Monday, July 16, 2018

Don't Be Defined By Your Past

Whichever translation of the Bible you use, Ephesians 2 begins the same way. It is a description of "you" (it's actually the Ephesians, but it applies to you). The different versions use different words, but they all have the same meaning:

NIV - "As for you, you were"
NLT - "Once you were"
ESV - "And you were"
NASB - "And you were"

The opening thought is about the life you once lived, your past. The picture Paul paints of the past isn't pretty, he says we were dead in sins.

Verse four is the exact opposite. Paul takes his eyes off us and puts them where they ought to be, on God"

NIV - "But... God, who is..."
NLT - "But God is..."
ESV - "But God, being..."
NASB - "But God, being..."

The contrast is between how we acted (dead) and who God is (merciful). The lesson is obvious. No matter what evil exists in your past, God's mercy extends to it. No matter how much wrong you may have done, God's love covers it. No matter how much blame you place on yourself, God is bigger.

Today, take a minute and remind yourself of this powerful truth:

What I've done before
Is not who I am anymore
Not because of my good deeds
But because of who God is!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Rescued For Free -- But At How Great A Cost?

Have you been paying attention to the soccer team and their coach who are stranded in a cave in Thailand? As of this morning, almost all of them have been rescued and everyone is hopeful that the last two will be saved soon. This rescue operation has been incredible to witness as hundreds of people from many different countries have bonded together to find and retrieve this group of young men. 
Professional divers are swimming through caves (sometimes so tight the have to remove their equipment and pull it behind them) for 4-6 hours just to reach the boys. One-by-one the boys are being carried out in a return journey which takes as much as 9 hours! I have no idea how expensive the entire effort has been, but I know there has been great cost.
Consider the price for the hi-tech equipment, the diver's equipment, the vehicles, the vehicles, the communication devices and whatever other items might be used. In addition, the full amount of time being spent by professional divers, soldiers, volunteers and others will likely never be known. The greatest cost to this point has been the life of one rescuer, who ran out of oxygen because he wanted to be sure the boys had enough.
No expense has been spared to accomplish for these boys what they could never accomplish for themselves. Every one of these boys has been carried from death to life at a cost they could never afford. And they will never be asked to repay their debt, this is a gift which has been freely given. Imagine how grateful these boys and their families will be for the rest of their lives!
How much greater is the free gift we have been given? We've not been saved from a cave or physical death, but we have been saved from our own sin and eternal death! How grateful should we be? How should that gratitude overflow into every area of our life?
Ephesians 1:6 - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Give Me Jesus...

We just wrapped up week 2 of a new Ephesians series at The Gathering. During this series, I've been sending a couple emails out each week with some devotional thoughts on the passages we are studying. If you'd like to receive these emails, click here to sign up.

Here are my thoughts from today:

In the first 14 verses of Ephesians, Paul wrote the phrase "in Christ" (or something similar) at least 12 different times. Every time I read through these verses, I am impressed at how important Jesus was to Paul.

I want Jesus to be that important to me. I want to understand every part of my life through the filter of Christ. I want my actions, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes, my hurts, my expectations, etc. to be wrapped up in Jesus.

I am reminded of some of the words from a Jeremy Camp song:
In the morning, when I riseGive me Jesus.You can have all this world,Just give me Jesus.
I'm also reminded of an ancient Irish song/poem known as St. Patrick's Breastplate. It's a great anthem by which to live one's life:
Christ with me,Christ before me,Christ behind me,Christ in me,Christ beneath me,Christ above me,Christ on my right,Christ on my left,Christ when I lie down,Christ when I sit down,Christ when I arise,Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.
Praise be to the Great I Am!