Life After Death

resurrectionThe first ten verses of Ephesians 2 is one of my favorite passages, and it starts with a bang by declaring not that we were sick or weak or stuck but that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Paul uses death as an image to describe where we were in his letter to the Colossians (Col 2:13) as well, though Paul is not the only one. Jesus also taught we were dead before we were made alive…see John 5:24.

What does a dead “life” look like? Verses 2-3 help with this, and notice how Paul includes himself as one of those who “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh”. All of us, before we were resurrected, followed the rule of darkness rather than that of light. We obeyed the desires of our fleshly mind rather than what we knew to be right. As such, we were subject to God’s punishment…guilty of a crime no less than treason. We were created by God, blessed by God, ruled by God…but, we left Him; we rebelled and began to follow the evil one who commands us to obey the desires of our own flesh and mind.

The significance of the term “dead” is that this rebellion was permanent. There is no natural “unrebellion”, just as there is no natural means of becoming “undead”. It was over…the human race was lost and subject to exactly what we deserved: eternal condemnation.

But God is not limited, is he? No, He is sovereign over all things natural and unnatural. He is the One who can make the dead undead. He is the one who can redeem the rebellious. He is the One who can determine a means by which a sinful crimson-stained people can be washed white as snow. And He did that through the death and resurrection Jesus Christ; we apply this provision to ourselves personally through faith in Him alone.

Versus 4 and 5 might be two of the greatest verses in all of Scripture. Without any help from us (remember, we were dead, rebellious, and committed to darkness), God made us alive. But not only this…He seated us with Christ in the Heavenly places! That is, we share the same orientation toward God that the perfect Savior Jesus Christ has (our Father). What amazing grace…he not only redeems us, but gives us a place of blessing in the family of God!

Clearly, God did not have to do this. He is fully self-sufficient; He does not need us nor does he need our love. He would have been just to allow us all to suffer the consequences of our rebellion. He was not obligated, and He receives nothing that He did not already have. Why then would He do this? Why would he sacrifice His only begotten Son to redeem a people that hate him…to redeem the very people that put His Son to death?

Are you alive or dead?

I think Paul provides three reasons in this text alone. First, He loved us (v4). He did it for us, not for himself. Second, He desired to demonstrate His grace (v7). Grace needs an object, and this rebellious people made the perfect object to demonstrate His amazing grace. Third, He desired to demonstrate His workmanship (v10). God is not in the business of starting over; he is in the business of redemption. We are the pinnacle of creation…His workmanship…and He desired to rescue it rather than let it die or re-create it.

Let me close with this important question: are you spiritually alive or spiritually dead? God is allowing the “living” to exist in this world intermingled with those that are still dead. How can you tell the difference? Simple really, and it has less to do with your behavior and more to do with your belief. John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus Christ will not perish (remain dead forever) but will have eternal life (be resurrected and remain alive forever). What do you believe about Jesus Christ? If you believe that He is the Son of God who died for your sins and was resurrected, then you are among the living. If not, you are among the dead.

It is indeed that simple, but genuine faith in Christ has a profound impact on your life. If you believe an airplane can fly safely yet refuse to board it, then it’s fair to wonder if you really believe the plane can fly. Similarly, if you believe in Jesus yet live the same way you always have, then it’s fair to wonder if you really believe in Jesus. Genuine faith changes a person…check out verse 10 one more time.

If you need help unpacking any of this privately, feel free to send me a note at I’d love to help any way I can. In the meantime, I continue to pray for all of you.

Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians

prayerMany books have been written on prayer using different patterns and examples provided to us in the Bible. One of these patterns is found in Ephesians 1:15-23. I thought it would be encouraging to provide a few thoughts on this passage today.

Have you ever thought about why you pray for others? It sounds obvious, but maybe it’s not…think about it. Maybe you pray for others because they are in need or because they are hurting. Maybe you pray for others because they are taking on an ambitious task and need the Lord’s provision. This passage begins with the phrase “For this reason”, which tells us that there are at least two reasons why Paul is praying at this point. First, as I mentioned in my last post, we have every spiritual blessing. God’s blessings prompt us to pray. Second, those Paul is praying for are full of faith in God and love for others. We ought to be giving thanks for those around us that are following Christ in a genuine manner…by loving God and loving others.

For what kinds of things do you pray? Paul here prays for a couple of things. First, he prays that God would grant believers true wisdom and revelation. Second, he prays that God would grant them knowledge. Knowledge of what? Three things: the hope of his calling, the riches of God’s inheritance, and the great power of God. Then, Paul transitions into a profession of praise by describing this great power that is working toward those who believe. He describes it by calling out four evidences of God’s power. First, Christ has risen from the dead. Second, God seated Him at the right hand of God. Third, God put all things under Christ’s feet. Finally, God appointed him as the head of all things.

My encouragement is this…when you pray today, pray like Paul. Try these few things:

  1. Remind yourself of God’s blessings. You might even review Eph 1:1-14.
  2. Think of specific individuals that exemplify faith in God and love for all the saints.
  3. Thank God for these people…for their faith and for their love.
  4. Pray that God would grant these individuals wisdom, revelation, and knowledge.
  5. Praise God by remembering the resurrection and glorification of our Lord Jesus.

I will be praying this way today…I encourage you to join me!

Every Spiritual Blessing

graceDid you know, believer, that the Father has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places? Maybe you do not feel like you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing today, but according to Ephesians 1:3, it is true. Sometimes we have to believe things we can’t feel simply because our Father says it is true. Maybe the issue is that you don’t know what every spiritual blessing even means. Thankfully, Paul goes on in Ephesians 1 to provide some examples of these blessings.

First of all, in verse 4, He chose us. Who did he choose? He chose “us in Him”…he chose believers in Christ. If you believe in Christ, you are chosen. When did he choose you? He chose you “before the foundation of the world”. Ponder this…before the world was even made, God knew you; he chose you; he identified you as special. And for what purpose does God choose us? He chooses us for the purpose of making us “holy and blameless before him”. You are spiritually blessed with holiness and perfection in the eyes of the Father through Christ.

Verse 5 goes on to add that we who were predestined (another way to say that we were chosen before the foundation of the world) were adopted as sons. Not everyone is a child of God, contrary to popular belief, but you are if you believe in Christ. We have been grafted into the family; God is our Father; Jesus is our brother and friend.

Grace is mentioned as a blessing in verse 6. Grace is God’s blessing to those who do not deserve it. “Every spiritual blessing” is only possible because of God’s grace; however, verse 7 identifies two more important pillars of these blessings: redemption and forgiveness. We have been redeemed from the lost, and we have been forgiven of all sin…past, present and future.

But Paul does not stop here…he goes on in verse 9 to talk about the blessing of knowing the mystery of God’s will, that is, the gospel itself. The gospel had been a mystery up until the time of Christ, and now God has shared that mystery with us as a spiritual blessing.

Did you know that as part of God’s family we have an inheritance? This is the blessing of verse 11…an inheritance due when Jesus returns and all of God’s promises are fulfilled. But can we depend on this inheritance? How do we know God will deliver such an inheritance? We know because He has provided an earnest…a down payment…a pledge in the Holy Spirit. Verses 13 and 14 reveal how the Spirit in our life is only a taste of how we will live with God in eternity. If this is a taste, I can’t wait for the fullness of this relationship!

Work-Life Balance

donkey-in-airThe month of June has been the busiest month of my life, and it has reminded me of a few things about work/life balance that I’d like to share briefly. I’d love to hear your ideas of how to balance work, ministry, family, school, etc as well!

Do you work hard? How do you know? I mean, when I ask that question, do you automatically associate it with your vocation or possibly with school if you are a full-time student? What about other aspects of life? Can you have a good work ethic and only put 40 hours a week into your vocation? Are you any less of a “hard worker” if you work 40 hours as opposed to 80? The answer is, IMO, the same as 90% of all questions…”it depends”.

What I continue to believe more and more strongly is that compartmentalism in life is a bad thing. Treating work, family, ministry, school, etc as entirely different things with different rules and equal demands can put significant, even unreasonable, pressure on a person. Taking each individually, one feels they need to perform at each one almost as if nothing else was going on just to meet expectations of a solid work ethic. Many must work 80hrs a week, spend “quantity” time with the family, and/or study virtually every hour they are not in class to avoid feeling like they are slacking in some area.

Living a balanced life will likely not win you any awards in any single area, but it is the only sane way to run this race.

The secret, IMO, to a balanced work/life is three parts. These have helped me deal with shifting priorities, expectations, and time requirements without feeling like I am slacking in some area.

First, set your expectations at the “life” level and not at the “compartment” level. Do not look at each “compartment” and assess your work ethic in that area as if no other “compartments” existed. Rather, take everything together and set your expectations in each compartment accordingly. When you do this, you may find that it requires a significant work ethic to hit 40hrs a week considering your commitments to family, school, church, friends, etc.

Second, understand that people in each “compartment” will expect you to live as though no other “compartments” exist. Bosses think people who work 80hrs a week are hard workers; teachers look at your study habits to see if you are a hard worker; your family may judge your work ethic based on how much time you spend at home with the wife/kids. Ignore these expectations, become comfortable with your own “life-level” expectations, and accept any natural consequences that may come in any of the individual compartments as a result of trying to live a balanced life.

Third, be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Some may work 80hrs a week when you work 40hrs, but that does not mean they have a stronger work ethic. Work may be all they have, where you have three other compartments you are trying to manage. Keep your expectations at the life level and remain content.

Living a balanced life will likely not win you any awards in any single area, but it is the only sane way to run this race. Maybe I’m the only one, but I’d rather finish strong and not win any stages than win a stage or two along the way but fail to finish the race.