Before the World Began

I saw a nativity on Facebook this afternoon. It was performed by some kids at a church in New Zealand. I liked it because of the way God was portrayed – compassionately looking at all the wrongdoing on earth; being sad that He was so far away from His kids; making a plan to step in; letting the angels sing because His heart was touched by their love for Jesus. It was incredibly sweet, but as I thought about it afterwards, I realised it was missing something.

And all these chronological Bibles that put the events in date-order for us, what do they start with? Genesis. I’ve never seen a Bible that starts with Ephesians chapter 1, but in his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul tells us something happened before Genesis. In Jesus, God chose us before the world was made. He had already decided to make us His children through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4-5). That means in the run-up to the birth of Jesus, God wasn’t looking at the state of the world thinking: “’Oops. Not quite what I had in mind.”

The truth is that before we were even created, God knew about the first-ever disobedience and the tendency we’d have from then on towards wrongdoing, and He’d already planned that His Son Jesus would step in as our way back to Him.

The timeless God, knowing what would happen in time before time began. The God who loves us and looks for the best in us, knowing our worst and making provision for it. Doesn’t that fill you with awe and wonder?

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The Armour

“Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” – Ephesians 6:13-17.

 

When I moved to where I live now, I had to spend about 6 weeks without E-mail or the Internet.  I had lots of sympathy from friends and family, who knew how many hours I spent at the computer, but actually, the time went quicker than I thought.  During that time I was sitting on my bed, thinking about the armour of God, when I realised something.

 

The belt of truth buckled around your waist – who is the Truth?  Jesus (John 14:6).

The breastplate of righteousness – who is the Righteous One?  Jesus (1 John 2:1).

The good news of peace – who is our Peace?  Jesus (Ephesians 2:14).

The shield of faith – who do we put our faith in?

The helmet of salvation – who saves us?

And finally, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – doesn’t John talk about how the Word became flesh and made His home among us (John 1:14)?

 

I see Jesus as the full armour of God.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18), so if we take Jesus into our situations, the devil’s “Flaming arrows” (his attempts to ruin our lives) will be blown out like a candle.  I think of when Jesus breathed on His disciples and they received the Holy Spirit.  Once Jesus breathes His Spirit into a situation, the devil doesn’t have authority over it any longer.

 

With Jesus, we can stand.

* * *

And that brings us to the end of the book of Ephesians!  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.  Shall we keep reading with Amy till the end of the month?

One

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the

church” – Ephesians 5:31-32.

 

You might have read in a previous post about when these words “become one flesh” were first used.  It was in the context of a marriage, so how can the church be “one flesh” with Jesus Christ?

 

As I asked that question, Jesus’ prayer before His death came to my mind.  “I pray also for those who will believe in Me” says Jesus, “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You” – John 17:20-21.  That’s what it means to be one with Jesus – His Spirit lives in us.  He’s part of us – not a physical oneness (as in marriage), but spiritual; and as Christians, we’re part of one another (Romans 12:5).

 

In the Old Testament, there are lots of pointers to Jesus, and to what God has planned for the future.  Could it be that marriage is also like that – a temporary thing on this earth, pointing to a spiritual truth that’s everlasting?  No wonder that when He spoke about eternity, Jesus said people would neither marry nor be given in marriage:  They won’t need to.  They’ll be where temporary things have vanished away, and what remains will last forever.

Gifts for our Good

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service” – Ephesians 4:11-12.

 

Wow, this could be a long post!  Apostles:  Well, apostles means “Sent ones”.  Jesus was sent by the Father:  “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” – John 20:21, so God gave some to be “Sent”.  But Jesus said those words to His disciples, so isn’t every Christian “Sent”?  Yes, to a degree, but there are some with a particular gifting in that area.  They go out from the church where they are and plant other churches; Paul (the writer of Ephesians) was an example of this.

 

Prophets:  Prophets are people who have words from God for other people.  For example, when my uncle was in hospital with cancer, my earnest prayer to God was:  “Heal him, Lord, because if you heal him and he becomes a Christian, then people will listen to him”:  I wanted my uncle well; I wanted people to listen and come to Jesus; I wanted a harvest.

But one Sunday morning in church, somebody told us they felt God was saying:  “This is not going to be a time of harvest, but a time of growth”.

I told the Lord:  “Part of me doesn’t want that to be about my uncle”; I kept praying for healing, but the prophet’s words came to pass:  My uncle wasn’t healed; he did die, it did bring me closer to God, and perhaps grew the faith of others too.  God has shown me quite recently, though, that prophets don’t just have to use their gift during a meeting; they can operate in one-to-one situations.  That was a relief to me because we’re told in the Bible to want the gift of prophecy, and I’m much more a one-to-one person.

 

Evangelists:  These are people who share the good news about Jesus with others.  Again, all Christians should do this to an extent, but some (like Billy Graham or Reinhard Bonnke) have a particular gifting in it.

 

Pastors and Teachers:  Pastors care for the people they’re in charge of, and teachers teach God’s Word.

 

And why did God give these gifts?  For people to show off?  No, He gave them so we could prepare others to serve God.  When people shared the good news about Jesus with me, it benefitted me; that prophet who spoke about growth helped my relationship with God, etc.

 

Do you serve God in any of these ways?  Or has a Christian ever spoken into your life?  Did it help you?

Ephesians 3

Status

“I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you …  I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit” – Ephesians 3:13, 16:  Could it be that those in your life who seem to be suffering are also praying for your strength?

Amazing Favour

Carrying on from yesterday’s post, here are some verses from chapter 2 of Ephesians:

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace” – Ephesians 2:4-7.  So much, just in those few verses:  Made alive with Jesus, even when we were dead inside because of the things we’d done wrong; seated in heavenly places … but what I really wanted to write about was this word ‘Grace’.  I guess that everyone reading this will have heard the hymn “Amazing Grace”, but what is grace?  Well, it’s the favour of God.  Some would say undeserved favour, but the grace of God was even on Jesus (Luke 2:40), and He deserved every bit of it.

 

When you find favour with someone, or they say something favourable about you, it means they’re pleased with you.  “It is by grace you have been saved”:  If you’re a Christian it’s because of the favour of God, because He was pleased with you, that He saved you.  God, pleased with us?  I don’t understand how God can be pleased with someone whose heart is cold and dead towards Him, who’s never done anything for Him.  Why would He want to come to us, change us, give us a love for Him and for others, and plan things for us to do before we were even interested?  I guess that’s what makes grace so amazing.

April Reading Plan

I know there are lots of reading plans you can use to read the Bible in a year.  I’ll be honest; I’m really not great at that.  There was 1 year when I really set my heart on reading the whole Bible, and I managed it, but usually I get so far through the Old Testament (the first 39 books) and then think:  I want to read something about Jesus!  Maybe a better idea than trying to read it all in a year would be to read a chapter of the Old Testament and some of the New every day, and just finish in however long it takes?

 

I thought I’d write this because I wanted to tell you that on her blog, Amy is reading 4 books of the New Testament, 1 chapter a day, until the end of April.  I only found out a few days ago, so I’ve missed the first one, but I’m joining them in the book of Ephesians.  Why not click over and look at the schedule, and see if you want to join us too?

 

There’s so much in the first chapter of Ephesians.  I think the main thing that stood out to me was that in His love, God decided He would adopt us who believe.  Like adoptive parents selecting their child, He chose us to be His.

 

I may write other posts about this between now and 30 April.  If you do decide to join in and there are things which stand out to you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

 

Have you read the Bible from cover to cover?  Or would you like to?