very presence. What a way for the LORD to help us! No earthly substitute can ever begin to match God's very Spirit filling us to overflow.

 

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what Thou dost love,

And do what Thou wouldst do.

 

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Until my heart is pure,

Until with Thee I will Thy will,

To do and to endure.

 

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

Till I am Wholly Thine,

Till all this earthly part of me

Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,

So shall I never die,

But live with Thee the perfect life

Of Thine eternity.

 

(Words by Edwin Hatch, 1835-1889)

Week 11 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we have a joyful heart.

“… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, …”

Ephesians 5:19 NKJV

Christians are a joyful people. One of the best ways that joy is expressed is through music. Songs of praise, hymns of testimony, and prayer songs are abundant among God’s people, because they come from the heart. The Lord moves in our lives and in our world, and we are moved to exalt Him in song.

Moses and the children of Israel sang to the LORD after the Red Sea crossing, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Exodus 15:1-2) The women of Israel sang and danced after David’s victory over Goliath by God’s mighty hand, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7)

David sang of God’s deliverance, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; the God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:2-3)

Even when the circumstances would seem to hold no joy, we as God’s people find that joy from deep in our soul that speaks of the goodness of the Lord Jesus. Paul and Silas were falsely accused in Philippi, then they were beaten with rods and put into prison. With their feet fastened in the stocks, their backs bruised and bleeding, and no human reason for joy: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)

What sets your heart to singing?

 

 

Week 11 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we have a thankful heart.

“… giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, …”

Ephesians 5:20 NKJV

An attitude of gratitude! Great slogan, but not easy to carry out. Especially when the scripture text says, “giving thanks ALWAYS in ALL things.” Now think about it. Do those two words allow us any wiggle room? Where is the “gray area” we like to live in? God has painted this scene in very clear colors.

We find the same encouragement in Paul's First letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Some things seem almost impossible to find any reason to give thanks. Sometimes the hurt and pain are too intense to even be thinking of giving thanks.

But let us look carefully at the verse. To whom are we offering thanks? We give thanks “to God the Father.” This is our Maker, our Sustainer, our Rock, our Shepherd, our Provider, and the God who sees.

By whom are we offering thanks? We give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we remember the suffering of Christ on Calvary’s cross for our sins, and realize how deep is God’s love for us that He would send His only begotten Son to die in our place, then we should see our present circumstances in a different light. Whatever we are going through in this life, we know God truly cares for us.

 

“Lloyd Douglas, the author of The Robe, once told a story about a violin teacher who lived down the street from him.

One morning when Douglas went to the studio, he asked his old friend, 'And what's the good news for today?'

Holding up a tuning fork, the teacher struck the fork with a padded mallet and exclaimed, 'The good news today is: that is A. The soprano down the hall misses her high notes, and the piano across the hall is off-key. But that, my friend, is A. It was A yesterday; it is A today; and it will be A tomorrow. The good news for today is: that is A, and it won't change.'

There are some things that stabilize life in an unstable era. They are sure, unchanging, and dependable in an unsure, changing, and undependable world.” (Living Illustrations, J. B. Fowler, Jr., pg. 21)

We have a thankful heart, because we know the mercy, grace, and love of the living God. And He does not change. The circumstances of our lives may be happy, sad, glad, troubled, uncertain, painful, or victorious – sometimes all in the same day! But the LORD is more stable and sure than the violinist's tuning fork. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

 

 

Week 11 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, we have a humble heart.

“... submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

Ephesians 5:21 NKJV

Corrie ten Boom, survivor of the World War II death camps of Germany, was once asked if it was difficult for her to remain humble. Her reply was simple. “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think for one moment it ever entered the head of that donkey that any of that was for him?”

She continued, “If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides in His glory, I give Him all the praise and all the honor.”

(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Michael P. Green, pg. 199)

 

Submit is a hard word for many to hear. We are fine with others submitting, especially submitting to us. But we are not too fond of applying the idea to ourselves. To submit has the feeling of surrender, which is actually very true.

God is calling on you and I as followers of Jesus to willingly do what goes against our old nature -submit. But to whom are we told to submit? The answer is to “one another” - our fellow loved ones in Christ.

Ephesians five goes on to talk about the relationship between husbands and wives, then chapter six begins by adding to that the relationship between parents and children, servants and masters.

Verse 21, in its simplicity, is key to understanding how the Lord wants us to see our relationship with other believers. We live in humbleness of heart with one another as we live in humility before God.

“In the fear of God” means out of respect and honor to God. Taking into consideration Corrie ten Boom's attitude toward being the donkey, if it brings glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, why would we not surrender and submit to one another? Pray for humility of soul and spirit before Christ, so that living in humility with others is not hard to do.

 

 

Week 12 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, we do not stand alone.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 NKJV

Some of the most comforting words of the Bible are Jesus last words found in Matthew's Gospel: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) To Joshua, God promised, “I will not leave you nor forsake you. … Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 9)

When the Lord asks of us to stand strong in the difficulties of life and in the spiritual battles we will face, what a comfort to know He does not send us off alone. No, rather God wants us to understand we cannot go it alone. He knows we need Him. Do we know we need Him?

In Christ, we do not stand alone, no far from it. We stand in the Lord's power and God's strength, covered in His armor. God knows how tricky and seductive and evil the devil is. Do we?

What a comfort to know the Lord Jesus has faced the devil and defeated the old serpent. Now, in the power of Christ we can stand on the spiritual battle field and not fear.

 

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)

 

In this trust of God, a young David could declare to the Philistine giant Goliath, “This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD's, and He will give you into our hands.”

(1 Samuel 17:46, 47)

David knew he did not stand alone. Do you?

 

 

 

Week 12 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, we are part of a real spiritual battle.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:12 NKJV

It is a sad situation today to hear that many do not believe there really is a devil. Some in the church today do not accept the true teaching of Scripture that there is a spiritual battle going on. Thus, the whole idea of this Bended-Knee Battle Ground means nothing to them. It is a waste of their time.

But the devil is real. Call him Satan, Lucifer, the old serpent, the dragon, or the devil – he is our adversary.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

 

I wonder how we would think of spiritual warfare if we saw it more through the eyes of those on the front lines of the battle?

 

A letter from a missionary out in the jungles of New Guinea writing to his friends at home caught the nature of spiritual warfare:

“Man, it is great to be in the thick of the fight, to draw the old devil's heaviest guns, to have him at you with depression and discouragement, slander, disease. He doesn't waste time on a lukewarm bunch. He hits good and hard when a fellow is hitting him. You can always measure the weight of your blow by the one you get back. When you're on your back with fever and at your last ounce of strength, when some of your converts backslide, when you learn that your most promising inquirers are only fooling, when your mail gets held up, and some don't bother to answer your letters, is that the time to put on mourning? No sir. That's the time to pull out the stops and shout Hallelujah! The old fellow's getting it in the neck and hitting back. Heaven is leaning over the battlements and watching. 'Will he stick with it?' And as they see who is with us, as they see the unlimited reserves, the boundless resources, as they see the impossibility of failure, how disgusted and sad they must be when we run away. Glory to God! We're not going to run away. We're going to stand!”

(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Michael P. Green, pgs. 356-357)

 

 

Week 12 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, God is ready and willing to equip us with all we need.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Ephesians 6:13 NKJV

“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.

The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

Bless the LORD, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, you ministers of His, who do His pleasure. Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

Psalm 103:1-22 (A Psalm of David)

 

With God on our side, we have all we need!

 

 

Week 13 – Devotion #1

 

In Christ, our prayer life is our lifeline.

“... praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, ...”

Ephesians 6:18 NKJV

How do we stay in touch with the Lord? We do so through Bible study, fellowship with fellow believers, and prayer. As Paul brings his letter to the Christians in Ephesus to a close, he emphasizes what he knows they need daily in their lives as they seek to live in Christ and witness to this world for Jesus. If the Word of God is our bread to nourish the soul, then prayer is the air we need to breathe.

Look at the Apostle Paul’s other encouragements to prayer found in other letters:

“Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe …”

Romans 15:30-31

“who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, …” 2 Corinthians 1:10-11

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, …” Colossians 4:2-3

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, … I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” 1 Timothy 2:1, 8

Do you see the value of prayer? It is our lifeline, as we pray in faith, believing.

Lord,

I crawled across the barrenness

to you with my empty cup

Uncertain

in asking any small drop of refreshment.

If only I had known you better

I’d have come running with a bucket.

-Nancy Spiegelberg

 

“Prayer pulls the rope down below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly, others give an occasional jerk at the rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with all his might.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Michael P. Green, pg. 273)

Week 13 – Devotion #2

 

In Christ, telling others of Jesus is what we live for.

“… that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19-20 NKJV

Paul loved telling people about Jesus, because Jesus changed his life! Being a prisoner in chains did not stop the apostle from sharing the gospel. I can almost hear Paul singing some of our old familiar hymns of testimony:

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought

Since Jesus came into my heart!

I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,

Since Jesus came into my heart!

Since Jesus came into my heart,

Since Jesus came into my heart,

Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,

Since Jesus came into my heart!

[Words by Rufus H. McDaniel, 1850 – 1940]

 

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,

Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.

I love to tell the story because I know ‘tis true;

It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story,

‘Twill be my theme in glory

To tell the old, old story

of Jesus and His love

[Words by Katherine Hankey, 1834 – 1911]

“Man of sorrows!” what a name For the Son of God who came

Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

[Words by Philip P. Bliss, 1838 – 1876]

 

 

Week 13 – Devotion #3

 

In Christ, our heart’s desire is to pass on God’s blessings.

“Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. “ Ephesians 6:23-24 NKJV

What a blessing to bestow on the readers of this letter! Peace, ”Shalom,” was a common spoken blessing among the Jews of Paul’s day. He begins with this, but adds to it love, faith, and grace – key ingredients in the believer’s life in Christ.

We find the passing of a blessing all the way back in Genesis, with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Blessing was central to the promise God made to Abraham when the LORD said, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

(Genesis 22:18)

It is a joy to bless others. What greater joy than to bless them with the full nature of Christ Jesus? God’s peace that passes all our understanding, God’s love that knows no bounds, faith in the living God Who is always faithful, and God’s costly grace.

“A man who had been the superintendent of a city rescue mission for forty years was asked why he had spent his life working with dirty, unkempt, profane, drunken derelicts. He said, ‘All I’m doing is giving back to others a little of the love God has shown to me.’ As a young man, he himself had been a drunkard who went into a mission for a bowl of chili. There he heard the preacher say that Christ could save sinners, and he stumbled forward to accept the Lord Jesus as his Savior. Later, while seeking God’s will for his life, he felt the Lord calling him to go back to the gutter and reach the people still wallowing there.”

(Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Michael P. Green, pgs. 227 – 228)

Please, pass on God’s blessings!