“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 NASB).

Although the Bible warns against squabbling over the meaning of words there is still a need to define them from time to time otherwise how can we know what we’re reading?

Reading in Ephesians, I came across the word “workmanship” and decided to look it up in the concordance. What I discovered is the Greek word “poiema” translated into English as workmanship. Do you see this might be where we get the English word poem? As far as defining the word “poiema” it says, “a product, i.e. fabric–thing that is made, workmanship.”

We are God’s product, after all he did say “Let Us make man…” I started thinking about what a poem is and where it comes from and thought, well, it comes from within the poet doesn’t it? When I asked the guys in the Bible study at the jail one of them said, “It comes from the heart.” I think that says enough doesn’t it? Mankind was thought up and brought forth straight from the heart of God. He longed to create little expressions of himself and give them authority to rule over the rest of his creation. We are God’s work of art designed to express his wisdom and design.

In the context of the Ephesian letter Paul is writing about how we used to live according to the world, the prince of the power of the air and how another spirit used to operate in us when we were in disobedience. But God saved us by his grace and raised us up seating us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. So God’s plan has always been for us, his creation, to be in a position of authority not subservient or ruled over by another spirit or other created things.

Further on in Ephesians 3:9-11 we discover the church is the means by which God’s wisdom will be displayed throughout the heavenly places. In other words we are invited to participate in something we can’t even begin to fathom. In 1 Peter 1:12 we read even “the angels are longing to look into these things.” You see God has something so far beyond our comprehension in store for the church even the angels in heaven are wide awake in wonder as to what it all means. Even now all of creation waits in earnest expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

Louie

 

 

We’ve been studying the Gospel of Matthew in our Sunday school class. You really learn so much when attempting to teach others. In chapter 12 the religious leaders accused Jesus of being possessed by a devil, and there seemed to be division between he and his own Mother and brothers. In the 13th chapter we read where his own hometown didn’t believe in him, and finally in the first part of chapter 14 Herod, who represents the Gentile world, had John the Baptist killed signifying he didn’t really want what Jesus had to offer either.

So Jesus, obviously saddened by the news of John’s death, went to find somewhere to be alone. This is where conviction came in for me. The Bible says, “Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”

Jesus had been rejected by the Jewish religious leaders, separated from his earthly family, rejected by his hometown and the Gentile world, and then hears about John the Baptist being killed. Yet, even though he didn’t have anytime to himself, he was present and available to help others.

As I read Matthew 14:13-14 it was as if God showed me how most of us would have responded. Let me illustrate for you. This is my version mind you. “When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and growled and yelled at them saying, can’t you see I’m mourning here? I just can’t deal with this right now! Leave me alone!

Maybe you’re different, but most of the time we come up with reasons to justify mistreating others. We say things like, “I haven’t had my coffee yet”, or “I’m tired, I didn’t get enough sleep last night or “I just got home from work, ask me later.” I’m sure you could fill in several more excuses as to why you are unfriendly, impatient or snippy with people, but do you see why this brought me conviction?

Jesus never gave in to those fleshly urges to lash out at others in that way; and that is what walking in the Spirit is all about. We all have times in our lives when we lose a job, don’t feel well, have to bury a friend or maybe it’s just that things aren’t going our way; but according to God we really have no excuses to mistreat others simply because we are agitated. I know, I know I don’t like this kind of talk either but I’m just sharing what we talked about in Sunday school this morning, settle back down will you?

What’s even more amazing is the rest of the story. After Jesus showed the crowds compassion instead of grumpiness he sat them down and fed them. The disciples came up to him telling him “This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” You see the disciples were thinking they needed to earn their food, in other words they needed to work for it, whereas Jesus wouldn’t have it. He wanted to freely give them something to enjoy and that’s what he did. You see even though we haven’t been too good, even in our attitudes most of the time, God loves us and freely showers his blessings on us.

Thank God for his grace, mercy and love for us. There is nothing we can do to earn the provision he provides us everyday. I know things happen that are hurtful and we don’t like but we don’t have to lash out at others. The next time you find yourself about to strike out ask yourself “What’s your excuse for the attitude?”

Louie

“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.” (John 7:17 NASB)

Jesus was constantly hounded by the religious leaders of his day who seemed to always have a finger ready for pointing. It was as if they followed him around just to oppose and accuse him at every turn. They would say things to him like Moses said…what do you say? They were always poised with the gotcha!

When teaching Jesus would speak in parables which caused his disciples to ask him “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus’ response to them was “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” This struck me today in a new way.

What Jesus is telling them, and us, is since the disciples had already shown willingness to trust and follow after Jesus they were being shown the mysteries of the kingdom. In other words they were willing to do his will whereas the religious leaders weren’t. It’s as if the parables were keys to understanding and without willingness to follow they made no sense.

As we do what God tells us to do our understanding is opened and more light will flood in, but until we are willing we will remain confused and mixed up. You see the Bible tells us “without faith it is impossible to please him.” Much of the time faith requires us to step out into something without knowing all of what it’s about, but once we do we will be given more understanding.

Louie

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NASB)

As I drove down the road the other day this verse came to me and started me thinking. I thought, what exactly is it that can be learned about God’s attributes and nature by observing creation only, without even reading a Bible?

So here’s what I discovered. Everyday the Sun rises, goes through its course and sets like clockwork. In fact that is how a clockworks isn’t it? We judge what time it is by the Sun. Looking at the ocean we realize it comes in only so far before it has to go out again. The seasons change right on schedule. In fact this is the promise God gave to Noah in Genesis 8. He said, “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” So, even if you had nothing else you could come to the conclusion God is orderly and faithful.

The next thing that came to me is how everything we need to live and thrive on this planet is right here on the planet. We don’t have to send for anything outside of our system in order to sustain us. All the food, water, material and energy we require is found right here on good ole planet earth or within our system. From this we can surmise God is a provider. Just by watching the birds we discover, as Jesus said, “They don’t store up food in barns and yet our Heavenly Father feeds them.”

We can even learn a little something about how life comes from death by simply looking at seeds. For all practical purposes a seed seems to be insignificant; and yet once it’s planted, has a little water and sunlight, it brings forth life. Jesus himself said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is a principle with God, it’s how things work. God is into bringing life out of dead things.

So I would wrap this up by saying even without a Bible we can determine there is a God and he is a faithful, orderly provider who has the power to bring life from death. I’m sure there are more, but to me these few are more than enough to see that the God who created everything is a God we can trust.

For those of us that do own a Bible I would consider us beyond blessed to have the ability to read about this God and his relationship with the many others that have come and gone before us. On top of that, through the Word, we also have the privilege to read about Jesus Christ, not just to believe in but to receive him so we might have that eternal life he has promised.

Louie

I just read part of an interview with Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the band Blondie, where she said, “Well, I’m not so much a person who deals with facts as much as feelings.” What a statement! This seems to be where many Christians I know live as well.

Recently I’ve heard more than one person, Christians mind you, say they have said or done something that bothered them deeply. While anyone with the slightest bit of a conscience would agree we’ve all been there; could it be we are looking for a feeling rather than trusting in the facts?

The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ and him crucified is enough to deal with our trespasses and sins. In fact we’re told “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say he will give us a feeling of confirmation to go along with the forgiveness.

While humans were created to think and feel, thoughts and feelings don’t get the final word. If in fact the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe it is, we have to trust what it says, even when our feelings don’t confirm it. While feeling forgiven would be nice we can’t always count on it. If we’re holding out for a feeling we may be committing yet another sin, the sin of unbelief.

When a Christian commits a sin they are instructed to confess it to God. Confessing means agreeing with God, in other words, he shows us we’ve sinned and we agree with him saying, “Your’e absolutely right God that was wrong of me…thank you for the forgiveness and cleansing you have provided for me in your Son Jesus Christ.” Of course there’s a good chance you need to go to someone and make things right with them too. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another”, but for now let’s just stay focused on the matter at hand.

After the sin and confession we are to continue our walk in the Spirit trusting Christ to be ever present just as he has promised. When we fail to do so, instead walking around in self-hatred and condemnation, it proves we don’t really believe in Christ’s provision. The truth is that’s what’s called unbelief. I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but what else could it be? If we have confessed the sin, and God’s promise is to forgive and cleanse us, why don’t we trust that? I’ll tell you why, because we,like Debbie Harry, are not people “who deal with facts as much as feelings.”

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Louie

Repentance is a great Bible word you don’t often hear outside of Christian circles or even in Christian circles for the most part. From time to time I ask people, I have the privilege to share the Word with, to define repentance for me. I usually get a few different answers such as being sorry, asking forgiveness or turning around. While all of these are part of what repentance means it all begins with a change of mind.

If you look up the word repentance in a Strong’s concordance you will discover at the base of it all it means “to think differently.” Of course if you think differently you will be sorry for your sins, ask forgiveness and turn around but thinking differently is the starting point. So, the big question then is how do we begin to think differently? The short answer is it takes a miracle.

Reading in Isaiah 14:13-14 you will discover what I call the root of all wrong thinking. These verses have come to represent for me how we all think until Christ grants us repentance. We all start out with the mindset that we are worthy to be number one and can make ourselves into something great! Of course this is exactly what got Adam, and us, into this whole sin thing to begin with, but never-mind that, it won’t happen to you, right? Well, that’s part of the problem too, isn’t it? We have all been deceived into thinking “It” won’t happen to me. I’m number one, everything revolves around me and everything and everyone is here to do my bidding.

You see “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbeliever”, but thank God he saw fit to miraculously give sight to those that hear the gospel, place their faith in it and are born again. When one is born again they receive the mind of Christ. Now that is good news!

Repentance then is when we have our minds changed from that of our former ruler, Satan, and now have the mind of Christ. The mind of Satan whispers to us that we’re able to make ourselves like God, and the mind of Christ tells us we are to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Although Jesus Christ was, himself, God he didn’t live as though he needed to exalt himself “rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (slave), and being made in the likeness of men, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Since Christ humbled himself; God exalted him. So you see the way to be exalted is by humbling yourself, and if you aren’t willing to humble yourself a sure way of being humbled is by exalting yourself. This is why we need to have a change of mind; because God’s ways truly aren’t our ways at least not until we have the mind of Christ.

When all is said and done there really is no amount of trying on our part that will bring us to repentance, in fact, the Bible tells us it is “the goodness of God that brings repentance.” There’s no doubt in my mind that it takes a work of God for us to even see we need a change of mind and another for us to receive the mind of Christ. So, no matter how you look at it; it takes a miracle. Thank God He’s still in the miracle business!

Louie

Our Wednesday night Bible study is in John 17 which some might say is the real “Lord’s prayer” even more so than the 23rd Psalm, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. One thing is for sure John 17 is quite the prayer, and it comes right before Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Since Jesus knew his arrest was imminent it must mean these final words to his Father, in front of his disciples, were of the utmost importance.

The 14th through 17th chapters in the gospel of John are some of the most amazing words I have ever read. Those four chapters are overwhelmingly made up of Jesus’ words to his disciples as he taught them about his going away, the coming of the Holy Spirit, what was going to happen after he left and what he expected of them.

John 17 is Jesus’ prayer that thankfully the Holy Spirit inspired John to record. In this chapter we discover what Jesus asks the Father and how he wants his disciples to be brought into union with the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. It has come to my attention this prayer is broken down into three main sections. Jesus talks of how he manifested the Father’s name to the disciples, he had given them his word and given them His glory.

Jesus makes it very clear that he and the Father are one and those that believe and receive what he offers are meant to be one with them. Apparently this has been the plan all along. Throughout the Biblical narrative God’s glory shines through because his word can be trusted because he guards the reputation of his name.

God gave Abraham his word about the whole world being blessed through his seed. In Christ it has happened. When Moses objected to being called to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt he asked, “Who will I say sent me?” God revealed his name to him saying, “tell them I AM sent you.” Later Moses asked to see God’s glory, and when the time came for him to see, God revealed to him “It will come about, while my glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” When God did reveal himself to Moses the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Throughout the New Testament Jesus Christ makes several statements which invokes the name “I AM” in relation to himself. On one occasion he said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Wow! Jesus clearly taught that he was the one and same God that gave Abraham the promise and revealed his patience and loving-kindness to Moses.

Now in John 17 Jesus prays on behalf of his disciples longing for them to enter into oneness with the Father as he is. He said, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, (the disciples present at the time) but for those also who believe in me through their word; that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.”

Without belaboring the point let me finish up by saying everything is about God’s name, his word and his glory. Everything Jesus did was for these three reasons and he wants us to share in it with him. Therefore he went to the cross to enable us to be brought back into union with God. He reveals God to us and sanctifies us with his word, not to take us out of the world, but to send us in so we might express God’s name, word and glory as we invite others who will to join us in God’s glorious plan. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

Louie