The Choice

The Choice

What happens when you are faced with the reality of your faith?

You have a choice. To walk it out, scary as it may seem or to turn a deaf ear to prompting in your heart.

Today I’m facing such a dilemma… and yet what will I choose?

I’ve been in Chicago for a few days. I love this city. It is like a second home to me. Even on a work trip, I find the time to do the things I enjoy. I frequent my favorite restaurants, I run the lakeshore trails breathing in the beautiful skyline. I do touristy stuff like visit the Art Museum or Shedd’s Aquarium. And I’ve even taken a selfie under the Bean in Millenium Park. For me, it is a fun escape… even in the cold windy month of March.

Yet this time, I am faced with the issue of homelessness. I’ve seen it before, it’s part of big city life, but this time it is like a vice gripping and squeezing my heart. A man stopped me the other day asking me to buy him a sandwich, to which I refused because I was scared to interact with him as he was clearly intoxicated and I was alone.

But what kills me, is that I spent $40 on my own dinner that night and didn’t think twice.

Yesterday, I walked right by a man sitting on the ground. His sign said he was hungry but again I did nothing. And today the image that I cannot escape is the one of his little dog wrapped up in a blanket next to him when I know my own precious dogs are sleeping in their pet beds, with full bellies in a warm, spacious and beautiful house.

What is the cost of genuine faith?

Right now for me, it is a $5 sandwich, but do I have the courage to give it away?

This is what Jesus said about those who care for God’s people...

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt. 25:34b-36).

It’s my last morning in the city, I’m heading home this afternoon but I cannot escape the urgency of this call. And so I am off to buy a couple of sandwiches, praying that God will lead me to encounter someone who needs something to eat and a smile to share.

Where are you struggling with the reality of your faith?

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 25:40).

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The Crowning Jewel of Redemption—Ephesians 1:11-12

The Crowning Jewel of Redemption—Ephesians 1:11-12
“Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12 NASB)

When God created the world, man was the crowning jewel in all creation (Gen. 1:26-27). He made male and female in His image to reflect and display His glory. Mankind’s fall merely put this plan on hold it did not thwart it.

When Jesus came to redeem through His death and resurrection all that was stolen in the garden, He gave birth to the Church (Col. 2:18). The Church is the crowning jewel in redemption. In Ephesians 1 alone, Paul reminds us that the inevitable result of all of God’s actions is that He will be praised and glorified (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). The Church brings glory to God, and this was part of His master plan. “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:10-11).

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The Mystery of His Will—Ephesians 1:9-10

The Mystery of His Will—Ephesians 1:9-10
“And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 1:9-10)

What if our redemption was meant only for this world? Don’t we live this way? Don’t we have a narrow view of what was accomplished on the cross? I know I do. I get so wrapped up in day-to-day living that I lose track of the bigger picture.

In the previous verses, we are told that we have been redeemed and forgiven in accordance with God’s grace (Eph. 1:7). Then Paul mentions that this has been lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph. 1:8). I truly believe he says this so we will understand the next statement, “…and he made known to us the mystery of his will” (Eph. 1:9a).

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Redemption Through His Blood—Ephesians 1:7-8

Redemption Through His Blood—Ephesians 1:7-8
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

I drove the same car for over 12 years. Not only was it a great car, but it was paid off, so I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of not having a car payment for many, many years. In fact, near the end of the car’s life, I had to bum rides for almost two weeks before deciding the car was beyond repair and needed to be replaced. I had enjoyed owning it free and clear! 

Owning the title to the car meant that the debt was satisfied. This has legal ramifications, meaning that no other entity had a claim on this property. While this example in no way compares to what Christ did for us, the same principle can be applied relating to our redemption in Christ. It was done legally, fully, and completely in every way imaginable. “The entire universe is governed by law. Redemption from beginning to end is based upon a system of divine jurisprudence. It has a legal foundation” Paul E. Billheimer.

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Chosen in Him—Ephesians 1:4-6

Chosen in Him—Ephesians 1:4-6
"“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Do you remember a time when toys came in cereal boxes? In my family, we all raced to see who could get the toys first. I remember one prize—a special pair of glasses used to read the “secret” message on the box. To the naked eye, the message looked like only patterns and colors, but after I put on the glasses, I saw the true message.

To the casual observer, this is probably how believers also look—just like everybody else. But God sees us as holy and blameless because He looks at us through the lens of Christ Jesus and that colors everything!

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Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ—Ephesians 1:3

Blessed with Every Spiritual Blessing in Christ—Ephesians 1:3
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)

This morning, I spent an hour studying this verse, looking up the meaning of every word and piecing them together to grasp what it means to be “blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

After spending time consumed by this passage, I stopped and grabbed a journal written 10 years ago. The rest of my journals are in boxes, but this particular one has a permanent place on my desk. I leafed through it, reading my thoughts from so many years ago. It contained page after page of me wrestling with scripture, my calling, and the desire to feel God’s presence. It was a crucial time in my life as this is when the Lord started revealing Himself and His purpose for me.

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Grace and Peace To You—Ephesians 1:1-2

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:1-2)

When I was young, my best friend moved away. It was before the age of email, and long-distance phones calls were quite expensive, so we diligently set out to write letters back and forth. We wrote nearly every week for many years. Our good friendship stayed strong many years after she moved away. This childhood friend still holds a dear place in my heart because of the time we spent writing to each other.  

Paul spent three years firmly establishing the church at Ephesus during his third missionary journey. He taught and shared his life with them, and as he moved on, I am confident that this special bond continued. Years later while in prison, he penned this amazing letter meant to encourage the congregation he pastored and cared for.

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Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

Introduction to the Book of Ephesians

I asked and you voted, so welcome to the study of Ephesians!

Have you ever wondered how so much heretical teaching infiltrated the early church? 

Several years ago, a couple started coming to our church. Right away, they were interested in helping with our children’s ministry. We needed more volunteers, so they were integrated effortlessly and seamlessly. After a while, we started getting unsettling reports on what they were teaching. Many of the parents were questioning their ideas because they were slightly skewed from what the church taught.

While this whole scenario played out in a matter of weeks, the result was critically dangerous. First, because what they were teaching was slightly off and seemed harmless enough, it could have gone unnoticed for a lot longer. Second, because this teaching was aimed at the children’s ministry, it could have had long-term devastating effects on the health of the church. 

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Merry Christmas—Let’s Talk Sheep!

Merry Christmas—Let’s Talk Sheep!

It’s early, it’s dark, coffee’s on…I love early mornings, it’s my favorite part of the day—before the world is awake.

However, today is different, today is special—today is Christmas. 

I hope that the world pauses for a moment at some interval to reflect on the reason why we’ve set aside this day. Today is the day to celebrate Jesus and His dramatic and miraculous entrance into the world. 

If you’re like me, then you’ve heard, studied, taught and wrote about the incarnation from just about every angle. And yet, this year a friend showed me a new element about Jesus’ birth that I had NEVER heard before. So I spent a few days looking into it and what I found was overwhelming in that it takes my breath away and brings me into a place where worship comes easily. 

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