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I believe that the grace of God is much more amazing than we as humans can comprehend, and yet it is available to each one of us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the dire situation that the human race was left in because of Adam’s sin. Then verse 4 starts with “But God”. It begins the explanation we find in Ephesians 2:4-7 of God’s mercy and grace. Mercy means that we are not given the punishment that we deserve. Grace means that we are given the salvation that we don’t deserve. Both are given to us because of Christ, a fact that is repeated three times in these four verses, and they are gifts that are available to anyone, even the thief who was minutes from death on the cross beside Jesus. Because of Christ we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. We have been raised up in Him, and when this life is over we will be with Him in the heavenly realms. Spiritually, we are already there. This was made possible only because He loved us enough to die as a sacrifice in our place. Can you even begin to imagine this?!

I am also encouraged by Ephesians 2:7 which tells us that the surpassing wealth of His grace will be demonstrated to us in the coming ages. It is only going to get better and better. We will continue to know God more and more, but what I find most uplifting is that we are not expected to know it all right now. God’s love and grace is beyond what we can fathom, but there is a lot that He has already made known to us as well. He has given us the gift of the scriptures, His Holy Word, so that we might learn more about Him and His great love at our own pace. No pressure. It’s a gift.

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  • God loves us so much, and He gave (and gives) of Himself for us.  He wants us to follow His example.  (Ephesians 5:1-2)
  • God wants us to be pure and holy.  This takes discipline and self-control.  (Ephesians 5:3)
  • Our words should be gracious, uplifting and grateful.  (Ephesians 5:4)
  • We all make mistakes, but a person who has accepted Christ has accepted Him as Lord and wants to be like Him.  (Ephesians 5:5)
  • Don't bow to peer pressure.  (Ephesians 5:6-7)
  • Live as children of light--full of goodness, righteousness and truth.  Find out what pleases the Lord, and then do it.  (Ephesians 5:8-10)
  • Darkness cannot overpower light, but light can overpower darkness.  (Ephesians 5:13)
  • Make conscious decisions about how you live based on God's will. (Ephesians 5:17)
  • Don't get drunk, because you will lose your self-control.  (Ephesians 5:18)
  • Let your joy come from the Spirit rather than from drink. (Ephesians 5:19)
  • Always be filled with gratitude to God.  (Ephesians 5:20)
  • The way we treat each other should reflect our reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
  • God has roles for husbands and wives, but neither is expected to submit to abuse of any kind from the other.  If both do their parts, and follow Christ's example, what a team they would be!  (Ephesians 5:22-33)

Please share your thoughts on Ephesians 5 in the comment section.

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I believe that the grace of God is much more amazing than we as humans can comprehend, and yet it is available to each one of us. Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the dire situation that the human race was left in because of Adam’s sin. Then verse 4 starts with “But God”. It begins the explanation we find in Ephesians 2:4-7 of God’s mercy and grace. Mercy means that we are not given the punishment that we deserve. Grace means that we are given the salvation that we don’t deserve. Both are given to us because of Christ, a fact that is repeated three times in these four verses, and they are gifts that are available to anyone, even the thief who was minutes from death on the cross beside Jesus. Because of Christ we have been transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life. We have been raised up in Him, and when this life is over we will be with Him in the heavenly realms. Spiritually, we are already there. This was made possible only because He loved us enough to die as a sacrifice in our place. Can you even begin to imagine this?!

I am also encouraged by Ephesians 2:7 which tells us that the surpassing wealth of His grace will be demonstrated to us in the coming ages. It is only going to get better and better. We will continue to know God more and more, but what I find most uplifting is that we are not expected to know it all right now. God’s love and grace is beyond what we can fathom, but there is a lot that He has already made known to us as well. He has given us the gift of the scriptures, His Holy Word, so that we might learn more about Him and His great love at our own pace. No pressure. It’s a gift.

I was having a conversation with my husband the other day, and I said, “The opposite of love isn’t hate; it is the absence of love. It is indifference.” He pondered that for a moment, and then did what every good techie does: he googled it. It turns out that, even though I was processing that thought for the first time, others had said it before, most famously holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel.

So, how do we know whether we are truly being loving or not? It’s not about feelings; it’s about conscious decisions. It is a choice. I John 5:2-4 tells us that we know we are loving others when we love God and keep His commandments. His commandments as summarized by Jesus are to love God and love others. (Matthew 22:37-40) Jesus also said that obeying his commandments is a natural progression of love for Him. (John 14:15) Later in the Gospel of John we read that if we obey Christ’s commandments, we will remain in Him just as He has obeyed His Father’s commandments and remains in His Father. (John 15:10) One assists the other: If we love God we will obey His commandments, and if we obey His commandments His love will remain in us.

These days, we use the term “love” quite loosely. I love chocolate. I love blue skies. I love my husband. These are examples that represent emotions and expressions of enjoyment. The kind of love discussed in these verses is unconditional, from the Greek word agape. A good summary of what that means and how it can be demonstrated practically is found in The Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13, particularly I Corinthians 13:4-7 ), but in general it means that we choose to love. Our love is not based on what we can get out of it, or even what we can give (and then feel good about). It is about loving others because God commands it, whether we particularly like them or not. That is something that is not easily done even if we really want to. It is only possible if we let the love of our Heavenly Father flow through us.

In my last post (October 5, 2011) I discussed the dangers listed in Psalm 91, and the fact that God will protect us from those things. I suggested various ways to interpret what that protection really means. Perhaps today’s verse can help to provide the answer.

I John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out fear. We may be faced with all the arrows and hardships described in Psalm 91, we many even be faced with death, but if we have the perfect love of God in us, we need not fear. If we have accepted His gift of salvation, then we can have the confidence that nothing in this world can overcome us, for nothing can separate us from God’s perfect love. (Romans 8:35-39) If we focus on eternity, the hardships that we go through on this earth will not hold the same significance. Yes, we will still have trials and troubles, the Bible warns us of this (John 16:33), but they are only temporary.

We are told in I John 4:18 that fear has to do with punishment. If we have accepted Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, then there will be no eternal punishment for us. We have already been forgiven and redeemed. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is therefore—because He paid the price—now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. If we are in Christ, we are joint heirs with Him, (Romans 8:17) and we have a blessed eternity to look forward to. And while we are on this earth, we are still in God’s love, and we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Yes, there will be times of concern, but He is right there going through each trial with us. He understands every single thing that we must face. (Hebrews 4:14-15) And when the time comes, we will reach glory with the price for our sins already paid in full by our Saviour. There is absolutely no reason to fear.

Do you ever feel like nobody likes you? Or maybe you just feel like SOMEbody doesn’t like you? The fact is that we can’t all be liked by everyone all the time. I’ve told many young people that no matter who they are, some people will like them and some people won’t, so they might as well be themselves and know that their friendships are genuine. We all get to choose who we want to be friends with and who we want to be loyal to. Sometimes being friends with one group will mean that you can't be friends with another.

Jesus told the disciples something similar in John 15:18-19. He said that the world (meaning those who don’t belong to Christ) will hate them, because it hated Him first. The disciples should not be surprised that if they stood up for something that was contrary to what the people of the world believed, there would be hatred and persecution. Neither should we. If you profess to be a Christian, some people will hate you before they even get to know you. They may treat you badly or speak unfairly against you simply because you belong to Christ. In North America persecution is mild compared to what it is in some parts of the globe, but you still don’t have to look far to see it—people hurling insults, bullying, unfair stories in the press, acts of violence and vandalism.

We need to make a careful distinction though. Not all people who claim to be Christians behave in a way that resembles Christ. They judge and criticize and give their share of insults. Sometimes their behaviour is rude and obnoxious. Thus an unfavourable reaction might be more accurately labelled a result of provocation rather than persecution. This kind of behaviour is certainly not what Christ stood for. In II Corinthians 6:3, Paul instructs the people to be above reproach—to not do anything that can be criticized or cause offense. Throughout the Bible, and particularly in the passage just before this, Jesus commands His disciples to love. (John 15:12, John 15:17, John 15:10, Luke 6:27) This isn’t just a friendly suggestion; it’s a commandment. This is what it takes to be like Christ. Love even those who hate you.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “random acts of kindness”. In my opinion, acts of kindness should not be random, but should be the norm. I think that the world would be a better place if we took others into consideration more often. You may be the kind of person who counts the cost when you give to others, but if we all gave more we wouldn’t lose out, because others would be caring about us too.

Verses like Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 tell us to be kind to one another, but what does that really mean? How do we do it? Romans 12:9-21 gives us concrete, practical suggestions. First of all, Paul tells us that our love, our kindness, must be genuine. We must truly care for others, and not just show them kindness because of what we might get out of it, but do what is best for them, and do it enthusiastically. We must do what we can to meet others’ needs and show them hospitality. Provide a meal or a place to stay for the night. Care enough about others to know what they are going through; celebrate when they celebrate, and mourn when they mourn. Don’t judge people or think less of them based on what they look like, how they are dressed or what they own. Do your best to get along with everyone. Don’t start needless arguments, and don’t fuel arguments that are started by someone else. Bless, say good things to and about, others even if that is not the way that they’ve treated you. Treat others the way that you would like to be treated. (Luke 6:31) Do not respond to unkind behaviour by being unkind. Satan just loves to win you over to his side by giving you an excuse to justify your actions. You may convince yourself that you are justified, but you won’t convince God. Always strive to be the person that God wants you to be, rather than following bad examples that you may see around you, because God sees how we treat others as the way we are treating Him. (Matthew 25:40)

There are sad, hurting and needy people everywhere, but you can’t always see the need. Many people try to keep up the appearance that they have everything under control, but you can be sure that they don’t. No one does completely, so everyone could use a little kindness. It starts with love, the first manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit and the essence of the two most important commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God’s love will flow through us, and showing kindness will become more regular than random.

There are many references to love in the Bible. John 3:16 is probably the best known, and the one that clearly tells us how much God loves us, and the gift that awaits us if we believe in Him. Matthew 22:37-40 outlines what Jesus considers to be the two most important commandments. Both of them require us to love, both God and others. 1 John 4:7-8 commands us to love because love is from God. If we do not love, we do not know God, because God is love.

But 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the love chapter; it is the passage that describes most thoroughly what love is. In my last post, I said that the fruit of the Spirit is produced in us because we invite the Spirit into our lives to work through us. It is not through our striving that we achieve these qualities. But that does not mean that we should not work to exhibit these characteristics in our lives. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do it, but it is through our cooperation that He is able.

In Greek there are three words that are translated ‘love’. Eros is a self-centered, physical love, the kind displayed between a husband and a wife. Philos is a considerate, affectionate love, as we would (or at least should) show to our fellow human beings. Agape is a term that was coined to express Christ-like love. It is recognized not by the feelings it invokes, but by the actions it displays—the actions described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

True love, God’s love, will never end. Prophecies, language and knowledge will all end, but love will not. Faith, hope and love will remain, but the greatest of these is love.

In my last post, August 1, 2011 I said that being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit would give us the tools we need to develop discernment. That made me think of Galatians 5:25. Being led by the Spirit, requires that we make a conscious choice to follow the Spirit. This should not be considered a burdensome task, but part of the freedom of living for Christ. Let’s look at the context of this verse beginning today with Galatians 5:13-14.

Galatians 5:13 tells us that we were called to freedom; God never intended for us to be bound by religious legalism. But there is a wide span between legalism and lawlessness, and we should not use the freedom we have in Christ to indulge our sinful nature. Just as a rock climber needs a foothold to get to the next step, we provide a foothold to Satan if we give in to our sinful desires. Being free does not mean having no boundaries. A.T. Pierson has said:

True freedom is found only in obedience to proper restraint. A river finds liberty to flow, only between banks: without these it would only spread out into a slimy, stagnant pool. Planets, uncontrolled by law, would only bring wreck to themselves and to the universe. The same law which fences us in, fences others out; the restraints which regulate our liberty also insure and protect it. It is not control, but the right kind of control, and a cheerful obedience which make the free man.

Instead of using our freedom to indulge ourselves, we should use it to serve one another. We are of course expected to obey the laws of our land, (Romans 13:1) but we also need to obey the most important commandments of Christ, which are to love God with everything we have within us, and love others as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) Love should be the motive and the result of all Christian behaviour.

In conversations that I’ve had with atheists, they have claimed that there is no God, and then seconds later talked about their perception of God. For example: God does not exist; if He does, why does He allow bad things to happen? People who believe in God believe in fairy tales. Why would He allow us to make our own choices? Romans 1:18-20 addresses both sides of this issue. In this post I will examine God’s wrath, and in the next, the proof of His existence.

Sometimes God shows His judgement in historic events like the flood (Genesis 7) or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:15-26), but sometimes His wrath is shown by letting us face the consequences for our own choices. We have the option of looking to Him for guidance, for asking Him to direct our paths, (Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:7, Psalm 37:23) but we often wait until after we are in trouble and then plead for His help.

God is holy, completely unique in His perfection, and because He is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Therefore He pours out His wrath and judgement against this world’s sinfulness. God’s wrath is not like human anger; He does not have an emotional outburst of fury, but a controlled reaction to that which is against His nature and against His will (ungodliness) and also to offenses against his people (unrighteousness). There are those who think that it is unfair of God to hold us to His standard, rather than lowering His expectations to our level of sinfulness. After all, we are imperfect beings; how can He expect us to be perfect? Yet, if He changed to make Himself more like us, He would not be holy, He would not be worthy of our worship, and He would not be God. If God did not get angry at sin, Jesus would not have needed to go to the cross, and we would not be in need of God’s great love and mercy.

Some people prefer to focus on God’s grace and love rather than on His wrath, and I can’t say that I blame them. He loves us more than we will ever be able to fathom, and because of His love we do not have to face destruction. Lamentations 3:22, in the New International Version says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” But the wrath of God is real. The gift of salvation that has been made possible by Christ’s sacrifice is what will protect us from God’s wrath. Those who choose not to accept it, will ultimately have to pay the consequences.