September 29, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 3:1-13 (HCSB)
My wife and I visited an ancient monastery in Yerevan, Armenia. It was very dark inside and mostly lit by candles. The paintings and reliefs on the walls were hard to make out. Yet, when we photographed one of them with a flash, the painting gave up its secret. We were surprised. The painting was very colorful and absolutely beautiful. The flash brought out details we previously couldn’t even imagine were there. We went throughout the monastery taking flash photos so we could see the beauty of all the paintings and reliefs on the walls.
For thousands of years, God kept a secret. God revealed this secret through the “Light of the world,” His own Son. The secret was a new creation, a new living temple, a new spiritual body; it was the Church. This Church included both Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul called this secret “a mystery” (Eph. 3:3). A mystery in the Bible is something that was “unknown which has now been revealed.”
The mystery is the Church, and the Church is to proclaim the mystery. Paul said he was a minister of this mystery. Paul used the term “gospel” to describe the mystery (Eph. 3:7). He described it in terms of “good news.” The good news was about “incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Eph. 3:8). We have riches beyond measure that can only be seen and understood if we have the Light of God in our lives (Eph. 3:4).
The revealing of this mystery has made known the very “multi-faced wisdom of God” on earth and in the heavens (Eph. 3:10). God wants all the earth to hear about the Church, but who needs to know in the heavens? These are probably the angelic representatives of earthly rulers he spoke about in Ephesians 1:20-21. God even reveals His plan to both holy and unholy angels. It is clear from the text that Christ has all power and everything is under His control. This is all according to His plan (Eph. 3:11).
We have privileges of being the Church (Eph. 3:12-13). Because of our faith in Christ, we have boldness and confident access to God. We have the freedom to speak to God without shame. We can freely come to Him with confidence that He hears us and accepts us.
Bible Studies for Life
A slower pace
Exodus 20:8-11; 31:12-17 (HCSB)
The institution of the Sabbath in Exodus 20:8-11 points back to the biblical account of creation. God created everything, and then He rested on the seventh day. The command repeated in Deuteronomy 5:12-15 points back to the exodus from Egypt. The Israelites were commanded to remember God’s creating and redeeming work on the Sabbath. Ultimately, this points to future permanent rest in Christ (Heb. 4:9-11).
Many adhere to a strict seventh-day-of-the-week Sabbath. The biblical pattern is to work six days and rest on the seventh. While it is true Christians are never commanded to keep a Sabbath, neither are they commanded to worship on the first day of the week. The early church chose to worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). The Scriptures are clear that Sabbath-keeping for the Christian is a matter of spiritual freedom(Rom. 14:5). God created, and then He rested on the seventh day. He created man to work, but He also wanted man to rest.
We live in a culture that considers productivity a virtue. It is quite the balancing act keeping up with jobs, family, activities, sports, school, hobbies and church activities. We often think productivity is doing more things. Productivity is more about the use of time than the amount of things we do. I strive to not save anything to do on the weekend because I don’t want to sabotage my Sabbath.
Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). Having a day of rest is pivotal to staying physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. The Sabbath is more than the absence of work; we are to keep the day holy. It is a time to rest from labor, connect with family and friends and worship the Lord.
We find our rest in Jesus, Who has done our work for us on the cross. We rest in Christ now, and we will ultimately rest in the permanent Sabbath in the new creation.
October 6, 2019
Explore the Bible
Ephesian 3:14-21 (HCSB)
People ask me to pray for them all the time. Most of the prayer requests deal with physical or material needs. Before I pray with them, or for them, I ask where they are in their relationship with the Lord. Our depth and condition of our relationship with the Lord has a bearing on everything else.
It is rather fascinating that the two prayers in Ephesians do not address any physical or material needs (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21). Paul’s intent was not to neglect the physical or material but to focus on the spiritual. He knew, and we need to learn, that if the inner person is taken care of, the outer person will be taken care of.
Paul knelt when he prayed, but this wasn’t the contemporary Jewish practice. Jews always stood when they prayed. Paul’s kneeling would have been a considerable undertaking since he was chained to a Roman soldier. While the Bible doesn’t command any particular posture in prayer, posture says much about the petitioner’s attitude. Kneeling indicated Paul’s humility and deep emotion before God.
Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would be “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3:16). We can’t be strong on the outside until we are strong on the inside. He prayed that “the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:17). When Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, He is the sovereign Lord of our hearts and entire lives. He gives us the strength to live the Christian life.
Paul also prayed that they “would be rooted and firmly established in love” (Eph. 3:17). Paul wanted them to know the “length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love” for them (Eph. 3:18). This depth of love is beyond a knowledge you learn; it is experiential and results in being filled with the “fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
When Christ takes up residence in the believer’s life, His power and love bring glory to God in the Church and in His Son (Eph. 3:20-21).
Bible Studies for Life
1 Thessalonians 4:3-12 (HCSB)
I facilitated a “Boundaries” class in our church. The “Boundaries” book and video-driven course were written and developed by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. My class was a mix of married couples and singles. I asked why they took this class, and the responses could be summed up with: “Relationships can be messy and complicated.”
How many of us have heard the exasperated cry, “I am so tired of the drama!”? The Apostle Paul gave us principles that, when followed, will lead to “uncomplicated relationships.” The word “boundaries” describes Paul’s teaching well. Cloud said, “Boundaries let the good in and keep the bad out.”
Paul said it is God’s will that we remain pure (1 Thess. 4:3). The word “sanctification” means “to be separate” and “to be pure or holy.” In this context, we are to separate or abstain from sexual immorality. Paul reminded us that we are to have control over our own bodies and we are not to have “lustful desires” (1 Thess. 4:4-5). Unlike the Gentiles, we know God, so our separation from immorality brings glory to God (1 Thess. 4:5).
Warren Wiersbe told the story of a lady who questioned her pastor for preaching on the sins of Christians. In her assessment, the sins of Christians are different than those in the lives of unsaved persons. The pastor’s response: “Yes, it is worse.” We know better.
Paul moved from holiness to love. He praised their love for one another and encouraged them to love even more (1 Thess. 4:9-10). Love is foundational to the other things Paul wanted them to put into practice (1 Thess. 4:11-12). They were to seek to live quiet lives. This is an inner peace of mind and heart. They were to mind their own business and work with their own hands. Paul’s goal for them was to be dependent on God and walk properly in the world, which will bring glory to God.
Paul set some boundaries for our lives. These boundaries will let the good in and keep the bad out. This will lead to uncomplicated relationships and a simplified life that will bring glory to God.