Big Dreams

Rising Joy by Vicki Matheny

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3.20-21

Have you ever seen a dream board? Many companies encourage their salespeople to make these and hang on their bulletin board at work or their refrigerator door at home so they will be seen often. The idea is to motivate the person to get out there and do the job.

Most of us can dream really big dreams. That new car, new home, new baby for many of us are a fulfillment of our dreams.

Have you ever thought about spiritual dreams? Do you have things that you would like to see happen in the church? Numerical growth, spiritual growth, more Bible studies, planting a new congregation, or whatever it might be.

When we think of those dreams, we can become discouraged because we do not always see those things coming to fruition. We cannot do it on our own and we are right. We cannot. But, God has the power to do far more than our little dreams. His power is the same power that is working within us. That is an awesome thought!

The glory should not come our way for the things that we do accomplish in our lives. If we are in the church, then we are in Christ. The glory in the church and in Christ belongs to God! May we give it all to Him!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #dreams

Stop lying!

Rising Joy, Vicki Matheny

Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. Ephesians 4.32

In Ephesians 4.25-32, Paul wrote regarding several things that had to be stopped or put away. These dealt with attitudes, actions, and the tongue.

The tongue is such a small member of the body. Yet, when it is used for evil, it can destroy the strongest of relationships. We must lay aside falsehoods. Stop lying! There is no such thing as a little white lie! A lie is a lie.

Be angry and do not sin. When we are angry, we often let our mouths go off without any attempt at control. Paul wrote to not give the devil an opportunity. Watch what you say when you are angry! Control your tongue.

Paul also encouraged the Ephesians to speak only those words that would be beneficial to the one hearing them, putting away any evil, slanderous talk. Make sure that your words give grace to those who are listening!

How do you accomplish this? By being kind and compassionate to one another, you can use your tongue to build up and not to tear down. By forgiving one another, you can stem the flow of anger that can cause angry words to spew forth like hot lava.

Always remembering that you have been forgiven by God in Christ Jesus!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #anger

The definition of grace

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

… and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; … Ephesians 2.6-8

Grace is defined in Webster’s dictionary as “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” In a word, grace is approval, favor, mercy or pardon.

Isaiah 59.1-2 explains why mankind stands in need of God’s grace. Man cannot stand before God in a sinful state. The sin in one’s life alienates them from God. Paul writes in Romans 3.23 that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There is nothing that one can do to stand before God pure on one’s own merit!

However, God took the initiative. He gave man a gift, his son Jesus, John 3.16. When man believes or has faith in Jesus and obeys him, he can be saved by grace through his faith. Let him not boast, for it is a gift that will never be deserved. It is a result of the wealth of God’s kindness to those who are in Christ.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #grace

When difficult times come

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory. And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1.11-14

God has had a plan that has existed since before the world was created. It laid the ground rules for his will to be put into action. It also determined who would receive redemption. If we obey the ground rules which are laid out clearly in the Bible, then we set our hope in Jesus and become a part of his body.

How do we become a part of Christ’s body? First we have to hear the word by reading the scriptures which is why it is so important to read the Bible. It contains the word of truth which is the good news of the gospel. However, just hearing the word is not enough, I have to believe what it says which will lead me to obey it.

Upon obeying the word, I receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the first part of the promise that God has made to those who obey him. At the end of time, we will be redeemed and collected by God to be forever with him through eternity singing his praises.

When difficult times come, and they shall, I can look forward to heaven. As the song goes, “Heaven will surely be worth it all!”

#risingjoy #Ephesians #redemption

Had God not chosen to reveal himself

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight. He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, Ephesians 1.7-9

Without the Bible, what could we know about God? Very little could be known about God had he not chosen to reveal himself. That revelation came in the form of his son, Jesus, who often said that he and the Father were one.

Through Jesus we are able to know what God wants and expects of us. He passed to us what God told him to say. The New Testament is this message in written form. It is through Jesus that we have redemption or forgiveness of our sins. His life was given in place of my own. His blood was shed though it should have been mine.

I do not now nor will I ever deserve God’s grace. But he gives it freely to any who would agree to the terms that he set forth. Have you received his grace? Are you forgiven?

#risingjoy #Ephesians #forgiveness

Nothing lacking

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. Ephesians 1.3-4

God is generous and loving. He gives certain things like rain and sunshine both to those who worship him as well as those who do not. However, to those who are in Christ through faith and obedience, he has a special relationship. He blesses us with every spiritual blessing. There is nothing lacking.

Before the world was created, God determined how he would save mankind. He made his plans and then put them into action. The Creator determined how man who has fallen from grace can return to him. He set the rules into play. We must be in Christ. In Christ, we may be holy or set apart from the world. Best of all, we are forgiven for we are unblemished in his sight. Do you have joy knowing that you are in Christ? We are blessed!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #in-Christ

In this arena called life

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them. Ephesians 2.8-10

God puts everyone on an even playing field. Even though some are better equipped to do things for others, that is not what God has determined will save a person. No matter how many good works I do, I cannot earn my salvation.

We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith is belief in what the Bible states about Jesus: who he is, what he did while on earth, obedience to his commands. It is and was God’s initiative. It is his gift to us.

It is true that some have the gift of service to others. Some have the financial means to help others. But our eternal salvation is not based on these things. There is no room for boasting in this arena called life.

We are the accomplishment of God in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3.28 states that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. We are all one in Jesus. We were created for good works that God had already prepared.

One of these is to share the good news with others. Another would be to love one another. What better way to demonstrate that love than through serving one another. Jesus said that we would be known by our love for each other. This paints a much different picture of how the world could be. Better yet, of how it should be.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #goodworks

One of our characteristics

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2.4-7

We were dead in transgressions and God loved us anyway. His love was so huge that he sent his son to die in our place.

Ephesians 2.1-3 paints a very stark picture of who we were. We were living in sin. We were sons of disobedience which means that disobedience was one of our characteristics. We lived out our lives following the carnal cravings that we followed somewhat blindly. We were children of wrath who were indulgent, especially when it came to our fleshly desires and to our minds which were far from pure. We did not know God.

Enter grace. More specifically, God’s grace. He loved us so much. His mercy is so great. He made our redemption possible. We were made alive together with Christ. Through baptism I was raised up with Jesus in a spiritual resurrection after which it became possible to enter the heavenly realm.

When there was nothing I could do myself, God did it all through Jesus. Make no mistake. It was God’s grace.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #grace

Fight boldly

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6.11

Most of us have watched movies that show a serf helping his lord put on his armor before battle. There is a way to do this correctly. You do not see a knight go into battle half dressed. He goes in fully prepared.

Paul tells the Ephesians to dress for battle. The enemy is a powerful one. Satan uses schemes to make his attack. The battle is fought on the spiritual realm.

Paul instructs them to clothe themselves with the full armor of God. He gives reassurance to them of their ability to stand against the devil’s schemes. God’s armor consists of truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, and the word of God, 6.14-17. Those who clothe themselves with these things can fight boldly and with confidence.

We need to heed the call of Paul to dress for battle and put on our armor. Of what is your armor made? Do you have an armor to help you fight against the devil and his schemes? Have you let your armor get rusty? Let us make ready. Let us clothe ourselves with God’s armor! May we be well prepared to fight!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #armor

If we want to know

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light -Ephesians 5.8

Darkness and light. Such a contrast. In true darkness, nothing can be seen. However, light makes everything visible and clear. Paul uses this contrast to describe the difference between the evil that exists where God is not present and light in the Lord. The child of God is a light in the Lord. Then the apostle commands that we walk as children of the light. He goes on to say in the following verses that the fruit of the light is: all goodness, righteousness, and truth – trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. We must be readers of God’s word if we want to know how to please him. God will not accept just any kind of worship. If that were so, he would not have left instructions on how to worship. He teaches us what is good. We might have differing opinions on the matter. Neither opinion has any value if it does not match what God has left in his word. Truth. If you stop to think about it, opposite positions cannot both be truth. Who determines what truth is? Again, my opinion is just as good as your opinion! Therefore we must return to the Bible for our answers and read, read, and read again. It is hard to understand, you say? God is just. How just would it be for him to leave instructions on how to live life pleasing to him in a language that could not be understood? Many times we do not want to take the time to read his word. We are too caught up in living life in the fast lane. Or it may be that reading his word will demand that we make changes in our lives. Sometimes that is hard to do. We do not like change. Walk as children of the light!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #light

Responsible for the wife

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

In the same way husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body but feeds it and takes care of it, just as Christ also does the church, for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (…) Nevertheless, each one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5.28-31, 33

The two become one. Paul has much to say to the husband in these verses. As the spiritual leader, he is ultimately responsible for the spiritual and physical welfare of his family but especially his wife. He should love his wife as his own body. A man will take care of his own body, feeding it, clothing it, and in general doing what is good for it. Since the two are one after marriage, he has that same responsibility to his wife. More importantly, he is to be the spiritual head of the family who serves under the guidance of Jesus. To be able to do this, he needs to be in the Word and sharing what he has learned with her. This love is not the emotional stars in the eyes. It is a decision to do what is best for her. The wife must respect her husband. It is not a choice. Nor is it difficult if he is faithful to the Lord. With the love and respect in place in the marriage, it will not only survive, but will bring joy to both of your lives.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #marriage

Do your part

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament. As each one does its part, the body grows in love. Ephesians 4.15-16

Growth is important. If a newborn baby does not grow, the parents become worried and rightly so. If a plant does not grow, it indicates that there is a problem. It will not produce fruit if there is a problem. I need to grow up into Christ. As a small child grows, he learns to eat solid food, he learns to crawl, and then he learns to walk. He learns to do these things through practice. He does not one day start eating solid food. Nor does he suddenly crawl across the floor with a speed that surprises those watching. Nor does he suddenly walk as if it were the most natural thing in the world. It takes practice. Paul tells us that we will grow into Christ by practicing the truth in love. Christ is the head of the body, the church. He gives us gifts which are to be used to build up his body. We are to strive for maturity in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. When we are practicing the truth in love, the body grows strong. The church grows in love. The church grows strong. But, each one must do his part. Are you doing your part to help the body grow?

#risingjoy #Ephesians #growth

Once we understand

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! – and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2.5-7

I remember one time when one of my children had just been disciplined for something they had done wrong. They did not think very highly of me at the time. I remember them telling me that they wished I were not their mother. Now, folks, that comment made out of anger still had the power to hurt this mother’s heart even though I knew that they did not really mean it. Once the anger on their part had cooled, everything was fine again. Imagine how God must feel when in our selfishness we prefer to die in our sins rather than live in communion with him. It is mind-blowing once we understand exactly what God’s grace did on our behalf. There had to be a sacrifice. Jesus became that sacrifice. His purpose was to come here, obey God, and die for me and for you. God makes me alive again because of that sacrifice when I obey him. I have a new home in the heavenly realm! That is cause for joy!

#risingjoy #Ephesians #sacrifice-of-Christ

I must change

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth. Ephesians 4.22-24

When a person is taught to obey the truth, changes have to take place. There are things that we must quit doing because it is sin. We are taught what those things are. Earlier in chapter 4, Paul talks about the life that the one who does not know God lives. They are tied to deceitful desires which corrupt us and keep us in a state separated from God. We have to pass from the old man to the new man. We must be renewed in the spirit of our mind. I cannot continue to act and think like I once did. I must change. I must tell the truth instead of the white lie. I must watch what I say that it be edifying. I must try to serve other people instead of myself. I must die to myself and live for God in Christ. I become a new creature, a new man. One that is created in God’s image. God is righteous and holy. So must I be. It is not relative to my situation. It comes from truth, God’s truth. How do I know God’s truth? By hearing and reading it. It is within my grasp. I just have to make the effort.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #change

Brought near

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2.13

Far away. That is how I often feel in regards to family and friends. Living on another continent has a tendency to increase that feeling. It can sometimes bring feelings of helplessness when you hear what is going on with loved ones and cannot be there to help. Brought near. O what joy that brings! To arrive on the scene and share the hugs and laughter. To be able to catch up on all that you have missed since the last meeting.

God is so good. I was once so very far away in my sins, feeling helpless and unable to do anything about it. You see, once fallen, it is no longer up to me to do anything about my situation. I do not have that capacity. I will say it again. God is so good! He brought me near to Him by the blood of His Son, Jesus. When there was nothing I could do except receive His condemnation, He sacrificed Jesus to bring me near to Him. Actually there is something that I have to do to be brought near. I have to accept what He offers.

Are you still far away, feeling hopeless, lost, and in despair? Do you want to be brought near to God? Have you accepted what He offers? Do you even know what He offers? Read His word, do it, and be brought near.

#risingjoy #Ephesians #reconciliation