Safe in the Yoke

Moment by Moment

I sit here on this late June evening, listening to the peaceful sound of raindrops falling on the roof. This is Maine so even though it is June, my upstairs window is opened and it is very pleasant. The busy world rushes by on a nearby street. On such a pleasant evening, trouble seems a million miles away… yet at my very fingertips is a whole world of trouble. We choose moment by moment, don’t we?

Our last day in this passage:

James 1:13-15 NIV

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’. For God cannot not be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

No!

In John 10:10, John tells us that Satan is out to destroy us. How? By enticing us into sin.

He cannot take our salvation, but he can lure us into sin, destroy our testimonies and make us miserable. The last thing Satan wants is for God to be glorified through us. However, when it comes to sin, he can only do what we allow him to do in our lives. We can say “NO!”

The Power of Refusal

We have the power of refusal and that is why we need to be prepared to use it when he waves his bait in our faces. The Holy Spirit can help us refuse. If we attempt to deal with temptation on our own, the enemy will beat us every single time! We are no match for Satan on our own.

Powered for Battle

In Matthew 11, Jesus says we need to get into His yoke with Him. If we are being tempted but we are in the yoke with Jesus, He can and will empower us to say “no!” to temptation. In doing so, we will overcome Satan. The key is to be in Christ’s yoke with Him.

Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Safe in His Yoke

We talked a bit in a past entry about being in the yoke with Jesus. That is where He trains us but as you see He also carries the bulk of the load as well. He helps us deal with life, its struggles and temptations as He teaches us. The wonderful thing about being in His yoke with Him is that we never learn so much that we are ready to leave it and go out on our own.

The scariest day on your first job is the day your trainer says, “You are now trained. Take that person’s order.” Do you remember that day or one similar?

Live Life Strong

You never have to face that day with Jesus. He will always be there, in the yoke with you, giving you strength to do what He calls you to do. So many times in the Bible, being close to Christ is encouraged, even commanded. As Christ followers, it is not something we can do without. We must have a close daily relationship with Him to live a life strong and free of sin, paying its high costs. He gives us strength not to take that second look. He gives us the strength to reject it as soon as it flashes through our minds.

An Oak Tree in My Living Room

This is a ridiculous analogy, but stick with me, please 🙂

Say one of the oak boards in my living room floor decides to sprout. (Yep – ridiculous!) At first, it is just a little nub on the board, hardly even noticeable. But, then it begins to sprout leaves! Now if I ignore this thing, I am going to have an oak tree in my living room. That would be a little rustic for my decor. It would not fit in well at all.

How much more than that does alcoholism, an adulterous affair, habitual lying, etc fit into a Christian’s life? Not well at all, right?

Sadly, I know precious believers who are deep in the throes of sin, right now, and they are not sure how they got there. It began with that second look and progressed to bondage and devastation. Oh, friends, may we save ourselves and our loved ones so much pain and trouble and not even go there. Safe in the yoke with Christ, we do not have to.

Let’s Pray:

Thank You, Lord, for taking such good care of us! Thank You that You really do have our safety and strength in Your hands. Help us, please, to walk closely with You today and every day. Please make us strong in Your strength and keep us safe in Your yoke. Teach us to be holy and help us to glorify You. Make us what You want us to be and please make us completely Yours. In Jesus holy, beautiful name. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

2 Peter 1:3-11 

 

 

 

 

Brutality of the Impulse

Temptation Alley

I am sure you have been shopping in a store, said “Enough!” and headed to the register only to find yourself looking at all those things that line both sides of the register waiting area. Temptation Alley at its best, right?? What a marketing ploy! 

Unlike me, you are probably a tower of strength in this area, right?? “I mean, look at all those things I forgot that I even needed!!! Right here just waiting for me!” If you have a Marshalls near you, you know exactly what I am talking about. Our Marshalls is 2 minutes away! Sad but true! 

Okay, time to get serious for a few minutes.

Our Passage:

James 1:13-15 NIV (focusing on 14 and 15 today)

“When tempted, no one should say “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

We all encounter temptation, don’t we? Sometimes it is easier to resist than others. The enemy of our souls is an opportunist so when we are weak is when he will parade that thing by that he thinks will tempt us. It is so easy to act impulsively and be deep in it before you catch yourself. So we have to be prepared.

You have a fight with your husband just as you are leaving for work and as you drive you are thinking about how angry and hurt you are. He just makes you feel worthless sometimes. Then… yep, there is that handsome new guy and he is looking contemplatively at you… You look away. Or do you?

Yep, Satan is an opportunist.

Verse 14:

“…but each one is tempted, when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”

Sin?

So, when does sin begin? Temptation is not sin. How do we know that?

Matthew 4 talks about Jesus having been tempted in the desert by Satan. We all know Jesus was completely holy. He never sinned, not even a “little bitty sin”. 2 Corinthians 5:21 said that Jesus had no sin. So though He was tempted He did not sin.

When we are tempted, it is not sin. However, by our own evil desire, we will be dragged away and enticed. Our own evil desire is the noose around our necks.

  1. We are distracted. (tempted)
  2. We allow desire to birth. (2nd look)
  3. We move toward this thing we want. (dragged away)
  4. We act on it. (enticed/complete fruition)

Before the Second Look

We need to stop before the second look! That’s the key to overcoming temptation. Reject it immediately and do not let it distract us from God and our walk with Him. Be ready and be vigilant in keeping it at the temptation stage.

We must reject the idea and replace it with Scripture. A good way I have found to do this is to write verses I need to think about on 3×5 cards and put them in several places – my pocket, on my bathroom mirror, in my car, at my desk… Read it over and over – memorize it even. Think about how it applies to your life. Ask God to help you resist. He knows our weakness and He knows we need His help in resisting.

Verse 15:

“Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Do Not Linger

When is it sin? At the second look.

The longer we let our eyes and mind linger in the sin, the deeper we sink into it. The deeper we sink into it the harder it is to get out. As we talked about last time, all along the way God provides ways for us to escape. (1 Cor 10:12-13) We can ignore the way of escape or we can choose Him and His way and get out of it.

First Opportunity

We need to take the first opportunity out and get our focus back on Him, because like the roots of a tree – the longer it is there the deeper the roots are going to go into us and the more damage there will be when it is ripped out. But if we do not rip it out, it will choke the very life out of you and me. I sure hope you know I am talking to me too here!

Saplings

We used to have a huge pecan tree in our backyard. I was amazed at how many little pecan trees I found just starting to grow in the shrubs by our front door. If I found a sapling when it first started, I could pull it out pretty easily, but if it was as high as 12 inches, I could not pull it out.

Catch it Early

Sin digs in gradually just like those roots. As sin progresses it gets a tighter and stronger grip on us. It starts with the second look/thought about the temptation.

3-Year-Old Tactic

One of Satan’s tactics as I sure you too have experienced is to keep parading the same temptation by us. This is a 3-year-old tactic, right? After many presentations, we may be more like to succumb to it. So, again, we must be vigilant. When the thought pops back up, reject it, read, and think about the scripture and how God wants you to apply it in your life. If we stop it before we act on it, the battle with the sin can be reasonably simple to win.

Let’s Pray:

Thank You, Lord, that even though Your Word is not always warm and fuzzy, it is always applicable to our lives. Thank You for protecting us and helping us to walk closely with You. Help us not to act impulsively when we are tempted. Please help us to be vigilant to preserve our closeness to You by not letting anything come between us and You. Please make us what You want us to be. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today: 

Romans 6:19-23

 

 

 

Being Tempted?

When We Are Being Tempted

Lots of people blame God for all the “bad” things that happen in their lives. They think God is out to get them but He is not. He does use circumstances to help us see how much we need Him, at times. We must see God as our advocate when we are being tempted. His is the voice in your heart saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” 

Temptation is definitely not something we love chatting about but it is something we must take very seriously, isn’t it? So, let’s take some time and talk about it. God wants us to be proactive when it comes to sin. Believe me, friends, this is straight out of the pages of my life over the last week or so!

James 1:13-15 (NIV) (Especially verse 13)

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Wholly Good

Our God is always good to us because He is wholly good. He always wants what is best for us. He does not have an evil sadistic side. Though He allows us to suffer sometimes for our own good, He does not enjoy watching us suffer. He is holy, merciful, and compassionate and that is part of why it grieves Him when we sin. He knows that, not only will it not glorify Him, but He knows it will hurt us.

Escape

According to 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, God always provides a way of escape for us when we are tempted. He is not a game player, so why would He tempt us to sin and then provide a way of escape. He just does not work that way.

Let’s look at Verse 13:

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.'”

He wants us to succeed in living holy, blameless lives so He is not laying traps in our paths for us to fall into. He, through His Word, lights our path (Psalm 119:105) so that we can see the traps that have been laid by the enemy.

Back to the Verse:

“For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone…”

As believers, though we are no longer slaves to sin, we can still be tempted to sin and fall/dive headlong into it. God, unlike us, does not have a sin problem. In fact, He is not tempted in the least to sin because it is against His nature. This verse is saying, basically, “Why would He tempt us if it is against His nature?”

He loves us so dearly and He wants us to be more and more like His dear Son day by day. He wants us to be like Him, not opposite of Him.

His love for you and me is so great! He has good plans for us and He wants them to go forth in our lives. Our God will help us to stay away from sin, not tempt us with it or into it. He wants His very best for you and for me. He is such a wonderfully good God!

We will continue on in this passage next time. Have an amazing day!

Let’s Pray:

Thank You so much, Lord, that You always have our best in mind as You help us navigate this life in this world. Thank You that Your Word is clear on how we are to deal with temptation. Help us to deal with the things that come up in this life in a Biblical manner. May we choose, day in and day out to do what glorifies You. Help us please to take Your Word and Your presence seriously. Make us all completely Yours. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

1 Peter 5:6-9

 

 

Mature in Your Skill

Roller Skates

Do you roller skate? I roller skated every weekend as a teenager. It was one of my very favorite things to do.

The first time you put on a pair of roller skates, were you able to comfortably fly around the rink? Not me! I held onto the wall and rails for dear life and crept around the outside of the rink hoping no one would crash into me or even get too close.

I remember finally letting go of the wall and being kind of stable as long as nothing happened in front of me.

As I became more mature in my skill, I remember skating quite fast and very comfortably around the rink. I was even able to avoid falling when someone fell right in front of me most of the time. That is when it became really fun.

Mature in Your Skill

We have talked a lot about maturity and a lack of maturity in the last couple of entries. In God’s Word, we can see obvious benefits to being mature in your faith, knowledge, and relationship with Christ.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) (focusing on verse 14)

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Walking with God and studying His Word is like any other skill in at least one way. The more you do it, the more effective you will be at it.

Let’s go to the Verse:

“But solid food is for the mature…”

“Solid food” is the deeper truths of God’s Word. The more mature we are in our walk the more effective we will be at studying, understanding, grasping and applying the deeper truths – with the help of the Holy Spirit. This solid food is meant for all believers. It is God’s desire that we all mature spiritually. It is not His desire that any of us stay on “milk” the rest of our lives.

“…who by constant use…”

More mature believers are able to consistently take in “solid food” because they are studying and seeking God and applying His Word to their lives. Of course, we never grow to the point that we do not need the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply it. But, the more time we spend the more things weave together and make a more complete picture for us. This constant use happens through our personal Bible study time, seeking God for wisdom in prayer, and sitting under the teaching of Biblically solid teachers. See Ephesians 4:9-14.

I love the Amplified Version of the Bible for times when I am looking for a little more help in understanding. It is very wordy so it is not easy to read but it a great study tool. Our passage for today reads like this:

Hebrews 5:14 (AMP)

“But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose sense and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”

Then the next part of the passage in NIV:

“…have trained themselves…”

Training by the constant use of God’s Word is good training indeed. Not to marginalize this great truth, but like roller skating or any other skill, the more time we spend doing it, the better we get at it.

“…to distinguish good from evil.”

The AMP uses many good descriptive and defining words to open this phrase up to us. You may want to look back at the quote above from the AMP to get more insight.

Decisions, Decisions

In our lives today, we are constantly bombarded with choices. As you look at those choices and try to make decisions, do you classify them as good or evil? I am not in the habit of doing this. It would be hugely beneficial in our walk, though.

Why is that? Because when we make choices, we must consider whether a choice will bring glory to God or not. This is something that slips to the back of my mind, but should not. If we are in the habit of determining early in a situation, whether something is good or evil, then it will save us a lot of energy later when we need to get out of a deep and messy situation.

God’s Glory

As in every situation, God’s glory is the primary issue, but our maturity in God and His Word leads to a life that glorifies Him. Since we are to do all for the glory of God, we must mature in Christ and eat the solid food, right?

As we wear His name, all the decisions we make reflect on Him either for His glory or not. May our hearts be consumed with a desire to bring Him glory. (Eph 4:14-16)

So, solid food! For His glory and our good!

Let’s Pray:

Thank You so much, Lord, for helping us see how important it is that we not stay babies in our walk with You. Help us, please, to desire to grow in Your Word. Help us to seek You to know You so we can glorify You. Make us what You want us to be and help us, please, to be able to rightly handle Your Word as we take it in and share it with others. Help us all to see and take seriously what we “teach” with our lives and conversations. Make us skilled because we are constantly using Your Word. Be glorified in each one of us. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Ephesians 1:15-23

 

 

 

 

Inside the Door

Just Inside the Door

What if you go to a housewarming party for good friends, and you step in on the doormat and just stay right there. You’ve never seen their house. It looks really nice but all you see is the “mud room”. You are really hungry but the food that you are enjoying the aroma of is on the dining room table so you cannot even see it, let alone taste it. All your friends say “Hello” to you as they come in but they go on and join the party. Everyone comes to tells you how you are missing out on so much great food and party games, but you just stand there starving and bored.

Our Passage for Today:

Last time we talked about verse 11.

Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) (focusing on verses 12-13)

We have much to say about this but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not aquainted with the teaching of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

The writer of Hebrews is talking to a group of people who had time to mature but had not matured. He speaks of them needing milk instead of solid food. This refers to a nursing baby as I am sure you deduced. To not be ready for solid food is to be very immature, right?

Let’s go to Verse 12:

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers…”

I know what some of you are saying right now. 🙂 “Me teach! No way!” However, consider this – teaching is not always done in a formal setting. Most teaching is done one on one.

Examples:

  • Two friends talking together about what God has shown them recently in their study time of God’s Word.
  • A mother teaching her toddler “Jesus Loves Me” or a Bible verse.
  • A father teaching his son about being a man of God by the way he acts and speaks.

We have endless opportunities to teach, but we must be equipped if we are to teach well.

What Kind of Teaching

Teaching does happen, but what kind of teaching? So often, what happens is that an immature Christian will share worldly wisdom thinking they are sharing God’s wisdom. They are too immature to see the difference. This is dangerous and damaging. When people are looking to us to share our knowledge of God with them, we may really mess them up if we do not know God and His Word well enough to handle it effectively (2 Timothy 2:15).

Error

I believe it could be said that a person who shares worldly wisdom pointing to God’s Word as a reference is possibly slipping into error and false teaching, albeit unintentionally. So, it is definitely a dangerous route to take. The New Testament has much to say about false teachers. May we be very careful as we share formally and informally. May we benefit those we share with by giving them the powerful truth of God’s beautiful Word.

“…you need someone to teach you elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!”

We all need to be taught by Christians who are more mature than we are, but we need to know the elementary truths of God’s Word for ourselves. We need to move onto that solid food.

Now to Verse 13:

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching of righteousness.”

If our knowledge is only of basic salvation – we will not grow in our walk with Christ. It is only in the Word of God that we will be “acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”

As we study God’s Word, He will teach us about the deeper things of sanctification and holiness. This is Him cleaning us up by His power and helping us to bring glory to Him – to live out our lives in righteousness.

A Wonderful House

When we get saved, it is like walking through the door of a wonderful house full of things that God wants us to taste, see, know and do. If we stop at that front door of salvation, we miss out on all the amazing rooms (maturity and an intimate life with God) in the house. We will never experience closeness to Him, His greatness, His beauty, His holiness, His compassion… oh, my friends we will just miss so much that He wants us to have.

Explore!

Let’s explore these amazing rooms together! He has so much to show us! He has so much for us to do! Let’s move on from just milk and begin a steady diet of that rich, nourishing solid food He has provided for us – so that we can grow up strong and healthy – for His glory and our good!

Let’s Pray:

Lord, thank You for showing us Your truth. Help us to seek after You knowing that what we seek is so much better than what we give up. Thank You for showing us that there is so much more that You want for us. Give us a hunger to know You intimately. Give us a deep insatiable desire for Your Truth. Help us to grow and be ready for solid food, for all the wonderful food that You have for us. Help us to grow strong in Your Word and in the knowledge of You. Make us wise only with Your wisdom. Draw us to You and make us completely Yours. Be glorified in us! In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Psalm 119:9-16 

 

 

 

Spiritual Dieting

Healthy Eating

What is your diet like? Is your focus to be thin? Healthy? Are you a healthy eater? Do you love “junk food”? Are you addicted to carbs? Myself – I think more about eating healthy than I actually do. I just love my carbs!! I could skip meat 6 days a week, but I want to live on rice and pasta, not veggies. I know. It’s really bad.

Today, we are talking about our spiritual diet though. 🙂

As we approach the passage today, bear with me. Please read the entire passage and know that this is not going to even vaguely resemble a brow-beating!!! I promise.

Hebrews 5:11-14

“We have much to say about this but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you elementary truths of God’s Word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not aquainted with the teaching of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

We will be focusing on verse 11 in the passage which is the first sentence. I hope you read it all through carefully.

Obviously, most of the verse is referring to the verses before it. However, at the end of the sentence, the writer begins addressing a very real problem in the early church and the church of today as well. That is where our focus will be today.

Let’s look at verse 11:

“We have much to say about this but it is hard to explain…”

The writer refers to verses 7-10. You may want to read and research Melchizedek (v. 10) on your own because I think we need to go in a different direction today.

“…because you are slow to learn.”

These are strong words, huh? We must plead with God to keep us from being slow to learn. In addition to asking God for help, there are things in our society that we need to guard against as we seek to glorify God with our lives.

Be On Your Guard Against:

First – We must not believe the lie, that we cannot know God and study His Word for ourselves.

The enemy of our souls would have us believe that we have a learning disability when it comes to understanding God’s Word. Without question, God, His thoughts, and His ways are far beyond our grasp and our understanding according to Isaiah 55:8-9. Although this is true, we can know His character and His personality because He allows us to, even wants us to.

As you know, He reveals Himself to us in His Word. The more we know Him, the better we will be able to grow in that knowledge. There is a compound effect – it builds in layers and dimension. He wants us to know Him so He definitely makes it possible.

Second – We must not allow ourselves to be distracted in our pursuit of God.

We live in a world where distraction seems to rule. This is especially true when we sit down to read and study God’s Word and grow in our relationship with Him.

What happens when you sit down with your Bible and Prayer Journal? Oh yes, I know! The phone rings, you think of 1000 things you need to do next, your 2-year-old wakes up after 15 minutes from what should have been a 2-hour nap, and on and on.

When you sit down or even before you sit down, ask God to help you concentrate and focus on Him.

Then:

  • Ignore what you can.
  • Let the phone go to voicemail.

I know you cannot ignore that sweet baby, but most things can wait. Am I right?

Remember these things:

  • Satan wants to keep you distracted and as immature as he possibly can in your knowledge of God and your relationship with God.
  • The better we know God the less power Satan has over us.
  • God created Satan and He has COMPLETE dominion over him just like He has complete dominion over everything else.
  • Satan can only lead you, he cannot carry you! You have a choice whether you follow or not.

God really can give us the strength to focus our quiet time and our lives on Him. Ask Him to.

Third – We must guard against being lazy and complacent.

To be satisfied with less than God’s perfect will for your life is to be complacent.

This kind of thinking: “Well, I have received Christ as my Lord and Savior, that is enough. I am never going to be perfect so why try. I know Him well enough.” is complacent thinking.

God does not expect us to be perfect but He does expect us to seek Him. Actually, someone who has the attitude I described above may not be saved at all. Only God and that person really know for sure.

Two Things I Do Know

Matthew 6:33 says to seek above everything else – God’s kingdom and His righteousness and Matthew 22:37 says that we are to love the Lord with ALL that is in us (“heart, soul, mind”, and Luke and Mark add “strength” as well).

God wants us to spend our lives and our energy loving and seeking Him. We cannot do that and be lazy and complacent at the same time.

Recap the 3 Things

  1. We can study God’s Word and know Him for ourselves by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. We must guard against distraction as we seek to know Him because distraction will definitely come.
  3. We must guard against laziness and complacency in our relationship.

Let’s Pray:

Lord, thank You for drawing us to You and allowing us to know You better and better. Please help us to seek You diligently. Help us to mature and be able to walk deeply with You. Help us to get past the infant stage in our Christian life. May we be vigilant when it comes to guarding our growth in You. Please make us what You want us to be and make us completely Yours. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Luke 10:25-28

Mark 12:28-31

 

 

 

Transformation

Transforming from One Thing into Another

Do you like caterpillars? I think they are very interesting but they are a little too similar to worms for me to really like them. However, caterpillars change into butterflies! I really appreciate their transformation because I love butterflies! It is definitely one of God’s fascinating miracles in nature!

Last time, we talked about vessels in a large house and how similar the purification of precious metal is to the sanctification of a Christian – verse 20, and today we focus on verse 21.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV) (Words in parentheses from ESV.)

In a large house there are articles (vessel) not only of gold and silver, but of wood and clay; some are for noble (honorable) purposes and some for ignoble (dishonorable). If a man cleanses himself from the latter (what is dishonorable), he will be an instrument (vessel) for noble (honorable) purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

God’s Cocoon

This verse reminds me a little of a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly.

We need to cleanse ourselves or throw off (wash out) the things that keep us crawling along on the ground and allow God to enclose us in His cocoon. If we will do this He will give us wings to fly.

Inside His cocoon, He teaches us what a sweet and wonderful place His presence is. Then, as we grow and want more and more of Him, He allows the cocoon to split in His good time. Next, He allows us to fly, on the wings that He gave us and with His power. The more we live in the sweet air of His presence the higher we will fly.

To Verse 21:

Throw It Off!

“If a man cleanses himself from the latter (what is dishonorable)…”

What is “the latter” indicating? Gold, silver, wood or clay? Wood and clay, right?

So wood and clay symbolize the ignoble or dishonorable vessels in this passage. Cleansing from the things that hold us as dishonorable vessels are things that keep us from growing and developing a close intimate relationship with God.

What kind of things can you think of now that keep you from growing closer to God? As I consider this question in my own life I can think of several things. I need to throw these things off like a wool coat on a hot summer day. I need to get them out of my life, permanently! And my precious friend, so do you.

Lord, please give us the strength to throw off what keeps us from You.

A close relationship with God is the sweetest most amazing thing we will ever experience. Nothing we can hold onto will ever compare to knowing and walking closely with Him.

Our Strong God

“…he will be made an intrument (vessel) for noble (honorable) purposes…”

It is so amazing! Once we throw off the junk then our strong God, Himself, makes us into honorable vessels.

This goes back to Matthew 6:33 – If I seek Him just to know Him and walk with Him, He will take care of the rest.

Holy

“… made holy…”

“Holy” is a word we hear a lot at church, in hymns, and in contemporary Christian music, but what does it mean? According to Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, “make holy” means “to set apart individuals or objects for special use by God”.

Useful Vessels

“…useful to the Master and prepared for any good work.”

This is where I want to be! How about you? Walking with Him and bringing Him glory in this life is our purpose. People are always looking for a purposeful life and meaningful things to do. If we seek God and do these things we have talked about today, we will have extremely purposeful and meaningful lives! Ultimately purposeful – serving the Most High – God Himself!

To Recap:

Our relationship with God determines our usefulness to Him. As we throw off the things that keep us away from a close relationship with Him, He transforms us into what He wants us to be! Then He can use us in His wonderful plan! Like a beautiful butterfly, flying with the wings God gives us!

Let’s Pray:

Thank You, Lord, for this beautiful passage! Thank You that You want to bring us closer to You and You want to use us for Your glory. Lord, thank You that You give us the strength to do what You want us to do. Help us to remember that without You we cannot do anything for You or Your glory. Please make us what You want us to be and help us to glorify You in all we do. Make us completely Yours. In Jesus holy name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Ephesians 5:20-24 

 

 

 

Useful Vessels

A Useful Vessel for God

Are you a useful vessel for God? My prayer is that we all be useful vessels for God. Let’s start our discussion today at the beginning of our Christian walk.

The Beginning

When you became a Christian, did you grow quickly and reach maturity? Not me. In my life, I have had times of growth and times when I felt I was almost backing up. I prayed to receive Jesus at age 6, but I really began getting serious about being a Christ follower at age 20. I do not think I had any real growth until then. Even after that, I had times when I was growing and times when I was dry and not growing.

Getting Serious

At age 20, when I got serious, is when I really realized that God’s purpose for saving us is not only to keep us out of hell and to let us into heaven. He saves us for His glory here on earth as well. Once He has saved us, He begins to sanctify us so that as we become more like Jesus. As we become more like Him, we will be more useful vessels, able to bring Him glory by our witness and our service to and for others in His name. So what does a useful vessel look like?

Our Passage:

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV) Words in parentheses are from the ESV

“In a large house there are many articles (vessels) not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some for noble purposes (honorable use) and some for ignoble (dishonorable). If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Today we will be focusing on verse 20 and we will pick up with verse 21 next time.

Vessels

Paul, the writer of both 1 & 2 Timothy, uses the analogy of pottery in a little different way than Jeremiah did, as he explains being made different so God can use us.

Vessels hold things, right? Glasses, bowls, plates, pitchers… In Bible times it would have ranged golden goblets to chamber pots (toilets of their day). All vessels have different uses – why? At least, partly because of the material they are made of.

To Verse 20:

“In a large house…”

The large house represents the house or family of God – the Body of Christ – Christ Followers.

“…there are articles (vessels) not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay…” 

Gold and silver represent purity and value in Scripture. The Bible even describes the purification process of these two metals and compares it to the sanctification process that God works in us to make us what He wants us to be. (Zech. 13:9, Mal. 3:3-4)

Refining

To refine gold and silver it is melted at extremely high temperatures. As the metal stays at these temperatures, the impurities will rise to the top and can be dipped off. As these metals are made purer, they are made more valuable.

Wood and clay cannot be purified in that way, right? They can only be cleaned on the outside.

“…some are for noble purposes (honorable use) and some are for ignoble (dishonorable).”

His Plans

It takes all kinds of vessels to get the work of a household done but which would you choose for which task? I doubt either of us would choose a gold vessel to be used as a chamber pot!

Next time, we will carry this idea farther. Pray today and ask God what kind of vessel you are now. Then, ask Him what kind He wants you to be. Seek His will above all else. His plans for us are so much higher than we tend to expect. We do not have to live in that “grow and back up” cycle. It is possible to have longterm stabilized spiritual growth. Isn’t that exciting!!

Let’s Pray:

Dear Lord, I thank You so much for bringing us together in Your Word again today. Thank You for this great passage. Please help us to seriously consider today’s passage and sincerely seek You for wisdom and clarity in what You want our response to You to be. Help us to love You more and more. Please make us what You want us to be. Make us completely Yours. Be glorified in all we do. In Jesus mighty and holy name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Philippians 2:12-13

 

 

To Him Be Glory

It Is Not All About Me?

Do you tend to forget that life is not about you? Do you also forget that church is not about you? I am guilty on both counts. We like to be comfortable and we like for things to go our way, right? For things to get uncomfortable or not go our way can be really frustrating.

I remember a good while back when I was having an exceptionally frustrating day and I said out loud to myself, “Why is nothing going right for me today?!?”

My next thought was, “What makes you think it is supposed to?”

Ouch! I do not think that was me. I think that was the Holy Spirit speaking in my heart. It really is not all about me and I needed to change my mindset.

Our Verse

Today is our last day in this wonderfully rich passage from Ephesians and we will be focusing on verse 21.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Distractions

It is the goal of the enemy to cause us to lose our focus or cause us to focus on the wrong thing so that God is not made known as He truly is.

In the last fear years, one of the catchphrases in Christian circles and Christian writing has been “It’s not about me.” The danger with catchphrases is that they tend to be heard so much that they lose their poignancy in our minds. May “It’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus!” ring in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives, and in our churches!

Let’s go to Verse 21:

“…to Him be glory in the church…”

Oh, may He be seen as He is – we do not have to pretty Him up – just let Him shine through – that His likeness may be seen in us.

“…and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Jesus came to reveal the glory of God on earth. So, may God be glorified – may people see an accurate picture of Him in us from now on! May God be in us and shining through us!

I just want to shout praises to God right now! What an awesome wonderful God He is! I praise Him that He can help us to keep our minds focused on Him.

Below is a reprinting the entire passage for you to read it again. Think about the last 6 entries plus this entry as you read through it. It is going to have so much more impact now. Think through it carefully as you read it.

Our Beautiful Passage

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.           

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Now, go out and have a wonderful day, knowing that God loves you dearly and is working in your life to make you more like His dear Son for His glory! How beautiful He is!

Let’s Pray:

Oh, Lord! I thank You so much for these wonderful and amazing verses from Ephesians. Please help us to glorify You in all we do. Help us to be what You want us to be. Please teach us to love You with our whole hearts and help us to grow closer to You every single day. Make us completely Yours. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Ephesians 2:1-10

God’s Great Love

Changed

We come to the end of this beautiful passage of Scripture tomorrow. When we really get a grasp on God’s great love for us, it will change us. How has this study changed you? 

Today we will focus on verse 20 then tomorrow, verse 21. I hope this passage has gotten into your heart and soul. These two verses are a fitting response to God’s great love for us! It ignites praise and worship in our hearts as we contemplate it, just as it obviously has in Paul’s heart in writing these verses.

Ephesians 3:20-21

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

How’s that for an ending? It occurs to me now that this or something similar should be the ending of every prayer I pray. As we go to God in prayer, we are acknowledging that He is who He is, in trusting Him with our needs and requests. So as we trust Him and let things go, we can rejoice in the fact that He is God and He can definitely take care of things. Here, Paul has prayed for believers and is now acknowledging God and praising Him for who He is and declaring what He deserves.

A Beautiful Package

Paul ties all of chapter 3 up into a beautiful elegantly wrapped package of life-changing power! Verses 20 and 21 point to the One who has all the glorious riches, the awesome power, the massive love that surpasses knowledge, and the fullness that cannot be contained, overflowing by design. Obviously, it speaks of God Himself.

Only by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God could so few words (verses 14-19) say so much! What an awesome God we serve! How can anyone not love Him? Once you get to know Him you just cannot help it, right?

Let’s go to Verse 20:

“Now to Him…”

Who? Our awesome beautiful God, of course!

“…who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine…”

Imagine

It is so easy to assume that God is limited to our thinking, but is it not exciting that He wants to give us what we cannot even imagine. He has so much more for us than we can even consider or hope for.

Ask

How much can you ask for? My list is pretty long. If you have kids, you probably have a living example of the “Ask List” that never ends. Of course, this particular “Ask List” is confined to all the goodness and glory of heaven, confined to the good and perfect will of Mighty God.

More than All

How much can you imagine? Just consider it.

Now think about those words before “ask or imagine” – “more than all”. More than all that I can ask or imagine? Really?

The Bible says that His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours that we cannot understand them. (Isaiah 55:8-9) I guess that “more than all” should not surprise me as I try to understand it. How about you?

God’s Great Love

Once again, He is beyond us – beyond our understanding. But, He is in us, surrounding us and consuming us with His beautiful amazing love. He shields us with His mighty hand (Exodus 33:22) so that we can see the glow of His phenomenal beauty, majesty, riches, holiness, power, love and so on, and so on… Wow! How do we even contain our excitement when we think of Him?!?

Back to Verse 20:

“…according to His power that is at work within us…”

His Power

Everything He is able to do is gauged by His level of power. His power cannot be measured by us. It is far past the limits of any kind of human measuring device! We cannot fathom it in any way other than imagination and that too is inadequate!

This power is at work within us as we seek Him and walk with Him. In all our imperfections, He draws us changes us and makes us what He wants us to be.

His Amazing Love

I am so thankful that He does not save us and then leave us alone. I am so thankful that in this brief life He wants us to know Him and have a close intimate relationship with Him. What an amazingly loving God we have!

Let’s Pray:

Lord, I am truly amazed at You, Your Love, and Your goodness. Thank You so much for Your Word! Thank You for inspiring Paul many, many years ago with this wonderful prayer for believers. Help us, Lord, to seek You passionately. Make us what You want us to be and help us to be completely Yours. Help us to love You with our whole hearts. Please be glorified in us as we live out our lives for You alone. In Jesus Mighty name. I pray. Amen.

Go Deeper Today:

Ephesians 3:1-21

Acts 9:1-19