Heavenly Harmony

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

I am very excited to begin 1 Corinthians this Sunday because of the numerous similarities that exist between the city of Corinth and Southern California. Corinth was a city of wealth and culture, seated at the crossroads of the Roman empire, where all the commerce of the empire passed through. It was a very pretty city, a proud city and a philosophical city, but it was also a passionate city. Corinth was known throughout all of Asia as the city of immorality because the temple of the goddess Aphrodite was there which sent out male and female prostitutes into the city every night. As a matter of fact, Plato used the phrase “Corinthian girl” in his writings to describe a prostitute.

He is Faithful to Keep His Promises

“On the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.” Esther 9:1b

Well, we have come to the end of the book of Esther. Although this book has revealed many beautiful attributes of God’s character, one attribute stands out among the rest because of how often it is displayed in this story - God always works in a supernaturally natural way. We saw it first when God arranged for Queen Vashti to be replaced by Esther and then gave her special favor with the king. We continued to see it when God arranged for Moredicai to have access to both Esther and the affairs of the kingdom.

The Whole Armor of God

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Have you ever considered how long our enemy, the devil, has been in existence? Unlike any person in history, he’s been able to study how humans act and think over thousands of years. Considering his main goal since the beginning has been to destroy people and keep them from fellowship with God, he continues to use his knowledge of human behavior and weakness to accomplish it. He knows better than anyone that the key to our downfall is not to come at us with a full frontal attack, rather it’s to find areas in our lives where we are vulnerable to temptation and to attack us there. It could be greed, lust, jealousy, pride, power or popularity.

Be Strong

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Ephesians 6:10

The word “finally” signals the beginning of Paul’s conclusion to his letter to the Ephesians, where he gives us not only powerful words to live by but also reveals the source of the power we need to experience the Christian life.

Sorrows Into Great Joy

“Now Mordecai went out from the prince of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.” Esther 8:15-17

In the beginning of this chapter Esther is sorrowful, but by the end of the chapter she and all the people are joyful. Seven times in the three verses above we read words that express jubilation. What caused this jubilation? The people saw that Mordecai was robed in royalty and that he had delivered a decree that promised to protect all the Jews in the land. This gave them great hope, which reminded me of Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Worship While We Work

“Servants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ… and you, masters, do the same things to them.” Ephesians 6:5, 9a

The words “servants” and “masters” really jump off the page don’t they? It has been estimated that when Paul wrote this letter there were six million slaves in the Roman empire and slavery was an accepted institution. Although the gospel is clearly against slavery, it isn’t specifically condemned anywhere in the New Testament. The reason Paul never specifically condemned it was because his ministry was not to overthrow the Roman government, but to preach the gospel and win the lost to Christ, and it was among the slaves that the gospel was preached and received.

Godly Parenting

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

That’s it. That’s all Paul has to say to parents in his entire letter to the Ephesians. If you’re anything like me - a parent who is often overwhelmed, anxious, confused and scared - then you’re wondering the same thing I am: “Really? That’s all you have for me Paul? For all the questions I have, for all the wisdom and strength I need, this is all the instruction I get?”

The Righteous Will Prosper

“So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided.” Esther 6:10a

In Proverbs 11:8 we read, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead.” The day before they hanged Haman, Haman was forced to lead Mordecai through the streets dressed like royalty. The very next day Haman was led through the streets with his face covered in humility on his way to being hung on the very gallows he prepared for Mordecai.

Communion With Our Spouses

“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

This simple sentence acts as a hinge between the preceding verses that dealt with the spirit-filled life, and the following verses that deal with how to treat one another. The hinge that opens up the door is the fact that there is a third Person involved in every relationship - Jesus Christ. What a wonderful picture of communion!

Carpe Diem

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul’s instruction to “see then that you walk circumspectly” is also translated “be very careful” or “pay careful attention, then, to how you live.” Paul is urging us to take a moment and consider how we live and why we make the decisions we make. Unlike what the world encourages, we aren’t to get caught up in the moment and simply do whatever feels right. The days are evil, so if we’re not careful we’ll end up giving our energy and time to temporary pleasures which will leave us empty and frustrated.

God-incidences

“That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.” Esther 6:1

It has been said with a sovereign God there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. There is no doubt it was a God-incidence that the king couldn’t sleep the night spoken of in Esther 6:1. God kept the king awake knowing Haman was busy building the gallows to hang Mordecai. The king could have arranged for something to help him fall asleep. He could have called a troubadour to sing him to sleep or called a concubine from his harem to help calm him, but instead he had someone read the records of the chronicles to him. This may sound like the perfect thing to put someone to sleep quickly, but before the king could fall asleep he heard something very interesting. Within the records of the chronicles was the record of Mordecai’s service to the king five years earlier. This information made the king think fondly of Mordecai and would end up saving Mordecai’s life.

Imitators of God

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

Behavioral scientists have discovered an interesting phenomenon called “imprinting” that takes place in the early development of some animals. If an animal is exposed enough to another animal, object, or person during critical stages of their development, they will consider it as their parent. If a young goose is “imprinted” by a dog, the gosling will see the dog as it’s mother. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul suggests the same sort of imprinting should happen in our relationship with Jesus. We should be walking so closely with Him that His nature is imprinted on us.

Life as a New Man

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds his readers that when they received salvation, they were given new life. The old man that was governed by deceitful lusts was gone, and was replaced by a new man governed by the truth of Jesus Christ. In the verse above, Paul claims this new man “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Does this remind you of Genesis 1 where it says God originally created the first man, Adam, in His image and likeness?

NCL's 13th Anniversary This Sunday!

Good morning NCL family,

As I was sitting at my desk wondering what I could share about our 13th anniversary this Sunday the only thing that came to mind is, “Oh no, 13! That’s not good. Everyone knows what that means. We’re doomed! It’s over! I guess I should prepare my last sermon ever in Newport Coast.” Isn’t it funny how humans can take a little number like 13 and make it an evil thing? Though this may be the world’s view of the number 13, it certainly isn’t the biblical view. I discovered the number 13 in the Bible refers to an amazing blessing from God.

Step of Faith

“Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, facing the entrance of the house.” Esther 5:1

As I read this one little verse this morning, my heart was moved to pray for our country. Similar to Esther’s day, many unbelievable things are happening in our government today that often leave us wondering, “What in the world can we do?”

Walk in Unity

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:4-6

Did you notice one word in the above passage that stood out among the rest? The word “one” is used seven times in these three verses. I think Paul wants us to understand that there should be unity among all believers. Notice how Paul reveals that it is the triunity of God that brings unity to His children. We see the spirit in verse 4, the Son in verse 5, and the Father in verse 6.

The Prayer Request

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Ephesians 3:14, 18-19a

John Stott wrote, “One of the best ways to discover a Christians’ chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. Prayer expresses desire.” The above prayer from Paul takes place at a crucial transition in his letter to the Ephesians. In the first three chapters he has been discussing some pretty dense doctrine, and he will spend the rest of the letter teaching us how to apply that doctrine to our lives. So before he gets into the application, he prays the believers in Ephesus would comprehend the overwhelming love of Christ.

For Such a Time as This

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

If you were reading the book of Esther for the first time you might wonder, “Where is God?” Nowhere is God’s name mentioned and nowhere does it appear God is doing anything. The book begins with a narcissistic king in control which leads to an evil man named Haman gaining some control, but it never appears God is in control.

The Mystery

“...to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 3:9

The word “mystery” really jumps off the page doesn’t it? In the New Testament, a mystery is not an eerie thing from a movie, rather it’s “a truth hidden by God in times past that is now revealed to those who are in His family.”  

A New Society

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” Ephesians 2:14

Equality seems to be the most relevant issue today. It’s at the forefront of our society’s mind and is causing a lot of dispute because we’re desperately trying to figure out what it looks like and how to obtain it. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize we were given the answer nearly 2,000 years ago. At a time when inequality was leaps and bounds worse than it is now, Paul declared Christ Himself “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”