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 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…”- Ephesians 2:4 

 

One of the greatest joys in life is discovering the greatness of God and how much he loves me. Through trials and difficulties God has been faithful to me time and again, and He has shown his love towards me by saving me from my worst circumstances. In the letter to the church at Ephesus Paul deals with several things but stresses the point of God’s love. Jesus in the letter to the same church in Revelation 2 chastised them for “leaving their first love”. Defining God’s love appropriately will help us to love people appropriately.

 

There are varying definitions of love today. Some would say that love is the partnership between people who care for each other immensely, others would say that love is a farce and that true love doesn’t actually exist. According to John, “God is Love”. If God is love, literally part of his makeup which cannot be separated from him, and God has always been, then love has always been. The greatest definition of love will not be found in a dictionary, but in a picture. We find the greatest picture of love given to us from Paul when he wrote, “…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus on the cross of Calvary, bleeding and dying to satisfy the debt of my soul, is the greatest image of love that has, or will ever be. If Jesus on Calvary is the starting point for defining love, then what does that say about how we love one another?

 

Jesus said that people will know his true disciples because they love one another. If we understand Christ’s love to be a pure, forgiving, eternal, sacrificial and unconditional love, then we know that our love towards people ought to look the same. More so than any place, people ought to be able to come to the church and find love. Because I am the church, then people ought to be able to see the love and compassion of Jesus flowing through my life.

 

My prayer for you today is that you redefine love in your life as the love that flows from Calvary and that you recognize your responsibility to love God first and then with the pure love of God, love people.  

 

 

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” – Romans 6:14

 

The term grace has been applied many different ways to many different circumstances, and has also been interpreted many different ways. We know the standard definition of God’s grace to be the “unmerited favor of God”, or in other words, that which you didn’t earn or deserve but was given to you anyway. Paul writes a letter to a man named Philemon in which he pleads the case for a runaway slave named Onesimus. Apparently, Onesimus had become slothful and unusable in the eyes of Philemon. But, when Onesimus tried to run from his problems, he ran straight into Paul, the aged, faithful servant of God who was awaiting his execution. It is here that Onesimus has a real encounter with the grace of God.

 

When Paul met Onesimus there is no doubt that he preached Jesus unto him and told him what he told his son in the faith Titus, “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lust, we should live soberly, righteously and Godly in this present age…” It was at this moment that things began to change for Onesimus, because not only had he met Paul, but Paul had introduced him to grace that took human form and then laid that life down so that I could have life. Onesimus is changed forever because of his encounter with grace that didn’t see him as unworthy, unlovable or unusable. According to Paul’s letter, God’s grace elevated Onesimus from slave to brother.

 

The greatest part of this story is what happens after Paul’s death. At some point after Timothy leaves Ephesus, the runaway slave that was to Philemon unworthy became the Bishop of Ephesus, one of the greatest New Testament churches. God’s grace transformed Onesimus from unworthy to worthy, from unusable to Pastor of an incredible church. God is looking for a Paul today that is willing to look beyond the outward appearance of people and see the redeeming work that God wants to do in them. He is also looking for an Onesimus that recognizes their need for a savior and is willing let go of their past in order to see God transform their lives and open doors of opportunity for them. Grace makes it possible for God redeem any person regardless of their past sins or mistakes.

 

 

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31

Several years ago, Angela and I went to Florida with her parents and rented a houseboat for the week on the St Johns River. It was nice but the people that rented the boat to us told us that if we wanted to experience the real beauty of it we needed to go to a particular inlet off of the river. As we passed from the murky river into this particular inlet we noticed that the water became crystal clear and cool. This was the site of a natural spring, the beauty of which was breath-taking. The time of year was August and the heat was almost unbearable but we could get into this water and really cool-off, it was a refreshing oasis from the heat of that August day.

The reality is that every child of God needs a refreshing that they can run to when the heat of life is turned up. The devil goes about to steal, kill, and destroy, and his duty is to turn as many people as possible away from God. The way that he does this is by throwing roadblocks in their way that are intended to steal their joy, peace, and faith. In Acts 3 and 4 you can see clearly the way in which the enemy uses the Jewish leaders to hinder the work of Peter and John. He attempts to strip from them their hope in Christ, but the devil underestimated these disciples of Jesus and their willingness to rejoice even in tribulation. When the work became too difficult to bear, Peter, John and the rest of the disciples turned their attention towards heaven and prayed. By doing this, they had yielded themselves completely to the will of the Father and were filled with the Holy Ghost. This was the refreshing that the disciples so badly needed during this trial of their faith.

 

The outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts 2 was amazing but by the time we get to Acts 3 the disciples needed a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. You also need the same refreshing because you also need the same boldness to proclaim the name of Jesus in your world. Not just on Sunday when the music is right, but more importantly in your prayer closet where you have yielded your life completely to the Father and can receive the very same outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit as the disciples in the Acts account. My prayer for you this week is that you will recognize that you can never accomplish God’s plan for your life within your own ability, you must rely on the power of Holy Spirit to help you.

 

 

 

 

“Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” - Acts 12:5

 

After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus things didn’t get easier for the church. God manifested his presence and Glory in incredible ways, but they still continued to face unbelievable persecution. Acts 12 tells us that James, who had been leading the church at Jerusalem was killed by Herod. This doesn’t seem to be a real positive time for the church, but to make things worse the attention is turned to Peter, the man that the church had looked to a spiritual elder and leader. Herod wants to kill Peter also but can’t until after Easter, therefore he puts him in prison, planning on keeping him there until his execution. As I consider the extremely difficult trial of faith that the church was facing at that moment I am amazed that they didn’t collapse, or splinter. When faced with such difficulty the church turned their attention to God and prayed.

 

The answer for troubling circumstances should always be the same for the child of God- to pray. There are plenty of self-help books that promise a quick alternative to lose weight, gain wealth, grow your self-esteem, etc… but there is only one way to receive from God. The Psalmist said, “O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” What the church needed most after watching James lose his life and Peter being imprisoned was an answer from Heaven. What I need most today is not another great book to read, not another fad diet, but I need most to hear from God. The sound of His voice brings healing, help, wholeness, and also power to overcome the circumstance I’m facing.

 

There is power in prayer to remove the filthy sin-stain that we’ve allowed the world to attach to us, to heal emotionally and physically, to encourage the oppressed, and to receive the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit that I so desperately need in my life. All of these and more come from allowing God to breathe life into me when I get alone with him in prayer. I hope that you would recognize the privilege of prayer and the access that you have to the chain-breaking God that removed the shackles from Peter and will also deliver you from the things that you’re facing today.

 

 

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you…- I Corinthians 11:23

 

 

Recently, while watching a game on television, I began to realize that the greatest strength that winners have over losers is their ability to unite efficiently. Unity is each one being able to understand their role within a team environment and then practice that role effectively. Families that stay together long-term understand very well that unity is key to building sustainable relationships. This means that no one member of the family can be unyielding, but each one has to be willing to put the needs of the family as a whole above their own. In fact, one of the primary reasons that a family breaks up is because at least one of the principal members has decided that they no longer like their role and decide that they’re going to either choose another role or not participate at all, both of which can be devastating. As I was preparing for the communion service this past Sunday I was reminded of the words of Paul in I Corinthians 11:23-28 that there is unity found in the broken body and shed blood of Jesus at Calvary.

 

As Jesus sat at the table in the upper room with his disciples, he took a loaf of bread and broke it, then he passed it around the table. The bread, which is the symbol of the body of Jesus is so significant in the fact that it was whole. There was one loaf that represented the body of Jesus of which each one would be able to partake of that one loaf, therefore partaking of the body of the Lord, and hence being unified together as one body of believers. As the bread is broken in pieces Jesus reminds them of what the Romans are going to do to his body within hours. Jesus allowed the men at that table to partake of this bread with him in order to show them that they have power through his body to overcome the disunity that the enemy is going to attempt to put them in.

 

One of the greatest tools of the enemy is disunity. If he can get husbands to stop trusting their wives, pastors to stop trusting the deacons, players to stop trusting their coaches, he can cause a major disruption in the life of any family, church or team. The key is remembering that there is only one body within which we have a function to carry out. But also, in allowing the precious blood of Jesus, within which I find cleansing and healing for any sickness or dysfunction that might have been allowed through disunity. There is hope for families that are struggling to find unity, there is power found in the body and blood of Jesus to correct every problem that they may be facing. My prayer for families today is that they recognize the importance of coming to the table of the Lord together and establishing their unity within the body and blood Jesus.

 

Bible Reading Plan

Today's Scripture: Hebrews 7-9

Verse of the Day

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

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