Monday, November 30, 2015

Observation (Ephesians 5:3-4)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:3-4

I’ve asked similar questions before, but if someone who didn’t know you observed you for a day, would he know you were a follower of Christ? If he listened to your interactions at work, read your FaceBook posts, watched you converse with your friends, would he see someone who’s any different than someone who didn’t claim to be a Christian?

How often do you share the latest off-color joke? Are certain vulgarities (those words that would be “bleeped” from a live television show or on an airline movie) part of your regular vocabulary? Do you gossip? Or lie? Or pad the books?

Does your mouth, as James wrote,
“… bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (3:9-10).

Or would that observer see you spending time in God’s word. Praying. Helping others. Saying kind words. Edifying those around you.

I fear many of us wouldn’t stand up to that kind of scrutiny. I fear many of us have allowed the world to influence us rather than the other way around. I fear we love the world more than we love our Savior.

And “these things ought not to be so …”

Or as Jesus asked, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Act Like Your Father (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 5:1-2

Walk in love. A continual, deliberate action.

Love as Jesus loves, giving ourselves to others just as Jesus gave Himself for us.

And why?

Well, first, because we’re commanded to do so as God’s children. But there’s a better blessing for us when we love as Jesus does.

Our love for others is given as an offering to God. And sometimes it is a sacrifice. When we love as Jesus loves us, we offer a “fragrant aroma” to God. And He is well-pleased.

When we love, we “are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing …” (2 Corinthians 2:15). Others look at us and see how God’s love flows through us. A love that is kind and patient and forbearing. A love that doesn’t hold grudges and isn’t jealous. (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.)

How many people might be attracted to Jesus because they see a sacrificial, other-serving love in us? Instead of judgment, they see mercy. Instead of anger, they see peace. Instead of hate, they see love.

As I wrote Wednesday, it could change the world.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m taking a brief break from Ephesians to wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I pray you have a lovely day with friends and family. I encourage you to take a few moments throughout the day to thank the Lord for His superabundant blessings.

Know that I’m thankful for each of you who takes time to read these weekday thoughts.

Be blessed!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Different World (Ephesians 4:32)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:32

Think of how different our world would be if we were all kind to one another. If we forgave each other as we have been forgiven.

No anger or bitterness. No grudges or desire for revenge.

No jealousy or coveting.

No putting others down.
Just a world full of people showing love. Looking out for each other. Treating each other with respect. Providing for those less fortunate.

All of us would “regard one another as more important than [ourselves]” (Philippians 2:3). We’d love our neighbors more than we love ourselves (Mark 12:30). We’d even be willing to lay down our lives for others (John 15:13).

Oh, what a world it would be.

Maybe we can’t change the entire world, but what about our own small circles of influence. What if each of us chose to be kind to those around us? If we were tender-hearted? If we forgave those closest to us?

It would be pretty amazing. So let’s try it. Let’s determine to accept Paul’s challenge and change—if not the whole world—our own “worlds.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Justifiable" Anger (Ephesians 4:31)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:31

Bitterness and wrath and anger … These are destructive. They can tear apart families. They can annihilate friendships. They can kill the soul.

And so often they start “justifiably.”

Someone hurts us or someone we love. We have the “right” to be angry. And perhaps we do. We should be angry at injustice or blatant sin.

However, we have to be very, very careful to not let righteous anger grow to a bitterness that flames out of control.

I speak from experience. I was “justifiably” angry at the men who abused me. Between the ages of nine and sixteen, I was abused by three men … and I was angry. But instead of dealing with the pain, instead of offering forgiveness—whether they asked for it or not—I allowed the anger to grow from a tiny flame to a forest fire in my heart and soul. It burned away peace and joy and contentment.

And that bitterness and wrath and anger pulled me away from faith. From my Father.

There’s a saying: “Anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

If your heart is full of anger—righteous or not—I encourage you to do two things: First, forgive whomever has hurt you. It won’t be easy, but you can do it if you do the second: Give all your bitterness and wrath and anger to the Lord. Ask Him to help you forgive. Ask Him to fill your heart with love instead of anger. Peace instead of bitterness. Joy instead of wrath.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:30

On Friday, we looked at how we should avoid “unwholesome” words. When we don’t, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

What does it mean to “grieve the Holy Spirit”? To grieve is to “cause to suffer.” Can you imagine it? Causing the Holy Spirit—part of the triune God—to suffer? As Paul often wrote, may it never be!

What is the result of our grieving the Spirit? I researched this concept, and the Adam Clarke Commentary says, when we “give to sin,” we grieve the Spirit so He “shall withdraw both [His] light and presence …” The Matthew Henry Concise Commentary exhorts, “
Provoke not the holy, blessed Spirit of God to withdraw his presence and his gracious influences.”

Oh my … This puts my using “unwholesome” words—or sinning at all—in a new perspective. I need the Spirit’s affirmation and conviction daily. And to think that my sin might cause Him to withdraw His influence?

That causes me to grieve.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Words ... (Ephesians 4:29)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:29

Oh, I remember when the English language was rich and diverse. I’ve been a lover of the written word for as long as I can remember. I love to read. I love to write. I have even taught English at the college level for over 16 years. Yet now, it seems like people’s vocabulary is very limited.

Words that just a generation ago were considered vulgarities are part of our lexicon. One particular “former” vulgarity seems to be used as a noun, verb, adverb, and adjective. Yes, we have a new vocabulary in our culture. But that really doesn’t make it wholesome—or “sound in body, mind, or morals.”

And with the proliferation of ways to interact (internet, social networks, texts), we’re seeing and hearing things we never have before. But that doesn’t really mean it’s edifying—or “instruct[ing] or improv[ing] especially in moral or religious knowledge.”

Are the words we use true and just and honorable? (See Philippians 4:8.) Do they honor our Lord? Do they build up others?

Think about the words you use. Are they wholesome and sound? Will they instruct others’ moral knowledge?

Think about it. And then say it well.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sin No Longer (Ephesians 4:28)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:28

Today’s verse deals specifically with stealing, but I think we can replace “steal” with any habitual sin.

Whatever it is you deal with, whatever sin you struggle with, you “must [fill in the blank] no longer.”

We are, after all, “new creatures” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We should be “transformed” every day (Romans 12:2).

We need to do “what is good,” focusing on what is true and noble and just and pure and excellent (see Philippians 4:8). We need love our neighbors as Christ loves them—and He said, “
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).

And if we do, we’ll want to serve others, sharing with them what God has blessed us with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Anger Without Sin (Ephesians 4:25-27)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:25-27

Speak truth. With everyone. This isn’t always an easy command to obey. Especially in our world where many say there is no real truth.

But if we serve the God of the Bible, we serve Truth, so we really have no choice. If we want to honor Him, if we want to serve each other, we must speak truth.

Be angry, and yet do not sin. Elsewhere, we’re told that wrath is a work of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), so how do we reconcile Paul’s words? I think the first is habitual. It’s living in daily, unrelenting anger. In today’s verses, however, there’s an understanding that we may get angry, but we need to seek resolution before the sun goes down.

If we allow anger to take residence in our hearts, we really do give the “devil an opportunity.” I know this from experience. I held on to anger and bitterness after years of abuse. And that anger took me on a very long journey away from faith.

Do you struggle with anger? Has it taken residence in your heart? Ask the Lord to help you deal with it. Ask Him for love and peace to overcome the anger and hate.

Don’t give the devil an opportunity.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Daily Surrender (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:20-24

When we committed our lives to Jesus, when we accepted His gift of salvation through the shedding of His blood, His death, and His resurrection, we became new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our sins were removed from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

The Father saw us—and sees us—as clean and pure (Psalm 51:7).

But we live in a daily battle against the enemy of our souls. And even though he knows he lost the war with us, as long as he can keep us distracted from serving God and impacting others for God’s kingdom, he can win a battle or two.

So we must be on alert against his wiles and lies (1 Peter 5:8-9). We must—daily—“lay aside the old self” and take up the cross of serving God. We must—daily—“put on the new self” by renewing our minds, by surrendering everything to God.

When you wake each morning, ask God to give you strength for that day. Surrender anew yourself to Him. Seek His will. And commit to live that day to glorify Him.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Different Walk (Ephesians 4:17-19)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:17-19

Read any newspaper or listen to the news, watch the latest movie, or do some internet surfing, and you immediately see a world “excluded from the life of God.” Everyone living according to his or her own rules. No truth. No absolutes.

Futile minds. Dark understanding. Hard hearts. Calloused spirits. Devoted to sensuality. Practicing impurities. Greedy.

Makes you think the enemy is winning … and yes, he’s winning a battle or two. And those of us who follow Christ must be ready for each day’s battle.

We need to put on our defensive armor every single day (Ephesians 6:10-17). We'll be talking about these verses in a week or two, but we must be prepared for the battle ahead of us each and every day. We must take up the one offensive weapon in our arsenal: the sword of the Spirit, which is the very word of God. We must study and meditate on and memorize God’s word to us.

So when the enemy comes and tries to attack us with all those enticements of the world, we can withstand. We can stand firm.

And we can shine the light of Jesus. We can have strong minds. True understanding. Loving hearts. Willing spirits. We can be devoted to loving God and others. Practice the fruit of the spirit. Be generous.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tossed and Carried Away ... (Ephesians 4:14-16)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:14-16

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but it seems like the Christian community is full of “children.” So many people who call themselves Christ-followers have bought into the “pick and choose” philosophy this world offers.

I’m a Christian, they say, but I like this from Hinduism or that from Buddhism. I like the “new age” idea of being my own god. I mean, I still believe in the God of the Bible, but it feels good to think I’m in control. And of course, the Bible probably isn’t really “inerrant.” It’s just some guidelines. But I am a Christian.

So many are “tossed … and carried away by every wind of doctrine.” So many don’t even know what they’re supposed to believe because they haven’t been taught what the Bible says.


So instead of “grow[ing] up in all aspects into” Christ, so many stay unhealthily childish. They don’t work together with other believers to build the body of Christ. They don’t speak truth because they don’t know the truth.

Tragic indeed.

I pray—daily—for a revival in the hearts of those who follow Christ. A revival to really study God’s word and hold it in their hearts. A revival to embrace truth. A revival to go and make disciples, “teaching them to observe all [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Your Wonderful Gift (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:11-13

Each of us is gifted by God to serve Him in a way only we can. And when you stop to think about it, God’s gifts in us are gifts to us.

God doesn’t need us to do His work. He is more than able to reach people and care for them without us. In fact, I’m sure there are times when we hamper His work.

Yet He loves us so much, He allows us to join Him in His kingdom work. He uses us to serve others, and He gives us the privilege of seeing how that service impacts them.

What an amazingly wonderful gift!

So some of us evangelize. Some of us preach. Some of us teach. And all of us equip the saints and build the body of Christ. And though there may be thousands of preachers, God uses each uniquely. And though there may be thousands of teachers, God speaks through each differently.

I regularly speak to women’s groups, and I’m far from the best speaker around … yet, when I speak, God uses me in a way He doesn’t use anyone else. He gives me a unique style, unique ways of using words. And He touches lives in a unique way—through me.

How has God gifted you? Do you know? If you don’t, talk to someone you trust, who knows you well, and ask them what they think. Find a gift assessment tool. And when you find out how God has uniquely gifted you, join Him in His kingdom-building plan.

And thank Him for allowing you to be a part of that plan.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Our Lord and Savior (Ephesians 4:8-10)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:8-10

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, came to earth in human form. He grew up, experiencing the same things we did … happiness and sorrow, hunger and a full belly, fatigue and rest.

Through His teen years and twenties, He learned and plied the trade of His earthly father, constructing … well, we’re not exactly told what, but likely tables and shelves and bedsteads. He may have smashed a thumb or two with a hammer or felt the pain of sore muscles.

At thirty-three, He began His earthly ministry, and at the very first, experienced temptation by the lies of the enemy. He went on to heal lepers and blind men, cast out demons, and raise the dead to life. He grew intimate relationships with twelve chosen followers.

He taught love and warned of persecution. He claimed oneness with the Father, the Creator of all. He forgave sins.

Finally, He was betrayed by a close friend, denied by an even closer friend, and forced through a sham trial. Beaten. Ridiculed. Spat on.

Crucified. Buried. “… descended into the lower parts of the earth …”

Ah, but then He rose from the dead. Alive!

After spending time with His followers—some 500 of them—He ascended to the right hand of the Father. Where He sits today. Alive and interceding for us.

And one day, He will return. He will gather all His followers to Himself. One day, He will set up an earthly kingdom, a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1), where “…
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

Praise our Lord Jesus today for what He’s done and for whom He is.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

No Other Way (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:4-6

Today's devotional is short ... but not many words are needed to talk about this particular truth: There is one God. There is one faith.


Many people would tell you that there are many ways to salvation. That it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. That as long as your good outweighs bad, you’re set.

Even many who call themselves Christian say the same. They even say Jesus never claimed to be the only way of salvation.

Now you can certainly choose to believe what you will, but if you believe in the God of the Bible, you’re not given any other option but one:  “
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me …’” (John 14:6).

No other way. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

A Worthy Walk (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 4:1-3

We are unworthy of any grace or mercy, yet God sees us as worthy. We are sinful by nature, yet when we accept the gift of salvation, our sins are washed away.

So how do we—in even the smallest way—honor God and show Him gratitude for that gift?

By learning to “walk in a manner worthy of [God’s] calling.”

And how do we do that?

Paul lays it out well: We need to be humble, gentle, patient, and tolerant in love, and we need to preserve unity in peace.

Pretty tall order, isn’t it?

I’m pretty sure I can be gentle … and I’m pretty tolerant in love, accepting people as they are. And sometimes that does mean “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I seek peace in all interactions.

But patience? I’ve been working on that one for ages—or should I say the Spirit has been working in me. I still tend to want what I want when I want it. I am getting better at this, though, the older I get. I recognize how God has worked in the past, and His timing is usually not my timing.

And humility? This is another area in which I need help. I’m learning to put others ahead of myself (Philippians 2:3-4).

It’s not easy, but it’s part of the journey. And—praise God!—my walk is an ongoing, continuous action, and I’ll continue growing and learning until I meet my Lord face-to-face.

So how’s your walk? Are you struggling with any of these? Pray that the Spirit will work in you and through you, so you will be worthy of God’s calling.

Friday, November 06, 2015

To Him Be the Glory (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 3:20-21

Our God—Father, Son, and Spirit—deserves all glory, all honor, all worship, and all praise.

He is all-mighty, all-knowing, all-loving. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is Savior and Redeemer.

He is wise and just, righteous and holy. He is counselor and friend, ever-present and constant.

He is the Alpha and Omega. He has always been and will always be.

He is our strength, our refuge, our stronghold. He heals, protects, and provides.

He is our Shepherd, and He carries us when we’re weak.

He is the giver of peace and joy.

He is our guide and the lifter of our heads.

He works all things for good, and His plan is perfect.

He is everything we could ever want or ever need.

And one day, we’ll be able to stand in His very presence and worship Him eternally.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

My Prayer for You (Ephesians 3:13-19)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 3:13-19

This is my prayer for my family and friends today.

I pray, as Paul did, that each of you might be “strengthened with power through His spirit.” We live in difficult, turbulent times. So many of those I love are struggling with health issues. They’re valiantly searching for jobs, wondering how they’ll pay next month’s bills. They’re grieving over the loss of loved ones. And so I pray for a supernatural strength that comes only from our Lord.

I pray that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Faith is the foundation of our relationships with God—Father, Son, and Spirit. It is the “handle on what we can’t see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith comes from having complete trust in God, knowing He is working all things for His glory and our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

I pray that you will truly, deeply know God’s love, the love that “surpasses knowledge.” A love that is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3). A love that will never forsake (Hebrews 13:5). A love that was willing to sacrifice God’s only Son for us (John 3:16).

Those of us who know God are blessed, just by being His children. And yet He gives us so much more. No matter what is happening in this world and in our lives, God is in loving control. He will strengthen us with a love that is beyond comprehension.

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Bold and Confident (Ephesians 3:11-12)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 3:11-12

How bold is your faith? How confident are you in God’s eternal purpose?

I would like to be able to say I’m as bold as Paul, as confident as Peter. Or as my maternal grandfather.

My Grandpa Hess was bold in his faith. He never failed to tell others about his love for his Savior. He was, along with Paul, “
not ashamed of the gospel” because he knew it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

He always believed God had a purpose for his life, and he lived to fulfill that purpose.

This is my legacy. Yet how often do I fail to share the good news of salvation. How often do I lack confidence in God’s eternal purpose.

If you’ve been reading this devotional for a while, you know I deal with chronic health issues, and there are days when I still ask, “Why?” While I don’t lose faith in God, I certainly question His purpose in my pain.

I allow my momentary, temporary pain cloud my vision of God’s faithfulness to me. I fail to remember that “… the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

I certainly don’t remain bold and confident.

When these days come my way, I confess my doubt and questioning, and my Lord God forgives me … yet again.

So … today’s a new day, and I pray for a renewed boldness in faith and a fresh confidence in God’s eternal purpose, trusting His higher-than-mine ways (Isaiah 55:9).

I pray the same for you.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Manifold Wisdom (Ephesians 3:8-10)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 3:8-10

Our God wants to grant us wisdom. Psalm 51:6 tells us:

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
Wisdom allows us to know more of God and His desires for us, and how do we gain wisdom? It begins with a reverent awe of our Lord God:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. (Psalm 111:10)
When you seek wisdom, God will give you understanding of Him and His will.

Wisdom is a gift, and when we read God’s word and meditate on its truths, we will know Him. As a wise man wrote:

Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:5-7)

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Mystery (Ephesians 3:1-7)

Today's scripture: Ephesians 3:1-7

Anyone can receive the “gift of God’s grace.” Anyone. God doesn’t look at gender, race, cultural background or socio-economic status. He doesn’t care if you’re nine or ninety. He doesn’t restrict you because you’ve done shameful things.

All He wants is a repentant heart, a surrendered life.

Anyone who believes in God and accepts salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—God the Son—will be saved (Acts 2:21). Jesus is the Giver of eternal life (John 3:16; 10:8-10).

You don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to hope your good outweighs your bad. You don’t have to wonder if what you did in a past life has brought you one step closer to heaven.

You just have to believe and receive.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so very grateful that God loves each and every one of us. I’m grateful that He had a plan for my salvation—a Gentile, middle-class American woman. He has the same plan for each one of us. What a good God He is!