• Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Three: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Three – Studying God’s Word

    Welcome to the third and last section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  

    In Part One, we studied Paul’s epistle to the church at Ephesus. We discovered that Paul was writing to the Ephesians to encourage them in their faith in Christ and to remind them that they are forgiven, loved, and chosen to be adopted by God into the Body of Christ. 

    God’s endgame to unite all nations under Jesus Christ through the church is also revealed. 

    Paul continues to tell the Ephesians that upon receiving salvation that they – and by extension, us – are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit, who comes to reside in us. The Holy Spirit provides us with a portion of the blessings, which is known as a pledge,  that we are to inherit as children of the Most High God.  

    Finally, Paul establishes Jesus as the Head of the Church, whose authority is greater than any entity or dominion and whose power is independent of space and time. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then we as a community of Christians, are His body.  

    In Part Two, we explored the ways in which we can apply our understanding of God’s promise of love and blessings to our everyday lives. We also discussed how we can be ambassadors of Christ and spread the gospel as individuals and as churches to the nations.  

    Part Three of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is intended as a study guide for those of you, who would like to delve deeper into the biblical and life themes presented in Ephesians 1.  

    If you would like to know more about the benefits of studying the Bible, then l recommend that you read our page “Why study the Bible?” 

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    The aim of this study section

    This study section of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series is intended as a guide to promote discussion and reflection on Ephesians 1.   

    As a start, I suggest that you read Part One and Part Two of the Bible Study on Ephesians 1 that l have already posted, in order to fully appreciate the lessons portrayed in this epistle and to consider the chapter’s themes.   

    For whom is this study section intended? 

    You can apply this section within a group setting, such as a house group, a Bible Study group, or a prayer group.  

    Alternatively, you can also study on your own. If this may be the case, l have written some suggestions below in the section “If you are studying on your own” to assist you in your learning.   

    I encourage you to customize this study preparation by taking out of it what you wish and adding your own ideas and insight. Have fun with it!  

    What you will need: 

    • A Bible, preferable a study Bible. I personally use the  “The Everyday Life Bible” from Joyce Meyer Ministries  
    • An exercise book or journal and a pen  
    • As an alternative to pen and paper, you could use a tablet or a similar electronic device  

    This study section composes of five parts:  

    1. Discussion questions  

    2. Testimony  

    3. Suggested reading   

    4. Journal writing  

    5. Prayer  

    These are just guidelines to help you structure your group time. Feel free to add or take out elements as you see fit! 

    Additionally, talk with your group and ask them for suggestions about what they would like to do. The more ideas, the merrier!  

    If you are studying on your own  

    If you are not in a group and you would still like to apply this study section of Ephesians 1 to your own private study of the Bible, that is also great! Quiet time with God is valuable time, and you can learn a lot about Him during it.   

    The following are a few suggestions of how you can adapt the 5 sections of this study guide for private study purposes:  

    1. Discussion questions:  

    You could start a journal and write down your thoughts to the listed discussion questions.   

    2. Testimony  

    You could use our suggested topics in the Testimony section as stimulation to write down all the wonderful things God has done in your life by starting a testimony journal or a blessings jar.  

     3. Suggested reading   

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    4. Journal writing  

    Applicable in a group setting as well as for private study purposes.  

    5.Prayer  

    You can speak the prayer at the end of this section over yourself. Your words have power, especially if you speak them over yourself:  

    “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;  
        it shall not return to me empty,  
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,  
        and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

    Isaiah 55:11  

    Let’s look at the 5 sections of our study guide. 

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    1.Discussions questions

    The following are some discussion topics l have thought of to assist you in delving deeper into the themes of Ephesians 1. There is no right or wrong answer; these topics are merely suggestions to stimulate conversation and an exchange of views within your group. Also, feel free to ask others if they have suggestions regarding this topic that they would like to discuss and go with it!  

    As each person experiences a different walk with God, it is interesting to hear other people’s perspectives and thereby learn from each other and grow together as a Christian community. Happy talking!  

    Possible discussion topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1.  God loves us unconditionally. How do you define this kind of love? What are some examples of how God has demonstrated His unconditional love for you? 
    2. Paul writes to the Ephesians that we have been foreordained, pre-chosen to be sons and daughters of God.  Does that mean that those who aren’t believers of Christ have not been pre-chosen to be in a relationship with God? What role does free will play in all of this? 
    3. God’s great plan is to unify all nations under Jesus Christ. That means having an end to all religious conflict in the world. Considering the extent of religious disunity, persecution, and acts of terror that occur in the name of religious conviction, do you see global unity under one God and one church as a possibility? 
    4. God considers us holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4). Considering that we are all sinners and are constantly trying to find our way, what does this mean to you? 

    Note: These topics might be a bit sensitive for people to address, so introduce it into a group situation at your discretion. 

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    2.Testimony

    Sharing your life experiences and the victories that God has vouchsafed you, is a verbal expression of your gratitude. It gives not only our Father glory, but it encourages fellow Christians who may be going through the same trial that you have undergone.   

     I will declare your name to my people;  
        in the assembly I will praise you.”  

    Psalm 22:22   

    Paul’s letter to the Ephesians gives us reason to be joyful, for God declares that not only are we loved and forgiven for our sins, He lavishes us with His grace, blessings, and invites us into His family as His adopted children.  

    Possible testimony topics on Ephesians 1:  

    1. How did you come into a relationship with Christ? Share your story of salvation with the rest of the group. Give a testimony of a time when God blessed you abundantly – over and above your expectations. 
    2. It is stated often in the Bible that we should seek God, for example, in Matthew 7:7. However, in this epistle, Paul makes it very clear that God seeks us out.  Share with the group of an encounter you had with God when He sought you out at a time when you needed Him the most.
    3. When we give our lives to Christ we are stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit and He comes to reside in us. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in you since you have entered into a relationship with Jesus?  

    To help you with your answer, refer back to Part One of our Bible Study under the section “Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)”. 

    Photo credit:  Wesley Eland on Unsplash 

    3. Suggested reading

    Reading the Word of God teaches us about how much God loves us and gives us guidelines on how to live the life He wants us to live – a life of victory and joy. 

    The following are some scriptures you may enjoy reading about how much God loves you and that He always has your back. 

    Scriptures:  

    Reading the remaining 5 chapters of  the Book of Ephesians will give you more depth and insight into God’s unconditional love for you and the plans He has for you as an individual, as well as for the church.

    • Ephesians 2 – God raised us from the death of a life of sin and has sat us in High Places with Him. It is by faith that we have been saved, not by works. Paul discusses the foundation of the Church, which are the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as her cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 3 – Paul declares from his confinement in Rome of his role in revealing God’s eternal plan for His children.   The power of God is greater than any other authority, and the Church under Christ should reflect His glory. Paul prays that the Ephesians have an encounter with Christ that embeds itself in their hearts. 
    • Ephesians 4 – In this chapter, Paul lists the spiritual gifts that God has given us to fulfill His vision of a functioning Church. Additionally, Paul reminds us to live in humility and morality that honors the Holy Spirit, such as to not steal, be obscene, or allow the sun to go down on your anger. 
    • Ephesians 5– God is love so we should also walk in love. Again, Paul gives us instructions on living a Christian life that reflects God’s will for us. He also talks about the role of men and women in a marriage. 
    • Ephesians 6– Paul gives instructions about family life, specifically the role of both parent and child in the home. Lastly, Paul teaches us that we have a spiritual enemy, Satan, and that we must put on spiritual armour daily to fend off the enemy’s attacks.  

    Interesting online articles relating to Ephesians 1:  

    theprayingwoman.com, “God has your back” Sophia Vilceus 

    www.joelosteen.com, “Claim Your Inheritance” Lisa Comes 

    www.crosswalk.com, “Teaching Life Skills: Practical Outreach for Any Church” Chris Bolinger 

    https://ymi.today,  “5 lies to stop believing about yourself” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com,  “Are There Some People God Will Not Save?” 
     

    Inspirational quotes relating to Ephesians 1:  

    ‘God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, “I love you.” ‘- Billy Graham 

    “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.” C.S. Lewis 

    “The life of success is one of going forward to posses our possessions. It has been said that God’s will does not send a man to where His grace cannot sustain him. God’s will and His grace go hand in hand.” – Benson Andrew Isahosa 

    Photo credit:  Josh Applegate on Unsplash 

    4. Journal writing

    Writing down all the good things that God has done in your life is a very powerful tool for a Christian. Not only does it help us to remember what God has done for us; reading over God’s past victories and blessings over you provides encouragement and empowerment in times of trouble. All you need to start is an empty exercise book and a pen. Alternatively, you can keep a digital journal.  

    There are a number of forms of journals, where regular writing in it will strengthen you in your walk with God:  

    •  A testimony journal  
    •  A dreams and visions journal  
    •  A blessings journal  
    •  My favourite –  a gratitude journal  

    Try to write optimally once a day. All you need is 5-10 min to jot down everything good that has happened to you during the course of your day, no matter how trivial.   

    Meditate upon what you wrote and acknowledge that it is God who was responsible for these good things happening today, and not you or your own works.   

     ‘”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’  

    Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)  

    Journaling in your group:  

    You can e.g. allot 10-15min for journaling in your group, and afterwards share your written thoughts with each other.  

    An alternate suggestion, is to incorporate journal writing as part of your quiet time with God, then discuss your results when you meet as a group.  

    Journaling on the Bible Chapter Ephesians 1 

    1. In your journal, divide your page in half to form two columns. In the left column, write the title “How the world sees me”. In the right column, write the title “How God sees me”.  

    Fill out in the left column how your family, colleagues, friends, and neighbors sees you. Include not only roles and job descriptions but also personality and behavioral traits. 

    Example: “mother”, “husband”,  “reliable”, “shy” 

    In the right column, write a list of everything that God says about YOU

    Example:  “beloved Child”, “forgiven”, “redeemed” 

    As an extension, consider starting a gratitude journal, where you write down the great things God is doing in your life every day. I personally love using the Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change.   

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    5.Prayer

    If you wish, you can read the following prayer aloud as a group, or one person can read it aloud on behalf of the others.   

    Prayer:  

    Oh, Great and Almighty God, 

    You are the Alpha and the Omega, the God who is, who was, and who is to come – You are the Almighty and the Ruler of All. 

    I come to You today full of awe and humility. I lay myself at Your feet, overcome by the love, grace, and mercy that You lavish upon me. Your acts of kindness towards me are countless, as are Your blessings which are as numerous as the stars in the night sky.  

    Precious Lord, l thank you that You chose me to be your child, before l was even in my mother’s womb. Thank you, that when l was swayed by the temptations of this world and dwelled in the darkness of spiritual death, Your love was a light that shone out and brought me back to life through the redeeming blood of Your son Jesus Christ. 

    Now, l am seated in heavenly places with You, adopted into the Body of Christ as Your child. I am Yours, marked with the stamp of the seal of the Holy Spirit that denotes me as belonging to You and You alone. Your grace and love fill me with wonder that You would have chosen me into Your heavenly family.  

    Father, teach me Your ways, in order that l may live the life You have planned for me. Instruct me in the ways of Your love and grace and imprint it on my heart, in order that l do not sin against You. For without You, where l would l be? 

    Mature me in my gifts through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, in order that l may serve You well in my church and help further Your great plan to unify all mankind under the leadership of Jesus Christ, Your son.  
     

    To You be given all the honor and the glory, for You are worthy to be praised. 

    In Jesus’ name, 

    Amen.  

    Photo credit:  fotografierende on Unsplash 

    We hope that you enjoyed our Bible study on Ephesians 1 in our series Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies.  

    In August, we will be studying  Joshua 6, which describes the fall of Jericho, a fortress city in the land of Canaan. We would love for you to join us!  

    Until then, my friends, be safe and may God’s love and blessings be upon you!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

    http://www.crosswindschurch.com, “Bible Study Basics – Ephesians 1” 

    http://dsntl8idqsx2o.cloudfront.net, “Ephesians Small Group Series Lesson 1 – Introduction to Ephesians & Chapter 1 The Extent of God’s Love and Power” 

    biblesummarybychapter.blogspot.com, “Ephesians Bible summary by chapter” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part Two: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part Two: Living God’s word – Applying Ephesians 1 to everyday life 

    Last Friday, we started Part One of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1, which is an epistle that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus.

    In this letter, Paul tells the Ephesians that they – and by extension, us – are loved. His blessings are ours through Jesus’ blood sacrifice at the Cross of Calvary, and we receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We are His children, adopted into the body of Christ. 

    Furthermore, Paul tells us that God has foreordained us for salvation and holiness. His reasons for choosing us are according to His will and purpose. Upon receiving salvation, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, which identifies us as belonging to God and enables us to receive a portion of our divine inheritance while we are on earth.  

    Additionally, God’s wishes for His children are reflected through Paul’s prayers over the Ephesians:  

    • wisdom and revelation of God 
    • an awareness of our blessings as recipients of God’s inheritance 
    •  comprehension of the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God, which not only shows itself in us but through us. 

    Finally, God’s secret plan of bringing all things of the world under the unification of Christ is revealed. Paul makes us aware that with Jesus being the Head of the Church, we, as a community of Christians, are the body who can spread the Good News of the gospel to the rest of the world, in order to bring God’s plan to fruition.  

    Not only reading and studying the Bible is an integral part of every Christian’s God walk; we should also try and apply its messages to our daily life. Lukes aptly states in his gospel:

    “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  

    Luke 11:28 (NRSV)   

    Now that we understand the message behind Ephesians 1, let us explore in Part Two of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series, how we can take the lessons that Paul imparts on us and implement them to live blessed, purposeful lives as children of the Most High God, the beneficiaries of the divine blessings of the Kingdom of Heaven! 

    Additionally, let us explore how we can be ambassadors on earth through our churches and also as individuals in spreading the Word of God.

    Stop condemning yourself 

    God’s greatest message that He wants to share with us, is that He loves us. However, self-condemnation can prevent us from receiving God’s unconditional acceptance of us.  

    Why? 

    Because we see only our weaknesses and failings. We focus on all the times we messed up and the people we hurt and let down. 

    We need to see ourselves as God sees us. We are forgiven, chosen, and unconditionally accepted by Him. Nothing that we can do, no power or entity, can ever separate us from the love of God, which is given to us through Jesus Christ. Paul confirms this for us in the Book of Romans, another of his epistles: 

    “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

    Romans 8:38-39 

     God knows what is in your heart and He still loves you.  He is omnipresent through space and time (Revelations 1:8): He knows the mistakes you have done, are doing now, and will do in the future, and He’s still there for you. God doesn’t condemn you – why should you condemn yourself? 

    Photo credit:  Sydney Sims on Unsplash

    Know that you are unconditionally loved

    This is the point that Paul wishes to emphasize the most with the Ephesians.  

    God loves you. Unconditionally. Unrequitedly. Uncompromisingly.  

    His love cannot be earned, nor can we lose it when we mess up in life. God loves us because He chooses to.  

    God went through the lengthy process of adoption through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to bring you into His family.  

    Now, that is love! 

    God chose you – yes you – to be a part of His family. He knew you and chose you to be His child before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eyes.  

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    God set you apart, not only because He loves you, but  because  He has a wonderful plan for your life, a life of abundance until it overflows (John 10:10). 

    When you have God in your corner loving you and cheering you on, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you. If someone doesn’t like you, breaks up with you, or doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t need to let their treatment of you influence how you live your life. God’s opinion of you is the only one that matters, and He thinks you are precious and worthy! 

    Hold on to that! 

    Photo credit:  Bart LaRue on Unsplash

    You have God’s grace – accept it!

    Paul began his letter to the Ephesians by wishing that grace and peace be theirs: 

    “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

    Ephesians 1:2 

    As we learned in the first part of this Bible Study, “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm.  

    One can interpret that in a few ways. It can be a quality which endears you to someone, or it can be a quality that you express towards others. 

    In the case of God, l believe it is a combination of both. God’s expression of grace towards us is one of His most beautiful personality traits. It is His gift to us, a token of love and favor that we don’t deserve because we are sinners.  

    For that reason, God’s gift of grace is one of the qualities that cause us to love God even more. It humbles us, stirs us, and has us in awe of the majesty and benevolence of our Creator; especially when we consider that God’s greatest act of grace was His gift of Salvation. 

    “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.” 

    Ephesians 1:7-8 

    God wants us to accept His gift of grace. He loves you so much, and you are His greatest treasure.  

    Nevertheless, many of us are unwilling to accept it because we feel ashamed about our past mistakes or feel like we are not worthy enough. 

    However, that is not who you are in Christ. Jesus went to the cross to die for your sins, He took your shame, your mistakes, your regret – from the past, present, and future – and He nailed it on that Cross so that it would never have a hold over you again.  

    Therefore, accept God’s gift of grace, and live your life knowing you are forgiven, loved, and cherished! 

    Photo credit:  Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

    Blessed to be a blessing

    God’s blessings are a point that Paul emphasizes in his epistle.  

    “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 

    The Greek word for “blessing” means to speak well or voice a positive utterance. In Hebrew, “blessing” can be translated in two ways: It can mean barak, which means to compliment or praise, as well as esher, which can be translated as happiness.  

    God literally spoke blessings to His people throughout the Bible. He blessed Abraham, declaring him to be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4). He blessed Mary with the promise that she would bear the Savior of the world (Luke 1:31-33). God even blessed Paul as being the instrument through which He would bring the gospel to both the Gentiles and the Israelites (Acts 9:15).  

    When God blesses us, it is an expression of an act of favor or a declaration of His will for us. These blessings may come in the form of talents, health, opportunities – even material and financial acquisitions. In whatever form they may manifest themselves, God’s blessings are meant to enrich us.  

    However, these blessings are not given to us with the purpose of self-fulfillment.  God blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.  

    Numerous verses in the Bible instruct us to bless others. Here are just a few: 

    Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 

    Philippians 2:3-4 

    “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contraryrepay with a blessingIt is for this that you were calledthat you might inherit a blessing.” 

    1 Peter 3:9 

    And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” 

    Hebrews 10:24 

    So, how can you bless others? You can use your talents to help others in your church and community. In my case, l am a fluent German speaker. In the church l attend here in Bochum, Germany, l offer my services in the Translation team, where we translate the church services from German into English.  

    Additionally, you can give financial gifts, volunteer in local charity organizations, host people in your home by preparing a meal or doing a Bible Study, or give food and clothing donations to a local shelter.  

    And of course, the most powerful blessing you can give someone is to pray for them.  

    Photo credit:  zhang Mickey on Unsplash

    Embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit

    When we give our lives to Christ, God confirms the transaction by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are now beneficiaries of the promise of a divine inheritance.  

    The Holy Spirit comes to reside in us and provides us with a portion of our heavenly inheritance. In the Ancient Greek business world, a down-payment or “earnest” known as arrabon was considered a part of the purchase price of a good. In the same way, the Holy Spirit provides us with a pledge, or a down-payment of the blessings we are to receive once we are in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

    “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” 

    Ephesians 1:13-14 

    The pledges of the Holy Spirit are varied and many. Here are a few: 

    The thing about these pledges, is that they come in seed form. That means, that these provisions will become stronger in us the stronger we become in Christ.  

    When we give our lives to Christ, we become new creations – we start anew. Just as a human baby grows by progressing from milk to solid food, so too do we need to grow from “baby” Christians to mature Christians. 

    “And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” 

    1 Corinthians 3:1-2 

    How can we do this? By spending time with God in prayer and quiet reflection, by reading the Bible and being in fellowship with other Christians. In Part Three of our Bible Study, which we will post tomorrow, we outline ways in which you can strengthen yourself in Christ and grow as a community of believers.  

    The potential to become a mature, formidable man or woman of Christ lies within you. If you are feeling undernourished, spend time with God today. Ask Him to show you through the Holy Spirit, how you can tap into the gifts and blessings He has placed inside you. 

    Photo credit:  Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

    Church leaders – be encouraged

    Paul places great emphasis on the role of the Church in furthering the Word of God. As an apostolic missionary, Paul was well aware of the vocation and responsibility involved in braving the outside world and sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know God or believe in Him. 

    The church is of vital importance to Jesus. As her head and cornerstone, He has great plans for the church where each of us has designated roles to fulfill in furthering the gospel. Paul talks more about this in Ephesians 4

    Being a church leader in the modern-day church comes with its challenges. In a time where more and more people are  turning away from God and dedicating themselves to the pursuits of the world, church leaders are under pressure to preach the Word of God, while at the same time not rocking the boat with messages or values that can deter people from wanting to enter their church doors.  

    Paul wants to encourage the Body of Christ that Christ’s power is greater than any authority, power, and dominion in this world and beyond.  

    “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” 

    Ephesians 1:20-23 

    Jesus created the church to stand out amidst the brokenness of the world, to be a source of light when others sit in the darkness of unbelief and lack of knowledge of God’s redeeming love.  

    Therefore, church leaders need not fear reproach or rejection for telling the infallible Truth of the Word of God. It is their divine-appointed calling, endorsed by the power of the Name that is above all Names, under which every knee must bow – not just in this age, but for all ages to come.  

    Jesus has your back! 

    Photo credit:  Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

    Go out and spread the Word

    As we stated in the segment above, Jesus is the head of the Church. That makes us, as the Body of Christ, His movable body parts. 

    God’s application of His great plan of unity amongst the nations is through the church. This means, that we all have a role to play in making God’s endgame come to fruition. We need to be the mouth, hands, legs, heart, and spirit of Christ on earth. 

    God calls us to go out and teach the gospel to the four corners of the world, He wants us to bring people into the family of God through salvation. We call this the Great Mission. 

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

    Matthew 28:19-20 

    As Christians, we need to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. DL Moody, the great Christian theologian famously said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.” 


     So how can be known as God’s messengers on earth? 

    We can reflect Christ’s personality through our own behavior

    When l gave my life to Christ, people noticed an immediate change over me. I thought before l spoke, l was quieter, and l stopped swearing (and l used to swear a lot!).  

    People notice that Christ is in us in subtle ways, such as through our behavior, what we choose to talk or not talk about, how we react in situations that are challenging.  

    Reminding ourselves that Christ is in us and going out into the world with a spirit of patience, grace, kindness, and humility will have more of an effect on others than grand, sanctimonious gestures. It will show others who Christ’s true personality is. 

    We can pray 

    Praying is our most formidable and effective tool in making spiritual change. 

    “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 

    2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

    Not only can we pray for our friends, families, and neighbors, but we should be praying for our nation’s leaders and the spiritual stability of our countries and the cities we live in. Through prayer, chains of pride and disbelief can and will be broken! 

    Have you heard of the film “War Room”? Miss Clara, one of the protagonist’s, had set up her closet as a prayer room. She wrote down everything that was on her heart that she wanted to pray over – may it be requests for herself or requests that were on her heart for others.  When Miss Clara went into her War Room to pray, she was on a divine mission from God to stir things up in the spiritual realm! 

    We can take action

    It is impossible for people to hear about the Word of God if we don’t bring it to them. In Hosea 4:6 it states “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

    For that reason, we can make the gospel accessible to others in different ways. Here are a few suggestions: 

    • plant a church 
    • Start a Bible Study in your home 
    • Invite a friend or neighbor who doesn’t know Christ to church 
    • Speak about Christ when you see an opportunity 
    • Start a blog (that’s what l did) 
    • Share a favorite Bible verse on social media like your Facebook or Instagram account 
    • Take flyers from your church and leave them in public places (l leave mine in the locker room of my gym and doctor’s waiting rooms) 
    • Have a Bible app on your phone and show people Bible verses when the situation comes up. This also provides an example for how others can have the Bible always at their fingertips.  I highly recommend the YouVersion Bible App, which was  designed by Craig Groeschel, the pastor of Life.Church and his team. (My husband even offers to download the app for people on their phone, right in that moment.) 
    • Invite people over for a Christian movie night. One of my friends regularly invites others to watch The Shack, the film adaptation of Wm Paul Young’s famous book. If you don’t know what the book is about, you can read our book review on The Shack here

    Photo credit:  Jon Tyson on Unsplash

    This concludes the second part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 “Knowing who you are in Christ”.  To see Part One of our Bible study of Ephesians 1, click here

    If you have enjoyed the series thus far, we would love to have you join us on Saturday, when l will post the third and final part of our series.  

    Until then my friends, take care and God bless!  

    Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

    johnkking.wordpress.com, “Applying Ephesians to my life” 

    withalliamgod.wordpress.com, “Application Of Ephesians 1:3-11 in Local Churches Leadership” 

    www.gotquestions.org, “What is a blessing according to the Bible?” 

    www.lsmradio.com, “What is God’s Blessing?” 

    www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com, “10 Effective Ways To Spread Christianity” 

  • Jacob's Ladder Bible Studies

    Part One: Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Ephesians 1

    Knowing who you are in Christ

    Part One: Understanding God’s Word

    Bible commentary on Ephesians 1

    Prior to choosing a Bible chapter for this month’s theme, “Who l am in Christ”, a dear friend recommended that l read Ephesians 1 during my private time with the Lord.

    I am so glad l took his advice, for this chapter was a beautiful reminder for me of God’s declaration of love. We are cherished, set apart, and fore-ordained to be in a relationship with our Father, full of blessings, grace, and purpose. I knew l had to take the teachings of this chapter and share it on our blog with all of you.

    Ephesians 1 explains how not only have we been forgiven and redeemed, but we have been chosen by God to be adopted as His sons and daughters. On the occasion of this adoption, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, identifying us as belonging to Christ and who is a down payment of our eternal inheritance. 

    Additionally, Ephesians 1 provides us with revelation about the church, which is the Body of Christ with Jesus at its head, as well as our calling to teach and proclaim the Gospel. 

    However, before we begin with studying this pivotal chapter of the Bible, let us find out more about who wrote it. 

    A brief Jacob’s Ladder history lesson – Who wrote the Book of Ephesians?

    The book of Ephesians was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, in present-day Turkey. Ephesians is one of 13 epistles, or letters, that he wrote to various churches or followers of Christ.  

    Whereas some of the Pauline epistles were written to address issues that had arisen in certain churches, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written to give revelation to the most important themes of Christianity – kind of a grand summary of what it means to be a Christian.  

    Hence, scholars have referred to the Book of Ephesians as “the Queen of Epistles” or “the crown of Paulism”, just to mention a few terms. It is also known as a “prison” epistle, as Paul wrote this book while under a 2-year house arrest, as he awaited trial in Rome for spreading the Gospel.  

    Upon studying this epistle, some scholars believe that Paul’s intended audience was not limited to the church in Ephesus, as a few of the ancient manuscripts show a blank space instead of the location of Ephesus. 

    Instead, they surmise that this letter was actually written as a circular for various churches across different cities.  

    Despite this postulation, Paul’s affiliation to the city of Ephesus is rather evident: He had come to Ephesus as an apostolic missionary and established the Church at Ephesus, which became head of the Seven Churches in Asia minor. Ephesus became the third renowned Christian city after Jerusalem and Antioch. 

    The first 14 verses of Ephesians 1 are important, as they set the tone for the rest of the book.  

    Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians in Ancient Greek, so l will be referring to the odd Greek term that Paul used in the ancient manuscripts, as it gives a vivid portrayal of his sentiments and provides us with an insight into the tone of that time. 

    Photo credit:  Paola Aguilar on Unsplash

    Greetings to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1-2)

     Paul begins this epistle with his customary greeting to God’s people. In his salutation, he establishes his only two worthwhile credentials: 

    1) He is an apostle of Jesus Christ, sent out in His service

     The word “apostle” is derived from the Greek verb apostellein, which means to be sent out.  

    2) Any authority that Paul possesses has been delegated to him through Divine appointment 

    Paul is an apostle through God’s will, blessed to be a vessel to spread the Word of God by God’s grace and mercy. From the time he first gave his life to Christ (Acts 9:1-19), Paul was in constant amazement at the mercy and grace of God to use him as a vessel to spread the Gospel.  

    Paul continues his greetings to the Ephesians by wishing that “grace” and “peace” be theirs. These two words hold great significance in Christian faith.  

    The word “grace” is derived from the Greek word charis, which means charm. Grace is a gift that is only available from God, man cannot attain this for himself by earning it or deserving it. Therefore grace is the underserved merit of God. 

    The word “peace” comes from the Greek word eirene, but a Hebrew translation of the word is shalowm. In the Bible, peace does not necessarily mean the absence of trouble. It is a state that is independent of your surrounding circumstances. Hence, the only true peace a Christian can find is through God. 

    Photo credit:  Sunyu on Unsplash

    Blessed and chosen by God (Ephesians 1:3-6)

    Paul wants to accentuate some major points in these Bible passages:

    God’s blessings are ours  

    God blessings are ours through Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. We receive them when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. These blessings are spiritual, which far outweigh any material blessing or temporal joy that we can experience.  

    Gods wants to, nay, He seeks to bless us abundantly with everything available in the Heavenly realm, for we are His children. 

    God has chosen us  

    God has chosen us, though we are undeserving of His benevolence, for we are sinners. God’s reasons for choosing us are beyond our ability to comprehend, but what we do know is that God chooses according to the purpose of His will (Ephesians 1:5) In the Amplified version, this explanation is extended in brackets – (because it pleased Him and it was His kind intent). 

    God’s plan of adoption 

    Paul explains that it has always been God’s plan to adopt us as His own into the Body of Christ, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)  to be a part of His family. 

     In Rome, where Paul wrote the Book of Ephesians, there was a strict law for adults adopting children, as it was considered a serious responsibility. The process of adoption was ceremonial and exact, involving a “father” selling his son twice through the use of a symbolic scale and then buying him back twice. For a third time, the father sold his son, but instead of buying him back, the father had to go the local praetor, a principal Roman magistrate, and plead for his son’s adoption.  

    Once the praetor had agreed to the adoption, the child gave up his rights to his old family and received all the rights of his new family, being recognized as a legitimate son. Any debts or obligations that were connected to his old family were wiped clean.  

    In the same way, God’s adoption of us wipes us clean of our old sins. Our old lives are no more – we can start a new life as new creations in the Body of Christ. 

    Foreordained for salvation and holiness 

    God has foreordained our adoption as His sons and daughters so that we may not only know salvation, but that we may be holy and blameless before Him. The Greek word for “holy” is hagios, which carries the meaning of difference and separation, like a temple is separated in its categorization from other buildings through its purpose of holiness. To apply this to today, a Christian needs to be identifiable as a vessel of Christ in today’s broken world. 

    Paul wonders that God should choose man and not the other way around. This grace is a further blessing from God, given freely to us and one which we should give God praise and honor for.  

    Photo credit:  Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

    Deliverance as an ultimate expression of God’s grace (Ephesians 1: 7-8)

    Paul reminds us that it is God who has delivered us from our sins, by sending his son Jesus to pay a ransom for our transgressions with His precious blood.   

    The word deliverance comes from the Greek word apolutrosis, which originates from the verb lutroun, meaning “to ransom”. This implies the liberation of a man or an entity from a situation he was powerless to free himself of, by means of payment. 

    Redemption is only possible through the Father; it is impossible for man to earn through his own works or earn by his own merits. It is an expression of God’s ultimate grace and a reflection of His loving, merciful nature. 

    Photo credit: Jason Betz on Unsplash

    God’s secret plan for mankind is revealed (Ephesians 1:9-10)

    In these verses, Paul reveals God’s secret plan for mankind that had been previously kept hidden.  Now, God wants to reveal His secret to us, or as the Apostle puts it, “He has made known to us the mystery of his will. (Ephesians 1:9)”. 

    It is a plan that God has been setting into motion throughout the course of history; the passage of time has been used to arrange and guide events, so that God’s plan can come to fruition at His designated time. Paul uses the Greek word oikonomia to describe this, which means “household management”.  In Ancient times, the oikonomos was the steward of a household, whose duty it was to organize the family’s affairs.

     Yep, God has an end plan for us and He has been working on it for a long time! 

    Would you like to know what God’s secret plan for mankind is? To bring together all things of the world and unify them under Christ.  

    This means a few things. Most importantly, God wants us to know that His Gospel of love, hope, and salvation is available to everyone, Gentile and Jew. Until the coming of Christ, the teachings of the Bible were restricted to the Jewish nation. As a consequence, all tensions between the nations, regardless of their backgrounds, are to be resolved in Christ so that there is unity amongst mankind. Additionally, all rights are to be wronged and every dispute is to be resolved under Christ’s jurisdiction.  

    God’s plan is a plan that will glorify Him and set His children free from the bonds of decay and futility (Romans 8:18-22). 

    Sounds like a good plan, right? 

    Such unity was unheard of during Paul’s time. Now, Jesus wants the church, as His bride, to do their part in contributing to this unification process by spreading the good news of the gospel. 

    Photo credit:  Kristina Flour on Unsplash

    Signed, sealed, and stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:11-14)

    Beneficiaries of God’s inheritance 

    Paul tells the Ephesians in this part of his letter that they (and us by extension), have an inheritance in God when we receive His salvation.  

    God has chosen and appointed us as the beneficiaries of His heritage and portion long before we were even aware of it. In Jeremiah 1:5 it states, 

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
    and before you were born I consecrated you; 
    I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 

    Jeremiah 1:5 (NRSV) 

    As Paul has stated previously in verse 5, God’s reasons for choosing us are His own and are centered around the purpose of His will.  

    Ultimately, those who have chosen to trust God, have been destined and appointed for the praise of His glory (verse 12)!  

    Stamped with the Divine seal of approval 

    For those who have heard God’s Word and received it into their hearts by calling upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God literally confirms the deal by stamping us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  

    Just as a seal or a stamp denotes ownership, so too does the seal of the Holy Spirit on us denote us as belonging to God.  

    This is especially important when considering that we live in a broken world that tries to lure us away from God with the temptation of material and superficial goals, as well as giving in to our flesh. In such times, we need to remember that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4.4). It is also important when considering spiritual warfare, as Satan constantly attacks us with lies and tries to deceive us into thinking that we are not worthy to God  (John 8:44). 

    So, what does it mean to be stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit? 

    It means that the Holy Spirit comes to reside in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and does the following: 

    The Holy Spirit does more, but this gives you a working idea of how the seal of the Holy Spirit over us changes us into a new creation in Christ. 

    In the Ancient Greek business world, the term arrabon, meaning “earnest”, was the term for a down-payment or installment. On purchasing goods, this pledge was considered part of the purchase price. It was paid in advance as a guarantee that the full price would be paid in due course. 

    In the same way, Paul is stating that the experience of the Holy Spirit we receive on earth is a pledge of our total inheritance, a down-payment of the fullness of God blessings we are to receive in Heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22). 

    Photo credit:  Gian Cescon on Unsplash

    Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians reflects God’s wishes for us (Ephesians 1:15-20)

    Paul acknowledges the Ephesians love of Christ and His saints. This mention of the word saints is a reference to Christians as being “set apart” through their vocation of leading holy lives in the presence of God.  

    Although Paul had lived with the Ephesians, it seems that news of their continuing faith after his departure had reached him in his confinement in Rome.  Greatly encouraged by these glad tidings, Paul wants to assure the Ephesians that he continues to hold them in his prayers. 

    Paul lists three desires in his prayers over the Ephesians. These desires can also be seen as a reflection of what God wishes for us to also experience: 

    1. Paul prays for a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God which will lead to a deep and more intimate knowledge of him (Ephesians 1 1:17
    1. Paul wishes that the Ephesians have a revelation of their vocational calling in Christ “with the eyes of your heart enlightened”. Additionally, he prays that they are aware of how blessed they are by being recipients of His divine inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). 
    1. Paul desires that the omnipresent and immeasurable power of God is comprehensible to the people of Ephesus, which not only shows itself in us, but is available for us, as God mightily demonstrates to us in our lives (Ephesians 1:19). 

    Paul wants the Ephesians, and by extension – us, to know that we are so precious to God and that His power is great and available to those who believe in Him.   

    It is this same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and has raised Him above any earthly and spiritual rule, authority, power, and dominion for now and all eternity. And this same power works in us as God’s believers. 

    Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (Ephesians 1:21-23)

    As a continuing expression of the magnificence of Christ’s power, Paul tells us that all things are under Jesus’ feet and that God has appointed Him as the universal and supreme Head of the Church (Psalm 8:6).  

    If Jesus is the head, then we as a community of Christians make up His body.  

    What does this mean? 

    God’s plan of reconciliation for all the nations was through the life and death of Christ. However, God requires followers to spread this message of love and unity. 

    Each part of a living organism has a function. The head is the cerebral center of the body, whereas the legs have their own function, as do the hands etc. And yet, together, all the individual parts work cohesively as one unit.

    The same applies to us in our function as the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head, the spiritual center, however, He requires us to be His voice to minister, His hands to pray, and His feet to go out and spread the gospel. Together, we unleash the full potential of Christ’s glory out into the world and fill the voids of this world wrought by brokenness and disunity.  

    Photo credit:  Aaron Burden on Unsplash

    This concludes the first part of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study series on Ephesians 1 – “Knowing who you are in Christ”. 

    I hope you have enjoyed reading about Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. 

    If so, feel free to join us next week Thursday, when l post the second part of the series.  

    Until then friends, be blessed!  

     Sources:

    https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary, “Ephesians 1 – God’s ulimate plan” 

    https://www.studylight.org, “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible 
    Ephesians 1” 

    www.jcblog.net/ephesians/summary, “Summary of the Book of Ephesians” 

    https://www.gty.org/library, “What Does It Mean to Be Sealed With the Holy Spirit?“ 

    https://www.ephesus.us/, “St. Paul in Ephesus” 

    https://www.gotquestions.org, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” 

    https://www.bibleref.com, “What does Ephesians 1:15 mean?” 

  • Articles

    Why we must purposefully pursue peace

    Written by Madeline Kalu

    We are all no strangers to trials and tribulations. It can be a confusing and even difficult interval in our lives that we have no choice but to endure.


    Sometimes these times means that a new chapter is being opened for us, other times it heralds the end of a significant period and the need for closure.


    When our circumstances change, God will always help us and provide a solution. However He is more interested in the changes He can make in you.

    “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing;  rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.

    1 Peter 3:3-4 (NRSV)

    No matter what is going on in our lives, God encourages us to be at peace.

    Where does this peace derive from?


    From the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.

    For a child has been born for us,
        a son given to us;
    authority rests upon his shoulders;
        and he is named
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

    Isaiah 9:6

    In the Book of John, Jesus states:

    Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Jesus gives us the free gift of His own peace. It is a present that He handed over to us, before He left to be with the Father. That’s not just any peace. This is a level of peace that has withstood open criticism from the Pharisees, trials in the desert from the devil, public prosecution, degradation, pain, suffering, and even death.


    No wonder that Jesus goes on to say:

    “Not as the world gives do l give to you.”

    John 14:27

    Is there any treasure on this earth, which can be comparable to the peace that Jesus gives us? With Jesus’ peace inside you, you don’t need to feel fear anymore, you can stop worrying. Nothing can intimidate you.


    In fact, Jesus tells us that these negative feelings have no more place in us:

    “Therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

    John 14:27

    Now that is one special gift.


    So, if peace is already in us then why must we pursue it?


    When we experience difficult times, we often get distracted or even overwhelmed by the given situation. We start to fret and get annoyed. We become emotional. Consequently, we start making wrong decisions that can make the current situation even worse.


    l used to feel miserable, scared, and defeated when I found myself in a bad situation. Only when l actively sought to be peaceful in such times, did l discover a new interpretation of how l could live my life.


    I realized that living a life filled with peace begins with a choice.
    The conscious choice to pursue it.


    The purposeful pursuit of peace is something we as Christians need to be exercising. It is, with the other Fruits of the Spirit, a ready arsenal that can make not only our own lives, but the lives of our family, friends, and others who interact with us, all the more richer and victorious.


    Ok, so let’s say you’re in the peace zone. What happens next?


    Well, once you have peace, you have to maintain it.


    Think about Exodus 14:14 (KJV):

    “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. “


    God is telling us that not only should we aspire to acquire peace, but that we also need to stay in peace through trials and tribulations. He will deal with the issue at hand, but we need to do our part and be at peace and rest, being confident that He will provide us with the best outcome.


    Holding our peace is telling God that we trust Him.


    I am so grateful to the Lord for showing me the importance of pursuing peace, while He deals with my present circumstances.

    Currently, l am experiencing a severe relapse in my convalscence from burnout and chronic depression. Panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed, and extreme social anxiety are daily battles l have to face, as well as depressive episodes.

    However, in the deepest depths of the darkest, miry pits, l can only stretch my hands out and rely on the grace and goodness of my Father, who promises to never fail me, nor forsake me. He walks with me in the shadow of the valley of Death. He is my light in the darkness, and His peace is a gift that l can accept and rely on, as He walks through this period of illness with me.


    The intensity with which we experience pain and suffering is subjective to each individual. No one can understand what you are going through as well as God.


    Put Him first, do your part and hold your peace and He will do His part and help you. He loves us all so much and He will never ask us to do anything we couldn’t do.

    “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

    Colossians 3:15

    I wish you peace brothers and sisters in Christ. Whatever storm you are in at this moment, it too shall pass.

    Blog banner credit: Simon Migaj on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    How God showed me His love through a song on the radio

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    Thought of the day: In every situation, God is with me and comforts me. He shows His love for me in many unexpected ways.

    “Let your steadfast love become my comfort
    according to your promise to your servant.”

    Psalm 119:76 (NRSV)

    My childhood was an unhappy one. My parents beat me, and they constantly fought with each other. l lived in constant fear of them and felt unsafe and unloved.


    Being confined to close quarters with my parents was always stressful, so l wasn’t pleased when one day, my parents decided we should all go on a day trip. It was the early 80’s, so my father always had a mixed tape of songs he played in the car, in order to while away the journey time.


    However, during this trip, he turned on the radio. The opening twangy notes of a pedal steel guitar filtered through the car’s speakers, filling the car’s cabin with the melodious overtures of the song “Missippi” by Pussycat.


    My father had once told me that this song had stormed the UK charts in 1976, in the week l was born. We had been living in London at the time, so in celebration of my birth, he had gone to Selfridges, to buy the single on 7” vinyl.


    I used to enjoy the times my father would play the song, because l associated it with the few memories l had of his pleasure at my existence. However, this was the first time that l had ever heard the song on the radio.
    I may have been only a child, but sitting in that car, l knew that the timing of this song, through this particular format, was no coincidence.

    Unbeknown to them, l had been praying for someone to come into my life and protect me from the violence and mental anguish that l felt at the hands of my parents.


    Then “Missippi” came on and through the sweet-toned harmonies, l heard a still, small voice telling me that l was not alone. God was here, and He knew my suffering: He would protect me and keep me safe.

    God kept His word, and l managed to cope with my parent’s maltreatment until l was old enough to leave home.


    Lately, as l have been struggling to recover from burnout and chronic depression, l have been needing God’s comfort and assurance of love more than ever. Then, the other day, God showed me His love again through the radio.


    I was in the kitchen with the radio blaring as l prepared dinner. Suddenly, l heard the familiar twang of the opening bars of “Missippi”, greeting me like an old friend. I couldn’t help but smile, because even if nobody else saw it, l knew that God was telling me that He was keeping the promise He made me years ago, to look after me.


    God shows me His presence in many ways, however, the radio has become our own personal means of communication. Every time l hear “Missippi” on the radio, I am reassured yet again of God’s love for me.

    Prayer:

    Merciful Father, thank you that You are always with us. Your love is steadfast and always provides comfort in every situation we face. Help us to see Your presence every day, and show us how we can experience You in unexpected and delightful ways. Amen.

    Delve deeper:

    Are you wanting God to show you His presence in your current situation, but you can’t see Him?
    Maybe He is showing Himself to you in an unexpected way. Spend time with Him today, and ask Him to open your eyes to the manifestation of His love and comfort in your life today.

    Photo credit: Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

  • Jacob's Ladder Book Reviews

    JL Book review: “He Heard Me” written by Brenda Vargas

    In choosing which book l wanted to review for this month’s theme “Who l am in Christ”, the choice was easy –  He Heard Me, written by Canadian writer and poet, Brenda Vargas. 

    I first met Brenda through PresbyCan Devotionals, where she wrote me an encouraging comment to a devotional l had submitted to the website.  

    From that initial contact, a wonderful friendship has ensued. I am thankful to God every day for bringing this kind-hearted, generous person into my life, and l am grateful to learn more about myself and my own faith walk from her passionate love for Christ and her ability to see the good in all people. 

    He Heard Me is a tangible extension of Brenda’s intimate relationship with God. It is a loving testimony to the blessings, mercy, and miracles that God has given to her through the power of His infinite grace and mercy.  

    After reading this book, you will be filled with renewed faith, be grateful for God’s favor and blessings over your life, and be ignited with hope in experiencing the same miracles and revelation that Brenda has experienced.  Furthermore, Brenda’s words will rekindle your desire to discover a deeper relationship with God. 

    Brenda shares her inspiring spiritual journey through a compilation of personal testimonies and self-composed poetry. 

    Her introduction to the book begins with her testimony of salvation. The successive 11 themed chapters highlight situations in Brenda’s life where God has revealed Himself to her. Each chapter is complemented with Scripture.

    One favorite testimony of mine is to be found in the chapter “Trust and Obey”, where God gave Brenda favor with her bank by replacing a sum of money that had been owed to her.  

    Brenda also provides testimonial accounts of her friends and loved ones. One such account is given by a lady named Karen, whose testimony of recovery from lymphoma cancer, despite negative doctor’s reports, is just a beautiful confirmation of the power of God to heal and restore.  

    Within each chapter are self-composed poems, which supplement the chapter themes with their moving declarations of revelation and praise of God’s goodness. 

    What l also love about this book is Brenda’s attention for details. What first caught my eye about this book is the glorious sunset portrayed on the cover. The wash of golden, amber, and bronze hues evoked a feeling of peace and happiness in me.  

    When l asked Brenda about her inspiration behind choosing this photo, she informed me that the photo was taken on Pico in the Azores Islands, from a local photographer. Pico holds a special place in Brenda’s heart and is where she and her family spend a few months of the year to escape the harsh Canadian winters.  

    Inside my book l also found a bookmark, with the same beautiful sunset photo depicted on it, as well as the book’s title and author.  

    Brenda’s keenest desire is that people who read her book will have their eyes opened to see how God’s hand is present in every part of their daily lives. She has certainly achieved this! 

    I highly recommend reading He Heard Me. It is a book that will revive the spiritually fatigued, motivate the new believer in Christ, and give hope to those who are yearning for a meaningful relationship with God but just don’t know how to connect with Him 

    You can buy Brenda’s book on Amazon.com. Brenda also stocks her books in selected bookstores. To find out more, you can connect with her on Facebook.  

    About the author: 

    Brenda Vargas started writing poetry at a young age for special occasions and to communicate the things on her heart.  She has continued to write since that point, with encouragement from friends and family. Brenda currently lives in Ontario with her family and escapes the Canadian winters in Pico in the Azores Islands. 

    Blog banner credit:  Ben White on Unsplash

  • Articles

    How my worship of God is challenged by a world full of choices

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I love spending time with God. My worship of Him is such an essential part of my day; l need it like the air that l breathe. In the same way, being in church is the highlight of my week, because l  can refuel my spiritual tank there in praise, worship and service. 

    It has taken a lot of trial and error, as well as a huge amount of discipline, but over the years l have formed a routine where l set aside time every morning to worship God through prayer, music, bible study, and journaling. 

    In John 4:23-24 it states that we should worship God “in the Spirit and in truth”, and l try my hardest to abide by this. My time with God has become my dedication of thanks to Him, to show Him how much l love Him and to grow in my relationship with Him. His presence fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. Consequently, when l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love and that with Him, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! 

    That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him with my entire being isn’t easy. The world offers values, distractions, and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes of God. It’s like the world is calling out to me to use my time of worship to pursue endeavors it considers more “important”. Hence, l am constantly being challenged to make a decision between the selection of choices that the world is offering me and my choice to spend time with God in worship. 

    1 John 2:15 warns us to not love this world, not the things it offers us. But unless you’re an uncontacted community, entirely cut off from the influence of modern-day society, what the world offers to entertain us, advance us, and ease our everyday lives can be pretty enticing.  

    Through trial and error, l have learned to recognize in what ways l am being distracted by the world and have accordingly worked on those areas to re-focus my attention back to God, when l find myself being challenged to worship Him.  I am still a work in progress, but l am getting better! 

    Here are 3 of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices: 

    1. Caught between serving two masters: Technological distractions verses God

    I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late ’90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the internet. Teaching myself make-up application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as an SFX and Make-up artist.  

    However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and feeds. I was more intrigued by the scintillation of the internet and social media than being in God’s presence.  

    When it got to the point that l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew it was time to cut the digital umbilical cord. 

    It is almost scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve two masters.  When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds or we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’re relying on technological advancement to get through life and we’re not relying on God.  

    These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24).  During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts.  

    Photo credit:  Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

    2. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

    Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God in His presence.  

    However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my delegated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors. 

    Today’s fast-paced society is derived from an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience is making us run from pillar to post – we’re suffering from FOMO. 

    In such times, l go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 highlights seeking God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need, including experiences. l have learned that God has to be the encounter l need to have FOMO about – not the pursuits of the world. 

    Photo credit:  Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

    3. We worship the things of this world, instead of God

    One of my favorite recreational pursuits is to go to the gym. Although l work out to promote a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are being portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the celebrity pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l question myself as to whether l should be striving to attain the highly sought-after peach emoji booty instead of accepting the body that God gave me. 

    The pursuit of a certain aesthetic, acquiring the latest version of the iPhone or constantly showing off photos of our dream partners and our exotic holidays on Facebook – these are portrayed as “goals”. However, in reality, they are societal pressures engineered by the world to woo us into worshipping them, instead of worshipping God.   

    Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by a renewing of our minds. When l find myself going down the rabbit hole of superficial pursuits, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. 

    We are only temporary residents in this world, but God’s love for us is eternal. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise suddenly becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to quickly pale in comparison.    

    Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash

    This article was published on YMI Magazine on May 15th 2019.

    Blog banner credit:  Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    My trust is in the name of the Lord

    Thought of the day: In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in the world. 

    “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
        but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

    Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

    A few months ago, l stopped going on social media. I got to the point where l could not see another Instagram pose, you know the kind with the phone held up in front of a mirror, hip to the side, complete with a pouty lip? Or the photo exemplifying a person’s posterior, with a peach emoji next to it?

    We live in a society that encourages self-promotion and narcissism as a measurement of popularity. Unrealistic beauty and partner ideals, material acquisitions, and exotic travel locations are blatantly advertised as “goals” that should be achieved in order to live an accomplished life. Failing to fulfill any or all of these requirements leaves one feeling insecure, worthless, and constantly comparing.

    However, where is God in all of this? Why isn’t He presented as a “goal” to social media followers, especially to the more easily impressed youth?

    Turning off my notifications has brought a stillness into my life. Free of distractions, l can hear God more clearly. He tells me that He loves me, He is my provider, and that His Truth guides my way.

    I may live in this world, but l don’t have to yield under its pressures. In God do l put my trust and confident reliance and not in superficial conformities. With this revelation, l feel set free from society’s expectations.

    Prayer: Wonderful Lord, help us to not prioritize the ideals and expectations of this world; instead let us hold You first in our hearts, for You give us Love, Truth, and Life.

    Delve deeper: Do you live your life according to how society says you should live it? Do you go on Facebook or Instagram and compare yourself to others? Do you constantly check how many likes your latest tweet or post received?

    Friends, if you find that the things of this world are taking priority over God’s values, spend time in prayer with Him and ask Him to help you re-focus your eyes on Him. What the world says about you is not important; only God’s opinion matters!

    This devotional was published on PresbyCan Devotionals on 26th May 2019.

  • Personal testimonies

    Slave no more

    Written by Madeline Twooney

    I don’t know about you, but l have a fantastic relationship with my doctor. When l was living in Cologne, Germany, for 17 years, Dr. Reiner Frenken was not only my physician for this period, he also became a trusted friend.

    Reiner Frenken is a multi-talent: He is a medical practitioner as well as a rock musician, who writes, sings, and produces his own songs. He has brought out four albums Utopia I, II, III, and IV, the proceeds of which all go to supporting “Doctors without Borders”.

    About three years ago, Reiner asked me if l would be interested in writing some lyrics for an album he was working on at the time, Utopia III. I had written reams of poetry during high school and university, so l was interested in discovering whether l could reawaken the dormant bard within. Thus, l agreed.

    One of the lyrics l wrote for Reiner was for a song he had composed titled “Slave no more“. As a Christian, the title evoked my experience of coming to Christ and how He broke me free of the chains of my past. I wanted the lyrics to reflect this.

    This is what l came up with:

    Slave no more

    I’m a slave
    Trapped in chains,
    In the spaces of my mind
    Searching for peace l cannot find
    Won’t let the darkness smother me
    No more
    I wanna break free
    l gotta break free


    No more a slave, no more a slave
    The taste of freedom is what l crave
    I’m no slave, l’ll be saved
    No more a slave, that’s the promise You gave

    I’m a slave
    Head bowed low
    Living in sorrow, bearing the shame
    I need You to take away the pain
    Only Your love is my breakthrough
    I know it’s true
    I wanna break free
    Help me break free


    Take me to a place
    Where the sunlight reaches me
    Where l feel my spirit’s free
    Touch my heart from deep within

    Accept my fall from grace
    Only You can break these chains
    Raise me to my feet again
    Your love is power, l just can’t explain.

    Reiner amalgamated these lyrics to the melody he had written, and the song “Slave no more” became a part of the album Utopia III. You can listen to the song here.

    If you would like to find out more about Reiner Frenken’s music and charity work, then visit him on Facebook or click on his YouTube channel.

    Photo credit:  Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

  • Devotionals

    My strength comes from the joy of the Lord

    Thought of the day:
    When God is leading me through a transition, His joy for me is my source of strength.

    “Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
    Nehemiah 8:10 (NRSV)

    Being in a period of transition is a stressful time for me. When my circumstances start to change and l experience growing pains, it can affect my ability to see the situation for what it is – as God testing and purifying me so that He can prepare me for the next level of His wonderful plan for my life.

    At such times, I hand over the situation to God, but emotionally, l can’t help but see changes in our family’s circumstances as portents of doom. I admonish myself constantly for allowing my fears to overpower my faith.


    My husband, Solomon, on the other hand, is the kind of person who can always tap into God’s joy, despite what is going on around him. He interacts socially and generally enjoys his life, while l sit at home lamenting over what l perceive as a downward turn of events.


    In order to cheer me up, Solomon encourages me to go out for a coffee with him or to meet up with friends. However, l get too caught up in the cinema playing in my head to take on his suggestions. In such times, my husband reminds me that the joy of the Lord is our strength. God knows our current dilemma and is preparing us for promotion and blessings. In the meantime, we should rejoice in each day that God has made.

    Maybe l am not as spiritually mature as my husband, for l have never really understood what Nehemiah meant when he told the Israelites in Nehemiah 8:10 that God’s joy strengthens us.

    Then, a few days ago, l watched an online sermon that gave me a revelation of this Bible verse.


    The pastor preached on Psalm 23:6, where God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. As l listened, l began to understand Nehemiah’s words better. Sure, life would be more joyful if l could foresee how we were to persevere through our adversities, but true joy comes from the strength that only God can give me.


    Revelation rained down on me: God takes joy in me as His child – I am loved, cherished, and protected. Though changes may be whirling around me in a chaotic cyclone of fear and doubt, l can be confident in the presence of it, fortified in the knowledge that God has my back.


    With this in mind, l will heed Nehemiah’s words to the Israelites to eat, drink, and not grieve. I need not fear change, nor should l condemn myself for feeling it. Instead, l should lift my eyes to Jesus and remember that my joy comes from above. God will do the rest.

    Prayer:
    Wonderful Father, thank you that You love us and take joy in us as Your children. As You lead us through changes, help us to remember that Your joy is our true source of strength which overcomes fear and doubt. Amen.

    Delve deeper:
    Are you currently finding it difficult to experience joy in the midst of your present circumstances? Is God leading you through a period of transition, which is making you anxious and worried?

    Remember that your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth! In prayer, ask God to show you how you can tap into the strength that comes from the joy He feels for us, His beloved children.

    Photo credit:  Preslie Hirsch on Unsplash