Tag Archives: grace

Summer Study: Ephesians 1

This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection.  But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.

Ephesians1

Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome.  One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone.  In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes.  In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy.  In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him.  And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas.  Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.

The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:

In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1: 7-8a

That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it.  As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word.  Lavish is such a luxurious word.  I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else.  But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek.  The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.

It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over.  Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin.  It surpasses it.  And then I got giddy.  Because you know what that means?

I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God.  The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt.  His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.

Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2).  We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin.  We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin.  But God did purchase us in our sin.  In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession.  And that seal is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.

Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me.  You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier.  But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14).  The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.

And that really sticks it to the Devil.  No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God.  In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.

The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions.  We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).

How cool is that?

Ephesians 1

Letting Go

I love my husband. You guys don’t even know half of the amazing things this man has done for me through the course of our courtship and marriage, but especially in the last two months. We have become so much closer over the last year than we ever had before, and I’m so grateful for that.

The reason I’m grateful for it is because God is the one that has given this man and this relationship to me. I don’t deserve it on my own. Before Michael, I made a lot of bad decisions in the romantic area of my life. I was manipulative. I used and was used by guys. I took pride in not crossing a particular physical boundary, but my behavior still led me to do things that didn’t honor God, myself or my future husband. I had to hit rock bottom to finally pry the fingers off my dating life and give it over to God. God took it and gave me Michael. I am eternally grateful for that.

People are sometimes shocked to know who I was before Michael. It would be easy to hide that part of me away, especially since we moved to a place where no one knew us after we got married. Our marriage would still be a great story, but it would be missing parts of the vibrant colors of a powerful God working through flawed humans to create something beautiful. Telling the whole story also allows others who may not have made the best choices in their own life know that there is redemption and hope for them as well.

Sometimes we communicate a different road to redemption and hope. We think if we follow all the rules, then we will have strong marriages and successful families. If we don’t have these things, then it must be something that we have done, and we are being punished for it. Also, if we do mess up, we try to overcompensate, hoping that we do enough right things to avoid punishment for our wrongs. What are we communicating to the rest of the world? The worldly success of our life does not dictate our holiness. And doing everything “right” does not control the path of our journey.

We need to be responsible with our choices, words and actions. But responsibility and control are two separate things, and I think that’s where we get caught up. My miscarriages are not punishments. They are reminders that I am not in control. They are opportunities for me to lean on a God who is in control, a God who loves me and grieves with me.

It is my responsibility to be obedient to God. It is my responsibility to honor my marriage and to take care of the things given to me on this earth. But that doesn’t mean I have any control over the things in my care. It’s such a scary thought to know that I don’t have control. But that is where trust comes in. Trust that God has got this. He knows what is best for me, and His plan is greater than anything I could imagine.

God has a plan for my life, a plan that is already in motion. I see the places where he has taken my flawed, selfish messes and turned them into something wonderful. Because of this, I know that there are some pretty amazing things in store for me and for my family. So, I’m giving my desires for my family up to God, along with the messes and frustrations and failures. And I can’t wait to see the beautiful masterpiece God will unfold.

Extending Grace

This world is in a desperate need for grace.  We are so hard on ourselves and hard on each other.  I see this at every stage of life.  Not to imply that men have it easy, but women have a lot to live up to, even as small children.  It’s assumed or expected that we act a certain way or hold our preferences or priorities in a certain order.  We have things like beauty, brilliance, strength, family, career, and love all defined for us.  We are taught how to attain these things.  And at every turn, we are questioned or we question ourselves.

Our own insecurities can very well blind us to the potential of amazing opportunities, not just in life but also in relationship.  We fight over boys in high school.  We fight over babies and how to raise them when we get older.  And never for a moment do we remove the hurt feelings long enough to remove the preconceived labels we are placing on one another.

Navigating life is hard.  But in my brief time on this earth, I have found some things that have really helped me, so I thought I would share them with you.  Take them as you will.

  1. Be careful when you share your opinion, especially on social media, but also in life offline. If you must share your opinion, ask yourself, “Do I know this person enough (and vice versa) that they will understand that the place I am coming from is only love?”  One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Philippians 2:3 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”.  Make sure you have the foundational relationship with that person to share what is on your heart, and always share it with humility.
  2. On the flip side, don’t take others’ advice personally. You will never completely avoid the unsolicited advice of others.  Last year, after the miscarriage, I heard some of the craziest pieces of advice from complete strangers.  I reminded myself that they are showing me just how invested I may want to be in furthering this relationship to a deeper level.  You don’t have control over their action, but you definitely have control over your own reaction.  Wait for the ball to be in your court, and then do your best to answer with empathy, even if they didn’t.
  3. Always, always, in both of the above situations, extend grace to the other person. You have no idea what they are going through, or where they have been.  I truly believe that God calls us to have relationships built on acceptance and grace because I think this will make a profound impact on the world around us.  If we surround ourselves with like individuals, we may not have a chance to grow.  If we build walls with labels, we may lose an opportunity to glorify God in that relationship.  Accept people where they are.
  4. Extend grace to yourself. No one has been in your exact situation with your exact challenges and opportunities.  You are unique, so of course not everything will work the same as what worked for someone else.  Instead of viewing things as failures, look at them as opportunities to allow God to let you move in a way you probably couldn’t have before.
  5. Accept the grace of God to move through you. Of course, none of this is possible without God. Having God in your life doesn’t make your relationships perfect, either, but I find that relationships are so much better when God is in the center of them.  Asking for help from Him can give you peace, but fair warning, if you ask for God to work in a relationship, be prepared for possible uncomfortable, humbling moments as well.

Life comes at us hard and fast.  I truly believe to God created relationships and friendships to help us overcome these hard times.  Be the kind of friend you want to have.  Listen more than speak.  And again, always, always let God lead.