Cascading Blessings

27 03 2020

As bad news from Covid-19 spreads everywhere, the Bible tells us that God has already, and continues today, to pour out lavish spiritual blessings! Anyone who will receive them by faith can drink them all freely.

The opening praise hymn in Ephesians chapter one gives three mountain peaks which lift our eyes to the glory of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Gushing forth from these heights comes a mighty river cascading down in refreshment and cleansing on the believing community (the Church).

Each of these blessings merits a full study, but I can only note them here.

(Stanza 1)  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:

  • chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world (1:4, using NKJV)
  • predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ (1:5)
  • made us accepted in the Beloved (1:6)

(Stanza 2) In Him (Christ) we have:

  • redemption through His blood (1:7)
  • the forgiveness of sins (1:7)
  • obtained an inheritance (1:11)

(Stanza 3) In Him (Christ):

  • having believed, you (all) were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13)
  • the guarantee of our inheritance (1:14)
  • until the redemption of the purchased possession (1:14)

It’s a lavish spiritual feast, served by our gracious Tri-une God — like a banquet under a waterfall, sheltered beneath a mighty rock. All this is reserved in heaven for you (and all of us together). And we can draw from this cascading waterfall right now.

Perhaps we can see heavenly truths best in earthly confinement!
The cascade of blessings was revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit while he sat in prison. May that same Spirit illuminate these truths to you today in whatever confinement you are experiencing. (See below for my attempt to capture these truths graphically; Yikes, it’s pretty crude.)

Is there one of these blessings that brings you special comfort today? 

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Behold the Grandeur of God

27 03 2020

In central Oregon there are “three sisters” — a trio of mountain peaks clustered together in majestic display. When the apostle Paul opens his letter to the Ephesian believers, his inspired words form a grand hymn with three stanzas which lead us into praise of the Tri-une God.

Stanza one (1:3-6) pays tribute to God the Father, “who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

Stanza two (1:7-12) highlights God the Son, in whom “we have redemption.”

Stanza three (1:13-14) honors the Holy Spirit, “who is the guarantee of our inheritance.”

All three stanzas peak with a similar doxology: “to the praise of His glory” (1:6,12, 14)!

This praise hymn establishes the elevated height of the power and goodness of God, a three-peak Everest of the glory of Father, Son, and Spirit.

For every truth there is a counter-truth. As we study Ephesians, we want to expose false beliefs which seek to erode God’s truths. Considering today’s passage,

  • it would be false to think that God is not powerful, good, or worthy of all praise.
  • It would be false to believe that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have not lavished us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Covid-19 has not knocked God down from the height of His glory. I do not believe He is punishing humanity with this virus. Rather, our redemptive, loving God is now beckoning all of us to bow in a new, deeper way before His grandeur, and humbly look up and see His face.
Let this be our song as we behold the grandeur of God:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Ps. 1221:1).

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Reserved in Heaven

27 03 2020

Prior to the news that Covid-19 was quickly becoming a global threat, I had begun a fresh look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to believers who gathered in the bustling, idolatrous city of Ephesus.

In recent weeks, the anxiety level of humanity has risen dramatically, and the future is uncertain. As I am observing the “shelter in place” order of our California governor, my soul is encouraged by the unchanging truths written for us in Ephesians. I wonder if we might benefit from considering some of these verses together in coming days.

Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul tells of the limitless greatness of the life we can have in Christ. Confined and deprived on earth, he speaks of heavenly wealth and happiness: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph.1:3).

This is the first of six references in Ephesians in which Paul mentions the heavenly realms (can you find the other five?). When life on earth is in chaos, the heavens are established as God’s domain. Beyond reach of disease, corruption, and theft, the lavish gifts of God to the believer are safely reserved in heaven.

Within the heavenlies (or “heavenly places”), these blessings are “in Christ,” protected by the power of His name and authority. This is most important, because Christ has been raised above every authority which operates in the heavenly realms (1:20-22).

Today, let’s turn our focus on all that cannot be tainted or threatened by earthly disasters. God has placed all that truly matters into safe keeping for all eternity.

Perhaps over recent days your focus has slipped toward fear or anger. It is extremely difficult to adapt to loss of control and freedom!

But would you join me in re-framing our circumstances and putting Christ back in the center of the frame? Let’s take a hold of His steady hand and walk together today.

You are loved,


Consider praying this simple truth throughout today: 

I have every spiritual blessing,
reserved in heaven for me,
safe in Christ Jesus.
Praise be to God! 

Open letter from an Evangelical – What we desire to be

13 02 2020

Since culture has hijacked the term “evangelical,” I thought it might be interesting to capture what an evangelical actually is, as I see it. My hope is that you might let evangelicals be themselves and free them up from the labels they — we — have been given.

The word “evangelical” is the compound of two Greek words for “good” and “announce, or news.” So, we should be known for, and genuinely want to be known for being people who bring good news.

Primarily, evangelicals have come by faith into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, whom we believe to be the Son of God who came in human form, lived a sinless life in order to die a sacrificial death on behalf of humankind. He was buried and rose on the third day, displaying the power of God to resurrect us from the dead and give us eternal life in His presence. These core truths ought to be the most controversial and objectionable facts about us.

But we have come to be objectionable in the eyes of others because of secondary matters we ourselves wrestle over and about which we have differing opinions. The Bible is our guide for living and forming opinions, but the Bible does not attempt to take up every current event or issue in every age. How could it?

So, our task as evangelicals is to wrestle with what the Bible does say in so many words, and what meaning and application God wants us to take from it. This is not such a simple matter.

Let’s touch on a few examples. We wrestle with the matter of abortion. We believe God created all things and that conception and birth are gifts of God. You can understand why we want to protect all human life, from the first instant to last breath. Yet we know that many people live in poverty. Their lives are equally important to God. The mothers who have conceived a child whom they cannot afford to raise are also precious to God. They need to be cared for too.

Immigration is another matter we wrestle with. We believe every person is made in the image of God, no matter their gender, ethnicity, culture, or anything else. We would wish for everyone the right to seek a better life, and understand that God has special affection for widows, orphans, strangers, and those caught in poverty or war. So, we believe immigrants deserve compassion. At the same time, we know that every country has laws that must be maintained, and borders that need to be secure. We struggle with the tension of preserving the lifestyle we enjoy and our own lack of compassion for those who face daily hardship and even danger.

Sexual identity issues are really causing evangelicals to wrestle with God’s plan for family as it relates to culture. Like anything, it is easier to make conclusions in a vacuum, but when someone we love struggles with gender issues, we have to consider it on a personal level. Our Bible tells us that God created male and female as distinct from each other, and that marriage as God sees it is between one man and one woman. When we say this, we are labelled as intolerant of any lifestyle that differs. We truthfully love all people no matter their lifestyle choice, yet society seems to equate love with affirmation. Perhaps you can see our dilemma. We have done a better job of defending traditional marriage than showing love. Labels that have been put on us have not helped, any more than labels we have put on others. For sure, extremists spewing hate do not represent the vast majority of us evangelicals.

There are many other matters that resemble these, in that we have differing opinions among ourselves, and we definitely do not align with one of the major political parties. The Christian virtues of justice, mercy, love, equality, care for the poor, personal responsibility, freedom of worship, and more — cause us to fall uncomfortably into the world of politics and the electoral choices we face. Our preference is that people would try to see us by learning the example and teachings of our leader, Jesus Christ. He alone truly reflects what we aspire to. We apologize for misrepresenting Jesus in many ways. Our selfishness and fears are alive and well, and we have often said or done things which are out of sync with the way of Jesus. We would ask that you look beyond current stereotypes, and the thinking that evangelicals are a monolithic, hateful group. We ultimately want to be known for our love. Thanks for listening and trying to understand.

Pack to School

17 01 2020
My little Kevin starts the fourth grade today.
He likes school. Especially reading.
Like last year, I got the school supplies.
But the extra $129 maxed out my Visa.
Across town Steve walks up to the gun counter at WalMart,
excited to hold that Glock once more.
Today’s the day he’s waited for,
to buy that beauty.
Kevin’s going to be safe today, that’s my prayer.
I went over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and
bought him a bulletproof backpack that doubles as a shield.
That’s all I can do, I guess.
Steve has a lot on his mind, and a plan of attack.
Work is stressful, but his new pistol brings a smile.
Safety is king, so he drives home
and locks the gun in his safe.
This poem I write does not have a proper end,
but to pause and note the tragedy of an armed America.
A boy going back to school with iPad and Kevlar.
A gun industry no one can touch. Or won’t.
Steve has an unknown tomorrow.
He may collect, polish,
practice, sell,
wound, or kill.
Kevin is a blessed boy.
He has a mother who prays, books to read,
a school nearby, and
a shield from gunfire.
This is our country, land of the free,
home of the brave.
The Steves of America don’t know the Kevins.
And apparently that’s just the way it must be.
–poem by Robert Edwin Rasmussen
(based on an article in TIME magazine, Dec.16, 2019)