If you’ve been around Britton Christian Church any time you have heard us sing a song called, “Open The Eyes of My Heart, Lord.” It is a powerful song. It’s a catchy song. More than powerful or catchy, it is a plea for God to do within us what we can’t do ourselves. We are blind to the things of God. If our eyes are ever going to be opened to the wonders of God, the glory of God, the truth of God, then God is going to have to open them. God’s Word is very clear that our understanding is “darkened,” we are blind to the things of God. Later in our study of Ephesians we will see where Paul urged the folks in Ephesus to no longer live like the Gentiles, the unbelievers. Paul wrote, in Ephesians 4:17-18.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:17-18 NIV)
When Paul says, “Gentiles,” he is referring to unbelievers. He says that their thinking is “futile,” it is empty. He says they are “darkened in their understanding” and “separated from the life of God.” He says they are filled with ignorance because their “hearts are hardened,” hardened to the things of God. This is the natural state of every single person who is walking on the planet today. At the same time, this is a reality that is denied by most every person on the planet today. We are smart folks and getting smarter all the time. We are reasonable people, able to gather information and then make informed decisions. I wouldn’t deny any of that, God has given us an incredible ability to think, an insatiable curiosity which leads us to learn, but when it comes to the things of God our abilities have been marred, tainted, and scarred as a result of sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a great illustration in his commentary that hopefully will help you better understand what I am talking about. Dr. Jones writes, Continue reading “Open the Eyes of Our Hearts
Hetty Green died at the age of 81 in New York City on July 3, 1916. There are differing estimates of Hetty’s finances when she died. Estimates of her net worth vary somewhere between $100-200 million. Her biographer, Charles Slack, says that Hetty was worth $200 million, which is about $4 billion in today’s money. She was worth more money than she could have spent during her lifetime, but Hetty, the Wonder Woman of Wall Street was one of the most miserly people of her day.
Hetty Green was arguably the wealthiest woman in the world. Hetty was a genius when it came to business. She invested mostly in real estate and railroads and she also loaned money. You might think that a woman living at the turn of the century would be a target for others to take advantage of in the lending industry—you would be dead wrong if you made that assumption about Hetty. The story is told that she would travel thousands of miles – alone, in an era when few women would dare travel unescorted – to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars. Hetty didn’t just lend money to individuals. The City of New York came to Hetty in need of loans to keep the city afloat on several occasions, most particularly during the Panic of 1907; she wrote a check for $1.1 million and took her payment in short-term revenue bonds. She was also one of the most tight-fisted business people ever. She didn’t want to pay money for an office so she conducted much of her business in the lobby of the Seaboard National Bank in New York. Continue reading ““…So That You May Know Him Better.”
Life is full of mystery. Things that seem unexplainable. Others that seem unimaginable. Then, along comes someone who is more than curious. Someone who has a furious passion to unlock the mystery no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard they have to work, no matter what others may think of their endeavor, and what was once a mystery becomes known and explained.
As we live on this planet called Earth, we look up into the sky and watch the Sun move from the east and finally disappear in the west. We see the stars at night and we wonder how it all works? People throughout history have offered their best conclusions based on their observations. Continue reading “A Mystery Revealed
I have been relishing every moment of studying the first chapter of Ephesians. I’ve been drinking from the cup of God’s glorious grace and learning what it means to be blessed with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” That is a monumental undertaking isn’t it? We are not talking about simply being given a gift. We are talking about “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” To try and discover what it means to be blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ is not something you learn from a quick glance or from listening to someone recite a verse or two. To truly discover the magnitude to which we have been blessed by God takes time, it takes extended periods of quiet, prayer, and reflection.
Just last week we learned that we “have redemption through His blood.” We have been freed from the shackles of captivity to sin and leading a life opposed to God’s purpose for us. God’s act of redeeming us, freeing us, buying us off the slave block of servitude to our self-centered and sinful ways is the key that leads to even greater blessings. I have been thinking this past week about the “redemption” that takes place in the life of a believer when he or she cries out to Jesus in repentance and surrender. God holds the key that unlocks the possibility for the great future He desires for us. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, can happen until He places the key in the lock and the chains fall away. Let me give you an example. Continue reading “Forgiven
Like the Hebrew slaves who had been suffering under the hand of Pharaoh for 400 years. Like the countless millions of conquered people who were forced into servitude under the Roman Empire. Like the multitude of Africans who were crammed into ships for a voyage to hopelessness in lands they never wanted to see. Like present-day slaves who are forced to serve in rebel armies around the world or perform back-breaking work for endless hours each day in their captor’s fields. Like tens of thousands of young teenage girls who are being used up as sex slaves by traffickers who look at them as nothing more than commodities to be used for profit. There are millions of souls suffering under slavery on this very morning around the globe. It is estimated that there are between 27 and 30 million people who are slaves in our world today. Slavery kills. It kills the will. It kills the spirit.
On December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified with these words, “Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Almost 150 years later, slavery is alive and well in the United States and around the world. Let me share just a couple of their stories with you. The first story comes from the website humanwrong.org, a website of World Vision. Continue reading “Redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb
God’s ways boggle our minds. His methods of accomplishing His will in each of our lives, and in the history of all of creation, are beyond our comprehension, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t interject our thoughts and opinions about what we think God can do, should do, or will do in any given situation. God has made it plain to us that His ways are not our ways. In Isaiah 55:8 we read,
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8 NIV)
When we are confronted with any situation in life, our immediate response should be, “What does God’s Word say?” Not, “What do I think about this situation?”
When it comes to the question of “how” we can relate to God our thoughts lead us way out into left field. For many people today, the path to God is paved by good works. If I can only be “good enough” then God will accept me, be pleased with me, and I will then be primed and ready for Heaven. This is the mindset of the majority of people today even though the Bible is clear that the path of good works is a dead-end road. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
Continue reading “Who Am I? I Am His!
I am convinced that we, those of us who live in the United States of America, are the most blessed people on the face of the planet. The freedom we have is unmatched. The standard of living that we enjoy is unparalleled. The opportunities that are before us are many. With all of these many blessings right before us you might assume that we would be the most grateful people on the planet. That assumption would be false, far from the reality that is present in our land.
If you listen to people talk you will find that many, many people are discontent, unfulfilled, unhappy, lethargic, suffering from some angst of the soul, depressed over one thing or another, wandering aimlessly without hope or direction, feeling left out or looked over by God and others. We are not content with our lives. We feel like we’ve been short-changed. We’ve drawn the short end of the stick. Rather than focusing on how we’ve been blessed, we tend to focus on our inabilities, our insufficiencies, what we lack rather than what we have, and those things about ourselves that we just don’t like.
What is the cause of this conundrum? Where did we get off track? Is there a way to refocus so that we are able to see our abundance, the plethora of plenty that God has showered upon us? I believe there is.
First of all, let me share with you what I see as the root problem of this angst that many people are dealing with in life. There are only two ways to view life: From “my” perspective or from the revelation of God’s truth made known to us. If I view life from my perspective, apart from God’s revealed truth, then gloom, a restlessness of the soul, despair, and anxiety are sure to follow. Let me illustrate what I am talking about for you. Continue reading “What Do You Lack?
We are facing tough times as a nation. It seems like each and every day we hear more news about how our nation is struggling in a myriad of ways. There are folks looking for jobs that can’t find work. There are other folks who have jobs and yet they don’t make enough money to make ends meet. I heard a statistic this past week that alarmed me. One out of three kids in our nation will not graduate from high school. Unlike some other nations, all kids in our nation are given an opportunity to gain an education and yet 33% of our kids are falling through the cracks. Our educational system is in desperate need. Our healthcare system is the best in the world and yet there are massive problems that we just can’t seem to get a handle on. Our families are struggling. Families are supposed to be home base—a source of encouragement, hope, training, safety, and love for those in the family. Yet, we hear stories every day of families being shattered and lives being crushed by the very ones who have been called to love and protect. There is corruption in the Church, corruption in government, corruption in business, and corruption in every aspect of life as we know it.
What is the answer to all of these problems? How do you even begin to fix the monstrous problems that we are facing as a nation? Well, the answer to that question depends on who you are asking. We are ramping up for another election season and from the little I’ve heard the past few weeks it seems pretty obvious to me that those who desire to gain a public office have all of the answers. Sociologists, economists, educators, and preachers will all offer you different answers. What is the answer? Well, I’m not running for office, but I believe the answer to the problems that plague us is found in the Word of God.
You won’t find answers in God’s Word on how to fix the economy, but you will find answers on how to fix the person. You won’t find answers in God’s Word on how to overhaul our educational system, but you will find answers on how to fix the person. You won’t find answers in God’s Word on how to eradicate corruption in business, the Church, or government, but you will find answers on how to fix the people who are corrupt in each of these arenas. The problems we are dealing with are problems originating in people. They are problems that are being multiplied and expanded by people. Our problem is not that our educational system is a mess, or the family is a mess, or our government is a mess—people are a mess. If we can fix the mess that we are as people then these problems that we are facing will change. Dr. Tony Evans says it best: Continue reading “By God’s Will
This morning we are going to begin a brand new study. I’ve been reading Ephesians for the past several weeks and each time I read Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus I come away lifted, encouraged, and reminded of the most foundational truths for the followers of Jesus.
Ephesians is a tool in the hand of God to reorient us. I believe with all of my heart that we struggle with trying to find meaning and purpose in life and we suffer without strength because of two ailments that plague us—we have made ourselves the center of existence and we are too earthly minded. I want to talk more about this a little later, but for now, let me illustrate the opposite mindset of these mental and spiritual ailments by laying the foundation for our study of Ephesians.
Ephesians is part of a section of God’s Word called, the “Prison Epistles.” Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey. We can read about Paul’s arrival in Ephesus with his ministry friends, Priscilla and Aquila, in Acts 18:19-21. Read it with me.
19 They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. (Acts 18:19-21 NIV)
The folks in Ephesus wanted Paul to stay, but he told them, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Paul didn’t stay long, but the church was encouraged and the husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila stayed to minister to the people as Paul traveled on.
Paul left Ephesus and traveled to Caesarea, then to Antioch before he visited the followers of Jesus in Phrygia and Galatia, which is modern-day Turkey. By the time we get to Acts 19 we find Paul heading back to Ephesus. This time he stayed there for close to three years proclaiming the Gospel and teaching the followers of Jesus. I don’t want you to think that Paul’s time in Ephesus was all “cheers and hallelujahs” with the people hoisting him on their shoulders at the end of each day after he finished teaching and preaching. There were incredible times when Paul saw the hand of God at work as many miracles were witnessed, people turned from practicing sorcery and burned their magic books, and folks repented of their sins and became followers of Jesus. Continue reading “Ephesians: A Letter from Prison for the Glory of God”