Monday, January 27, 2014

Praise Challenge

They say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. I cannot argue with this as I have learned the most about the things that I have set out to teach. My experience as prayer coordinator has been no different. One thing I'm discovering is that God desires our praise, and we are nearest to Him when we praise Him. I've spent quite a bit of time praising God over the last few months, and the more I do, the more I reap the benefits and the stronger my desire to praise Him becomes.

Genesis tells us that  God created mankind in His own image. It also tells us that He created man first and then woman. Of course, we are both in His image. We each represent different aspects of His character. But He did create males first. And He represents himself as a male - God the Father, not God the Mother. When He sent the savior, He sent a man, not a woman. Not to say that female characteristics are not important to God. The feminine qualities of tenderness, love and mercy are clearly displayed in the Bible in many places, and Jesus compares himself to a mother hen protecting her chicks in his love for Jerusalem, for example. But clearly God puts prominence on the male aspect of himself.

Anyone who has ever read anything about marriage has no doubt come across a list of the primary desires of a man. At or near the top of the list is always a desire for respect. Men want to feel successful and be praised for their accomplishments. Even little things make them happy. I recently told my husband that the two scarves he got me for Christmas are now my favorites (and I have a LOT of scarves). That was probably obvious by how much I have been wearing them, but he liked hearing it. It was a small endeavor, but he was successful in it and that made him feel good.

God doesn't need us to tell Him that he is successful - He already knows that He is perfect and perfectly successful. But He desires it. Hearing the praise of His people makes God feel good, just like hearing the praise of his wife makes a husband feel good. And God reflects the pleasure He feels in our praise back into ourselves. I simply cannot describe the joy I feel when I manage to make that connection to God through praise. And it makes me desire all the more to please Him. It fills me with a hunger to spend more time with Him, because of the pleasure I receive in His presence.

So here's my challenge to you. For the next week (or, if you're really daring, the next month) spend at least fifteen minutes a day just praising God.

Read Psalms of praise to Him, pick some songs that praise Him (make sure they're ones focused on praising God/Jesus, rather than how God makes us feel).

Really focus on God and let him know how much He means to you and acknowledge His greatness. See if it doesn't make a difference in your life!

1 Samuel 2:1-10
1 Chronicles 16:8-36; 29:10-19
Psalms 8, 19, 24, 25, 29, 33, 47, 65, 77, 92, 93, 96-100, 104-107, 111, 113, 117, 119, 134-136, 146-150
Isaiah 12:1-6, 52:7-10
Luke 1:46-55, 1:67-79
Revelation 4:8-11, 5:9-14, 7:10-12, 19:1-7
Hopefully that is enough to get you started!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

From Paul, chosen by God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.......

Last week we met Paul in the book of Acts. We saw his amazing life transformation as he changed from persecuting followers of Christ to pointing people all over the known world to Christ. He is known as one of the greatest missionaries of all time! We learned that Paul first landed in Ephesus on his second missionary journey and then on his third journey resided there for at least three years. He shared life together with the people of Ephesus and loved them deeply. As we get started, take time to read the background information about Ephesus in your study Bible or/and in your Homework study packet. It is helpful to note that Ephesians can be separated into two major sections. Chapters 1-3 focuses on our identity and who we are in Christ and Ephesians chapters 4-6 gives us practical ways we are to live here as children of God. Let’s go ahead and dive in! Do not let the amount of questions and homework discourage you. This is an example of how to break down each verse. Do the best you can!
  • Day 1 - Pray each day for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you read. Ask God to speak to you. ”Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statues; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” Psalm 119:33-34
Read Ephesians 1 and outline or summarize it. What phrases or words are repeated in this chapter? What is the main idea ?

  • Day 2 - Read and study verses1-6
Verse 1 • What is an apostle? • Is an apostle different than a disciple? • What is a saint? (NIV “holy ones”) • What is a faithful one?

Verse 2 • What is grace?

Verse 3 eulogé ō ("confer what is beneficial") is used of God blessing people (Lk 1:28; Eph 1:3; Heb 6:14, etc.) – and His people blessing Him (Lk 1:64, 2:28, 24:53; 1 Cor 14:16; Js 3:9). How many blessings do you read in this verse?

Verse 4 • What does it mean to be “chosen in Him”? • When were we chosen? • What does that mean to you? • Are you holy and blameless? • What is peace?

Verse 5
This verse brings up predestination, a very touchy subject for many. What is predestination? Does it mean only certain people are saved and others can’t be? Do we really have a choice? While this is an important subject, it isn’t the main point of Ephesians. If you have time and want to know more, it might be good to look more deeply into this topic. But I suggest focusing on the meaning of this passage as a whole and not getting side-tracked on something that is a deep subject for even the most dedicated of Bible scholars.
What were we predestined for? • What does it mean to be adopted as a son (or daughter)? • How was our adoption accomplished?

Verse 6 • What is the result of our adoption? • What does His grace cost us?

  • Day 3 - Read and study verses 7-14. These verses finish out Paul’s accounting of
Spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Finish the list you started on Day two.

Verse 7 • What does redemption mean? What is something you might redeem in this world? If you do not redeem it, does it have any value or benefit to you? Does Christ's redemption require any action on our part? If so, what action? • What is forgiveness? Does it have a cost, or can it be purchased?

Verses 7-8 • What are the riches of God's grace? What picture is brought to your mind by the riches of His grace being lavished on us?

Verses 8-9 • Why did H e reveal this mystery, this secret, to us? • What picture of God does “His kind intention” bring to mind for you?

Verse 10 • What is the secret plan? • What is the ultimate purpose of God? • In view of this, what should we be doing now?
Verse 11-14 Verses 11-13 essentially repeat verses 4-7. • What purpose of our salvation is repeated? • Why do you think Paul reiterates these points? • What observation about the Holy Spirit is added in this section? • How did we receive the gift? • What does the Holy Spirit do? • What is the purpose of a seal? • Who has the Holy Spirit? • Do you have the Holy Spirit?

  • Day 4 - Read and study verses 15-23
Verses 15-16 • What motivates Paul to pray for these believers? (What is the “reason” that he refers to?) • What motivates you to pray for others?

Verses17-19 • List the things that Paul asks of God for this group. • Do you think his prayer for them is unique to them?

Verse 17 • What part does the Spirit play in our knowing God? • If Paul is already pleased with the Ephesians, why do you think he wants them to know God better? • Do you desire to know God better? Do you pray for wisdom and revelation? • Who else could you be praying this for?

Verses 18-19 • What do the eyes of the heart symbolize or refer to here? • Can we achieve this understanding of his hope, riches and power on our own? • Have you ever tried to use something without fully understanding it? A new computer program, perhaps? Or maybe an unfamiliar tool or machine? Or have you tried to put a complicated item together without instructions? How much easier is it to use something
when you have a full understanding of it?

Verses 19-23 This refers back to verse 10, the summing up of all things in Christ. • What kind of power can achieve these things? • What does it mean to you that this power is extended toward us who believe? • Is there anything that is not under Christ’s control? • Is there any time that is not under Christ’s control? • Read Romans 8:29 and Hebrews 2:10-12. What is Jesus to you? Consider what it means to be sister to the Lord of the universe.

Verses 22-23 • To what are Christ and believers compared in these verses? • What does this mean to you?

  • Day 5 - Read all of Ephesians 1 again • What have you learned about God's plan of salvation? • Have you learned anything new about who you are in Christ? • Take some time to meditate on this passage and consider what it means to you in terms of who you are, whose you are, for what purpose you were chosen and how you ought to live. • Is there anything you ought to do, or to change in you life in light of what you have read and studied this week?
You are a child of God, adopted in His kingdom. You are royalty, chosen before the beginning of time, predestined for greatness. This is the message of Ephesians 1. Live this truth today and every day. As you live out this truth, what changes need to happen? How can you make it clear that you are part of God’s family? What are you going to do different? Be specific. Write those things down, pray over your list and commit to live the life God has chosen for you.