“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.” (Acts 1:1-2)
Some of you reading this devo spent this past weekend walking through the last 14 hours of Christ’s life before the cross at the Planet Wisdom Tour with Mark Matlock, Dawson McAllister, The Skit Guys, and Dutton. We hope it was both fun and meaningful.
We thought we’d pick up the story of Jesus about 40 days after He rose from the dead. The resurrection must have been the high point of the disciples’ lives (and ours, come to think of it). But as Jesus got ready to leave them, they were also thinking, “Now what?”
Luke describes those days to us in just a few verses, picking up from where he left off in the book of Luke. We’re going to listen closely for a few days to what Jesus said to the disciples before His exit to try to hear what He might also be saying to us about what we should do with our own lives from here on out.
Think: In as few words as possible, what would you say is your big “P” purpose in life — or your top two or three, anyway?
Pray: Ask God to help you to understand how the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection should change the way you live your own life now and in the future.
Do: Read Luke 24 to catch up to what happened from Jesus’ resurrection to this moment in the story.
With the internet being so accessible and hi-speed, viewing of porn has increased dramatically. No longer do you have to go out to your local ‘convenience’ store (ironic isn’t it?) to pick up a magazine and pay for it at the counter, risking embarrassment. You also don’t have to stumble across your parents private stash [...]
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
Today’s verses are the story of how a person comes to be in the family of God. And how you can know for sure that you’re still in God’s family.
Remember from the 12 verses before this: God did all the work. He made the plan to adopt you (because He wanted to and because it made Him happy). He executed the plan by sending His Son to be executed in your place, for your sin. Then He published the good news that you were welcome through faith in Jesus.
Then A) you heard the truth and B) you believed and C) you were given the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that your place in God’s family is secure (even though you’re not home, yet).
Of course, there is no C) without B). That is, there is no place for anyone in the family of God who has not trusted in Jesus for their salvation.
Think: Have you believed the “word of truth, the gospel of your salvation”? How have your expressed your faith in Jesus? Are you convinced that God is strong enough to forgive and to guarantee you a place in His family?
Pray: As a Christian, thank God for including you in Christ when you heard and believed. Thank Him for marking you with the seal of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of your place in His family.
Do: Read the rest of Ephesians 1 (or the whole book) to see how Paul builds on these huge ideas.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12)
I realize not every Christian agrees, exactly, about all of the implications of God’s predestination and election of His children. And some people really seem to enjoy debating the issues surrounding human free will and God’s control over everything in the universe. We’re not going to crack that nut here.
Having said that, we have heard this week about how much God wanted us — making plans ahead of time to include us in His family because He wanted to and it made Him happy — and about all the grace and knowledge He has lavished on us as His children. That makes it miles easier for me to trust Him however He chooses to work in the world.
I believe God can do whatever God wants to do, and I want Him to do that. I may never get all of my questions about freewill and predestination answered before I get to heaven, but I trust my Father’s heart. How could I not after everything He has done for me?
Think: Are you able to trust God’s character and love for you even when it’s hard to understand exactly how He works in the world? Why or why not?
Pray: Thank God that He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.
Do: If you have questions about human free will and predestination, ask your parent, pastor, or youth leader what their perspective is.
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-10)
Again today we hear more about God’s pleasure, His delight, what makes Him happy. Part of the reason He is not a reluctant Father is because including us in His family — adopting us as His kids — is for His pleasure. It makes Him happy.
But in today’s verse, His pleasure (or desire or intention) seems to have motivated Him to include us in the “mystery” of Christ and/or to bring to pass His long-hidden plan to rescue us, to forgive our sins through the blood of Jesus, to redeem us as His own children — and eventually to restore peace and order on the earth under Jesus’ rule.
He wants us to understand what’s going on because He loves us, because He seems to be excited about it, because He has engineered the day when everything will finally be as it should. And then we will be with Him forever.
Think: Why do you think it’s easier for people to think of God as having strong negative emotions instead of strong positive ones? Do you usually think of God as an emotional being? Why or why not?
Pray: Thank God for making known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure. And thank Him, too, that all of His plans will succeed at exactly the right time.
Do: Think about a few of the things that please you most. Then make a quick list of the things Ephesians 1 has shown us that please God.
[ February 19, 2010; ] February Focus on Discrimination & Human Rights
We sat in the park, it was a wonderfully sunny day. My friend and I had ventured in to the heart of the city, and as we got coffee we decided to sit in the park, soak up the sunshine, share the journey of the day and talk away [...]
“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 with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
We continue listening this week to Paul tell us that our God is no reluctant Father — He really wants us — and we trip over the word “lavished.” It’s not a word we’re used to hearing in the Bible. (A quick search of BibleGateway.com brings it up six times in the NIV.)
We usually think of lavish as either “luxurious” (lots of gold, leather, intricate stitching, etc.) or as a way of heaping an obnoxious amount of good stuff on someone (as grandparents, rich boyfriends, and sports team owners do). In other words, we think of lavishing as being excessively generous to the object of your affection.
Exactly. That’s exactly what God has done for us — like a doting first-time dad filling up the baby’s room with giant stuffed animals and video gaming systems and a baseball glove — more cool stuff than a baby would know what to do with, yet.
God has lavished on us (because of our redemption in Christ) the riches of His grace, along with His wisdom and understanding. We don’t know what to do with it all, yet, but we know He’s given us way beyond what we need. We’ll never lack for any good thing that really matters with Him as our Dad.
Think: Do you usually think of God as a Father who has lavished you with good gifts because He’s so excited to have you in His family? Why or why not?
Pray: As a Christian, thank God that because of Christ’s blood, He has redeemed you, forgiven your sins, and lavished on you the riches of His grace with all wisdom and understanding.
Do: Think about memorizing 1 John 3:1: “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!” (Be sure to memorize the exclamation points, too.)
*See video journal 2 and 3 here
In May 2007 (and again in 2008), an adventurous crew of SendTheFire friends from Ontario Great Lakes area packed up their gear and went to Petit-Goave, Haiti. They made video journals for us to ‘ride along’ with them on the adventure. This video and links above are to these [...]
Please pray for Eric M.
I up hold to Eric M. I ask you to please watch over and protect him….
Abba Father, help in any area where he does need help…
Heavenly Father, please meet Eric’s needs…
Please reveal your mercy, love, and forgiveness…
open his eyes to the truth that can and will set him free.
“In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Here’s a weird thing to think about: In the story of God’s rescuing you from your sin and your future in hell were made into a movie, how would you imagine your character? Would you be the damsel in distress — or her obnoxious friend that gets rescued just because the hero came for the other girl?
You know what I mean. It’s a standard action movie plot. The hero risks everything to save the woman he loves, but that means he’s obligated to try to save whoever is with her at the time. He wouldn’t have made the effort just for them, but he can’t in good conscience leave them behind.
I think sometimes we think of ourselves as the lucky supporting character in the story of God’s great love for . . . other people. “Well, I guess I’d better save you, too. Just to be fair. Even though you’re annoying.”
That’s ugly wrong. God made the plan to adopt us — you — in love and “in accordance with his pleasure and will” — because it made Him happy and He wanted us. God is no reluctant Father. Ever.
Think: How do you think of yourself as fitting into God’s story of love and grace? Why would we ever discount God’s love for ourselves or others?
Pray: Thank God that He made a plan to adopt you into His family because He loves you, because He wanted to, and because it made Him happy.
Do: In whatever stories you read or watch this week, think about why the hero risks him- or herself to help others. Compare that to why God rescued us through Jesus.