Saturday, January 28, 2017

Gifts...We All Have Them!





Carry on…in unity

The Sharing of Gifts

Pray that the body of Christ would be built up and unified




Read Ephesians 4:7-16

Paul continues with the theme of unity (see 4:3-6) by discussing the different gifts given to believers. While there is one body, Spirit, hope and Lord, each believer receives a different measure of grace. In the context, “grace” refers to spiritual gifts or ministry roles (see 3:2, 7-8).

In 4:8, Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 – a psalm celebrating God’s victory over His enemies (see Psalm 68:1-3, 11-14, 19-23) and the resulting victory procession (see Psalm 68:17-18, 24-27). He employs this psalm to illustrate Christ’s victory over sin and death (see also 1 Cor 15:54-57).

God gives each of us spiritual gifts, but He doesn’t give us these gifts for our own personal pleasure. His gifts are meant to be shared with others. Spiritual gifts are the means by which we serve others and build up the body of Christ.


Diving Deeper

Paul lists several gifts – types of God-given abilities, titles or church offices – in Ephesians 4:11. What is the purpose of these roles (see 4:12-14)? Make a list of your gifts and how you could use them for building up the body of Christ. Read Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-14, and compare these passages with Ephesians 4:7-16. How are these passages similar? How are they different? What does Paul focus on in Romans and Corinthians?



Paul stresses that these offices and/or gifts are intended to help believers grow in maturity – a theme he emphasizes in Ephesians 4:13-14. How does he characterize immaturity? Earlier he emphasized knowledge of the love of Christ (see 3:18-19). Here he stresses that knowledge of Christ Himself is a means to gaining maturity. How does knowing Christ bring maturity? What are some ways you have matured as you have grown in your relationship with Christ?




In concluding this section, Paul again draws on the description of believers as a body, with Christ as the head (4:15-16; compare 1:22-23). How does the body grow? How can you, as a “single part,” make sure you are working for the growth of the whole body?




God not only gives us a purpose, but He also give us the gifts we need to fulfill our purpose! God gives us gifts so we can give to others. Our spiritual gifts are never meant to draw attention to ourselves, either. Gifts are never a means for self-glorification. All gifts are from God and for other and God gets all the glory.


Write it out – While writing Ephesians 4:7-16 today, give thanks for the gifts God has given you.


Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for giving me specific gifts that I can use to build up others. Help me to grow in these gifts. Help me to understand how to share my gifts with others in fruitful ways. Forgive me when I’m tempted to draw attention to myself through my gifts. Help me to remember that all gifts come from You. All glory is Yours. Forever and ever. Amen.

May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17


Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!






.

Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Unity




Carry on…in unity

From Principles to Practices

Read Ephesians 4:1-6

Pray that God would help you live in a manner worthy of your calling.



In chapter 4 Paul’s letter shifts from principles to practices. Paul has discussed the truth of our unity in Christ – the Jews and Gentiles have become one body – and now he discusses the practical ways believers can walk in this spiritual unity. He then reminds the church of the specific gifts they’ve been given to nurture and protect the unity they share in Christ.

The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means “speech of defense.”  In the context of faith, apologetics is less about arguing and more about articulating. To engage in apologetics is to be inquisitive, not argumentative.

Apologists pursue a deeper knowledge of God by asking questions and studying Scripture. They’re modern-day Bereans (see Acts 17:11), and they’re being obedient to Peter’s command, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). With so much war and poverty and disease, the existence of hope seems to defy logic, so nonbelievers will oftentimes watch from a distance to see if this hope thing is for real. And when they’re ready, they’ll approach their believing friends to ask, How can you have hope in this world? Where does this hope come from? How did you find it? Can I know this same hope?

The reason for apologetics is to know and be able to articulate the reason for the hope we have in Christ. It doesn’t require a post-graduate degree, either. Peter was a trained fisherman, not an apologist. Yet he’s the one instruction every believer to be prepared to share their faith, but to do so with gentleness and respect. That’s my deepest heart’s desire. To live my faith in word and deed. With gentleness and respect. Always.

The second half of Ephesians begins with instructions as Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers to “live in a manner worthy” of their calling (4:1). He begins with the transition “therefore,” which means he is drawing on the ideas of the previous verses. The word therefore is significant because it tell us to carry on while keeping everything we’ve just read still in mind. He could be referring back to his prayer and the surpassing love of Christ (3:14-21), the inclusion of Gentiles among the people of God (2:11-22), or the changed state believers enjoy in Christ (2:1-10).

Paul was a supreme example of an apologist. He underscored everything he taught with a foundation of scriptural truth. The word worthy means “equal weight.” In other words, our conduct should match our calling. He goes on to list three virtues of Christ-like character: humility, gentleness, and patience, His peace binds us in unity.



Diving Deeper

Which of these do you think Paul had in mind? What does it mean to “live in manner worthy of the calling” (4:1)? How can each declaration encourage you to carry out this instruction?



What binds us in unity?



Paul goes on to list behaviors in 4:2 that believers should embrace. Make a list of these actions and attitudes. How do they compare to the behaviors valued by Western culture? Which of these characteristics do you particularly struggle with?


The behaviors Paul lists in 4:2 are designed to promote unity. Name specific ways these behaviors create unity. Note how often Paul repeats the word “one” to emphasize that we all share the same faith. How does this encourage you to display the characteristics from 4:2? How can you show more humility, gentleness, patience and love in your interactions with others?



Write it out – As you write Ephesians 4:1-6 today, ask God to grow a heart of gentleness in you, so that you will always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope you have.



Prayer: Thank You, God, for giving me the inspired Word I can study to learn more about You. Help me to understand the truths communicated in Your Word, and help me to live out these truths in my everyday life. Amen.



May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17



Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!







Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Boldness



Carry on…in Prayer
A Prayer for the Love of Christ
Pray that Christ’s Love Would Dwell in Your Heart

Prayer grows on us as we grow in prayer.

Paul prays for believers to grow into the fullness of spiritual maturity. He prays for an inner strength, a deeper faith, an abundant love, and the fullness of God in each believer’s life.

After Paul prays for an inner strength and a deeper faith, he then prays for an abundant love, the king that is rooted deep within our hearts. Such love is the hallmark of every believer. And all these things – an inner strength, a deeper faith, and an abundant love – will lead to a full maturity in Christ.




God’s mercy and grace are all the more magnified in light of His unimaginable power.

Read Ephesians and Reflect on Chapter 3:14-21

Paul picks up the thought that he began in 3:1, in this section. He prays that the Ephesian believers would be strengthened in their inner person. He prays that Christ will dwell in their hearts, and that they will be strong enough to grasp Christ’s immense love. The three members of the Godhead Paul mentions in this section are: God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In his prayer that Christ would dwell in the hearts of the Ephesians believers (3:17), Paul uses the Greek word katoikeo, which refers to settling down or permanently residing somewhere.

Paul wants the Ephesian believers to understand just how wide, long, high, and deep Christ’s love is (3:18). Yet if the love of Christ “surpasses knowledge” (3:19), how can we know it? The Greek work for “knowledge” (gnosis) often refers to knowledge gained through experience.

Paul says, in verse 20, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think…” or all the passages in Ephesians, this one is probably quoted the most. The New International Version translation says “more than all we ask or imagine.” God must be pretty amazing because I can dream up some pretty crazy stuff! But where did my imagination come from? It came from Him. He gives us our imagination. And He can do immensely more than anything we can ask or think or imagine.

Ephesians 3:30-21 are really the hinge between the first three chapters and the final three chapters. Before we move on to the more practical applications (in chapters 4-6) of the truths Paul has just taught (in chapters 1-3), Paul wants to remind his listeners that God’s mercy and grace are all the more magnified in light of His infinite power. And all glory is due Him

The same power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us. We must never forget that, which is why Paul repeats the same idea in 1:19 and 3:16.



Diving Deeper

What attributes does Paul ascribe to each member of the Godhead?



What does it mean to have Christ residing in you?



In what ways have you experienced to love of Christ? How do these experiences help you understand Christ’s love?





Paul concludes his prayer with a benediction that gives glory to God (3:20-21). How does he describe God in these verses?



In what ways do Paul’s words reassure you that God is able not only to do more that you ask, but also to do more than you can comprehend? Allow this assurance to influence your prayer life.



Who is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or thing or imagine?



Where is God’s power at work?




Write it out – When writing out Ephesians 3:14-21, consider each room in the house of your heart and invite Jesus to take up residence in every area of your life. Thank God for the blessing of our imagination and praise Him that He is infinitely greater and more powerful than anything we can ask or think or imagine.



Prayer: Thank You, God, for reminding me that You are greater than anything I could ever imagine on my own. With my finite mind, I know I can never fully grasp Your infinite power. Help me to grow in my trust in You. You are greater. Infinitely greater. And all glory is Yours. Amen.





May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17




Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

  





.

Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Humility and Boldness




Carry on…in trust

Humility and Boldness

No one can stand against the evidence of a changed life. A person’s living testimony of God’s deliverance and transformation cannot be dismissed. This is why our “But God” stories are so important. It’s His light shining within us that draws others to him.

Pray that God would give you boldness to proclaim His Word.




Read Ephesians 3:1-13

After describing his role as a steward of God’s grace, Paul emphasizes how unworthy he is of that calling claim to be the “least of all the saints” (3:8).
Elsewhere he calls himself “the least of the apostles, not worthy to be called and apostle” (1 Cor 15:9) and the foremost sinner (1 Tim 1:15). Why would Paul emphasize his unworthiness? What does God’s work through someone like Paul communicate about Christ’s redeeming power (compare 1 Cor 15:10)? Have you ever felt like God could use you to accomplish His purposes? Some of the most unlikely characters in the Bible were used in God’s plan (Exodus 4; Joshua 2; Ruth 1-4). Identify other verses or stories that affirm that God can use anyone.


Diving Deeper

If Paul considered himself the least of the saints and the foremost sinner, where did he get boldness to preach the gospel (see Eph 3:12; compare 2 Cor 3:4-6)? In light of his humility, what does Paul’s courage teach you?




Make a list of how you can be bolder in sharing your faith. Later in Ephesians, Paul asks for prayer that he would have boldness to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (see 6:9).



Do you pray for courage to proclaim God’s Word?




When you pray, how do you feel when you’re approaching God? Confident? Timid? Bold? Afraid?



Spend time in prayer asking God for both the heart and the confidence to speak to Him and His saving work.



Write it out – Ephesians 3:1-13

With each word or Ephesians 3:1-6 you write, pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are experiencing persecution for their faith this very hour. Pray for God’s steadfast peace to comfort them in ways that are beyond our understanding.


While writing Ephesians 3:7-13, ask God to grow your belief in Him, and to increase your trust that He is good in every season.


Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for not letting go of me in those moments when I’ve been tempted to let go of You. I don’t want to let any valley-low circumstance sway me from a rock-solid devotion to You. For You are god. And I want my trust in You to grown even more. Amen.


May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17






Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

  







Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

No More Walls

Carry on…as one

A New Temple



Any outsider can become an insider by grace through faith.



Before Christ died on the cross the Jews were God’s chosen people. They were the insiders. They knew things the Gentiles didn’t. They knew the right clothes to wear, the right foods to eat. They knew the rules for righteous living. But the greatest sign – the one thing that demonstrated the were insiders – was circumcision. It was the Jewish brand. To be called “uncircumcised” was a slur aimed at the Gentiles. And the only way an outsider, a Gentile, could become an insider was to become circumcised.

The old Jewish brand of circumcision was abolished at the cross. When Jesus died, total access to God the Father was granted through Christ’s blood. The great division between Jews and Gentiles no longer exists. Anyone who believes in Christ may now enter into God’s holy presence. Any outsider can become an insider by grace through faith.

When Jesus died, every wall lost it’s power to divide.

Read Ephesians 2:17-22

The Jews could boast of many things, but the temple was the pinnacle of Jewish pride, for this was God’s dwelling place, behind the veil in the Holy of Holies. The temple was no makeshift construction. It was designed with great detail; only the finest materials were used. Every year the Jews would travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and the temple was the central location.

The Gentiles, however, were not allowed to enter the Jewish temple beyond a certain point. This was a constant reminder to them of the literal status as outsiders.

When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil was torn, from top to bottom, and through Him all believers have access to God’s presence. But the Jews struggled to understand that God wanted to welcome the Gentiles into His presence. They were so convinced of their special status in God’s eyes that Paul needs to reiterate, again and again, that all believers are now one body in Christ. A separation between the two groups no longer exists. When Jesus died, every wall lost its power to divide.

God once dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem, but because of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross, the Holy Spirit now lives inside every believer. Our bodies are the new temple. And since we are His temple, our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ is paramount. The walls that divide us must come down. Petty disagreements over the “things” of this world cannot and must not come between us. Each of us must be an instrument for unity in Christ’s holy church.


Diving Deeper

Through whom do we have access to the Father?


Where does the Holy Spirit now dwell?


What does it mean that God abolished the division between the Jews and Gentiles? What does it say about God’s desire for unity in the body of Christ?



The church is likened to the metaphor of a building, where each person is a living stone and together we form the building. Christ is the chief cornerstone, in whom all things hold together. In your own life circumstances, when are you tempted to feel as though you’re the one who need to hold it all together? How can you release your cares into the hands of the One who really does hold all things together?



Write it out – Grab your journal or notebook and write out Ephesians 2:17-22, and with each word you write, ask God to show you a way you can be an instrument of unity in your local church.




Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for destroying the barriers that kept Your people apart. Thank you for seeing Your people as one. Forgive me when I’m tempted to put up walls of division between myself and others. Help me to see others as You see us all. Help me to be an instrument of unity in my local church body. Amen.


May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17




Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!








Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Work of Art




Carry on…with Purpose
In and Through



God first works in us so He can then work through us.

God takes our history and makes it His Story.




In Ephesians 2:10 Paul says we are God’s creation – or His workmanship, handiwork, or masterpiece, depending on which English Bible translation you read. In the original Greek we are His poiema – which means “work of art.” This is also where we get our English word for poem. We are His masterful poem. Each and every one of us. Our redemption becomes a display of God’s great kindness and love. As believers in Christ we become a living, walking art gallery of God’s abundant grace toward us. But we don’t become God’s “work of art” merely for the sake of looking good. God first works in us so He can then work through us.

Read Ephesians 2:4-10
If this overarching passage is a call to carry on with purpose, then why did talk about our before-and-after “But God” stories? Two reasons. One, our “But God” stories are examples of God’s great love for us. He, who is rich in mercy, has transformed us. He’s given us a new start. Two, our “But God” stories are a key element to the purpose He’s given us. The work He’s done in us becomes the work He’ll do through us for the sake of others. God takes our history and makes it His Story.

Someone needs to hear your story of God’s goodness displayed in your life. Someone in your life needs to know they’re not alone. They need to know that others have experienced something similar, and by God’s grace have make it through.

God has prepared good works for each of us. It might be in the place where we least expect it, or in the place where we feel we least deserve it. God actually prefers it this way, because then we have no choice but to give Him all the credit. Oftentimes our calling resides in the place where we are most dependent on Him.

Diving Deeper

What is God rich in?


Why does Paul make it clear that we are saved by grace through faith?


Do you ever struggle to see yourself as a work of art? What are the hurdles you face in believing that you are indeed, God’s masterpiece?


Every believer in Christ has been given a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is revealed in an instant. Sometimes it takes a period of time for that purpose to be revealed. Is God’s purpose for your life clear? Write out a prayer either giving Him thanks for making your purpose in life clear or asking him what your purpose in life might be.



Write it out – While writing Ephesians 2:4-10, let’s give God praise. He has given each of us a specific purpose that we might be a beautiful display of His great grace.



Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for paying the price of salvation. I can do nothing to earn it. When I struggle deep inside to see myself as a beautiful work of art, remind me that You fashioned med from Your good and perfect will. Please make know to me the path You have purposed for me, and help me to trust wholly in You. Amen.

May God give you the Spirit of wisdom & revelation so that you may know Him better. Have an awesome day in the Lord!! Ephesians 1:17

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!







Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Purpose



Carry on…with Purpose

Before and After



At some point in our lives we ask: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Paul makes clear the fact that God has called each of us to a divine purpose – divine because it’s from Him. Our purpose on this earth is to bring glory to the One who has made us and save us. But the way we bring Him glory will be unique to each of us. God uses our specific backgrounds, where we’re from and the family we’re raised in. He takes our experiences and our circumstances, and He customizes a distinct purpose for each of us.

Read Ephesians 2:1-3
Paul says we previously lived according to our fleshly desires. “But God.” Each one of us has a “But God” story and each story is different.

Let's look at three different "But God" stories in Scripture: Paul's, Peter's and John's. Click for video.

To experience genuine change, there must be takeover before there’s makeover. Invite God to takeover every area of your life – let the spiritual makeover begin.


Diving Deeper

In what way does Paul say we were once “dead”?


How does Paul describe the way we previously lived?



When our spirits are resurrected in Christ, our old life – with its destructive habits and sins – is buried, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never be tempted again. In what area of your life does sin still seem to hold a power over you? Invite God to take over this area, and perhaps seek the counsel of a trusted friend or pastor.


Sometimes we let our past sins loom over us with shame and guilt. But those sins have been forgiven in Jesus’ name! Does a part of your past still bring you shame? Ask God to take over in this area too. You’ve been forgiven.


Write it out – As we write out Ephesians 2:1-3, let’s give God thanks for burying or old way of life and for giving us a new life in Christ


Prayer: Thank You, God, for burying the old me and giving me new life. Thank You for setting me free from shame and guilt. Help me to share this amazing Good News with everyone I know. Help me to give You all the credit and glory for every change You’ve made in me. Amen.




Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!








Denise J. Hughes, “Word Writes: Ephesians”


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