Showered with the Grace of God in Christ

I was able to contribute to a series on the book of Ephesians for Servants of Grace. I covered Ephesians 3:1-2:

Would we go to prison for someone else? The Apostle Paul did. He opens Ephesians chapter three by referring to himself as a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of the Gentiles. This type of sacrifice seems almost unreasonable in our day and age. With mantras like, “you do you” and “speak your truth,” hearing of somebody laying down their own desires and ambitions for someone else is radical. But this is the way of the cross. When Jesus first appeared to Paul (then Saul), this was the road Jesus was calling Paul to walk down, and it’s the same road we must follow as well.

Read the rest there >>

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Review of Wendy Alsup’s Bible Study in Ephesians

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Peace through grace. This is how Wendy Horger Alsup would summarize her bible study through Ephesians. A phrase she borrows from theologian and scholar John Stott.

According to Alsup’s Introduction in By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman’s Identity,Ephesians defines my identity and security in Christ.” Alsup is one of the women forging the new path ahead for Bible doctrine books written for women by women.

She encourages women to not just pick up books on women specific topics written by women authors, but to delve deeper into a true and sound study of a book of the Bible. By bringing her feminine touch to the realm of Bible doctrine, she aims to help women apply the truth in Ephesians to their lives. She is also a wife and mother and occasionally touches on those applications as well.

Maybe you’ve been to a ladies bible “study”, where it’s really more snacking, giggling, and conversing about life than actual studying. Maybe you’ve been to some that are more emotionally driven, where women ask themselves how a particular passage makes them feel. Well, this study is not the same. Alsup takes on historical context, original intent, and examines each verse and chapter against the message of Ephesians in its entirety. Alsup sums up Ephesians by saying,

 “The Apostle Paul is intent that we understand the blessings that have been eternally secured for us by Christ despite our unworthiness, and from understanding those unconditional blessings, we then learn obedience.” 

The book is broken down into 4 sections that each cover roughly 2 chapters of Ephesians, which is then broken down by every couple verses. The actual biblical text is included prior to Alsup’s commentary, and each chapter has space for reflections. There are discussion questions in the back of the book as well.

My women’s group at church just finished using this study, and I think it facilitated great discussion. It personally affected me to seek greater humility from the Lord. Also, it challenged me to love people in my life in the way Christ loves me. Namely, to be more forbearing, tolerant, and patient in how I love my family. If it can change me, it can change you.

Two ways to be Rich Everyday

There is a show on TLC called Extreme Cheapskates. Each episode shows people using bizarre tactics to save a buck. A few episodes I happened to see awhile back showed cheapskate millionaires as well. They fearfully hoard their wealth in a feeble attempt to control their lives, and in the process they make themselves and others suffer needlessly.

In the same way we can be spiritual cheapskate millionaires. We have abundant riches at our disposal daily, but don’t plunge ourselves into the waters of our inheritance.

Ephesians 1:7-14 says,

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Christ is our rich inheritance, given to us by the Father. He lavished the riches of his grace on us through the gospel. Yet, it didn’t stop on the day when we first believed in him. The riches of his grace are available daily to us. We must not selfishly hoard them. We must use them for ourselves and others.

How do we tap into our spiritual wealth? What does this mean in our daily lives?

1.) Read and Hear Truth

What are you soaking in? Are you soaking in your own personal thoughts, feelings, mood, and emotions? Are you soaking in full daily doses of media and worldly philosophies? If we steep in those things too long without truth we’ll become bitter. If we want our life brew to taste more palatable we need daily doses of truth in our lives.

The first place to find the capital T truth is God’s Word. Yet, we can also find glimpses of truth in creation, art, music, and literature, but they must be informed by the capital T truth. God’s Word is the baseline we look to to judge everything in our lives. When we do this we are delighting in and using the riches God has given us in Christ.

We need to know truth in order to deal with our daily circumstances: a demanding boss, catty co-workers, needy children, and even housework. If we don’t have truth anchoring our lives we will get swept away in whatever current comes our way.

2.) Pray for Help

We all hear about (or know personally) the newfound independence of toddlers. “No, me do it,” can commonly be heard in a household with small children. Are we doing this with our heavenly Father? He has given us his riches in order to help us daily; avail of them through prayer.

If my toddler son gets frustrated with something I tell him to use his words and ask me for help. I tell him to say, “Help, mama!”

It’s that simple. Say to God, “Help, daddy!” And he will help you. You don’t have to say a special prayer with a certain number of words that sound fancy and smart. Just say, “help!” You don’t have, because you don’t ask.

Christ became poor in death, so we could have the riches of life daily. We can now approach his throne of grace with full confidence, and know he will answer any prayer that is aligned with the truth of his Word.

As it says above in Ephesians, the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. We are not left alone without the power of the Spirit’s help. God will deliver on his promise through his Holy Spirit, until we fully acquire possession of our inheritance in heaven.

Weary moms need lots of help, so ask for it daily. Pressures in the workforce can be stressful, so ask for help. Life can be mundane and unsatisfying, so ask for help. We are rich, so let’s use it in our aid.

Through truth and prayer we can put our riches to work daily. We are too easily content with substandard conditions; replacing our royal robes with paupers rags. We’ve been given so much, so let’s not turn our backs on it like the Prodigal Son. Don’t exchange pig slop for the rich food at our Father’s banquet.

Wendy Horger Alsup sums this up well:

“Do not be content to simply read through these thoughts and then tuck them away like a miser. Your spiritual inheritance is useful right now in the issues you face daily in life. Spend your inheritance hour by hour of each day, raising your children, loving your husband, adjusting to co-workers, supporting your roommate, dealing with your family, dealing with your church. Your inheritance in Christ is of infinite value and relevant to what you are facing right now. You will never spend it all.”