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Once separated

Ephesians 2:11-12 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

We all have a story to tell and in every one of our stories there is a part where we were separated from God. The one thing that can ever separate us from Him is sin and since we’ve all sinned (Romans 3:23), we can all be guaranteed a time of isolation from the Lord.

That time of being apart from Him, when we weren’t His but the world’s, we were captive to our own sinful natures and without hope. God loves us too much to leave us in our sin and that’s why He sent a Rescuer, a Savior to reconcile us with himself. Even while we were dead in our sin, God did this for us. He chose to save us when we had no hope. He could have left us to our own devices, but He didn’t.

As we think back on our stories, it’s important not to forget the time we spent apart from God. It causes us to more fully appreciate what it’s like on the other side, as His children who have been adopted into His own family. It also helps us to appreciate that there are still lost people out there who have yet to hear the good news that a Rescuer was sent for them. It causes us to take action for their sake.

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To Lose Is To Gain

Philippians 3:8-9 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”

Some times we lose sight of the grace of Jesus Christ. We think that we can add things to our salvation or we feel the need to do things to ensure our salvation. We may feel that we’re not “Christian” enough or someone is more “Christian” than we are. Sometimes we get hung up on our achievements or lack there of. I know for myself, I find myself getting stuck on my past achievements, wishing that I had the zeal and energy that I had when I was younger.

No matter where we come from or what we do, our faith in Jesus Christ alone is enough. We’ll never be good enough on our own and we don’t have to be. It’s not through good works that we have been made righteous, but through our total surrender to Christ. The truth is, the more we know Christ and the further we follow Him, the more we will let go of our own understanding. We will see our little self-righteous “kingdoms” that we’ve built topple to the ground, so that we might gain Christ and be found in Him. For some of us it will be painful, but it’s one of the times where to lose truly is to gain.

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We are His workmanship

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Each and every one of us is special because God created everyone differently. In each of us He put a unique personality, specific traits, and He even gave us each a purpose of our own.

Ultimately, we’re all on the same mission, working towards the same goal, to life up Jesus and glorify the Father, and to bring people to a saving knowledge of Him. Along that journey, though, we all play different parts. You have a task that only you can do. I have one that only I can do. God empowers us to do exactly what He’s called us to do.

He’s given you a set of talents that are yours alone. They’re not to be used for your own gain, but for His purposes. He gave you your talents and you purpose in life before He even created the world. Before time, you had a mission. Before the world was in existence, you were equipped. Then God formed you and set you apart. Live with the knowledge that you are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that He prepared beforehand.

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By grace you have been saved through faith

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The blessings of God never quit. His grace is something that’s just too good to comprehend. And when we look at the fact that even our own salvation is of Him rather than being based on our own merit, it’s  hard to believe.

It’s so hard to believe, in fact, that some people outright reject the notion that salvation is a free gift and they try to earn their way into God’s favor. It doesn’t work that way though. He has offered eternal life as a free gift through His Son. He’s so adamant about the fact that we can’t earn our salvation that He makes mention of it multiple times throughout His Word. God means for us to know that He gives this gift freely.

We cheapen the gospel when we try to add to it. When we make it Jesus + works or Jesus + _______________, we lost sight of the great cost that was already paid to earn our salvation. Jesus went through great lengths to reconcile us to God. Grace provides us the chance to accept that.

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The immeasurable riches of His grace

Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Many of God’s blessings that He reveals here on earth are a taste of things to come, a shadow of the real thing. This is the case when it comes to His grace. We experience grace during this life and it’s beyond our comprehension. We can try, but we’ll never grasp the lengths the Lord goes through to extend grace.

But one day it will all become clear. What we see now as in a dim mirror will one day be clear as can be (1 Corinthians 13:12) and what we only understand in part we’ll understand in full. If God’s grace is so amazing now, just imagine fully understanding it. Just imagine the mystery that God is waiting to make known.

One day, all that remains hidden will be revealed in Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), the One in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1:19).

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Seated with Him

Ephesians 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

There are many things for God’s people to look forward to in the future, but there are also some amazing promises for the here and now. The thing is sometimes we can’t recognize the difference between what’s waiting and what’s in front of us.

We have a tendency to look at verses like Ephesians 2:6 and assume that it says we will be seated with Christ once we die and get to heaven. But it doesn’t say that, does it?  It says He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him when we were saved. If this is true, then what does it mean for us right now?

In context, we have been made alive in Christ and now share in His preeminent glory. We share in His victory, as it is now our victory. Keep in mind that our enemies are not of flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). They’re spiritual, and here we see the relevance of the fact that we were raised up with Him, and seated with Him in heavenly places. Christ has conquered all sin, death, and evil spirits and therefore so have we.

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You provide the fire, I’ll provide the sacrifice

Philippians 2:17 “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

If laying down your life meant that you could see people come to Christ, would you do it? And if so, would you be overjoyed to do so? When I read this scripture I think to myself, “I wish I could be as dedicated to the gospel as Paul was.” The truth is, as we walk with Jesus, He will transform us in the same way as Paul. The more we say yes to Jesus, the less we will care for the things of this world and the more we will treasure what is eternal. Even to the point of losing our lives.
I know as I think of my brothers in sisters in Christ who are making bold steps of faith, it makes me smile and overflow with joy. I would do anything to keep their paths straight and their spirits on fire. When I think of those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and
Savior, it breaks my heart. I wish I could open their eyes to the truth and their hearts to the love of Christ. Jesus may not be asking you to lay down your life today, but he may be asking you to sacrifice yourself in some way to further someone else’s spiritual journey. As you spend some quiet time in prayer today, ask The Lord in what way you could be encouraging someone, no matter what the cost is.

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What’s In Your Wallet

Matthew 6:19-21  “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

1 Timothy 6:17-19  Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.  By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Accumulating wealth is a great idea, go for as much of it as you can get, in fact let’s be greedy about it. Just be sure that you are talking about the treasure that you are storing away in heaven.

Just you use your earthly wealth correctly it will help you accumulate more heavenly wealth. The best use for our earthly wealth is to use it to help people in need and use it to help spread the gospel message around the world.

I must not be proud of how well I can provide for my needs or place my trust in my earthly wealth, instead I need to be generous and willing to help those that are in need that I have the ability to help.

Help me Lord to remember that my money belongs to you, help me to know how to use it for your purpose.

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Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer

Matthew 6:6,7  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Simply defined, prayer is talking to God.  Even as Christ followers, our lives can sometimes get so busy that we simply don’t take the time to talk to our Lord.  This is a great mistake.  In order to grow spiritually, we must be conversing…mostly listening…to God.

In our fast food culture, things come quickly and we can’t stand the thought of actually waiting.  We have access to so much “on-demand” that it’s hard to just be still and listen to what the Lord has to say.  But we must if we are going to learn His will.  Prayer, coupled with Bible study, is one of the most important disciplines in the daily life of a Christ follower.  Without reading God’s Word and communicating with Him, how are we to know who He is and what He requires of us?

Some may say that they just don’t know how to pray.  Jesus gave us a great example in Matthew 6:9-13.  We call it The Lord’s Prayer, but really this is a format, a template, of how we are to pray.  This is not simply a prayer to be memorized and uttered.  No, this is a blueprint for how our prayers should be.  Does that mean that God does not hear us if we pray outside this format?  No, God knows all that we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).  He is not so strict on this format that we would never hear from Him if we prayed differently, but we should attempt to keep the principles of this prayer in place.  Thanksgiving, praise, petition, repentance, seeking guidance.  It’s not a magic formula, but a guideline.

The Lord is not interested in repetition and memorization.  He wants our hearts to turn towards Him.  He desires our attention and our praise.  We make a great decision when we choose to include prayer as part of our day.

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God Helps Those…

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

One of the most often quoted theological statements is “God helps those who help themselves”. The troubling thing about basing one’s view of God on this idea is that it’s just not biblical (The statement itself is most often attributed to Benjamin Franklin). One of the main themes of the Bible is that man is incapable of helping himself. Apart from God we are depraved, unable to life ourselves out of the pit that sin has led us to. We cannot help ourselves.

But God, in His sovereignty, chooses to help us anyway. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). In other words, He helped us though we were not helping ourselves. Even if we tried to gain some ground without God, our best efforts are useless (Isaiah 64:6). Our Lord knew we would be helpless. His plan is to be our refuge, our shelter (Isaiah 25:4), our comforter (John 14:16), our advocate (1 John 2:1). The list goes on. Why would God have such descriptive names of one who defends and provides for the helpless if we were able to doing anything for ourselves?

Secular theology may find it reasonable to accept that we must do something to earn God’s favor, but to the Christian it’s irreconcilable with The Word. God helps those who cannot help themselves.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known