The glorious unfolding (Ephesians 1:20-23)

We serve a sovereign God who is very much in control of salvation and relationships and who loves us right where we are. The only prerequisite to having the power of God is that you have to believe. We all need the power of the Holy Spirit.

If it’s not God’s power, then it’s the wrong power. If you are not in Christ, then you are lost. The very same power that resurrected Jesus from the tomb is the same power that can, say, help you fight addiction or bring you out of depression.

1. The authority for all we have is solely rooted in the resurrection. In the book of Acts, there were many nationalities represented, and thousands were saved as a result of preaching the spectacular truth of the resurrection. He rose again for our justification. The gospel is incomplete without the resurrection.

Not only was Jesus suffering the physical torment of the crucifixion, but He was also taunted by the devil and demons.

The stone wasn’t rolled away so Christ could get out. He left the tomb before the stone was rolled away. The stone was rolled away so witnesses could get in and see the empty tomb.

There were some 500 witnesses who saw the risen Savior. That Jesus Christ is still alive is what separates Christianity from all other religions.

The resurrection has more theological significance than the creation story.

Jesus is even now seated at the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us.

The devil has some power but Christ is above all earthly powers. God has allowed the devil control of this earthly system. Jesus’ name is above all other names. Even the most powerful individuals on earth will one day bow before Christ.

There is something that made the resurrection necessary: the crucifixion.

2. Humiliation always leads to exaltation. Christ had to become the servant of mankind in order to be crucified and then resurrected. You have to go through the process to get the power.

God will humble you before He ever blesses you. You will not be truly blessed until God breaks you first. Even Jesus personified this principle. If Jesus had to submit to this process, you’d better believe we will have to.

The church is His body. There are no insignificant members in the body.

Outside of the gospel (death, burial, resurrection), the greatest emphasis of the New Testament is on the local church. After all, after the 4 gospels, the New Testament consists of letters written to local churches. As the body, we complete the gospel.

3. The church is God’s fullness. We must consider it a priority of faithfulness. We get our fellowship at our local church. Do not forsake the assembly. The closer we get to Christ’s return, the more fellowship we need.

One of the greatest reasons to go to church is that you have something someone else needs. This is being faithful to the body.

People come in and then leave because they don’t use their gifts. God has equipped us to see that His house grows. When you show up at church, let God use you. When you miss church, you ought miss being in church. Faithfulness to the house of God is what gives us passion for the community.

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The root problem

The problem isn’t guns or ideology. The problem isn’t politicians or criminals. The problem isn’t corruption or collusion. The problem isn’t poverty or greed. The problem is sin, and the root problem is Satan, the father of lies, a deceiver and a divider. Every sin we see, commit, or experience, Christ has already died for. Satan is the problem. Christ is the answer. Every single person we come across, whether he be noble or despicable, is a sinner in need of a Savior. Ultimate justice belongs to God. Every knee will one day bow before the throne. Do not be dismayed in this life. There is justice in the next.

The glorious unfolding (Ephesians 1:18)

God is not just our “buddy”; He is our Father. Without God there is no revelation and understanding in our lives. Only God can allow us to see certain things that we would otherwise be blinded to.

1. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t open your eyes, no man will ever convince you. You don’t just wake up one day with some spiritual passion. If the Holy Spirit won’t bother you about your sin, man won’t be able to, either. If I can talk you into something, someone else can talk you out of it.

You must be “born again,” that is, you must be spiritually born. Otherwise, you will never trust Jesus Christ.

2. We serve the God of hope. We have chaos and anarchy because people are searching for something beyond themselves. And when hope is all gone, help is on the way.

Sometimes we can’t see the hope because our eyes aren’t open. We get too bogged down in our own quagmire.

3. You have an extraordinary calling on your life. Don’t miss it. If you miss the will of God, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. The reason we have talents is to discern what God wants to do with our lives. We are built for the ministry and for service and redemption and revival.

You can never truly run away from your calling. You cannot fill a void in your life with anything other than what God has called you to do.

The real glorious unfolding is when you discern what God has called you to do. You’ll never be too old or too young to serve God, so don’t be too stubborn to serve God. His kingdom will prevail, and we can choose to be a part of it.

And it’s natural if you feel unworthy. We’re all unworthy.

4. Our true riches are Godly relationships. The riches are the glory of His inheritance. We always talk about what we’re going to get from God but ignore what we already have. And what we have now are Godly relationships with other believers. These will be the richest things we will ever have.

When prayers get answered

My friend Bob and his family are going through the worst hard time. It has been more than two months since he suffered a major stroke and his rehabilitation has been difficult and fraught with uncertainties. Last month, his sister, who was in her early 40’s, passed away, which just seemed to heap misery on top of misery.

Bob’s wife has been trying to get him into a top-notch facility that specializes in stroke patients. There’s one in Chicago that is supposedly the best of its kind. So yesterday I prayed that God would move mountains in getting Bob into the best available facility.

Yesterday evening I received, via a friend, Bob’s wife’s daily Facebook update in which she literally said that God had moved mountains and gotten Bob approved for the facility in Chicago.

Bob is one of those people who makes friends very easily. If I could describe him with one word, it would be “gregarious.” He knows a lot of people. I have no doubt that there is an extensive prayer network surrounding Bob and his family. I am only one of many, so who knows how many prayers have been said on his behalf?

I love watching God at work like this. One might be tempted to look at Bob’s situation and ask why, or get mad at God for even allowing it, or ask cynically can any good come of this? I don’t know what’s in store for Bob. I do know that God has made a habit of turning around seemingly hopeless situations just like this and working miracles in people’s lives. Indeed, there are many chapters left to be written. All we can do now is pray and offer support to the family.

The glorious unfolding (Ephesians 1:16-17)

The first 14 versus of this chapter are highly theological. Starting with verse 15, Paul gets more practical. How can we apply these things to our lives?

It is encouraging to watch others’ faith grow. Somewhere, someone is observing our faith in difficult circumstances.

1. Be thankful for the spiritual influences in your life. Paul was the spiritual influence over the Ephesian believers. Different people will walk with us at various stages during our spiritual journey.

When others influence us deeply, it leaves an imprint that is not easy to forget. We are all here because someone at some point influenced us. Those who stand for righteousness and do things the right way have an influence they don’t even understand.

Be deeply grateful for the influences God has placed in our lives. We are all the product of someone’s prayers. In his letter, Paul was sure to remind the Ephesians they were in his prayers. He was interceding for them.

Don’t get so wrapped up in yourself that you neglect to pray for others, too. This requires discipline. Pray for others, that God would supply them spiritually.

2. We must develop the discipline of truly praying for others. Pray without ceasing, even if you just remember others as you recall their names. If it weren’t for the prayers of the saints, the devil would have slain us already.

Sometimes you might pray for a person for years before they ever come to know the Lord.

Do you have a prayer list? If all you do is complain about the darkness, then turn on the light of prayer. Be part of the solution.

Don’t just say you’ll pray for someone. Mean it. We aren’t praying for God’s benefit, but for ours and others.

We are part of the family of God. Thus, when Paul writes to the Ephesians (and to us), he’s writing to us as a group of believers.

3. The more knowledge we have of Jesus, the more understanding we will have of our surroundings. Facebook and Twitter don’t tell us we’re living in the last days. They prove it. We already know we are living in the last days because of Revelation from God. We don’t need our circumstances to tell us we need help, we already know this from the Bible.

Ask God for a spirit of wisdom and revelation. The Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures for us.

We may have thought that the hardships we dealt with a year ago, or 5 or 10 years ago were going to destroy us. But here we are today.

If we are ignorant, it’s because we aren’t reading the word of God. Saved people and lost people think differently.

When the whole world falls apart, we at least know we are redeemed in Christ. If you struggle with wisdom and decision-making ability and revelation, the problem isn’t with God or a lack of resources, but a lack of understanding in Jesus.

The more you get to know Jesus, the more His work around us and in us will be evident.

The exit (Exodus 1:1-2:25)

After Joseph’s death, the Israelites descended into bondage in Egypt for 430 years. Not until Moses came along were the Israelites led into freedom. So there is a long gap between the events in Genesis & the events of Exodus.

Everything that occurred was foreordained by a sovereign God. These things had already been prophesied.

The fact that the Israelites multiplied so abundantly contributed to their falling into bondage. Eventually a new king arose in Egypt who did not know who Joseph was. He felt threatened by the Hebrews because they were so many.

The new king dealt shrewdly with the Israelites in order to take advantage of them. He had assumed that they might at some point join with Egypt’s enemies.

The Israelites built for the Egyptians treasure cities and monuments. The more the Egyptians persecuted the Israelites, the more they multiplied.

God’s people have always been under affliction. In the book of Acts, for example, the Christian Church flourished because it was persecuted by the Romans. (That’s one reason the church in America is so anemic. It has never been persecuted.)

The Egyptians made the lives of the Hebrews bitter. If you don’t learn to carry your afflictions Biblically, they will turn into bitterness.

Eventually, the Egyptians resolved to kill all Israelite male offspring. But the Egyptian midwives feared God and did not obey. This is the world into which Moses was born.

Moses’ mother hid him from Egyptian authorities for 3 months, then hid him in a basket and put him in the water with the hope that he would be found and cared for. She literally put her son in the hands of God.

Of course, Moses was discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh. She had immediate compassion for the baby, even though she recognized him as a Hebrew child.

Moses’ sister, who had been watching, offered to go find a wet nurse for the baby. Of course, she fetched the child’s mother to care for Moses, who moved into the palace to care for Moses, who was now safe. In fact, Pharaoh’s daughter ended up paying Moses’ mother to care for Moses.

She called his name Moses because she drew him out of the water.

Isn’t it remarkable how many miracles in the Bible involve water?

Moses ended up being raised and educated as though he were one of Pharaoh’s own.

Moses wasn’t called “grown” until he was 40. He had never visited the Israelites until this time. He had heretofore identified as an Egyptian.

Moses witnessed an Israelite being struck by an Egyptian taskmaster and killed the Egyptian. But God was not quite ready to lead the Israelites out of bondage.

Sometimes we have talents and think we’re ready for the next level. Then God takes these things away. So it was with Moses’ speech impediment.

At this time, there were about 3 million Israelites. Given this, how ironic is it that Moses went out to two different places in two days and was recognized by the same people?

Pharaoh sought to slay Moses. So Moses escaped to the land of Midian and sat by a well. He would remain here 40 more years. (Forty is the Biblical number for temptation.)

For 40 years, Moses tended sheep and no one knew him. He forgot how to talk well and dress well. His appearance deteriorated. Only then, at age 80, was God ready for him.

It was during his time in Midian that Moses met the daughters of Reuel, who ended up giving one of his daughters, Zipporah, to Moses as a wife.

The Bible uses the phrase “in the process of time.” Indeed, time is a process.

Meanwhile, the Israelites’ condition worsened. They cried out to God, and God heard their groaning. (Never discount this.) God remembered them. When man forgets, God remembers. God had respect unto them.

Moses was the greatest redeemer in the Bible outside of Christ.

The glorious unfolding (Ephesians 1:14-15)

Everything from the cradle to the grave is showing God to be sovereign over all. There is no salvation in any other but Jesus Christ. His death was correctly prophesied and some 500 witnesses saw Him in resurrected form.

The greatest gift of our salvation is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We are going to get the keys to the kingdom. We are joint heirs with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the down payment of what we get later on.

Jesus is enough. He gets all the praise & glory. We are His purchased possessions. If you take the blood out of the gospel, you are left with a fairy tale that will send everyone to Hell.

1. God the Father planned our salvation. The gospel was never an afterthought. We call this the sovereignty of God.

God the Son provided our salvation. If someone planned it out, someone had to carry out the provision. Jesus didn’t just die for our sin, He became sin. He is the propitiation for our sin.

God the Spirit protects our salvation. If you really are saved, you won’t want to do what you used to do. We are protected in our salvation, and not even the devil can take us.

2. Your faith is a massive encouragement to those around you. It is encouraging to see God working in the life of someone who is going through a trial. People don’t know what you’re going through but they see how you handle what you’re going through.

What encourages us about the great figures of the Bible is their faith. They are ordinary people who had faith. They had their shortcomings, too. They had problems just like us and wayward children just like us.

Worship is nothing more than our obedience. Sometimes God does things so we can find out the answers ourselves; He already knows the answers.

3. How we love sinners and how we love saints is a very different calling from God. We often think that when the Bible says to love one another it means to love everyone equally. But we cannot love a lost world the way we love fellow believers.

We have a responsibility to love lost people in our attempt to “pluck them from the fire.” But we cannot fellowship with lost people the way we fellowship with God’s people. And we can never love the lost until we first learn to love one another in church as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our love for the saints will be an encouragement to others.

One of the most wonderful things is to meet a fellow believer we have never met before and have your Spirit mesh with his Spirit.

We must love people where they’re at, not where we want them to be. We have been called to a greater example of faith. We must love and protect especially those we worship with. Protect your pastor. Never minimize the fact that what you have, God is using for those around you.

Sometimes dreams can be the pits (Genesis 47-50)

Joseph understood wisdom so very much that he was able to bring both the land and the people together under Pharaoh as a result of famine. Egypt became very wealthy in spite of these 7 years of hardship.

The Israelites settled in the land of Goshen, which was part of Egypt. Jacob was 130 years old when he and his descendants migrated to Egypt. He would live another 17 years. Before he died, he requested that be buried not in Goshen, but in the land of his fathers.

In the final chapters of Genesis, Jacob disburses his land among his sons. He also blessed Joseph’s two sons, the younger ahead of the older.

Everything Jacob said at the end of his life regarding the promises of God eventually came to pass.

Joseph had lived much of his life without his father’s presence, so the moment Jacob died was indeed a bittersweet moment.

Joseph had his father embalmed and both the Egyptians and the house of Jacob mourned for him for many days.

Pharaoh graciously allowed Joseph to carry his father’s body back home to bury him. Pharaoh also sent along everything Joseph would need.

(You just ooze favor when you’re walking with God.)

This was an incredibly long funeral procession. They were doing this more for Joseph than Jacob. In fact, we are told that this was a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.

Indeed, Jacob was ultimately laid to rest in Canaan, in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which had been purchased by Abraham as a burying place.

(In Middle Eastern culture, history never dies. They can speak of events than occurred 2,000 years ago as though they were yesterday.)

So that left just Joseph and his brothers, and Joseph’s brothers were now concerned that Joseph would seek revenge on his brothers for what they had done to him all those years before.

How you perceive someone is how you receive someone. With negative thoughts, you can think things into existence that hadn’t ever existed.

The good thing is that the brothers recognized that what they had done before was evil. Now they invoked the name of their father to try to prevent a retribution they believed was coming. Joseph wept because he never had any intention of revenge.

Joseph said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God?” Things get dangerous when you start trying to play God in other people’s lives. You cannot bring redemption into someone’s life with judgmental nonsense.

Joseph explained to his brothers that God had turned their evil into something good.

We like for everything in our lives to be neat and orderly but sometimes God blows that up.

Either we believe that pain is a platform or we don’t. Joseph’s platform was “to save much people alive.”

It is a difficult thing, but it is best to let God bring us through pain in order to deliver us to our purpose. Otherwise, we can end up filled with regret (coulda, woulda, shoulda).

Joseph made sure to speak kindly to his brothers and to care for them.

Joseph lived 110 years. He saw his son’s descendants to the 3rd generation. From the moment of his death, it would be 430 years until Moses delivered the Israelites out of bondage. The artifacts that the children of Israel would carry out of Egypt included Joseph’s bones, as he had prophesied.

Likewise, Joseph was embalmed and placed in a coffin. (The coffin was an Egyptian creation. The word “coffin” means “hope chest.”)

Never lose hope in what God is doing in your life.

The glorious unfolding (Ephesians 1:13)

We should praise God no matter our circumstances. Everything we do is to the praise of His glory. We learn to live with the talents & gifts He has given us.

We have had the glorious purpose of trusting Jesus Christ. In order to be saved, we believe on Jesus Christ. It is not enough to believe in Him, because even the demons believe in Him.

1. Our faith is a direct result of hearing the truth of God’s word. The holy scriptures are able to make us wise to salvation. Nothing else can effectively serve this purpose. The holy scriptures can take us from death to life.

In Romans 10, Paul writes that both Jew and Gentile share the same responsibility to Christ. You have to be able to hear the truth before you can believe it. And how shall anyone hear without a preacher?

There is not one problem in the world we cannot preach through. We are all evangelists and have the responsibility of spreading the gospel. But preachers have been set apart by God to propagate the truth. Make sure you are actually listening to someone who has been called by God.

A lot of people have heard the gospel but they have not all believed. Non-believers often find the gospel doesn’t fit their own lives.

The initiation of our faith only comes through the effective preaching of the gospel. Churches that do not preach the truth of the gospel will not win converts. Any gospel that does not produce conversions is not a Biblical gospel.

2. There is absolutely no hope of salvation without the gospel. If we don’t preach the gospel then we are not a genuine New Testament church. Everything we do is wrapped up in what Jesus has done for us.

If you trust something other than Christ for your salvation, then you will not go to heaven. With God all things are possible. The gospel is able to radically change us from the inside-out.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.

To say that the Spirit of God can live in you but not change you is heretical. The Spirit of God will lead you to good works. If He hasn’t changed you, then He doesn’t live in you.

3. The greatest gift for our faith is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us. And the Holy Spirit is merely a down payment on what we receive later on.

But the Holy Spirit exists to point us to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not an end to Himself. It’s all about Jesus.

We expect people who are filled with the Holy Spirit to live godly lives. This is why we have to cut through religion and other nonsense. Once you are saved and moving forward, you must have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows us how to live out the gospel.

Sometimes dreams can be the pits (Genesis 46:1-7, 27-47:23)

You have to be careful about sharing what God puts on your heart. If you share with people who don’t understand they can become jealous and seek your ruin.

There are times when God uses answers and non-answers in your prayer life.

We are told that Israel’s spirit revived when he was told Joseph was alive and they would see each other again.

Israel and his family offered sacrifices at Beer-sheba during their journey. He had not forgotten where had come from.

God spoke to Jacob in the “visions of the night.” Indeed, never discount a sleepless night. Sometimes God speaks to us during these times when we are alone and it is quiet.

Israel and his family didn’t just go to Egypt for food. God planned to use Egypt to bring up Israel as a great nation.

Whenever God needs something done, He finds a willing man or woman.

When Jacob travelled to Egypt, there were 70 persons in his party. This, at that time, represented the entire nation of Israel.

In this chapter, we learn about the land of Goshen. This would be where the Israelites would eventually settle.

The reunion of Jacob and Joseph was incredibly emotional.

Joseph was shrewd enough to instruct his family to tell Pharaoh they dealt with cattle and not shepherds, since the Egyptians considered shepherds an abomination. But they told Pharaoh they were shepherds, regardless.

Despite this, Pharaoh gave them the best land and put Joseph’s family in charge of his cattle.

When Jacob was brought before Pharaoh, he blessed Pharaoh.

Jacob was 130 years old at the time, yet he still called his years on earth few and evil (chaotic).

People will disappoint you. And if you quit going to church because someone disappoints you, then you’ve been going to church for the wrong reason.

The land they were given was the land of Rameses.

The Egyptians had spent all their money on food, yet the famine persisted. So Joseph began to trade food for their animals. And when they had no more animals, he traded them food for their land. He acquired all these things for Pharaoh.

(Most people don’t live for God because they’re not hungry enough.)

Only the lands of the priests were not bought up.

If you want God to take you seriously, then listen to God. Joseph was taken seriously because he listened to God.

When we do something from God we think is random, we find out later on that it wasn’t random at all.