Category: Ephesians (Page 1 of 16)

Lavish

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love to us. He doesn’t weigh it on the scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give us just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love! We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine! That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s just impossible – God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. God’s matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me!

God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or you’re forgiven of most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven if you do this one thing or keep these sets of rules or say this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness is total and complete and forever! In Jesus, every single one of your sins – all of ’em, name ’em! – are all gone forever. They are removed from you as far as the east is from the west. They are hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again. God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s forgiveness is lavish and complete.

Lavish love. Limitless grace. Inexhaustible forgiveness. Unmerited favor. Eternal glory. Our God is passionate about you and me. And he holds nothing back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m not writing anything here today about the Mavericks. I don’t want to jinx it.

Peace,

Allan

A Preaching Event

I am so grateful to my brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist Church for the way they love me and honor me and make Carrie-Anne and me feel right at home and an important part of their fellowship. Anthony Harris, the powerful pastor at this faithful church, invited me to preach in their pulpit yesterday and it was an absolute thrill! Anthony and I have become great friends and partners in the Gospel together over the past year or so. He is a tremendous encourager and a bearer of God’s image to me. And I was so humbled and, frankly, excited, to preach in their church. I’ve never preached in an African-American church before – it felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You can watch the whole church service on St. John’s Facebook page (the service begins at the 10:30 mark, the sermon starts at the 37:25 mark). But it won’t do justice to the energy and the love and the unity we all experienced together yesterday.

Delivering a sermon in a Black church really is a “preaching event.” And, I must admit, it took me a few minutes to adjust. There’s a timing and a groove, it’s a back and forth, there’s a call and response – the sermon truly is a congregational event. Everybody participates!

First, Anthony arranged for Stephanie Michaels to sing “Because He Lives” right before the sermon (at the 31:05 mark). Goodness gracious! The mighty force of her voice, the conviction in her heart, the compelling connection she makes with every person in the room – whoa! Anthony calls himself my friend, but he cursed me by making me follow her. As I made my way to the pulpit and waited for the piano to finish playing…

…the piano didn’t stop playing. I waited. And waited. I smiled. And then I realized Isaac was not going to stop playing the piano until I started speaking. He’ll fade out once I start speaking over him. And that’s the way it was for the next 30-minutes. I needed to stop after every other sentence as the church responded to what I was saying. I had to learn on the fly how to acknowledge the church as they clapped and shouted “Hallelujah!” while I was in the middle of a thought. I quickly discovered there is no such thing as a rhetorical question during a sermon in a Black church – the church answers out loud! I also realized that if I don’t get a handle on this, it’s going to be a 90-minute sermon!

My brothers and sisters at St. John Baptist come to church expecting to hear a word from the Lord. They’re geared up for it, anticipating it. God is going to speak through this servant in front of us and we want to listen to him and be moved. It’s not just a head thing at St John Baptist, the Sunday sermon is a heart thing, too. The sermon contains facts and truth, but it’s just as full of emotion and feeling. The congregation was preaching the sermon with me, finishing my sentences when I quoted Scripture, answering my questions when I dared to ask them, speculating out loud during open-ended paragraphs, discovering with me the points I was trying to make – I waited on them a couple of times and they slowed down when they got ahead of me a couple of times – exalting in them and praising God the whole time. And it was an absolute blast!

It was thrilling! Completely thrilling! And exhausting. I loved every minute of it, but I’m not sure I could do that Sunday after Sunday, week in and week out.

I am so grateful to my godly, big-picture, Kingdom-view elders here at Central for allowing me – no, encouraging me! – to preach in other churches like this. My shepherds know that anytime our churches can put aside our denominational differences, our racial differences, our puny little insignificant differences, and come together in the presence of God, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to do anything, it’s a big deal. It is so important that people see this and know that it’s happening and experience it for themselves. If we believe Ephesians 2, that Christ died on the cross to destroy the barriers that separate us from God and us from each other, we’d better be all about it. What happened at St. John Baptist yesterday matters. It was a Kingdom of God moment. And I want to be in on more of those kinds of moments.

Thank you to Anthony and Tonya and Isaac and Stephanie and Jasmine and Ed and Trina and all the glorious saints at that important church on 14th Street. I thank God for your faithful witness in our community and for your sacrificial service in the Kingdom of our Lord. I spent all day yesterday relishing the sweet fellowship and Christian unity we experienced together. And I’ll spend a lifetime in gratitude to God.

Peace,

Allan

Ultimate Forgiveness

Sin is the ultimate issue, and God deals with it ultimately and immediately. He takes care of your sin decisively and effectively. It’s not like getting rid of a virus by receiving a shot and taking some pills and hoping you get well in a few days. It’s not like getting rid of mice in the attic by setting up some traps and putting out some poison and hoping you eliminate most of the rodents by the end of the month. And it’s not like dealing with gangrene in your leg: We’re going to amputate, it’s really going to hurt, you’re going to have a severe limp the rest of your life, but, hey, the sin’s all gone!

No, God deals with your sin by forgiving it. And it’s gone.

“In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” ~Ephesians 1:7

When God through Christ forgives your sins, they are gone. They’re not a factor anymore. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions. In Isaiah 43, God says, “I’m the one. It’s me. I blot out your transgressions for my sake and remember your sins no more.”

“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression? You will have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” ~Micah 7:18-19

Your sins are forgiven by God through Christ and you are completely released from the burdens of guilt, shame, and fear. You are also released from any requirement to make some kind of restitution. We are notorious in the Church for forcing people to pay for their sins. And it’s done a lot of damage. We’ve made up rules about who can remarry and who can’t, who can be ordained as an elder or preacher and who can’t, who can serve as deacons or on committees and who can’t. We’ve told people what they can do or can’t do based on past sins that we proclaim have all been forgiven. And we’ve punished people who wouldn’t or couldn’t pay those prices. No! Jesus Christ is the only one who pays the price! Jesus Christ makes restitution for all the sins of humanity at the cross! Jesus has paid it all! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!

Your sins are forgiven. Completely. Ultimately. By God’s love and grace and by the blood of our Lord Jesus, you are saved. Completely. Ultimately.

Peace,

Allan

Lost

I’m publishing a series of posts here this week on Ruth chapter four: Lost, Redeemed, and Confident. I pray this short series will be a blessing to you.

In the opening verses of Ruth 4 we learn that Naomi has lost her land. We didn’t know this before, but now we do. Naomi has lost her land. It’s been mortgaged. The bank or somebody else owns her property. It appears that Naomi’s late husband sold the rights to the land before they moved to Moab. Naomi is a poor widow and has no way to repurchase the property herself but, under Israel’s law, she can transfer the obligation to her nearest relative and he can buy it back. He can redeem the property and place it back into the family’s possession.

The way this works is spelled out in Leviticus 25. The closest living relative can buy back any property that used to belong in the family but had been sold out of financial necessity. If it was the only way out of a bad economic situation, a person could sell the rights to his land, knowing that a near relative could always buy it back. That’s what is happening here. Naomi and her husband had gotten into some trouble during the famine and had made a terrible decision. They gave up their land.

They had probably been forced into it by the awful situation they were in. They probably felt like they didn’t have a choice. Whether they sold it on their own terms to get out of a jam or to help pay for their relocation to Moab, or whether it was taken from them against their will, the bottom line is that Naomi has lost her land. She gave it up.

Even though she is back in Bethlehem, she doesn’t really have a home. There’s no way for her family name to continue. In this context, it’s not just the property at stake, it’s Naomi’s name, it’s her honor, it’s her worth in the community. This is a terrible thing that’s happened. Her property has been mortgaged, her land has been lost, and she is powerless to buy it back.

I don’t know what you have lost. I don’t know in your life what has been taken away from you. I don’t know what terrible foolish choices you’ve made in the past or what maybe you’ve been forced into doing when you didn’t really have an option. But somewhere along the way, maybe you gave up your innocence. You gave up your righteousness. You gave up a relationship. You lost it. And you can’t get it back. Your good name. Your honor. Your worth in the community. Your place with your family or in God’s Church. You lost it. Maybe you feel like you’ve mortgaged your future. Maybe it was stolen from you. But you’ve lost any opportunity to be truly happy and whole and at peace. And maybe you feel powerless to get it back.

You need to be redeemed. That’s what Naomi and Ruth need. They need to be redeemed by a redeemer.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live… But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved!” ~Ephesians 2:1-5

Peace,

Allan

Your Location is Shifted

When we’re at the house and about to go somewhere together as a family, I’ll do the courteous thing and give my wife and daughters the little reminders. “Twenty minutes!” “Ten minutes!” It feels like courtesy to me, but they may not experience it that way. “Five minutes!” Then, when it’s time to go, I’ll announce loudly to everyone in the house, “I’m in the car!”

But I’m not in the car. I’m standing in the living room. I say “I’m in the car” when I’m not.

The girls will call me on it. “No, you’re not!” Occasionally, our youngest will shout, “Liar!” from her bedroom.

Is it a lie? What do I mean when I say, “I’m in the car” when I’m not?

I mean, “I am on my way to the car and nothing can possibly stop me.” It’s inevitable. It’s imminent. “I am going to the car and nothing will keep it from happening.” It is so absolutely certain, so undeniably guaranteed to happen, that I’m speaking like it already has. My being in the car is going to become a reality very soon, so I’m speaking and acting like it has already occurred. And, you’d better adapt yourself right now to that reality. Don’t wait.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” ~Colossians 3:1-4

Since you have been raised with Christ… what? Since you have been raised with Christ… everything has changed!

One of the main things that’s changed is your location. Just like with real estate, the key to your salvation is location, location, location. And your location has shifted. You’ve been moved. When you participated in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus — when God fully identified you with his Son — you weren’t just saved. You were transported to live on another plane. Christ Jesus has been raised from the dead to sit at the right hand of God in heavenly glory. And that’s where you are, too!

Your life is now hidden with Christ. It’s held or secured in Christ. It’s safe. You are in Christ and the fullness of Christ is in you. So your location is shifted. This same writer, Paul, said the same thing to the Christians in Ephesus.

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 4-6

The Bible doesn’t say God will raise us with Christ in the heavenly realms, it says he already has! It’s already happened! You’re already there!

Since you’ve been raised with him, and since he’s in the position of eternal authority at God’s right hand, you have total access to this glory, you have free admission into the presence of God. This is where you live now. Your location has shifted. Nothing can possibly prevent it from happening. And you should adapt to that reality right now.

Peace,

Allan

You Are Blessed By God

You are blessed by God. This is first and it’s foundational and it’s forever. You are blessed by God. This goes all the way back to the very first chapter of the Bible, the very beginning. The very day God created the first man and woman.

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them…” ~Genesis 1:27-28

God blessed them. The very first words God ever spoke to people at creation is blessing. Before God gives any command or any law, before he gives out jobs or guidelines for behavior, God gives his blessing. God’s blessing is not based on performance or on meeting some expectations. God’s blessings are based solely on the fact that you are created in his holy image, you bear his likeness, he made you and put himself into you. You belong to God and your are loved by God and God is very pleased with you because you are his child.

That is your identity. First and foremost and forever. That’s not just what you are, it’s who you are: blessed by God. And God speaks that blessing over and over and over to you, from that first day of creation glory to this very moment right now while you’re reading these words.

“This is what the Lord says — he who created you, he who formed you, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine… Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.'” ~Isaiah 43

“I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands!” ~Isaiah 49

Jesus says there’s not one little bird in the sky that goes down without the Father being aware of it. What about you? You’re worth more to God than all the little birds in the world! God knows the exact number of hairs on your head!

Jesus says you know how to give good gifts to your children, and you’re not even that good yourself. How much more does your Father in heaven give to his children! How much more grace does he have for those who belong to him!

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~ 1 John 3:1

Over and over and over again, every page of Holy Scripture reminds you of the blessing.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?… [Nothing} in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” ~Romans 8

You are blessed by God. And it’s not based on your performance. It’s not founded on what you do or how well you do it. God loves you because you are his child. God commits to you and publicly accepts you and approves of you because you are his child. You are blessed by God.

And that’s exactly where the devil attacks you.

Man, this is so important.

Ephesians 6 tells us to take our stand against the devil’s schemes. 1 Timothy 3 warns us not to fall into the devil’s trap. And we know what it is. The devil attacks the blessing. The devil wants to undermine your confidence in Christ, he wants you to doubt your identity as a beloved child of God, he wants you to lose your assurance — your certainty — as saved by Jesus Christ and sealed forever by God’s Holy Spirit.

I believe the devil wants to keep you from believing that Jesus really is the Son of God and the Savior of the World. Maybe Jesus was just a really wise and moral teacher. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really physically raised from the dead — those are just stories. Maybe there are other ways to get to heaven. I think the devil starts there. But his most subtle, most dangerous, and most effective attacks are on your blessing from God, your status as a beloved child who belongs to God.

If the devil can get your brain to believe that God loves you, but your heart to feel like God only loves you if you’re good enough — that’s his goal. If the devil can get your brain to believe that Christ’s death takes care of all your sins, but your heart to feel like that won’t cover the super big sins or the sins you can’t shake — that’s what he wants. If the devil can get your brain to accept that you are saved by God’s grace, but your heart to feel like you haven’t done enough…

The Bible calls the devil the tempter, and he certainly is that. But much more than that, the Bible calls the devil the accuser, the liar, the father of lies. Jesus says lying is the devil’s native tongue.

I’m convinced that most of the trouble in my world and in your world — whatever trouble you find in your heart and your soul, whatever’s not good inside you — is a result of knowing and believing in God’s love for you in your brain, and confessing his mercy and grace for you with your lips, but feeling something different in your heart.

All the research shows that when you ask Christians how they believe God thinks about them — “When God thinks about you, how does he feel? — more than two-thirds of Christians say “disappointed.” God is disappointed with me. Not “I belong to God.” Not “God loves me.” Not “God is well pleased with me.” We don’t feel what the Bible says about God and me, we feel what the devil says about God and me!

Brilliant, huh? And evil.

Peace,

Allan

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