Tag Archives: bible study group

Thinking Through Ephesians! A free pdf sample

About 16 years ago I was asked to teach the college class at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, TX on a Sunday morning. It was a large crowd of roughly 1,000 students. My brother was the college pastor associate and had recommended me to teach. I had preached and led small group Bible studies before. I had spoken to moderately large churches, but never a crowd of such significant size and never without a strategic outline or material to follow. I called my brother and asked his advice. He said, “pick a passage of Scripture and teach what it says. No more, no less. Just study what it says and teach it.”

b7a26-bible-on-a-pulpitI taught on Ephesians 5:15-20. Teaching that passage began a mountain-top journey through Ephesians for me. It fast became my favorite book of the Bible. I began to trudge through the text verse by verse, line by line, phrase by phrase until I grasped everything I could. Sometimes I’d get stuck on one verse and write page after page. Sometimes I’d sit on the concepts of the book for a month before I penned a word. All the time, I sought to know Jesus deeply and engage His word and work in my heart and life.



For roughly 14 years I would return to Ephesians every few months and write a little more. Then, a little more than two years ago I was challenged to blog more often. I decided that I would blog every day of the week save Sunday. I started to blog each day through the book of Ephesians, taking the notes I had collected and put them into bite-sized chunks for anyone interested. Somewhere within chapter two, my brother Jeff (who happens to be a great author! you can check out his stuff here: Jeff’s stuff), told me I should consider compiling them into a book.

Cover smallSo, for the last year and a half, my wife and I have edited this work for your joy. This book is the result of a 16-year devotional walk through Ephesians. It has been a delight and joy to write. I hope it is a joy to read as well.

For a free sample of a few chapters and the intro, click here.

To purchase through Amazon: https://goo.gl/fwKDxN

To purchase through Lulu.com:  https://goo.gl/yCoQJk

Colossians 1:3-4; Brief Thoughts

3We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

There is little that can bring greater joy than the comfort and affection of brothers and sisters who have joined in the gospel ministry of love. The gratitude that springs from the soul when someone shares in the labor is tremendous. Paul is grateful for the Colossian believers. He is thankful for their faith and he is grateful for their expressed love to all the saints. Yet, Paul’s gratitude is not directed at the Colossians. Rather, his thanks-giving is directed to God. He is grateful to God for what God had done in the Colossians. The object of gratitude is “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, God is the only appropriate recipient of gratitude for faith and love, for they only exist within the context of His mercy and grace. Christians are capable of faith because God has changed their nature in redemption (Col. 3:9-10). Christians are capable of love because God has first loved them (1 John 4:19). It is fitting to lavish gratitude upon the source of faith and love.

Further, Paul understands that the faith and love that has manifested itself in the Colossians is the work of God alone. In Philippians 1:6 Paul credits God with the work of salvation in the lives of the Philippians. In Ephesians 2 he explains that God has redeemed them from death and brought them to life. In Galatians 2:20 Paul states that he has been “crucified with Christ” and he no longer lives, but Christ lives in him. It is the Lord who changes the souls of men and it is He who works out faith and love in Christians.

Is there a greater motivation for gratitude than the actions of a God who births faith and love in the hearts of obstinate people? The actions of a King who calls friends from out of the midst of enemies and rescues those who hate Him (C.f. Romans 5:1-11). Could there be a more perfect target for thankfulness? Not only has God born faith in Paul, He has also done the same mighty work across the world! Two deep truths are present in this reality. First, God moves apart from any one individual. God moved in the hearts of the Colossians with such great power that Paul “heard of” their faith and love. He did not see it first-hand. The transforming power of Christ’s spirit in their hearts was so profound that Paul “heard of” it and was drawn to gratitude towards God for the work God accomplished. Paul did not have to be there for the gospel to transform the Colossians. Second, God is faithful to redeem even when we are not present to see it. Just because you do not see the movement of God does not mean He is absent or still. He is moving to redeem His people and one day you may be fortunate to hear of it.

The faith and love of the Colossians have been “heard of.” Consider that for a moment. What a great accolade for the Colossians. Their faith and love have reached the ears of other believers in far off lands! So great is their witness that they have garnered a reputation as faithful and loving. How tremendous! O that every Christian would have such a reputation among the masses. Imagine what it would be like if Christians were actually known for their love as Christ said they would be (c.f. John 13:31-35). To be as the Colossians were would be a beautiful sight to behold.

Stuff on my office wall, part 1

The things that someone surrounds themself with can provide great insight into the character and personality of that person.  If someone surrounds themselves with golden trophies of former athletic achievements, then that tells you that they value their former athletic prowess.  If someone surrounds themselves with pictures of family, then they value family.  If someone surrounds themselves with mementoes from trips then they probably value their travel experiences.  Well, I was doing some introspection the other day and was looking around my office.  I won’t bore you with my own critical analysis of my character.  But I thought I’d share some of the things on my walls… because I think they’re cool

Painting by Greg Olsen
Painting by Greg Olsen

First, a painting by Greg Olsen sits directly over my desk.  This is my favorite painting.  It is a painting of Matthew 23 when Jesus Laments over Jerusalem.  He sits on a hill and overlooks the capital city of the people of God and proclaims, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”  You can imagine a tear falling down his face as he sits down in exasperation.  He weeps for His people.  This is the way I feel about the church in America.  My wife bought it for me when we were in our second year of marriage.  It serves as a reminder of my calling in ministry.  Within the painting is the reminder of my responsibility to my family.  I love my family and surround my calling around constant imagery of my life with them.

(You can find Greg Olsen’s print here: http://www.gregolsen.com/o-jerusalem-9652)


Second, this is a wood carving that my wife’s Grand Father (Papa) did.  It sits above the calling.  It is probably one of the coolest art works in my office.  Papa is one of the most servant hearted men I have ever met.  He loves people with a love that I often cannot comprehend and he is the most patient man I have ever known.  On top of that, he can do almost anything.  Electrical problems, home structural problems, leadership issues, car problems, engine issues, weed eaters, plumbing, anything!  Papa can do almost everything and this piece of art is a constant reminder to me that Papa’s most admirable and endearing character trait is his constant connection to the Lord.  Likewise, I need to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and dependence on God and my connection with Him.


This third one may seem silly to some of you.  But I keep a small poster that was made for me on my Birthday by the staff at the church.  However, recognition in church work is uncommon and personal  anniversaries are almost never acknowledged.  So I keep almost all of them when I get them.  This one was on my wall and I left it there because it means a lot to me to know that others think about things like that.

DadThis is a picture of my Dad.  My dad was a great man and I keep this to remind myself of who I am, where I came from, and who I want to be.

Our Great God: Ezekiel 16

It’s been a while since I posted anything… So here ya go interweb:

In my Bible study group thingy that meets at my house on Thursday nights (still not sure what to call this thing we do other than Thursday Night Bible Study), we just started studying Hosea.  A few weeks ago we read Ezekiel 16 for the purpose of cross references with Hosea 1:10-3:1.  I was struck by the graphic depiction of the people whom he loves.

First, verses 3-5 describes Israel as a baby that was unwanted and left in a field to die.   There is nothing intrinsically in the people of God that makes them desirable.  Instead, they are unwanted and left to die.  It actually says the people of God were abhorred!

And God walks by:

When God comes by in verses 6-14 God makes His people beautiful and brings them to life!  In the midst of their depravity and death, God spreads His garment over them, protects them, cloths them, loves them, cleans them, and dresses them up!  Then in verse 14 the people of God become famous because of the beauty that God gives them.  It is remarkable the beauty of the saints as a result of God’s mercy toward them.

Immediately following God’s mercy the people of God begin to trust in their own beauty and begin to sell off the beauty that God had given them.  Verses 15-22 describe a horrific scene.  The people of God begin to make their own gods and begin to worship them… they pay for the privilege of playing the prostitute.  How wicked!  Can you imagine!?  Someone paying to BE the prostitute!?  They take the gold and jewels that God gave them and use them to create images that they can prostitute themselves toward.  They sacrifice the children that they are supposed to raise to “love the LORD their God with all their mind soul and strength” to their false idols.  The sad part is that our culture is no better.  We are prostituting ourselves to consumerism, self-centeredness, pornography, indulgence, license, and immoralities of all kinds.  The people of God give themselves over to false gods.  What’s more, we hand our children off to a entertainment focused consumer driven world, surrendering our responsibilities as parents to the TV, internet, extra-curricular activities, schools, etc… (that list is intended to make us think, not tick us off. Sorry if I accomplished the latter) In sad comparison, we pay for those things too.

In verses 30-34 it just keeps getting worse.  The people of God are pursue unsolicited wickedness!  It’s as if God is saying, “you weren’t even tempted! And yet you chased down sin.”  Worse than a prostitute, the people of God are freely adulterous with strangers.

As you go through the rest of the text, God proclaims that he will judge by giving the people of God over to their own lusts.  (ex. Verse 39) This is the way that God disciplines.  He need not send sever famine or tornados (though He can)…  He simply lets us have our way and we feel the consequences of our actions.   Think about Romans 1, “and God gave them over” is repeated multiple times.  We like to think that we are being oppressed by some outside force, but that is not so.  God is not vindictive or petty.  He is just, and we reap what we sow.  (Gal. 6:7)

As terrible as all this seems, The God of all grace changes the story in verses 59-63.  In our wickedness, God atones for our sin and we are confounded by His great love.  No matter what we have done, Jesus makes His covenant with us and then promises that He will keep the agreement that we have so defiled.  Those last two verses break me in half and I am confounded by the love of God:

” 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”

I love the LORD