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Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

I ‘discovered’ these verses years ago as I led my congregation through a study of the book of Ephesians. Since then these verses have been the basis of nearly every service I’ve presided over. As often happens for those of us who read the Bible regularly, sometimes the true power of a passage gets lost in the midst of other verses.

Meditate on this prayer the Apostle Paul leaves us. Contemplate its meaning for you in the midst of the battle you are going through right now.

‘To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…’

The Amplified Bible states it like this: Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).

He is able to carry out his purpose in our lives ‘superabundantly’ and ‘infinitely beyond our highest…dreams’.

What comfort in a day when time and again our dreams get smashed by broken or stressed relationships, financial ruin, political upheaval and poor health.

When I seek refuge from the pain of abuse from others he is there offering comfort like no one else.

When I am humbled by the guilt of my own rebellion because I’ve followed my own desires, my own passions and left the things I know I should do behind, he is there to forgive, cleanse me from all unrighteousness, restore me to his kingdom.

When I am confused by the actions of others and my own feelings of doubt and desire he shows me his peace and walks me through the dark forest of distraction and confusion.

So why don’t we see this power in our lives? What is it that keeps me from accomplishing my dreams, my goals, my wildest imagination? Too often I have to confess that my desires, passions and dreams are self-centered and self-focused. They may have a basis in good things, but ultimately they are to make me feel good and look good.

The important thing to focus on isn’t my failure to succeed but my definition of success. Do I earnestly seek my own comfort and vindication, or to I seek to see God’s power working through me for HIS glory, not mine.

PRAYER: Father, as I go through this day let my mind dwell on the meaning of these verses. Help me to grasp the vast power I have available when on my knees in prayer. Let me see that power exhibited in my private thoughts and my public actions. Amen.


I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10

Be careful what you ask for. To know the power of Christ, to be able to heal, to endure hardship, to sleep in the bow of the boat during a violent storm are all noble aspirations. Every one of them is something each of us would love to attain.

One can not bask in the glory of Christ unless one endures the suffering of Christ. Lest we romanticize the ministry of Jesus on earth let us not forget that many times the only place to rest his head was on the hard ground. He had no place to call home except for the homes of generous friends. Even his grave was donated to him by someone who he may have never met.

Other than a devoted few, his list of friends and followers was a revolving door of people who were looking for an earthly kingdom, who became critical of his alleged rejection of religious Sabbath laws, and the ungrateful that came for healing and, once made pure, were never heard from again. Oh, and the devoted few? They all abandoned him at the cross. Every last one of them.

And his family? On a couple of occasions they came looking for him. Not to follow him mind you, but to quarantine him in the safe confines of the carpenter shop. When his brothers talked about Jesus during his ministry the word ‘lunatic’ was frequently heard. Only his mother seemed to stand quietly in the shadows watching her son grow, minister and eventually die.

The church was no safe haven for Jesus either. He was scrutinized on every front. His motives were misread and misunderstood. He was accused of being possessed by the devil and an affront to everything the Jewish religion stood for.

What made Jesus different? There are perhaps many answers to that question, but one that comes to my mind is that Jesus always held before him the purpose for which he was called. He wasn’t called to be blessed. He wasn’t called to be powerful and respected. He wasn’t called to be a mighty leader. He was called to be a servant and die in the process. But along the way, he changed the world!

Although I shudder at what it might mean, I echo the prayer of the Apostle Paul. Regardless of what it may mean to me physically, emotionally, or socially, I want to know Christ. I want to know him in such a way that his power shows through me to others.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You showed us in your life that we will be faced with all sorts of trials and tribulations. I want to know you. I want to know your power in my life. I confess to you that even as I pray this prayer I’m nervous about what may lie ahead. Empower me by your Spirit to trust you as I forge ahead on this journey of life. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

Imagine for a moment that life is one large banquet and you are an honored guest. As you seat yourself with the others at the table you notice something rather odd. The placards at each setting have words on them. You naturally assume that the words are the names of the person seated there, but on closer inspection you realize that isn’t true at all.

The person across from you has a placard that reads ‘caught in adultery’. The person down the table from you three places has one that says ‘addicted to alcohol’. Another says ‘victim of financial ruin due to poor choices.’ And on the list goes. It suddenly dawns on you that you have no idea what your placard says. You read it. Your first impulse is to hide the words, but then the room is filled with a wonderful aroma.

You look for the source of this wonderful scent and your eyes are immediately drawn to a white robed figure making his way around the table. He stops at each place and anoints the person’s head with oil. Soothing, wonderful smelling oil that changes each person it touches. With each anointing the recipient’s face glows. Partially from the soothing effects of the oil. Partially from the joy that seems to flood that person’s soul.

Then you notice another oddity. As each person is anointed, the words on their placard mysteriously change. The descriptions of the person’s failings are replaced by a single word: GRACE!

In essence that is the word picture the Psalmist has for each of us. To be anointed with oil was a custom of honor and distinction in Bible times. Honored guests were anointed with oil and as a result the room was filled with a wonderful fragrance for all to enjoy, and the person anointed felt within himself the soothing, healing effects of the oil on his hot, dusty head and face.

Each of us comes to the ‘table’ of life with robes that are tarnished by the daily struggles we face. Before us is a placard with words that describe the struggles of our lives: worry, anger, disbelief, immorality, judgmental spirit, murder, abuse, gluttony…and more. Yet if you are a Christ-follower, those words are replaced when the master comes to anoint you with the oil of his forgiveness, his love and his mercy.

That’s grace. Grace is living with the anointing of Jesus in our lives. None of us deserves it. We don’t deserve to be in the same house as the banquet much less sitting at the table.  Yet because of his sacrifice for us, we are treated as honored guests. Feel the soothing effect of the oil on your head and face as it removes the guilt of past mistakes. Smell the fragrance of forgiveness. Enjoy the euphoria of his grace as it permeates those darkest corners of your soul.

Not only does his anointing remove the stains of your past. His promises to you are so numerous that your cup will overflow with his blessings.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’m reminded once more of the rich blessings I have because of you. I am so unworthy of your love. So undeserving of your forgiveness. I’ve failed you. I’ve hurt others. Worst of all, there are so many ways I’ve failed myself. Please forgive me for the times I’ve not listened to you. Anoint me with the oil of your grace so that I will be a pleasing aroma to you and those around me. In your name I pray, Amen.


Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4 (NLT)

Everyone likes to be right. Everyone likes to be in the popular crowd, the winning team, the champions. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the book of Romans, his readers were mostly made up of Jewish people who laid most of their spiritual integrity on the fact that they were the people of God. This status gave them great pride.

The problem was, according to Paul, they were basing their position on the wrong thing! There were some Jewish believers that thought themselves a step above other believers because of their Jewish heritage. Paul tells them to step back and take another look at what got them where they were. Paul reminds them that the only reason for their position of faith was God’s goodness. It had absolutely nothing to do with their religious tradition.

The message is the same for us today. Everyday we are bombarded with horrific stories of how people treat one another. Even within so-called Christian circles there are people who place their entire identity on their religious tradition, the number of ‘spiritual activities’ they participate in, the music they listen to, or even the version of the Bible they read.

Our position in Christ has nothing to do with anything we have done, either good or bad. If your past is full of addictions, poor choices, or dysfunctional relationships and you have found forgiveness in Christ, you are no different than the squeaky-clean person who has grown up in the church or hasn’t been involved in all sort so sordid activities.

God doesn’t base His love for us on a background check. He bases it solely on who Jesus is and what He did on the cross for you. There is no grading system among Christ-followers in God’s eyes. His love, forgiveness and power isn’t given according to whether you are more, or less worthy than the next person. All are equal in his economy regardless of race, gender, or denominational background. God loves you regardless of all the bad or good things you have done.

None of us are any better or worse than the next person, in God’s eyes. Don’t let others judge you on the basis of your past. Don’t judge others on what you see on the outside. Learn their story before you judge their character. Consider how good God has been to you before judging how other people are. Unconditional love for others is based on the fact that the God of the Universe loves us all the same regardless of our past.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank and praise you for the fact that even though you know how rebellious and stupid I can be, you still love me dearly. Thank you for choosing to love me in spite of myself. Forgive me of my past and empower me by your Holy Spirit to live in close relationship to you. Help me to live unaffected by those who judge me wrongly. Keep me from judging others on the basis of what I see. In Jesus name, Amen.


But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. Psalm 31:14-15

Imagine what it must have been like for King David when he was growing up. He was the youngest in the family and, as a result, most likely the one that picked on the most. Dad was a rancher so he probably got the messiest jobs around. He may have looked forward to the day when he could shepherd the sheep like his older brothers.

Once he was old enough to shepherd he may have realized that the job wasn’t what he expected. He endured long, lonely cold nights where the only light was the fire and stars. Those nights with a full moon must have made things a little better, but the shadows and sounds of the night were still ominous for a young man of 12-14 years of age. Then, of course there was the danger of attack by wild animals and protecting the little lambs that always seemed to be wandering off into dangerous territory. Being shepherd was anything but fun!

Fast forward a few years. You see your brother coming over the hillside. He tells you the prophet is at home for sacrifice and he’s asking for you. You go home in excitement and find out YOU will be anointed as the next King of Israel. Almost before you realize the significance you are thrust into the palace where the current King Saul is trying to kill you. You end up spending many years running for your life!

David’s life was anything but boring and yet there may have been some times later in life when the thought of sitting alone on a hillside seemed mighty tempting. The weight of ruling a kingdom and raising family was as hard then as it is today.

David is referred to as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ and as a courageous warrior. Yet there are many part s of David’s life that aren’t so glorious. He made many horrible mistakes that led to people’s deaths; he sinned mightily against God and his people. His family would be considered dysfunctional by many standards.

What was it that kept David going? How could he rebound from the fear and anxiety of his life? What enabled him to get past the abuse he suffered at the hands of others and the injustice that was thrown at him? How could he forgive himself for the times he openly rebelled against God’s commands?

In the midst of all the turmoil in David’s life, one thought kept him going. David knew God. He knew he could trust Him. He knew that no matter how bad things were, God was in control. Those lonely nights on the hillside taught David that nothing, absolutely nothing happened in life by accident or coincidence. Whether the circumstances around him were a result of his own poor choices or the abusive, evil actions of someone else, his God could be trusted to deliver him.

The same is true for us today. No matter where you are in life, God has your life in His hands. If you are suffering the consequences of your own poor choices He will forgive you and walk with you through the pain. If you are suffering at the hands of an evil enemy He will protect you and empower you to withstand the attack. You can trust God. He loves you and will never ever leave you.

PRAYER: Holy God I thank you for the story of David. There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt abused, alone and scared. There have been times when I’ve doubted your existence, presence or love. Forgive me for those times when I failed to see your loving, guiding hand. As I face an uncertain future I ask that you would comfort, guide and protect me. Amen.

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