It’s Monday morning, and it sure seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve been to work. But this is a new week, and I guess I’m ready to tackle it. Stephanie goes back to school this morning, too, so we will be praying for a successful school week. The weekend went pretty well, so we are hoping for some good days.
Today’s Bible readings:
Ephesians 3; Nahum 3; Proverbs 16:1-8
In Ephesians 3, Paul begins by stating that he has been appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles are “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (v. 6) He also encourages them not to lose heart over his current situation, which is that he is in prison for preaching that very gospel.
His prayer for the Christians in Ephesus pack some power. First, in verse 16, he asks that they be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being. In verse 17, he prays that Christ would dwell in their hearts, and that they would be rooted and grounded in love, so that, in verses 18-19, they may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. So Paul has just prayed that the readers of his letter will know something that “surpasses knowledge!” What Paul is trying to point out here is how much we are loved by God through Christ. He prays that we would know the breadth, length, depth, and height of his love! When I was a child, growing up in church, we had this little song we would sing:
Deep and wide,
deep and wide,
There’s a fountain flowing deep and wide…
We would would do these hand movements along with the words. Back a few years ago, someone kind of updated the song.
You see, his love is deeper, higher, wider, and longer than we could ever imagine. Think of the deepest place you can imagine. The Mariana Trench. God’s love is deeper than that. I’m not going to try to find an example for each adjective (although it’s convenient that Mt. Everest is also in the picture of the Mariana Trench…). You should get the point.
Now Paul gives his “benediction” to this prayer in chapter 3. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (vv. 20-21) He goes back to our imagination here…God is able to do “far more abundantly” than anything we could even imagine! If you think of the biggest thing you would like God to do for you, he can do more. But the key is that, in verse 21, it is for his glory. Everything God does is for his own glory.
There are several Proverbs that caught my attention this morning. Verse 2: All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Most of us have honorable intentions when we do things. But God looks down into the deepest part of our being to weight the spirit.
Verse 3: Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. If we make sure that whatever we do, we are doing for his glory, God will honor our work. But see verse 2. There may be times when we think we are doing something for God’s glory, but deep in our hearts, we are still only trying to advance our own name.
Verse 4: The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. This one’s pretty heavy. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of God. Remember what Jesus said about Judas; “It would be better for this man if he had never been born.” He was made for his purpose.
Verse 7: When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. This also speaks volumes. If our ways are pleasing to God, even those who might be considered our enemies will be at peace with us. Have you ever known someone who could get along with almost anybody? And it wasn’t just because they compromised their values to try to make everyone happy. Their convictions were strong and firm. But it seems the almost everyone had respect for them.
The book, Discovering the Bible, makes a point about verse 3. Just saying a quick prayer of “Lord, bless our plans” is not what this verse is talking about. And I have to say, I’ve been part of churches where that is exactly what happened. The leaders would try to come up with some kind of clever “marketing scheme” to get people in the doors of the church, and then pray for God to bless their plans. Instead, they should have prayed diligently to see what God was already doing in their midst and made their plans line up with that. God doesn’t need our marketing ideas. This is a pet peeve of mine. There is absolutely nothing that human beings can do to make God more attractive! He is infinitely beautiful! So anything that that we try to do to “market” him will not succeed. Oh, it may have appearances of being successful, and you may get hundreds or even thousands of people in your “church.” But I promise you, that is not the measure of success.
In today’s reading in Grace For the Moment, Max Lucado brings a perspective to the part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 that I have never considered. He observes a kind of progression in the message. “Observe the sequence. First, we recognize we are in need (we’re poor in spirit). Next, we repent of our self-sufficiency (we mourn). We quit calling the shots and surrender control to God (we’re meek). So grateful are we for his presence that we yearn for more of him (we hunger and thirst). As we grow closer to him, we become more like him. We forgive others (we’re merciful). We change our outlook (we’re pure in heart). We love others (we’re peace-makers). We endure injustice (we’re persecuted).” Even though I think this is a tad on the simplistic side, it offers a view of the Sermon that I had never considered before. I’ll have to ponder this a bit.
Father, I pray, along with Paul, that we would be able to know how deep, high, long, and wide your love is! I pray that we would be able to know that which is, for all practical purposes, unknowable. Let us be constantly aware of how much you love us, and the fact that you can do more for us than we could imagine; beyond our wildest dreams!
I pray that I would commit my plans to you every day. Let me be more attuned to what you are doing in and around my life. Let me be more knowledgeable of what really matters in this life, Lord. I pray that I would be able to live out the truth of Matthew 6:33, which says, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Let my ways be pleasing to you, Lord, that all would be at peace with me.
I pray that the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount would be real in my life. Let your words live in my spirit and become alive in my life.
I pray for this day, Lord. I pray diligently that Stephanie would have a good day at school today. I pray that her anxiety level would be minimal. I also pray that Christi would have a good day and a good week this week. Let my day at work go well, also.
I pray for my Aunt Peace, whom I have heard is not in good health. Let your hand be on her this morning.
The love of God…we cannot begin to imagine the scope of it. But still, we must embrace it.
Grace and peace, friends.