Archive for July 6, 2012

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Of all the stars in the sky, the polestar is the most useful to the mariner. This text is a polestar, for it has guided more souls to salvation than any other Scripture. It is among promises what the Great Bear is among constellations.             Several words in it shine with peculiar brilliance. Here we have God’s love with a “so” to it, which marks its measureless greatness. Then we have God’s gift in all its freeness and greatness. This also is God’s Son, that unique and priceless gift of a love which could never fully show itself till heaven’s Only-begotten had been sent to live and die for men. These three points are full of light.             Then there is the simple requirement of believing, which graciously points to a way of salvation suitable for guilty men. This is backed by a wide description–“whosoever believeth in him.” Many have found room in “whosoever” who would have felt themselves shut out by a narrower word. Then comes the great promise, that believers in Jesus shall not perish but have everlasting life. This is cheering to every man who feels that he is ready to perish and that he cannot save himself. We believe in the Lord Jesus, and we have eternal life.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

In yesterday’s reflection, I explained why it makes sense to describe Ephesians 1:3 as Paul’s eulogy. In fact, the Greek text of this verse includes three different words based on the root eulog-, which literally means “good speech.” This fact is obscured a bit by the NIV translation, which renders these words as “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (1:3). Some English versions prefer “Blessed be” instead of “Praise be,” for example the ESV and NRSV, which makes the linguistic parallelism more obvious.

Ephesians 1:3 envisions a eulogy that goes round and round. Yes, we are to offer blessing to God. But our praise is a response to the blessings God has already given to us. In fact, he has “blessed” us with “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” In response to what God has done for us, we bless him.

When Paul speaks of God as “blessed,” he is certainly calling for words of praise from those who have received God’s grace. But our eulogy for God is not only a matter of our speech, as is made clear later in this passage. Indeed, we are to exist for the praise of God’s glory (1:12). This includes all that we do in addition to all that we say (see also 2:10). As those who have been blessed by God, we offer our whole lives to him in return.

The fact that God has blessed us “in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing” can easily be misunderstood as referring only to post-mortem benefits. Yet, in Ephesians, the “heavenly realms” refers, not to a separate physical space (the skies) or to a place we go after death (heaven), but rather to a reality in which God and Christ are active both now and in the future. When we put our faith in Christ, though we live on earth, we also begin to live now in the “heavenly realms” (see 2:5-6). And, in this life, we begin to experience the “spiritual blessings” of God, that is, good things that come through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. The rest of Ephesians 1:3-14 will spell it out in much greater detail the nature of some of these blessings.

The circle of eulogy does not begin with us, but with God, who blesses us with the gift of life and, through Christ, eternal life. God chooses us, loves us, adopts us as his children, forgives us, reveals his will to us, gives us our purpose for living, and fills us with his Spirit. In light of these blessings and so many more, we respond by blessing God with our words and our deeds, living our whole life for his glory.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you praise God? What helps you to praise him? How might you praise God with your actions in addition to your words?


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth, Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth! Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee; Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee. What need or grief ever hath failed of relief? Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee; Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging, Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging, Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace, Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding, Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding, Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night, Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him! All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him. Let the Amen sound from His people again, Gladly for aye we adore Him.


“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” by Joachim Neander (1680, translated from German to English by Catherine Winkworth (1863). Public domain.

Put Life Into Your Own

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Max Lucado

Put Life Into Your Own.

“Or he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.” Proverbs 23:7

I don’t know about you, but some nights I can’t shut down my mind—it races back through the day, scanning my mental hard drive, opening conversation files, viewing jpegs of people’s faces I’ve encountered, and revisiting deleted messages—some good, some bad. Our minds are like a Pentium processor, a powerful piece of technology. In fact, according to God, how you think is really what makes you, you.

One wise king wrote: “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV).What you think about is a wide-open window to what you really believe, trust in, worry about, and even worship. And not everybody has programmed their minds to think alike. Some think truth is relative. Which means that for them there are no absolute truths, so whatever works is just fine—nothing is ever always right or always wrong. Others think that there is no real truth and that truth comes in many shapes and colors. That’s pluralism—many truths exist, and as long as you don’t make me choke on your truth, I won’t force you to swallow mine.

If there is no truth and there are no absolutes, then everybody can do whatever they want to do—welcome to the party with no rules! But you and I know that, ultimately, thoughts managed by relativistic, pluralistic software lead to a zigzagging, crazy, self-seeking, dead-end life where everybody loses, including you.

Thankfully you don’t need to settle for software that doesn’t deliver what it promised. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). How solid is that? That takes the punch out of both lines of thinking. Here’s the deal: What you think about you, God, the world, your spirituality or lack of it, sex, gay marriage, religion, or anything else, really makes you who you are. Jesus simply says, “When you’re ready to think like God thinks about all of life, download my Word—I am the way and the truth.”

It’s time to reboot! Install the truth of God’s Word onto the hard drive of your mind. He’ll scan the files of your thoughts, motives, and attitudes and make them completely new. As Paul said, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind!” (Romans 12:2)

And in case you’re still not convinced, remember that God has warned us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). Just because it seems right, doesn’t make it right. Check every thought by the truth that Jesus offers, and when in doubt search His Word.


  • Take a few minutes to think about what occupies your thoughts on most days. Make some notes, and see what you discover.
  • Read Psalm 139:1-24, a prayer of David that invites God to search the hard drive of your heart. Spend some time praying about what God points out to you.
  • Why do you think your thought life is so important to God?

The parched ground shall become a pool . . . —Isaiah 35:7

We always have a vision of something before it actually becomes real to us. When we realize that the vision is real, but is not yet real in us, Satan comes to us with his temptations, and we are inclined to say that there is no point in even trying to continue. Instead of the vision becoming real to us, we have entered into a valley of humiliation.

Life is not as idle ore, But iron dug from central gloom, And battered by the shocks of doom To shape and use.

God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.

When someone tells you to consultmediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?Isaiah 8:19

It always seems as if someone’s got all the answers.

Doctors have all the answers. The wonders of modern medicine allow the modern physician to heal illnesses we never before dreamed of healing and treat conditions we never before imagined were treatable.

Scientists have all the answers. New discoveries constantly emerge from laboratories across the world, and our knowledge of the universe in which we live is ever expanding.

Honestly, with the advent of the Internet, literally anyone can provide answers to anyone else. Want to find out how to fix a leak in your sink? An online search can help with that. Need a refresher on how to change a diaper? There is probably a video online with step-by-step directions. Answers to all of our questions seem to be everywhere, don’t they?

And yet, in some ways, we’re still left with the same questions theologians were asking three thousand years ago. Why do bad things happen to good people? What is our purpose – whether within the context of a marriage, a family, a community, or a larger society?

All of the weightiest “why” questions remain as pressing as always. For at the end of the day, as powerful – and often wonderful – as our modern day “mediums and spiritists” may be, we are still called upon to engage the great questions of existence as individuals in lonely contemplation.

It is precisely at times like this when we must remember that while humanity is alone among the species of this earth in seeking to understand its purpose in life, we are not truly alone so long as we inquire of God – so long as we turn to our Creator when times are tough, and give thanks to the Almighty when He blesses us.

As Isaiah teaches us, while humans may make new progress every day – every minute! –  our quest to make sense of our existence, to confront the basic issues that have challenged humanity from day one, can only proceed in the presence of the eternal God.

Jesus went up on the hillside near Capernaum and called to him the men whom he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve to be with him and to go out to preach, with power to cast out evil spirits. These were the twelve disciples: Simon to whom he gave also the name Peter, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, whom he called “Sons of Thunder,” Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of AlphÊus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who at last betrayed him.

Then Jesus went into a house and the crowd gathered again so that it was impossible even to eat a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to get hold of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Standing outside, his mother and his brothers sent word to him to come out to them. He was in the midst of a crowd seated about him when some one said to him, “Here are your mother and your brothers and sisters outside hunting for you.” He answered, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then looking around at those who sat in a circle about him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”