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Who Would Have Thought?


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


Yesterday we read the beginning of Paul’s doxology in which he accurately proclaimed that God can do far more than we would ever pray for or even think. God’s children (born-again believers [John 1:12]) are still simply human beings. We are limited in our imagination and, of course, our abilities.

God can use us despite those limitations. When Jesus fed the multitudes He did so with limited human resources (just a couple of loaves of bread and fish) [Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-9]. At the Red Sea all Moses could do was hold his hands up in the air but God parted the waters [Exodus 14]. When we offer God what little we have, He can work miracles. He can do things that we would never have thought of.

When He does He deserves to be given all the glory. Lest we begin to think that we deserve any praise for any of these accomplishments, Paul reminds us that the glory belongs to God in these situations.

But beyond that, the very fact that God is creating a family – called “the church” in this verse – that will last “throughout all generations, forever and ever” is reason enough to give Him glory. That family is built on the work of Jesus Christ.

When someone does something for you that you didn’t ask for you are very thankful, especially if you really needed it. As a result, your estimation of them rises. How much more so, then, should our esteem for God be? He took it upon Himself to save a rag-tag bunch of self-absorbed sinners who paid no attention to Him – and, in some cases, even disavowed His existence – from the self-imposed destiny they were headed for by sacrificing His own life. No one imagined He would do that.

If left to ourselves none of us would ever have imagined that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. But God knew it. And even though none of us asked God to pay the penalty for our sins He did so anyway by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to become sin in our place [2 Corinthians 5:21]. Who would ever have thought of this? Only God.

The very existence of “the church” – the worldwide collection people born-again through the blood of Jesus – is proof of God’s immense love for us and His ability and willingness to do things above and beyond our imagination. This institution will exist for all eternity as God’s family.

For this alone God deserves all the praise and glory we can muster.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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The Incredible Power Of The Holy Spirit


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


Paul had prayed that his readers, which includes us, would have inner strength, have the indwelling Christ, know His incomprehensible love, and be filled the fullness of God. This may all seem impossible. But with God anything is possible [Matthew 19:26]. This makes sense. He did, after all, design and create us.

But these things are only available to believers (Paul is writing to believers) through the “power at work within us”. That power is the Holy Spirit.

At the moment a person believes in Jesus for necessity and completeness of the forgiveness of their sins, God takes up residence in that person in the form of the Holy Spirit – the 3rd member of the Trinity [Acts 2:38]. God is one God. But He has manifested Himself to the human race in three “persons”: the Father, the Son (whose earthly name was Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit provides power to our lives [Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:16]. It is through this power that Christians are able to live in a way that the rest of the world cannot. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to hold our tongue when we are being ridiculed for their faith. The Holy Spirit gives us power to love those who hate us. The Holy Spirit gives us power to face tragedy with confidence.

As stated, the Holy Spirit is God. That means the power Paul is talking about is the very same power that created the universe and raised Christ from the dead [Psalm 33:6,9; Ephesians 1:20]. That is some pretty incredible power.

It is that very same power that is inside every born-again believer. And it is currently “at work” in their lives. Notice the verb is in the present tense. We do not have to wait until we get to heaven to experience this power. Granted, we will not experience it fully on this earth. But nevertheless, God, through the Holy Spirit, is working in our lives to accomplish His purpose for us which is to fill us with the fullness of God.

Some expect God to, therefore, only provide us with enjoyable experiences as if He were some genie who waves a magic wand over us. That is not how God works. God is interested in building our character. This happens primarily through adversity.

God calls on His children to experience suffering. We all have a hard time with this concept because no one wants to go through difficulty. But it is only through hardship that we can become better people. When we do experience suffering we (God’s children) can know that He is right there with us – in fact He is inside us – and will comfort and guide us through any situation.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God Is Able To Do Far More Than We Think


Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)


Over the past few days we’ve been studying Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. In it he prayed some pretty amazing things. Things that are so amazing that it might be difficult for the Ephesians or us to believe they are possible. So Paul offers up a doxology in which is reminds us that God is able to do anything – even more than we could “ask or think”.

A doxology is a statement that mentions awesome characteristics of God for the purpose of ascribing glory to Him. It comes from two Greek words: δοξα (pronounced: dox’-ah) meaning “glory” and λόγιον (pronounced: log’-ee-on) meaning “saying”.

Paul had prayed that his readers would be filled with the fullness of God. That is an amazing concept and one that is both hard to comprehend and explain. But nevertheless, God “is able” to do it. How He does it we don’t know. But God can do “far more abundantly” than we can imagine.

I think this is pretty cool. But there are many people who reject God because they don’t understand Him. They claim Christians believe in fairy tales because we cannot explain God. But there are at least a couple of things wrong with this argument.

First, we need to keep in mind that we are a creation. Therefore, we have limited capacity to understand our Creator. Second, there are plenty of every-day instances where we are fascinated with things we don’t understand.

How many people understand how a computer works? Unless you work in the technology field, specifically as a hardware engineer, you don’t know how it works. Yet people are amazed at their smartphones and tablets and rely them constantly throughout the day. Unless you are an aerospace engineer you probably can’t explain how an airplane, weighing in excess of 100 tons, can fly. But it does. And millions of people trust one with their lives everyday.

Likewise, we don’t need to understand everything about God to be fascinated by Him or to trust Him. Sometimes it nice to just enjoy life without being concerned with all the details. This is very true when it comes to God. As we’ve studied in the Bible, God does reveal much truth about Himself to us. But He doesn’t reveal everything and even some things He does reveal we can’t understand. Sometimes we just have to sit back, trust Him, and enjoy the experience [Psalm 46:10].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Life As It Was Meant To Be


so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)


Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, which we have been studying for the past few days, reaches its pinnacle with today’s verse. The prayer started off with Paul asking that believers be spiritually strengthened so that Christ can dwell within their hearts. The result of Christ’s indwelling is that their lives are built on a foundation of love such that they can comprehend the infinite vastness of God’s love for them.

Which brings us to Paul’s final desire for believers: they reach spiritual maturity by being filled with the fullness of God.

The Greek word for “fullness” here is πλερομα (pronounced: play’-ro-mah). The idea of being filled is to be controlled by. It is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe someone who is being controlled by an emotion (e.g filled with anger, jealousy). The ultimate state of a Christian is to have his mind controlled by God.

This is not meant to imply that God wants us to become robots. The concept here is that we are so fixated on God and His grace and love for us, that we forsake our own sense of right and wrong for His righteousness.

When a cup is filled with water there is no room left in it for anything else. We are to be filled with God such that there is not room in our minds and lives for anything else. This is exactly how Jesus lived [Colossians 2:9]. And the goal God has for all His children is to be like Christ [Romans 8:29].

But lest we think that we can achieve this on this earth we need to remember that even the great apostle Paul did not attain this. He continued to do things his natural flesh wanted to do even though he knew these were not the things he should be doing [Romans 7:15]. It is not until we see Jesus that we will actually be like Him [1 John 3:2].

But we can certainly experience some taste of this on this earth. And it all starts with letting Christ, who is God, indwell our hearts as Paul prayed. I think when we experience a bit of heaven on earth we are more inclined to live like the citizens of heaven we already are. We are also more likely to reach out to those who don’t yet believe.

We will not be the people God has in mind in this life. But we will be those people when we die. This is the great reward awaiting those who believe and go to heaven [John 1:12, 3:3, 3:16 et. al]. We will experience life as it was meant to be. And that experience will last forever.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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God’s Love For Us Is Vast, But Knowable


so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)


As we continue to read Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians we come to a passage today in which Paul prays for something interesting. The Ephesians, who were believers, already knew something about God’s love for them. A person doesn’t usually become a believer without some understanding of God’s love.

New believers are familiar with some famous verses in the Bible that speak of God’s love such as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. But our understanding can’t stop there. We need to comprehend the vastness of God’s love. Love has dimension. To that end God’s love has:

  • breadth: God’s love is available to all people everywhere
  • length: God’s love began in eternity past and continues into eternity future
  • height: God’s love can take us to heaven
  • depth: God’s love can overcome the darkest, most heinous of our sins

God’s love extends in four directions. Not coincidentally, so does the cross.

Once a person is saved and is part of God’s family their eternity is secure – they are going to heaven. But that is not the end. That is just the beginning. At that point such a person is like a baby – he needs spiritual nourishment so he can grow to be a mature Christian adult. To that end, he needs to keep learning. One of the things he needs to learn is the extent of God’s love.

Its interesting that we can “comprehend” and can “know the love of Christ”. God never appeals to our emotions. He appeals to our intellect. Those who claim – like I used to – that Christianity is just an emotional experience or blind faith are wrong. God goes out of His way in the Bible to direct us to knowledge of Him.

Knowledge provides security. When life challenges us we can fall back on what we know to be true. Then we don’t have be tossed around by worry and insecurity. When we comprehend the love that God has for us we can be emotionally stable as the world around us falls apart.

But paradoxically, “the love of Christ… surpasses knowledge”. Lest we get too boastful about our own ability to understand God, Paul reminds us that ultimately God is not completely knowable.

Certainly our knowledge of God’s love can, and should, grow. God is all about teaching us and changing us to be more like Jesus. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are created, finite creatures. We can never know all there is to know about God.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Love Is The Foundation Of All We Are


so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)


Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians continues today with the apostle’s hope that his readers – then and now – would be rooted and grounded in love.

The use of the metaphor “rooted” pictures a tree that is securely anchored in the soil so that it can obtain all the nutrients it needs to grow bigger and stronger. Likewise, when a believer is rooted in the love of Christ – when we understand how deep and wide God’s love for us is – we can grow to be the people that God wants us to be.

But this cannot happen through any human effort. It can only happen if Christ dwells in our hearts through faith. Then we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. It is not a coincidence that the first of these fruits is love. If we are not rooted in love we cannot build the other character traits (e.g. joy, peace, patience).

Just like a tree is a living, growing organism, so is a Christian. We are growing – however slowly – into the image of Christ. The deeper we grow inside (e.g. the part of a tree below the soil) the more productive our lives will be on the outside (e.g the part of the tree above the soil).

The second of Paul’s two mixed metaphors, “grounded“, describes a building that has been erected on a firm foundation that does not move. In a similar way, a Christian who understands God’s love for them will not be easily shaken when the storms of life hit. Their emotions will not fluctuate with every change of circumstance.

When we are growing deeper in our knowledge of God’s love for us and when that love becomes the foundation of who we are, we can then display that love to others. God’s definition of love is not something that satisfies self. It is something that is outwardly directed – it is selfless and makes others better [1 Corinthians 8:1].

It (love) is also the most important aspect of who we are. A person may have lots of money or lots of knowledge. But if she does not have love, then she is nothing [1 Corinthians 13:2].

Just as the test of a tree’s roots is a strong storm and the test of a building’s foundation is an earthquake or flood, so the test of our love is when we experience trials. If we find ourselves not responding in love then we need to sink our roots deeper and solidify our foundation – the love of Christ within us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Faith Is An Open Door To Our Heart


so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV)


We are currently reading a prayer by the apostle Paul for the Ephesians. Yesterday he prayed that they would be strengthened through the Holy Spirit. The result of such strengthening (“so that”) is Christ dwelling in their hearts.

This verse is not a salvation verse. We often hear that people need to ask Jesus into their hearts as a metaphor for being saved. But such logic is never found in the Bible. This is the only verse in the Bible that refers to Christ dwelling in someone’s heart and it is written to people who already believe.

The Greek word translated “dwell” here is κατοικεο (pronounced: kat-oy-keh’-o) and means “to inhabit; to feel at home”. When a person is saved, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, immediately takes up residence in that person [Ezekiel 36:27; 1 Corinthians 6:19 et. al]. That is the work of God. But it is the responsibility of each believer to make Him welcome.

Before a person is saved they are spiritually dead [Ephesians 2:1]. Yet Christ takes up residence inside that person. He doesn’t wait for that person to clean up their life. Then, just like a homeowner restores a dilapidated, condemned building, God begins a work of renovating that person’s spirit by bringing it back to life.

That renovation can only occur when we allow ourselves to be strengthened by the Spirit, as we read yesterday. But we are naturally resistant to such changes. That is why we need faith.

Faith is required if we are going to make our lives a welcoming home for Jesus. Biblical faith is not passive. It does not mean we continue to live as we were while God does what He does magically. Biblical faith is active. It is an active, moment-by-moment, reliance on God.

When we have faith we will be more inclined to make our lives a pleasing home for Jesus. Anyone who accepts Jesus’ death as necessary and complete for the forgiveness of their sins has the Holy Spirit living in them. But without on-going faith, a person will not experience complete fellowship with Christ.

It is only when we surrender our lives to Him, through faith, that He can truly take up residence in our souls. Jesus must be the very center of a believer’s life. We are to let Him become the dominating factor in our attitudes and conduct. To do that we need to welcome Him in, through faith.

Faith is the front door to our hearts. The more faith we have, the more open and welcoming that door is.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Strengthening Our Inner Being


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
(Ephesians 3:14-16 ESV)


Today Paul begins his prayer for the Ephesians. The first thing he asks God to provide them is strength in their “inner being” (i.e. spiritual strength).

A strong inner being – a strong spirit – is important for a believer (Paul is praying for believers here). Without it we will experience anxiety and frustration when things in life don’t go in a way we understand. We will give in to harmful temptations. The unbelieving world lives like this – full of worry and with a lack of self-control. But this is not how God has called His children to live.

God wants us to be spiritually strong so that we will not be tossed around by what worries the world around us or by false teaching [Ephesians 4:14]. Another reason He wants this is being strong is a witness to non-believers. When non-believers see us not rattled by what goes on in the world around us they will want to know how that we can be that way.

In Paul’s prayer he asks God to “grant” the Ephesians this strength. God gives His strength to us “through His Spirit”. But God does not wave a magic wand over us. We have to actively participate in our spiritual growth after we are saved [Philippians 2:12].

Billy Graham once said the secret to a victorious Christian life is total surrender to the Spirit of God. The way we strengthen our spirit is by allowing the Holy Spirit to direct every decision we make. This seems illogical to those who don’t believe. But its true: surrender makes us stronger.

When a bodybuilder lifts a weight he is actually weakening his muscles. This is intentional. He lifts to the point where he can’t lift any more. The muscle is entirely depleted. The result is that the muscle will grow back stronger than it was before. Strengthening our spirit works similarly.

But we can’t follow the Spirit if we do not know where He is leading. That is why we must study God’s word daily. We must absorb God’s truth and we need to meditate on it – think about it – all day [Joshua 1:8]. One way we can do this is to study a small portion of Scripture every morning and keep it in our minds all day.

We spend a lot of time on our outer being. We wash it. We feed it. We exercise it. We dress it. But ultimately it will decay. Any attempt to keep it alive is futile. But we can continue grow spiritually our entire lives by studying God’s word and allowing the Holy Spirit to constantly guide us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Its The Position Of Our Heart That Matters


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
(Ephesians 3:14-16 ESV)


As Paul begins to pray for the Ephesians he bows [his] knees. Kneeling is a position of humility. Paul was humbled by the truth about God which he has explained in this letter.

When we understand who we are – spiritually dead sinners whose motives and actions are purely selfish – and who God is – a forgiving Father who, despite our sinful state, unilaterally reached out to offer us eternal life we did not deserve [Ephesians 1:7 et. al] – the only appropriate response is humility. Furthermore, we cannot truly approach God in prayer without some sense of humility.

Prayer is admission that we are helpless while God is omnipotent. We bring our requests and needs to God in acknowledgment of both our weakness and His strength. Anyone who isn’t admissive of his/her weakness and God’s strength will see no reason to pray.

When we look around our world we see arrogance everywhere. In our government leaders. In our educators. In our entertainers and athletes. These people know nothing about God. If they understood the truth about who they really are and who God really is they would humble themselves as Paul does here.

This is why our world is a mess. And as people continue to promote self and eliminate God from culture, things will only get worse. Not to mention that all this fulfills biblical prophecy that in the end times (which began the day Israel re-emerged as a nation) people will be lovers of themselves and will hate God [2 Timothy 3:1-4].

Notice also that Paul directs his prayer to God. He does not pray to Mary or to any man-made saints as the Catholic church advises. He prays to God the Father. Only God has the answers we need. Only God has the power to affect our lives.

Nor does Paul instruct the Ephesians to find truth within themselves a la Oprah or the Dalai Lama. The most dangerous thought a person could have is to believe that goodness can be found within ourselves. There is nothing good within the human heart [Matthew 15:19].

THe human race is good at creating problems. We aren’t very good at solving them. In fact, most of our solutions only create more problems. This is because our motives are all wrong. Our hearts are not in the right place. We are inherently selfish, which is the opposite of humility.

There are many examples of people kneeling while praying in the Bible including 1 Kings 8:54, Psalm 95:6, and Acts 9:40. Even Jesus kneeled to pray [Luke 22:41]. But there are also examples of people praying in other positions including standing, prostrate, and sitting.

It is not the position of our body that matters – God is not into rituals [Hosea 6:6 et. al]. It is the position of our heart that matters.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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Effective Prayers Are Rooted In Truth


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
(Ephesians 3:14-16 ESV)


If you recall Paul began praying for the Ephesians in verse 1 of chapter 3 but quickly got sidetracked into explaining more spiritual truth. He picks up the prayer here in verse 14.

The words “For this reason” refer to all Paul has told the Ephesians thus far in this letter. He has told them all about their standing before God as people who have been forgiven of their sins and are now permanently part of God’s family. They were once spiritually dead, but were made alive through Christ.

Since they are his spiritual brothers and sisters Paul desires to pray for them. We are often inclined to pray for those people we know who do not yet know God, which is a good thing. But those people who do know God need prayer also. Our prayers for the unsaved should be that they believe in Jesus’ death as the complete payment for the forgiveness of their sins. Saved people need different prayers.

Notice, too, that the reason Paul prays is in response to truth. What Paul knows about God drives him to pray for others. Paul knows these things because he has spent hour upon hour reading Scripture, learning from other godly people including the original apostles, and communicating with God directly.

God has told us that He responds to prayer [1 John 5:14-15]. We can conclude, therefore, that if we pray we will see God respond. But the opposite is also true. If we don’t pray, we won’t see much improvement in our lives. Unfortunately there are many distractions in the world today that compete with God. We spend way too little time in prayer.

I suspect that one reason why we don’t see God answering a lot of our prayers is our prayers are lame. We ask for things rather than asking to be changed. As we study this prayer of Paul’s over the coming days we’ll learn what a truly great prayer is.

If we want to see change we need to pray. But if we want to have effective prayers, we need to know what to pray for. And to know what to pray for we need to know God’s word – just like Paul did.

God wrote the Bible for our benefit. We should read it and it should direct our prayer life. Not only by the “sample” prayers of Paul and others, but by the very truth it contains. Then our prayers will be accurate and will align with God’s will. Then we will see real change in ourselves and in our world.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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