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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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Our Temporary Pain Can Be Someone Else’s Gain


This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
(Ephesians 3:11-13 ESV)


Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome. While in Jerusalem a few years earlier he was preaching that the Gentiles were part of God’s salvation plan too, just as he has been writing about in this letter. But this teaching upset the Jews who had him arrested [Acts 21:39-22:22]. Paul, being a Roman citizen by birth, appealed to Caesar, which was his right. So he was transferred to Rome and was awaiting trial at the time he wrote this letter.

As a result of teaching the truth Paul had lost his freedom for about five years. But he did not want his readers to lose heart over this. After all, it was because of his teaching that Gentiles, such as the Ephesians, came to be saved.

Its true that if he hadn’t preached such a radical message he would not have been arrested. But if he had not preached it, then the Gentiles would not have had the knowledge they needed to have their sins forgiven. Paul’s temporary suffering resulted in their permanent and eternal glory (benefit).

This should be a reminder to all of us to be willing to speak the truth, even when some will object to the message. And certainly, in the world we live in today, many people object to the message of Jesus Christ. This includes government which is doing all it can to suppress the Bible and message of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. But this should not intimidate us in the least.

There are still many people who are interested. And everyone, including the most hard-hearted critics, need to hear the truth. Whether they believe or not does not matter. We can’t control what they believe. We only plant seeds. God makes them grow [1 Corinthians 3:6].

The alternative is for believers in Christ to be silent or, worse, water down the message of salvation through Jesus so that it is more palatable to the human ego. But in either case, we are doing a huge disservice to those in our sphere of influence. Not having the information they need, or having the wrong information, leads to an eternal death sentence.

Before we are saved we live our lives for ourselves and our own material comfort. But, once we are saved, our lives take on a whole new meaning. We now live for others. Specifically, the purpose of our lives is to lead others to Christ by what we say and do.

That is what Paul did. He took the message of salvation to those who needed to hear it, even though others in power were vehemently opposed to it. They then exercised their power over Paul and he suffered as a result. But his loss was temporary. The Gentiles gain was eternal. And that is a worthwhile exchange.

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

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Bold Access To God Anytime We Want


This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
(Ephesians 3:11-13 ESV)


Yesterday we read that God had a plan from the very moment Adam & Eve introduced sin to the human race to reconcile people back to Himself. That plan was carried out through Jesus. As a result, those who accept and believe in the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins become part of God’s eternal family [John 1:12, 3:3 et. al].

Sin separates a person from God. There is no way a person covered in sin can be in the presence of our holy God. They must have their sins forgiven first. Then they may enter His presence [Zechariah 3:3-5]. That is why God’s plan had to include the forgiveness of sins. Sin is the problem.

But we don’t have to wait until heaven to be in God’s presence. Once a person believes their sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven they can have a relationship with God. To that end, we have boldness and access to God.

The Greek word translated “boldness” is παρρηεσια (pronounced: par-rhay-see’-ah) and it actually means “freedom of speaking”. A child of God can tell Him exactly what is on our mind. We can express our joys, our hopes, our sorrows, or pains. We can even tell God if we are mad at Him (He already knows anyway).

A believer also has access with confidence. We can approach God now that our sins are forgiven [Micah 7:19 et. al]. And we can do so confidently.

Believers do not need to be timid around God. We are now part of His family. We are His child. He is our Father. A good, human father wants the best for his children and does what he can to provide it. So does God. Only God does it much better than any human father could, of course.

But, again, notice that this access is only available through our faith in [Jesus]. Jesus is the only way to God [John 14:6]. It is tragic that so many people reject this truth. They try to create a path to heaven of their own choosing. Or they join a religion that teaches something that makes them feel good about themselves. This only keeps them separated from God as it doesn’t address sin.

One way to truly tell if you are a child of God is to evaluate how you approach God. If you keep your distance, or use rituals or precomposed prayers you probably haven’t fully repented of your sin and accepted God’s offer of forgiveness.

When Jesus died on the cross He took on the penalty for all the sins of mankind. Every single one. We cannot pay that penalty ourselves so He paid it for us. Now all we have to do is believe and God will credit our sin-debt as “paid in full”. This will give us eventual access to heaven. In the meantime, it gives us the right to boldly approach Him anytime we want.

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

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