BECAUSE GOD HAS A GREAT PLAN…

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ may be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11,12)

Because God has a great pan, we are to live our lives with the end in mind. God has an eternal plan to restore all His creation and to place it under the headship of Jesus Christ. History is moving toward the consummation of all things when Jesus Christ returns. We are destined for glory! “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Because God has a great plan, we do not lose heart, even during times of extreme pain and suffering. God is in charge and He will give us the strength to endure trials and will eventually deliver us from them — “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (I Peter 5:10).

Because God has a great plan, we know that He will work all things for our good — “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This means that we can rejoice in our sufferings because we know that God is at work in us. Trials and suffering have purpose — “Count is all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Because God has a great plan, we can trust Him to lead us during times of uncertainty. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11). God will direct our steps through all the seasons of our lives — “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Because God has a great plan, we are to live for the praise of His glory. “In order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ might be for the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12). “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism). Our first and highest calling is to glorify God — “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

Because God has a great plan, we are to be thankful for what He has done for us in Christ. We are to rejoice in the incomprehensible riches of God’s grace that He has lavished on us in Christ. We are to glorify God and ENJOY Him forever!

Sovereign Lord, thank You that You have a great plan for my life and for all of Your created order. Thank You for all that You have done for me in Christ, for the incomprehensible riches of Your grace that You have lavished upon me. My desire is to glorify You in all that I do. I am so thankful that You give me the privilege of enjoying You forever.

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GOD’S ULTIMATE GOAL

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:7-10

“Making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things to Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:9,10)

Paul calls the ultimate goal of God’s plan a mystery. It was a mystery because the truth of it was previously hidden or only vaguely known. But now this mystery is revealed in Christ. What is the mystery? God will bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, Jesus Christ.

In order to understand the goal of God’s plan, we have to look at the big story, the grand narrative of the Bible. All of history is moving toward a great climax — “a plan for the fullness of time.” God’s grand narrative consists of the following:

CREATION — Everything was good and perfect — man’s relationship with God; the relationship between Adam and Eve; an orderly and perfect natural world.

FALL — Everything becomes distorted and disfigured by sin — man runs from God; conflict, division, blaming enters human relationships; the created order gets out of balance (natural disasters). Everything goes wrong.

REDEMPTION — God intervenes. He begins the work of reconciliation. Through Christ man is reconciled to God. Walls of hostility are broken down between people. The created order groans for the day when things will be made right again (Romans 8:19-23).

CONSUMMATION — Christ ushers in the new heavens and new earth. All is restored to perfect unity under the lordship of Jesus. All things in heaven and on earth will be brought under one head. Jesus will reign over this perfect recreated order. Full restoration and reconciliation of all things is the end game, the ultimate goal of God’s plan.

There is a glory to come that is so majestic, so enormous that we cannot begin to comprehend it. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote these words — “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

Lord Jesus, thank You for making this glorious plan to restore all things possible. You are the sovereign King who rules over all of Your creation. All things are being brought together under Your reign. I long for the day when You return and usher in the new heavens and new earth where everything will be perfect. I long to see Your glory!

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Conformed to God’s Purpose

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:11,12)

God has an eternal plan and nothing can prevent that plan from being fulfilled. God made this promise to His people who were in captivity in Babylon — “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope an a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s plan is for our good and therefore we can have hope no matter what we face.

In Ephesians 1;4,5, we are told that God chose us and predestined us before the foundation of the world. Our becoming Christians is part of God’s great plan. While we are individually a part of God’s plan , there is far more to it. God sovereignly rules and over rules all things to ensure that His plan is being fulfilled — “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). Notice that God works EVERYTHING in conformity with the great purpose of His will. This is what is meant by the term the sovereignty of God.

The sovereignty of God makes Romans 8:28 a reality — “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). God causes all things to work for the good of His people. Why? Because He has an eternal purpose, an eternal plan. He works ALL THINGS in conformity with the purpose.

Even the greatest trials we face have purpose — “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have and to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even thought refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (I Peter 1:6,7). God works everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. God’s sovereignty gives us great comfort and hope!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Sovereign Lord, I know that You have a plan for my life, one that gives me a hope and a future. Thank You that You sovereignly rule over everything in my life. I do not have to fear, for You are with me and You have a perfect plan for my life. You will bring everything in conformity to Your plan.

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REDEEMED THROUGH CHRIST’S BLOOD

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-8

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and might.” (Ephesians 1:7,8)

Redemption is the deliverance that one receives as a result of the payment of a ransom. In the case of salvation, redemption is the deliverance we receive from the guilt and shame of our sin, as a result of the ransom that God Himself paid, namely the death of His Son.

The first question we must ask is — What do we need to be redeemed from? Why do we need to be redeemed? We know that the word gospel means “good news.” But before we can fully grasp the good news, we must first understand the bad news Here it is –“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We may say, “Of course, we have all failed to meet God’s standard. No one is perfect. Surely God knows our weaknesses.” The problem is that we fail to grasp the seriousness of sin in light of the holiness of God. The word holy means separate or distinct. As it applies to God, it means His total separation from all forms of sin and evil.

When we are confronted by the holiness of God, we are driven to a deep awareness of our sinful condition. Then we come to the realization that we need to be redeemed because sin is so grievous before a holy God.

The only means of the redemption of sinful human beings is the blood of Christ — “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (I Peter 1;18,19).

Jesus Christ became our substitute. Christ was made an offering for our sin and He suffered the punishment that was rightly ours. Jesus Christ was the payment. This payment required a perfect substitute on our behalf — one without blemish or defect. Jesus’ was totally free from sin and was the only one who qualified to be the payment. He voluntarily agreed to be our sin bearer.

As a result of our redemption, our sins are forgiven completely and without any reservation. Look at the excessive, extravagant language used here — “according to the RICHES of His grace which He LAVISHED upon us in ALL wisdom and insight.” As a result of our redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ, read what God says about forgiveness:

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.” (Isaiah 44:22)

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

All of this is possible because God has lavished His grace upon us by redeeming us through the blood of His Son. Our sins have been forgiven. We no longer have to struggle with guilt and shame. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe!

Lord Jesus, thank You for paying the price that I rightly owe Your heavenly Father because of my sins. You became my substitute. You suffered in my place. You bore the wrath of God so that I would never have to bear it. Indeed, You have lavished Your grace upon me and set me free from sin and guilt.

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CHOSEN BY GOD

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:4-6

“Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4)

The gospel is about what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ; it is not about what we do for God. Reflect on the following verses:

“We love because He first loved us.” (I John 4:19)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (I John 3:1)

“This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:11)

Out of His love, God the Father chose us to be His children. God made the choice — “In love He predestined us to be adopted as HIs sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will” (v. 5). We were not better than other people, nor have we done anything to be worthy of God’s choice. Out of His great love and according to His good pleasure and will, He predestined us to be His adopted sons and daughters.

God chose us before the creation of the world. Before He called the universe into being, He had us in mind. We became the objects of His love before we were born — even before the world was created!

God the Father chose us in Christ. Christ is the surety, the guarantee of all, who in time, will be gathered into God’s family. Christ alone made our salvation possible through His atoning work on the cross and His glorious resurrection.

We were chosen with a purpose in mind — that we would be holy and blameless before God. God’s ultimate goal is that we become conformed to the image of His Son. On the basis of the work of Jesus Christ, we are justified — forgiven of all our sins and declared righteous and holy because Christ’s perfect righteousness has been imputed to us.

It is easy for us to get overwhelmed with life and to lose sight of the tremendous blessings God has poured out on us through His Son. When this happens, refocus, look at the One who blesses us and delight in Him. Experience His presence, His love, His grace. In Him we can find joy inexpressible and a peace that surpasses all comprehension.

Remember who you are — God chose you and adopted you into His family. You are valuable to Him and You are loved with His unconditional, unending, and sacrificial love.

Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing me to be Your son. I know there is nothing in me that is worthy of the honor of being called a child of God. Thank You for sending Jesus to redeem me and to make me holy and blameless in Your sight through His perfect righteousness that was imputed to me at my justification. Thank You for Your steadfast love that will never let me go.

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EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:3-14

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

Life can be overwhelming at times. We face disappointments, heartache, and pain. Some may experience great tragedies in their lives. We should not be surprised by these things. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The problem is that when we focus on our troubles, we fail to see the enormous spiritual blessings that God has lavished upon us.

Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians with one long sentence in the Greek — from verse 3 to verse 11. In this sentence, he is contemplating all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. He starts writing about them and he can’t seem to put down his pen. Look at what Paul says — God has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. He is overtaken with the way God has blessed him. He starts writing and he can’t even stop for a period in the sentence because these blessings are so enormous, so extravagant! We will be looking at these spiritual blessings in the days ahead.

Before we consider the details of these spiritual blessings, we must take note that the blessings are centered and dependent upon Jesus Christ. They are realized in Christ. They all come from our relationship with Christ. None of the blessings is possible apart from Him. Christ is central, vital, and necessary for us to receive these blessings.

The phrases “in Christ,” “in Him,” and “in the One He loves” are found nine times in these verses. Theologians call this “the mystical union.” So the phrase — “in Christ” — refers to the vital, intimate, and spiritual union between Christ and His people. This means that all these spiritual blessings to which Paul describe in this passage depend upon our union with Christ, our relationship with Him.

Stop for a moment and reflect upon the blessings you have experienced in Christ. Focus on the One who blesses and you will find incredible joy and peace!

“You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. I cannot begin to comprehend the extent and magnitude of these blessings. I know that they are only possible through my Lord and Savior Jesus. Forgive me when I fail to recognize all the blessings You have bestowed upon me. Thank You for Your great love and forgiveness.

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WITNESS TO FAMILY

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:22-26

“And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and your shall carry up my bones from here.'” (Genesis 50:24,25)

As we know families are a blessing from God. Joseph bore witness of God’s faithfulness to his family. Joseph had fewer spiritual advantages than his brothers, but he had the strongest faith of them all. Joseph had been away from his family for many years. His brothers had the advantage of being in a covenant family.

Joseph did not conform himself to the Egyptian culture. He operated successfully in it and bore faithful witness of his God to the pagans around him. He did not adopt Egypt’s pagan practices and religions. He was in the world, but not of the world.

As we have seen Joseph’s faith grew stronger through times of adversity. He saw God’s hand at work in his life and he knew that God is sovereign over all — over both the good and the evil he experienced. Joseph assured his family that God would take care of them. He had a powerful spiritual influence on his family.

Joseph believed the promises of God (vs. 24,25). In the faith chapter of Hebrews, we read — “By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22). Joseph knew that one day God would fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Joseph knew that dark days were coming and that God would one day rescue His people from their oppression. He also knew that God would give the Promised Land back to his descendants. Thus he ordered that his bones were to be carried out of Egypt to Canaan. Joseph’s bones remained in Egypt for 400 years. When the Israelites left Egypt, the bones of Joseph accompanied them through the exodus and wanderings (Exodus 13:19). The book of Joshua tells us that Joseph’s bones were eventually buried in the tract of land that Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem (Joshua 24:32).

The book of Genesis ends with Joseph’s coffin in Egypt. Joseph’s coffin was a reminder to God’s people of Joseph’s dying words — “God will surely come to your aid.” We don’t have a coffin of bones; we have an empty tomb that testifies to us. Jesus is alive and He will come to our aid and take care of us!

Lord Jesus, the empty tomb is a reminder that You are alive and that You will come to my aid. You are with me, and will be with me all the days of my life. Enable me to be a strong witness of Your faithfulness to my family. You have never let me down. You have blessed me beyond all measure. I desire for my children and grandchildren to know You and to experience Your presence and blessings in their lives. May they see in me the realities of the gospel of grace.

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THE GIFT OF FAMILIES

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:22-26

“So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own.” (Genesis 50:22,23)

The end of the chapter records Joseph’s last years. The emphasis is on his family. He was with his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Family was very important to Joseph. He was a powerful and influential man, but his family was a priority for him. You read more about his interactions with family than his accomplishments as Prime Minister of Egypt.

Families are a gift from God. Joseph was separated from his family for years. However, he was able to spend the last 17 years of his father’s life with him. Joseph lived another 54 years after his father’s death. He was able to know his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Families are the ideal structure through which the blessings of God may be passed on from generation to generation. God’s covenant promises were first made to Abraham — “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you” (Genesis 17:7). You see this covenant succession from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and to his sons. The New Testament confirms this promise — “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who fear God — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39).

Parents are responsible to claim these covenant promises on behalf of their children. The Sacrament of Baptism is a reminder of God’s covenant blessings that have been promised to the children of believers. Parents are to claim these promises in faith and they are to pray that their children come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Parents are also responsible to train their children in the faith — “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). This is a huge responsibility. Parents are to pray with and for their children and they are to set a godly example before them. They are to teach their children the message of the gospel and of the importance of Scripture reading and prayer.

Families are indeed a blessing. I have been able to see my children and grandchildren walking with Jesus. There is no greater blessing for a parent than that.

Lord Jesus, thank You for my precious family. Thank You for Your saving work that has made salvation possible. Thank You that my children are faithfully training their children in the faith. I pray for my grandchildren that You will work mightily in their lives. Make them men and women of God who make a difference in this world.

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A GOD-CENTERED PERSPECTIVE

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:15-21

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.'” (Genesis 50:19,20)

From his early years, Joseph had a God-centered perspective of life. He could see God’s hand in every circumstance of his life — the good and the bad. Joseph suffered evil from several sources throughout his life. When he was a child, his older brothers were jealous of him and hated him. They planned to kill him but instead sold him into slavery.

Potiphar’s wife treated him cruelly. She propositioned him time and time again, but Joseph resisted each time she did. She sought revenge against him and had him thrown into prison. The chief cupbearer of Pharaoh, after he was released from prison, forgot about Joseph, which caused Joseph to spend two long years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

In spite of all this evil against him, Joseph had learned that God is a sovereign God. Thus, he said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Joseph understood that all things are under God’s sovereign hand, even the evil that others had done to him. He knew that God had an ultimate purpose for everything that happens in his life. Through the evil that Joseph’s brothers did, God preserved the Jewish people. Genesis 50:20 is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament — “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

God has a ultimate plan and purpose for each of us. He sovereignly brings everything in conformity to the counsel of His will — “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

The greatest example of this is the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ — “This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23,24). Those who put Christ to death meant evil against Him, but God meant it for good, to save a countless host for eternity.

Things will happen in your family that you may not understand or like. But the great peace is that God causes these things to work out for our good and for His glory. Because Joseph had a God-centered perspective and because he had experienced God’s grace himself, Joseph was able to act graciously toward his brothers and forgive them.

The sovereignty of God is one of the most comforting doctrines in Scripture. God is in charge. He has a plan for our lives and nothing can thwart what God ordains. He causes all things to work for our good. We have to keep our eyes on Him and not on our circumstances.

Sovereign Lord, You are the God of providence. You have a plan for my life and You will accomplish what You have in mind for me. Give me grace to face the good and bad circumstances that will come into my life. Let me keep my eyes on You and not be overwhelmed with the issues of life. You are God; You are good; and You always know and do what is best for Your children.

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THE REALITIES OF FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Scripture Reading: Genesis 50:15-21

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him!'” (Genesis 50:15)

Genesis is really a book about families. It begins with a family. When God created the first man, He said ti was not good for the man to be alone. So He created Eve for Adam, and from their union children were born. Later on another essential family is introduced to us — Noah and his family. They were faithful to God and God spared this family when He destroyed the world by the flood. Then later, we are introduced to Abraham and his family, Isaac and his family, and Jacob and his family. We end the book of Genesis with Joseph and his family.

Families are a great blessing, but we must also expect conflict and problems among the members of our families. There are always potential problems because our families are made up of sinful people. Such was the case with Jacob’s family. Now at the end of the book, we see another potential problem within this family.

When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food and Joseph revealed himself to them, they were filled with fear. They knew Joseph had the power to do with them whatever he pleased. But instead of being angry and bitter and seeking revenge, they found Joseph to be full of love for them. After Jacob died and the mourning for him was over, the brothers became afraid again, thinking that Joseph would seek revenge — “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil we did to him” (v. 15). They actually came to Joseph with a message they claimed their father had left — “You father gave this command before he died, ‘Say to Joseph, please forgive the transgressions of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you'” (vs. 16,17). Who knows whether or not their father really said this? But to their relief, they found that Joseph was entirely forgiving — “Joseph wept when they spoke to him. He was troubled when they felt this way toward him” (v. 17).

The account reminds us that families are made up of sinful people. Sinful people will hurt and disappoint each other at times. Love and forgiveness are essential for families to be healthy. Since we are a forgiven people we must become a forgiving people.

The brothers had done Joseph a terrible wrong. But Joseph loved them and forgave them. How could he do this? He had been transformed by God. God poured out His love on Joseph and Joseph was able to love his family with the love of God. These are the realities of family relationships. We can expect conflict among family members but the gospel enables us to love, forgive, and be gracious to those who have offended us.

Lord Jesus, grant me grace to be loving and forgiving when someone I love hurts or offends me. Enable me to remember how many times I have grieved You in my sins. Yet, You pour out your love and forgiveness on me in spite of the many offensive ways I have treated You. Thank You for Your patience, kindness, grace and mercy. Thank You for not treating me the way my sins deserve me to be treated.

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