Manna for Today

 

Gifts given to the Church (Eph. 4:7-16)

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”  9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Learn it:

            Friday, Paul wrote about how we are united in Christ and in our faith.  Today he transitions into how in this unity we are also given gifts from God.  Verses 8-10 are complicated verses that have been understood in different ways.  I believe the best way to understand it in the context is to see that when Christ ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit then descended on the earth.  When the Holy Spirit descended he also brought gifts with him. 

Then in 11-13 he tells us what these gifts are and what the purpose is.  The gifts are apostles (people who cast vision for the church); prophets (people who are sensitive to the Spirit and obey what it says); evangelists (people who bring others into a relationship with God); pastors (people who are good at caring for God’s people); and teachers (people who study God’s word and teach it to others).  These gifts are not distinct roles, but people can be both apostles and teachers.  I’d love to go into them more, but space does not allow me.  These gifts are given to the body of Christ for building it up.  Making it strong and mature in Jesus Christ.  We must be seeking to become more mature in our faith and in doing so we will stand firm on the love of God.

Live it:

            This passage is so important to the life of the Church.  We all have been given gifts by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  It is up to us to recognize what those gifts are and then use them to build up our local church.  We all play a part in teaching, leading, and loving one another.  It not solely dependent on pastors and other leaders in the church.  Each one of us has to take ownership of what God has gifted us with.  If we want to see the church working properly and smoothly then we all need to be exercising our gifts.  We must be doing it all in a loving manner and in a way that points people back to Christ.  He is the mission of the church.  We want everything to flow from Christ is a way that is loving and kind.  Whether someone is going through a rough patch and they need to experience the love of Christ.  Or maybe someone is walking away from God and needs to be lovingly corrected.  Look at your life and see if God has gifted you with any of the gifts in this passage?  How can you use your gift to build up the members of your local church? 


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Unity Displayed (Eph. 4:1-6)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Eph. 4:1-6)

Learn it:

            After Paul prays for the Ephesians he then goes on to explain to them how they should live their life.  He wants them to walk in a life of unity, which he has been explaining to them in the previous chapters.  God has called believers to a life of unity, that is only possible because of the life of Christ.  A life in unity is possible through displaying humility, gentleness, patience and showing love to one another.  Unity is not about getting your way but showing selflessness.  In verse 3 Paul says that we must “make every effort to keep unity.”  We must allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in peace and come together there.  In verse 4 and 5 Paul uses the word “one” six times.  I think he is trying to stress a point here.  The God we serve displays unity in his very existence.  The trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are three yet one.  He is one and is over everything.  So, we as a church, that is made up of many people, are one. 

Live it:

            The church is very divided, by theology, race, styles and cultures.  We might say, “like people will always congregate together.”  While that is true, it doesn’t always mean that it is the best or what God has called his church to be like.  Diversity within the church is good and useful.  We need people different like us to show us how big and great God is.  We need to be worshipping God in different styles of music.  We need to hear people preach that have a different background than us.  It helps us get a better understanding of the gospel and how other people experience God.  It might make us uncomfortable, but we need to show humility and gentleness and become learners.  When we take the time to learn about another culture and how they relate to God, we are showing them love and seeking peace. 

            The power of faith bonds all Christians in the world together.  I encourage you to seek unity in your community of believers.  Maybe you have some friends that are Christians that go to a different church than you.  Ask them what their service is like?   What kind of music do they worship God with?  Seek to understand how they connect with God.  Remember what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:10, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.”  When the church comes together in unity it displays the wisdom of God.  When we seek to bring the church of God we are entering into Spiritual warfare and the power of might of God is being displayed.

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Prayer to Know God (Eph. 3:14-21)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  (Eph. 3:14-21)

Learn it:

            This is a powerful prayer that Paul is praying over the Ephesians.  He starts out by saying that the God he is praying to created everything.  He has authority over all things.  He then goes into his prayer wanting them to be fulfilled with the power of the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.  He wants their lives to be founded in Christ and that they would understand the love Christ has for them.  He wants the fullness of God to dwell within them.  It is amazing that we have every aspect of God’s character and power lives within un, is unimaginable.  We under utilize the power God has given us.  Paul wants them to truly understand what it means to have their lives united in Christ. 

            Verses 20 through 21 is a benediction, a praise to God of what he has done for us.  He can do so much more than we can ever fathom in our lives.  We want to praise him in the church and in every aspect of our lives.  Trusting that the faith we have will be passed down to other generations forever.  That is an awe-inspiring reminder and challenge to us.  How can we see Christ’s power show up in our lives? 

Live it:    

            What would you feel if someone were to pray this prayer over you?  Can you imagine the love someone would have for you to pray such a beautiful prayer for you?  We desperately need to fully understand the love of Christ and how he dwells within our bodies.  If we truly had our identity in Christ, our lives would look radically different.  We would be proclaiming the gospel to every person we would pass on the street.  We would have no needs because Christ would satisfy every desire we had.  Even if we needed more food, patience or comfort we knew that Christ would meet them at the right time because he can do more than we could ever imagine or ask for!  We would have total trust in Christ.  Do you really trust Christ to meet every need in your life?  I can’t answer that with a confident, “Yes.”  There are areas where God is working on my heart to surrender them to him.  I want him to meet all the needs and desires in my life.  He is a loving Father who wants what is best for his children.  If we believe that then we can pray confidently that he will always take care of us.  What do you need to trust God with today? 


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God’s Eternal Plan (Eph. 3:1-13)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.  (Eph. 3:1-13)

Learn it:

            Last Friday Paul talked about how the death of Christ united Jews and Gentiles.  Now he goes on to write about what God’s plan is for the church.  This plan has been a mystery since the beginning of time but was revealed through the life of Christ.  God always planned on sending his Son to die on the cross for the redemption of all mankind.  God did not give up on Israel or go to a plan B.  God’s plans have never changed.  God has always wanted to unite all of creation together through the death of his Son.  He wanted them to live in unity and share together in the promises of Christ. 

            Not only did God reveal his plan to believers but now he wants them to share this good news to everyone.  Paul talks about his own personal ministry about how he felt compared to preach to the Gentiles.  He then goes on to talk about how even the very existence of a united church displays the power and wisdom of God to angels and demons.  The united church proclaims God’s purpose and what the future is going to hold for them.  Angels will be worshipping God forever with humans and demons will be defeated.  This is God’s eternal purpose.  We should then have confidence when we pray to God that we have full access to him. 

Live it:

            We, the Church, need to continue to seek to understand God’s mystery that he revealed to us through Christ.  We need to understand what it means that all of mankind can be reconciled back into a relationship with God.  We can exist as one united body.  We have to be checking our hearts and attitudes to discern what is preventing us from sharing the gospel with people in our lives.  How can we be focused more on Christ and how he brings people together through his great sacrifice?  The church has been given to preach the gospel to all nations, to be ministers reconciling all things back to him.  When the church is living this out it will send a strong message to angels and demons about the power of Jesus Christ.  How can you play a part in God’s eternal plan?


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Pastor’s Corner