2021 Challenge to be intentional with my Bible reading

I decided to challenge myself to read God's word with more intention than just a minute in His word each day. I will be reading with a bit of a magnifying glass on what words mean in the original language, and how it applies to my daily walk with God. I'm not promising polished study here, just my notes and thoughts as I go through the letter. 

You're welcome to come along for the challenge, and I'd love to hear how His word is speaking to you, or what you're learning from Him. Just click the Contact Tab and send a note!

Ephesians One

There is so much packed into this chapter, all amazing! My Bible subtitled it, “The Blessings of Redemption” and wow, what truth! 


The book of Ephesians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the believers and followers of Jesus in a city called Ephesus. “Saints”, he calls them the “faithful in Christ Jesus.” And he begins the letter by recanting the blessings of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” In just a short dozen verses we see God’s incredible plan of salvation unfold. Chapter 1, verses 3-14 are written as one long run on sentence, and reveal so much about those blessings we have of being in Christ. 


God designed a plan that those in Christ would be holy & blameless before Him (what other way could we be worthy to come into His presence?). Those in Christ are blessed, redeemed, adopted (be careful, it doesn’t mean what we call adoption, but we’ll get to that in a bit), enlightened, made to know the mystery of His will. In Christ, God’s grace is “freely bestowed” and “lavished” on us out of His love and great kindness. And totally removing any fear of rejection or abandoning us, He sent His Spirit to seal us into Christ, as a pledge of the inheritance to come. Our eternal life! What a plan! 


God chose to sum up all things in the person of Christ. In His great kindness, love and grace He provided redemption for any and all who would choose to be in Christ. He gave forgiveness of the sin that separated us and made us worthy in Christ. In His grace He made us holy and blameless rather than letting us go on living in darkness and sin. All because we are in Christ. 


The term “In Christ” is used 13-14 times in that first chapter. It’s what we call a key phrase, meaning, that if God had Paul repeat the term so often there must be something key to it’s meaning. And most certainly there is! You see, God, in His infinite sovereignty and wisdom saw the state of mankind and sent His Son to come and live on earth to not only example for us how to live and walk by His Spirit, but to pay the penalty of our sin. A penalty that would cost the life of one who was perfect and holy. A price none of us could equate. Sending His Son to be the vehicle, the Way, for us who were unholy to be reconciled to a holy God. 


Those who have placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior are placed into union with Him. In Koine` Greek (the language that was used to write most of the New Testament) we find it described as a dot within a sphere. I guess God knew some of us were visual learners and described this diagram to help us understand His plan to sum up all things in Christ. So, when God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless,” it was those who would choose to place their faith in Jesus were chosen because Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life (John 14:6). When we accepted God’s plan of salvation, we were then placed into Christ Jesus. We are the dot described within the sphere, who is Christ. 


Being placed into the body of Christ is instantaneous to our salvation, and the blessings which are innumerable begin to be revealed for those who belong to Him. Instantly, this sinful creature is made new (2 Cor. 5:17), a spirit is birthed in us so that we can relate to the things of God (1 Cor.2:12-14) and we are made holy and blameless. My, oh my. That would have been enough right there. Set apart, we now belong to God. Titus 2:14 tells us we become His treasured possession. Since God can have no part of sin, He makes us blameless. Sadly, that was at the cost of His own Son, who died in our place, Reading through exchanging our sinful life for His sinless one. It doesn’t matter how sinful we were, the moment we are in Christ God only sees us as blameless. 


That would be enough, but the blessings roll on. He adopted us as sons. As I mentioned before, this is not the same adoption we think of in today’s world. We are actually born into God’s family as the Spirit of God generates in us a spiritual life. The adoption that Paul speaks of, during Roman times, was actually a coming of age of sorts. At the age of 14, the Roman boy would become a man, and exchange his robe of childhood for the robes of a man. At this adoption ceremony he would be given certain rights as now he was a man. He had the right to go to war (we happen to be in an unseen spiritual battle daily), he now had the right to marry (the Church is called the bride of Christ, betrothed to Him but the wedding is coming!) He had a say in the family affairs (that is where prayer comes in for us.) He had access to the family’s belongings and accounts (this is where God’s grace supplies all of our needs and more), and lastly, he would receive an inheritance (the Holy Spirit is called our pledge, or down payment of our inheritance of eternal life.) 


So, yes, God loves us, yes, God chose those who would be in Christ to be adopted, but adoption means so much more than just belonging to Him. Each of those aspects of adoption unpacks a whole study of all we are to be doing until He returns for us. But every aspect also provides security and the grace to succeed until that time. He’s lavished it on us, it’s freely bestowed (v. 6, and 8.) 


God has made this mystery of Christ being all in all known to us. History, His word, and His Spirit all reveal it to us. Even His creation reveals His glory so that all are without excuse (Rom. 1). 


In Him we have received an inheritance. Predestined because we are in Christ. In God’s foreknowledge He is well aware of those who would accept His plan. It was Christ that was the predestined plan, and those in Him are saved. And sealed (v. 14) in Him by the Holy Spirit of promise, given as a pledge of our inheritance, that one day we will be redeemed by God. Positionally in Christ we have every blessing now, but experientially we live in a fallen world, and our salvation, though secured for that coming day of His return, is both a done deal and an awaited moment in time. A mystery indeed! But one that God, in His great love and kindness makes available to all. 


As Paul prayed in v. 18 and following, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” All of this because Christ is our All in All, the Way, the Truth and the Life. 


Oh, blessed Heavenly Father, what a plan! To sum up all in Christ, out of Your great love, kindness and grace. You gave forgiveness and redeemed my life from the pit. You have made me worthy and full of power by Your Spirit. You have designed a relationship between us that was in no other way possible but by Jesus Christ. Help me to walk in Your strength today. Praise You God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. To You be praise and glory all day long. May I walk faithful as His Bride, indwelled by Your Spirit. Ready to do what You’ve set before me. I love You Lord God. Be my all in all today and always. It’s in the blessed name and position in Christ that I pray. Amen.

Ephesians 2:1-7

Read Ephesians 2:1-7


We were dead in our trespasses and sins. Thankfully, for many of us that is in the past tense. We were dead BUT GOD (I love those two words!) by His Spirit gave us new life, spiritual life, so that we become a different person, a new creature. No longer just body and soul, we become trichotomous just as God had originally created Adam and Eve in His image.


I wondered at the redundancy of Paul’s words: trespasses and sin, so I looked them up and here’s what I found:

Trespasses – tois paraptomasin –  tois simply means the but it designates it as being specific. The trespasses, which is Paraptomasin comes from the root word which means to fall away, go astray, commit a fault, unintentional fall, apostasy from God. As unintentional as it may be, it does not remove culpability. The emphasis is on the rejection of God, not necessarily the guilt of that.  


Sins – tais hamartias – tais, or o ho – means this or that, referring to this or that sin. It’s missing the mark of God’s perfection or plan. One definition read, “sin personified as a destructive and depraved principle reigning over unbelievers and persisting in believers; especially as a slavemaster doling out payment with the currency of death and decay.” And then there was this, “the true reality of sin can only be seen, can only be grasped, when one perceives who God is.” Sin “separates us from God and controls us until we receive His saving work. Sin is an offense against God with a stress on guilt.”


I read this, “Jesus Himself brings fulfilment [against our sin] with the word and act of forgiveness. The Apostles continue His ministry with proclamation of the accomplished salvation. Unlike Jesus, who confers it by fellowship, they summon their hearers to receive it by repentance, the difference from John the Baptist being that they can now declare a completed, not an awaited basis of forgiveness.”  Also, “The nerve of individual sins is the failure to acknowledge God.” 

Sin has a demonic quality, enslaves us and hands us over to death (Rom. 7:13-15, Eph. 2:1).


This is how we all formerly walked. Dead, enslaved to spiritual death and sin. We were the walking dead, unable to regenerate life in our self. Walking according to the ways of the prince of the air [Satan’s way, which is rejecting God and doing our own thing.] We lived by the lusts of our flesh, indulging our desires of the flesh and mind. Don’t miss the fact that our mind is very much the cause for much of our sin issues. We think we know best what will please us, make us happy, and bring all the joy we seek, but we would be wrong. It’s our Heavenly Creator who truly knows, so wouldn't it be much simpler to follow after Him? Paul says we were by nature, our sin nature, children of wrath, not our own wrath mind you, this is referring to those who will suffer the wrath of God for their rejection of Him and His plan.


This is why I love those two words, BUT GOD. Verse 4 says, But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when [another phrase that has come to mean so much to me] we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace we have been saved), and raised us up with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”


Were it not for God’s omniscience, His knowing everything that would take place, there might not have been a provision for our salvation. We would have been left in death, to walk in darkness. But God!


Today we have the assurance of His forgiveness and removal of our sin as we utilize 1 John 1:9. He not only removes the sins we knowingly commit, but also all unrighteousness. It only takes confession and turning toward God, rather than rejecting His plan for our life. As Jesus conferred it, walking in fellowship with Him. Not just doing a list of do’s and don’ts but walking in alignment with God’s will. Staying on the mark, rather than missing it. We must set our minds to not walking in trespasses and sin, but rather, allow His Spirit to lead and guide us so that we will only walk in fellowship with God’s will. It’s all possible because of our position in Christ Jesus. We have been made alive together with Christ, so let's really live!


Praise You Father in heaven and earth! Your kindness is everlasting and amazing. Your mercy reaches to even me. Your work of placing us into Christ solved every dilemma. Thank You! Thank You for taking me out of death and into life and removing my trespasses and my sin. I love You, Lord God. Help me to walk in Your way. To walk in fellowship and in the joy of being in Christ. Praise You for Your omniscience that knew my every need. And Your lovingkindness that met each one. In His name, I ask, Amen.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Do you know what a nominative case is?  Yeah, me neither. 😉 However, what I do know about the nominative case is that it relates to another word that is also in the nominative case, linking the two words in the sentence. And that’s where in these verses in Ephesians 2:8-9 that becomes so important.


In verse eight it reads, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God.”

How would you interpret that verse? Some have chosen to read it as our faith is a gift from God, thinking that apart from Him putting that faith within us that we wouldn’t or couldn’t have faith in salvation. But in looking at the original language, we find that nominative case making the clear distinction that faith is not the gift, but salvation is! And grace is the source of that salvation, the tool that God used to provide it.


Have you ever seen the acrostic for GRACE? In it we have God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense. 

We also have God’s Realm (heaven) At Christ’s Expense. 

As well as, God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense.


That plan of salvation that God designed gave us everything we need, at the expense of Jesus Christ. Not because of what we have done, but because of what we could not possibly do! In God’s grace, Jesus paid it all, provided it all. He blessed us in His grace to have Christ’s righteousness, when we had none on our own. His grace provided a future in heaven, to be able to enter the realm of God, and this grace provides for every need we have to live in this life. His grace is truly sufficient for every need. God, out of His attribute of love, used His great grace to provide salvation which allowed us to be in an eternal relationship with Him. Our faith in His plan of salvation accepts that grace, and our hearts should rejoice daily in that grace.


It's no wonder in verse nine that we have nothing to boast in of ourselves. He is the supplier of all that is needed for salvation in which we can come to Him by faith in Jesus. Because of the construct of the sentence in the original Koine` Greek, salvation is not earned, but it is the gift!


Oh, I will boast about that all day long! Our God, in His great love, saw our moment of faith and saved us! It’s His gift to all who would believe. A salvation that places us into Christ, sealed by the Spirit, until the day that our salvation from this sinful world arrives.


Our position in Christ makes salvation a done deal, however, our experience of salvation from this world won’t happen until the Lord’s perfect time. Until that day, let’s walk boasting of Him and His love and grace.

 

Father God, how incredible are Your ways. How precious is the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus that gives us a relationship with You, a future with You, and provides all we need until that day we are united forever. Praise You for Your perfect plan. Praise You for Your love and mercy that draws all people to You. Your grace has saved us and made it possible to come to You in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. To You be all the glory, and all the boasting! Amen.

Ephesians 2:10

We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works… Who determines whether our work is good? Do you? Does your spouse? Your boss? Your parent? Your neighbor?


We just read in verses eight and nine that our works are never good enough, that’s not how salvation works. Instead, we have to rely on the perfect, atoning work of Jesus. But now, in this verse we’re told that we were created for good works.


A closer look at the verse reveals that God’s design and plan was all about Jesus Christ and how to restore us to a relationship with Him through this plan. He created a tool, His handiwork, that, as we saw in verses eight and nine, was built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 1: 10, he says, “with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.” That’s the plan, the good news in a nut shell. God foreknew the fall of man, and had a plan in place in which we could be restored, redeemed and forgiven as 1:7 tells us. The plan was Jesus! His workmanship (the tool He put in place to accomplish our salvation) made a way for us to be in Christ Jesus.


Being placed in the sphere of Christ at salvation, we have been birthed with a new way to live. No longer after our own desires, but to walk in the works He planned for us before we were even born. And these works are not of this world. Oh, there are plenty of good things we could do, from a moral or social standard, but they would amount to nothing if they are not in alignment with His will for us. In fact, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 tells us what happens to the works that we do apart from God’s will. They are burned up, because they are worthless for the plan He designed for us.


His works for us are good. The word good is “ah-gah-thois” and is defined as inherently valuable based upon the process by which it has been produced, being tools or instruments used to accomplish something.


God is after producing in and through us something of inherent value. Each one of His works that He planned for your day is inherently good because it will accomplish His purpose.


However, the original language also shows us that while we “would walk in them,” that God leaves that choice to us. The phrase actually is, we might have the potential to walk in them. We have a choice in how we participate with God to accomplish those works that are inherently valuable to accomplish His will in and through our life.


The plan and purpose were laid out in our relationship with Christ Jesus. If we die to self, we must live to Him, and in doing so we will be living in the will of the Father, who has prepared works for us to accomplish while we remain on earth. I think we can be pretty sure that those works have great purpose in revealing God’s glory. As Jesus Himself said as recorded in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”


Today’s a good day to choose to walk in those good works He has prepared for us.

 

Ephesians 2:11-22

I can’t tell you what reading through this book is welling up in me. I can only attempt. There is such a gratitude, and overwhelmedness (yeah, I know that’s not a word but there really aren’t words to describe it!) of seeing God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus, His plan to save us. The whole gospel story of summing up all things into Christ Jesus is just so much to wrap our brains around. We read it, we see it, but to really look at it is to truly see such a gift of grace.


Today’s text is Ephesians 2:11-22 and in it we see that we were formerly someone very different than who we are in Christ Jesus. The change is all for the better and for our amazing benefit, to be sure. The list Paul spells out is something like this:


You were formerly not His own people, in fact, you were far from it! We were separated from Him by a wide chasm. BUT NOW!!!! But now, IN Christ Jesus, even though we used to be formerly far off (not even on the same planet, or not even the same universe, as far as that goes!) we have been brought near by His blood.  Near to God!!!! Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, His redeeming us, His peacemaking, becoming our Unifier; all because of Jesus, we have been brought near to God.


He did this by abolishing the one thing that stood between us and God. Our sin. His sacrifice broke down barrier walls, and established peace. Reconciling both Jews & Gentiles into one body (His!) before God, when He died on that cross. He put sin to death! He preached peace to those near and far (even though not all would listen). But to those who would hear, He made peace between them and His Heavenly, Righteous and Holy Father. Reconciling us to Him.

It's in Christ that we have access in the Spirit to the Father. (v. 18) and we are NO LONGER strangers to God, or aliens that don’t know His ways or customs. But we are fellow citizens with all the saints and BELONG to the household of God.


We are being built up on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, of which Jesus Christ is the very cornerstone from which every other stone is built upon. And good news, we are GROWING into a holy temple in the Lord, into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.


Does it overwhelm you too?  We were far off, unable to transport ourselves closer. No vehicle that could catch Him, no bolt cutters big enough to get through that wall, we were far off from anything resembling God, BUT NOW!


Oh, thank You, Father God for the great sacrifice of Jesus that brought us near to You. Bringing peace and putting our sin to death. Help us to walk in light of that gift with renewed purpose to serve You, to live and walk by Your Spirit, so that others will want to be brought near too. Continue to build us up on the foundation of Christ. I praise You for Your amazing grace that supplies everything we need, and Your plan that brought all this about, that is, to sum up all things in Christ Jesus, in whose name I can come. Amen. 


How would you describe what God has done for you by bringing you near? Drop me a line and let me know. 

Ephesians 3:1-13

“For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus…”  Is it any wonder that Paul would be enslaved by Christ Jesus? Just think of the many you know who have become enslaved by an event or situation that was traumatic for them. We read the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts as if it were a sterile, instantaneous event, and then instantly, all was well. But it was earth shattering for Paul. He began his journey to Damascus for the sole purpose of destroying anyone and everyone who followed Jesus, and now, he’s a blind man (certainly an accurate picture of his spiritual eyes at the time) hearing One who addresses Himself as the One whom Paul is persecuting. For several days Paul could see absolutely nothing, being led into town by the other two men who were with him. The interesting thing is that Jesus didn’t leave Paul alone. He spoke of His grace, and His Father’s plan for Paul, a plan not to destroy but to use in a powerful way, a new way.


“for the sake of you Gentiles…” Another earth-shattering truth, since Jews and Gentiles did not think highly of each other. He probably felt about them the way that he felt about those following The Way. But then Jesus spoke!  And Paul became enslaved to Him as he realized all Christ had done for him. Grace had given him a second chance to get his zealousness heading in the right direction, and Jesus’ presence, the Holy Spirit’s work, could not be ignored, or dismissed. He, who was the Jewish zealot would now find himself even more eager to serve those he once considered a dog.


It happened during those blind days, and days to follow, that God spoke to Paul to tell him that he would be sent to the Gentiles to explain this incredible mystery of God, “that is, the summing of all things into Christ…”  Jew and Gentile were made one in Christ Jesus. That was certainly a revelation to this one who studied the Law intensely, who followed it wholeheartedly and thought much higher of the Jews than anyone else. A Jew among Jews, he wasn’t sent to preach to his colleagues or peers, but rather, he was to preach the gospel to Gentiles.


The fact that he does this joyfully, and with such love, is the testimony to the affect that Christ and His Spirit had on Paul. He comes to them in all humility (v. 8 “me the very least of saints”). He understands the grace that has been given to him (vs. 7 & 8, “the gift of God’s grace.”)


Taking his position as a minister of the gospel, working under the power of the Holy Spirit, he spoke of the revelation made known to him (v. 3 the mystery – Jews and Gentiles made one in the body of Christ. Fellow heirs and fellow partakers in Christ. All part of God’s glorious plan of salvation for us all, all part of eternal purpose and will.)


The result – That in Christ Jesus, any one and every one who has faith in His atoning work are made part of His body. Giving us boldness and confident access through faith in Him. So, don’t lose heart at the tribulations we see saints going through. Each and every one of them will reveal the glory of God, and perhaps as we see His grace, we too, will become enslaved to Him, unable to pursue anything else but serving Him. May it be so.


Father, I don’t know why you designed the plan of salvation as you did, putting Jesus Christ (The Word) on the cross as payment, but I most assuredly thank You and praise You for Your wisdom far above this brain of mine. Your omniscience that knows the end from the beginning and Your great love and grace that cover us. May I walk in the boldness of Your grace. I thank You for the confident access I have to You, my Heavenly Father, in Christ Jesus. Amen

Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul prays a prayer that we would be, according to the riches of God’s glory, strengthened all power through His Spirit. That power is the word dynamei (same root word we get our word, dynamite from, just think on that! That’s the force of power we have by His Spirit.)


Strengthened in the inner man. Not just on the surface, this is no false sense of strength, it’s built in, deep to our core. This is the place within us that shapes and molds us. In 2 Corinthians 4:16 we are assured, “Therefore do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” A renewal that we find helps us in managing that “light affliction and producing an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison “ (2 Cor. 4:17); It’s in the inner man that we experience daily renewal through His Spirit as we submit to Him; the opposite of the outer man which is decaying, our inner being is living eternally.


In Eph. 3:16 we see believers as the object of God’s working in the inner man, or the place where God’s Spirit meets and shapes us. There’s a parallel phrase in 1 Peter 3:4 and carries a hint of God’s hidden operation in us. We may not be able to see all God is doing but our inner man is being shaped into the image of Christ even while our outer man seems to be breaking down. What a paradox!


Paul goes on to pray that Christ would dwell in our hearts. This refers to the seat of physical vitality, the seat of our emotions. The heart is sometimes referred to as courage, rational function, place of willing and planning. It’s central to our thoughts and emotions. Paul desires, as do I, that Christ would be central to our life. Central to our thoughts, our emotions, our courage, all wrapped up in the knowledge of Christ within us. That all happens through our faith.


The word faith here is a response to knowing who our God is. It’s a response to understanding the gift of His grace, the blessing of being placed into Christ at salvation. Our faith makes us a new creature, one empowered by the Holy Spirit, and one who knows our God! If only we grasp that, we will be rooted firmly in our faith. Grounded in the love of God. That is where our courage comes from. If God be for us, who could stand against us? So here we stand, grounded, feet planted firmly in our faith, because we grasp the great love of our God and Savior. 


Knowing the love of Christ surpasses knowledge. It envelops every part of us. And we are filled up to all the fullness of God! The more we learn of His love for us, the more we learn who He is, the more His Spirit can fill us up in the inner man. So, have faith!


“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (His dynamite power), to Him be the glory in the church (that’s you, beloved, you are part of the Church) and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”


Give Him your whole heart, every ounce of your inner being, and walk by faith today! 

Ephesians 4:1-6

Paul knows what it’s like to be a prisoner of the Lord. His first three days of knowing Jesus was in captivity as a blind man. Jesus had his full attention. And Paul knows what it is to serve this particular Master, too. So, he “implores” these in Ephesus – “walk in a manner worthy….” He states a similar instruction in Philippians 1:27 when he describes to the believers that there is only one kind of conduct that is worthy of the One we serve. 


The more you read Paul’s letters the more you realize the depth of love he had for Christ, His Savior, and how it changed him.   


Here, in Ephesians he expounds on what that conduct looks like. Our character is to reveal:

Humility. In response to our salvation, we are to have a character of humility. It plays out in submission and placing others above our self.

Gentleness. This is a response as well. We place ourselves in the position to respond with gentleness, a meekness, but contains a sense of strength. One could say, self-control, for though there is power there, it is controlled.

Patience. We respond with forbearance of others, endurance (don’t give up), restraint in situations.

Tolerance. We initiate the action to be tolerant of others, bear with them, though I would remind that we aren’t to tolerate sin, in other letters (Corinthians) Paul teaches about confronting a brother or sister who is in sin. This is the idea of bearing with others personalities, cultures, nationalities. Remember the Gentiles have just been united with Jews in Christ. Different cultures, different ways of living all coming together in Christ.

Love. That tolerance comes because we agape` others. We love them with a self-sacrificial love regardless of their response. That’s the love Christ has for us, and the love we are to extend to others.

Diligent to preserve the unity. With all these characteristics at work in us we will be eager to do what it takes to retain oneness in the Spirit. Unity is a response.

Bond of peace. The word bond is initiated by our action. We do our part to serve as the link, the joint, or loop that yokes together and brings harmony. And it’s accomplished in peace. Peace is a response as well. A feeling of rest, reconciliation. We do our part to respond to others in a way that makes harmony between people or groups of people, linking them together rather than driving a wedge. But note: that bond is between believers, those united “in the Spirit.” There can be no linking or yoking to unbelievers, for we serve two different masters.


Continuing on in verses 4 and following, “There is one body, and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

The baptism spoken of there is a spiritual immersion into Christ, our all in all. The Spirit seals us into Christ at our salvation, yoking us, binding us to Him.


Remembering that Paul already wrote (3:17-21) of the great love that God has for us. A love that he wants us to be rooted and grounded in, to know the breadth, the depth, the height and length of. Christ’s love “surpasses knowledge”, that is the love we are to respond to. The love that controls us (as 2 Cor. 5:14 speaks of), that shapes our behavior.


Our conduct should reflect the One to whom we serve. Paul implores us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” A walk of humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance in love, diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace, all because of Jesus!


Walk worthy! 

Ephesians 4:7-16

Grace. 


Given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift (Lord, how can that gift be measured when we are speaking of Jesus Christ?) It’s not earned, nor deserved, but a grace gift measured out for what we will need to fulfill His calling. Praise You God for Your grace lavished on us.


1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain [empty], but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God within me.” I pray that can be said of me, too, Lord, but I know I fail You so often. So busy with “life” that I forget to Whom I live. Praise You for Your longsuffering and forgiveness.


When Christ came to earth as a man, He was given all things, for all things are summed up in Him since there is no other name by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) Praise You, God for sending a Savior!


In Christ, believers receive spiritual gifts to use in service to our Master. Enslaved to Him, as Paul, we owe Him everything! And the Good Master that He is, He gives us every spiritual blessing and the gifts to use in service to Him so that we can serve Him adequately. Praise You Father for being a Good Master.


2 Corinthians 3:5-6 “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Praise You God, for making me adequate for every work.


A prisoner of the Lord, these gifts help us fulfill our calling. He gave some gifts that help equip us to do our service and to build up and mature God’s people. Maturing us until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, spiritually mature (which will be lived out in this world) until we look like Jesus Christ. Praise You Father for even the possibility that we could look like Christ. That by Your Spirit You have made a way.


Spiritually maturity is the goal. Grace is the way! It’s all available to us to do the works that God predetermined we should walk in.


Thank You Heavenly Father, for seeing our need, for sending Your Son to show us the way, to make a way, and to bless us with Your Spirit to walk in the way. Your grace astounds. Help us to walk in Your grace daily, to, as we saw yesterday, walk humbly, for that is where it all begins for us. Humbling ourselves before You, submitting to Your headship, and letting Your grace flow through us to others around us. Grow us up, Dear Father. Until we look like Christ! In Who’s name I ask, Amen.

 

Ephesians 4:17-32

Today, Paul gets to the heart of the matter. Don’t walk like sinners!


Don’t walk like we used to. If we are maturing in Christ then our walk will be different since He will be given more and more control in our responses to daily life. And it is sooooooo daily! And it was a futile, empty, way to live. So, we are not to walk in the futility of our mind which is darkened to understanding. After all, the Light has shown us a new way to walk.


He says, we were excluded from the life of God. 1- Because of ignorance (We just didn’t know any better.) 2- Hardness of heart. (Some just don’t want to know God.) 3- Because of a callous heart. (Too often we live as we live because we want what we want.) In this case, Paul is referring to their life of sensuality, the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.


BUT, we didn’t learn Christ in this way. Instead, we lay aside the old self so that we may be renewed in the spirit of our mind (we are acted upon to be renewed when we choose to engage our mind.)


He again reminds them of the one and only character we are to have as those who belong to Christ: Put on the new self (we participate with His Spirit to put on the new self, we choose - He works.) That new self was created (back in 2:10, created in Christ Jesus) in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Again, God created a way that in Christ we are saved, redeemed, justified, forgiven, made holy and righteous before Him. That’s His pure grace toward each one of us!)


So, we are to lay aside falsehood and speak truth. How guarded are we with our speech? How often do we tell “little white lies”? Or exaggerate? It’s a choice on our part to lay that kind of behavior aside, but the moment we commit to it, is the moment His Spirit steps in to hold us to that. He will convict when we stretch the truth, bend the truth, or flat out break the truth. That’s the grace of God!


Then Paul talks about anger. We are not to be acted upon, or controlled by anger or provocation. But that’s not so easy, is it? I was reading through these verses this morning while I was on hold on the phone with a business call with someone who did not do their job and it may end up costing us a large sum of money. It’s always worse when they are on the defensive and try to make it sound as if I’m the guilty party, when they are the one that did not do their job. I could easily have responded in anger, but as the words of these verses (and those to follow) were on the screen of my laptop while I was on the phone call, the Lord reminded me not to walk in the futile way of this world. Not to waste time being angry. He has shown me great grace, I can muster a little (actually it’s all Him!) in my response to her. That doesn’t mean that I allowed her to shirk her responsibility, but it does mean I handled it a lot better than I would have in my own angry way. My anger would have turned to sin, for sure! Just as temptation is not sin, but leads to it, it’s the same with anger. Anger isn’t the sin, it’s what you do with it that counts. The devil is looking for any and every opportunity to cause us to sin. (v 27) so let’s not participate with him on that. Walking in the Spirit means we allow His responses to our situations.


In case we need some more guidelines for our day – Don’t steal. Now most of us wouldn’t think about going in someplace and stealing something, but what about the times you need something that they have at work, so you bring it home? That’s still stealing. Instead of stealing we are to labor (now there’s a novel idea that some in Portland, Chicago and Seattle need to be taught! I actually heard one of the looters say, it wasn’t hurting anybody because the store has insurance anyway. ????? Futility of mind. Darkness of understanding. Plain and simple. Don’t STEAL!) Do good with our hands, not evil.


Then there’s this gem – “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” No foul language, no coarse jesting, no vulgarities. Oh, but he doesn’t stop there… he says, “but only such a word as is good for edification (building up, or for spiritual profit or advancement – the way Paul speaks you would think he was a contractor with all this talk of building up) according to the need of the moment. The purpose? “so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Just think, what if… every word that came out of our mouth was filled with the grace needed in that moment for the one we are speaking to. It’s totally possible when we are walking by the Spirit’s leading. It’s only then that we will be prepared to speak words that edify and don’t tear down. Words that give grace rather than anger.


Paul’s answer to the dilemma, don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. He was given to us to perform the righteous and holy deeds we were intended to live out. It’s the Holy Spirit who has sealed us in Christ, to hold us as His until the day He comes to redeem us from this world.


So, let all bitterness (how easy that obnoxious taste can creep into our lives), wrath (but they deserve it!) anger (a state of mind), clamor (an outcry, even in emotion), slander (wounding someone’s reputation by your words), malice (a wickedness of the heart)… every part of these things, set it all aside! Put it away. In fact, when we allow those things that no longer belong to us because they are from the old man (the old sin nature), it’s robbery! Keeping those old characteristics when Jesus purchased us to be holy and blameless before God, is a sham! It is most definitely quenching the Spirit. And Paul has already told us not to do that.


Instead, we are to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other… Only possible to be consistent in this when the Holy Spirit is our lead. And the reason we should is because “God in Christ also has forgiven us.”


The more we see the grace He has given to us individually, the easier it is to respond individually in gracing others. And that seems to be the goal of these verses. Grace others because we have been graced by God. It’s not so much that we have to do any of this, we need only submit to the Holy Spirit working within us. In grace!


Father God, that grace just keeps on showing itself. Help us to participate with Your Spirit to extend that grace to others through our behavior and character as Christ is lived out in us. To You be all the glory and praise. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Ephesians 5:1-2

We've been seeing that we are in Christ. Paul goes on to say, “therefore, be imitators of God as beloved children.”


Some of my favorite memories as a mom and a grandmother were when the kids would try to put on their dad’s shoes and walk in them. How they loved their daddy. At times I’d catch them holding their arms as he did, or doing something like him, as his beloved children. Several of those memories came to mind as I read that as the beloved children of God we are to imitate Him. Just like our little ones, there was no way they could do things just like their dad at their level of maturity, nor could they walk gracefully in his shoes, but they sure tried, because they admired and loved him.


Paul has said a lot of things in this letter about what these believer’s life was, and now what it is because they are in Christ. He’s given a lot of instruction of how to live in Christ, and he’s not finished yet, but it seemed timely to park on verses 1 and 2 today where he gives both the motive and the reason, since Valentines is tomorrow. 


He says, as imitators of our Heavenly Father, we initiate the action, we are the ones that make the decision in each circumstance and part of our day to act like our Father. And here is our motivation, because we are beloved children we are to love. God is the prime example of what love is, and how to love others.


As beloved children (agapetos) we are to walk in love (agape). Remember the definition of agape is to love with a self-sacrificial love that keeps on loving regardless of any response we might receive from the one we are loving. Self-sacrificial. That’s precisely the example of Christ, God’s beloved Son. He came and died for all, even though in His omniscience He knew that many would reject that extravagant gift. He still loved.


God doesn’t put on love like we must. It just is who He is. But for us fallible humans, we literally must decide to love others as He loves. Though original man was created in His image, we have fallen far from it. It is much more natural for us to be selfish, than loving. You may even have your list of expectations for tomorrow.


This text says we are to be walk in love, just as Christ loved us, and sacrificed for us as a sweet aroma to God.

What if we sacrifice, in the name of love of course, but inwardly we are expecting something in return? “I give and give, and get nothing back!” Then we give from the wrong motives.


Christ gave regardless of the response, expecting nothing in return. And His offering was a sweet aroma to God. It smelled good, nothing spoiled or rotten about it, and it pleased His Father. That is what we are to imitate. Not that we have to die on a cross, or be beaten and bloodied as Jesus was. But the ideas Paul has already presented: walking humbly, unselfishly, being kindhearted (note: it’s one thing to be kind and another to be kind-hearted), forgiving one another (because we have been forgiven so much) lead to the pinnacle of what we are to do - Simply said, be imitators of God as beloved children.


When we grasp the love that God has for us, when we recognize from where He brought us, how we’ve been accepted and now made adequate in Christ, then, maybe then, we can love God and love others as we should.

His love runs deep and covers all. Romans 8:38-39 talks about how deep, high, and wide His love is. Nothing can separate us from it. Psalm 139 tells of how God knows us, is intimately acquainted with us and loves us. The Bible is full of His love, because He is love. It is who He is.


So, on this weekend expected to be all about love, let’s remember what true love is. It’s a love that keeps on giving regardless of the response. That means, set those expectations aside, Girlfriend. Imitate God who loved, self-sacrificially of Himself, even when He knew His children wouldn’t always return that love.

Walk in love, just as Christ did!


Father, I do want to be a sweet aroma to You, my heavenly Father. Paul says I do that by initiating the action to imitate You in Your love. I’m gonna need to walk attentively to Your Spirit to do that because self gets in the way too many times. Expectations of what we will receive rather than what we can give can really mess with our minds, so help us to keep our minds set on You. Your love is extravagant, relentless, never changing. Praise You for Your love! May we imitate You justly. And be a sweet aroma, to You and to those around us. I know it’s possible in Christ, because in Him You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing, thank You, Father. Help us to walk in love today and always. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Ephesians 5:3-14

Walk in love… that was the preface for these next verses. Paul goes on to say that there is certain types of character, or behavior, that should not even be mentioned or called to mind when people think of us. If we are walking in love then these things will won’t be part of who we are.


We won’t be immoral. This is a pretty strong word used here. It’s any impurity in reference to sexual sins, but it has the idea of prostituting ourselves, or being unfaithful, as well. As the bride of Christ, we should be true to our Bridegroom, and not follow after the lusts of this world. We are to keep ourselves pure in every respect as one who belongs to Him.


We won’t be greedy, which means we won’t covet. At some point, we have to take a look at the fact that too often we feel unsatisfied with what we have been blessed to have. We have to stop wanting what others have, stop wanting more, and find contentment in God’s provision for us. As I type this, there is a sign across from me that reads, “Gratitude turns what we have into Enough.” That sign has been a good reminder over the last several years of having a grateful heart. I can tell you this much, when I choose to be grateful rather than covetous it changes my world! I have a new vision and appreciation of the blessings I’ve been given, and somehow feel more blessed. Amazing how God blesses the small acts of obedience in our lives.


These traits aren’t to even be named among the saints. And lest you forget, as a follower of Jesus, saved by grace, He has made you a saint. This is a command, that we don’t behave in such a way that others know us that way.


We’re not to have filthy language. Don’t be base, obscene, indecent, shameful or disgraceful (note that word is the opposite of being graceful.) We already saw in Chapter 4, verse 29 that we aren’t to speak unwholesomely, but only things that give grace for the moment to those who hear, words that edify. Speaking with foul language isn’t a character trait of a follower of Christ. Such was the children’s song when I was growing up, “Oh be careful little tongue what you say, oh be careful little tongue what you say, for the Father up above is looking down in love, oh be careful little tongue what you say.” We need to mind our words. Why? Because it shows where our heart is. Jesus said in Matthew 15:11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Then in verses 18 & 19 of the same chapter He says, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Filthy language is a gage of our heart.


Silly talk is to be gone as well. This is stupid talk, talk without thought. Gossip, impudent, vulgar, coarse joking, dirty talk should all be gone. It just doesn’t fit or belong to one who is a saint covered by the blood of Jesus.


INSTEAD, we are to Give Thanks! That’s what we should be known for. A life that shows thankfulness, and we have so much to be thankful for in Christ!


The wrath of God awaits those who haven’t called upon the name of Jesus, those called the sons of disobedience. The phrase “sons of disobedience” shows ownership. They don’t belong to God, but rather they belong to the disobedient one. We’re not to act like his children.


And we need to be on guard, alert so that we aren’t deceived to think like them, or be partakers of that lifestyle with them. As saints, we are no longer like them.


Ephesians 5:8 says, we “were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord” so we are to walk as children of the Light (the fruit of that is not immorality, greed, and filthy talk. No, the fruit of walking in the Light consists of all goodness and righteousness and truth) “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” I love that God gives us the grace to say, “trying to learn…”


We learn by not participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them. That exposing begins in our own lives as we recognize these acts and confess them to the Lord as sin. Repenting from that behavior. Exposing it by His Light will help us to not walk in the darkness again. And as the darkness is dispelled in our lives then the Light begins to shine to those around us, revealing their actions as sin. But if we keep participating with them in their bad behavior, we are not being the light we should be and they will continue to believe their life is just fine without God. A warning though. As your light shines, there are some around you who will run to the darkness, those friendships will change. Some may end, because the light is too bright to them. Be willing to accept that as God’s honing in your own life. Seek His will for how to handle those situations. I’m pretty sure what you’ll find is that He wants you to continue to pray for them, and love them. But you can’t control their response to your walk with Christ.


The passage says, it’s a disgrace to even talk about what the sons of disobedience think is okay to do, but it will be exposed by the light, so walk in the Light!


Paul refers to passages from the prophet Isaiah when he says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”


It’s time to wake up to the sin we’ve been living in. Our thought life, our actions, our speech all need to reflect who we are in Christ. Most of the time we do a mighty fine job of representing the world, but Paul calls us, as he did the believers in Ephesus to wake up! It’s time to start living in the Light. To let Christ shine on us, so the world we know we belong to Him.


Father, forgive me for sleep walking much of the time. Forgive me for not making my walking so bright that it exposes and reveals the sin that keeps me from walking in Your righteousness and Light. Help me to be more alert and mindful of my submission to Your Spirit in my life so that my behavior will change. Awake my soul! In Christ I pray, Amen.

Ephesians 5:15-21

 “All things become visible when exposed by the light” (v. 13) “Christ will shine on you.” (v. 14) “Therefore, be careful how you walk” (v 15)


We have a host of witnesses watching us, and as I was going through these verses today, I realized probably for the first time, why that is. In one of those “ah ha” moments I saw that those who know we are Christians are watching to see how we behave, almost as if they can’t take their eyes off of us, and even though they may see nothing wrong with others doing the same or worse thing, the fact that we are Christians makes them lash out at us, or recoil from us.


Why? Because we have the spotlight of Christ shining on us!  


For others who aren’t believers they don’t have a light shining on them saying, did you see this? They walk in darkness and their deeds are in darkness, whereas, we no longer walk in the darkness, but in full view of all those around us. We have the light of Christ shining on us, and all things become visible. Much to the detriment sometimes of our testimony to others, which is why Paul says, “therefore, be careful how you walk”.


He gives a long list in these next verses as to what that walk should be like:


Careful – defined as pertaining to strict conformity, to a norm and standard, involving both detail and completeness – accurate. We are to be that careful of our walk.


Not Unwise – we initiate the action to not walk like the unwise, which act foolishly, senselessly, without wisdom. You know God says if we need wisdom we need only ask and He will give generously (James 2:5). There’s no reason to walk unwise.


Understand – This is a command to keep on comprehending, perceiving, have insight into, make note of.


Make the most of the time – You have a spot light on you, so don’t waste any opportunity to show Christ to others. We initiate the action to be acted upon to urgently redeem the time and make good use of whatever opportunity the Spirit leads us into, taking full advantage of it.


Understand what the will of the Lord is – This is a command as well. Romans 12:2 says we are to transform our mind by renewing it (in God’s word) so we prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Colossians 1:9 says, Ask to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, Our sanctification is God’s will, abstain from sexual immorality and know how to possess our own vessel (body) in sanctification and honor. (Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.)


Don’t be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit – Dissipation is senseless deeds, reckless, wasteful. But we are to be filled, which is a command to allow ourselves to be acted upon by the Spirit, in other words, we are to be so filled with the Spirit that He is the One that controls us. Filled to overflowing, like a sponge that has soaked up so much that it can’t hold anymore and it flows out. We’re not to let any other substance control us, only the Holy Spirit in us.


Then he goes on to say that we’re to speak to one another in psalms (songs of praise), hymns (sacred songs of truth), and spiritual songs (relate to the spiritual things, songs sung with the mind, not just jabber or chanting worthless syllables.) 1 Corinthians 14:15 says, I pray with the spirit and I pray with the mind, and I sing songs with the spirit and with the mind. We are to sing to and about our Lord from the heart!


Always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father. Our prayers are to be addressed to the Father, but we can only come to Him in the name above all names, for there is none other by which we must be saved. It’s God’s grace unfolded that we come to Him in Jesus’ name.  Definitely much to be thankful for! But thankful for all things? Yes, for even in all things we see God’s grace at work. Even in the even when and even if’s of life, even in the even here, God is always to be trusted and we can thank Him that He will work it to our good (Romans 8:28) and use it for His glory, as well. He is worthy of our trust and gratefulness that He is sovereign and omnipotent, loving and just. It’s all going to work out, so stop and give Him thanks!


Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ – (this fear is a reverential awe of Christ and all He has done for us) We are to initiate the action to revere Christ in awe.


Wow, jam packed verses that we barely scratched the surface of. But enough to chew on for today. And enough to remind us that as we walk as a Christian in a fallen world, that they are watching because the Light of Christ is upon us. That spotlight is to reveal Him to the world.

 

Father, Help us by Your Spirit to walk in the light of Christ with carefulness, wisdom, always making the most of our time, because our days are short. We are but a wisp, a vapor. Teach us to number our days, to guard our steps and serve You so faithfully that others will see our works and praise You!  Praise You for Your word that gives light to our path. I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ because that is how You’ve determined to make my prayers acceptable to You. You’ve placed me in Christ and sealed me by Your Spirit. May I allow Him to saturate me to the point of control daily, and let nothing else have that place in my life. Help me to walk worthy of Christ’s name as I step out in His light, and shine Jesus, shine. Amen.

Ephesians 5:22-33

I do believe that these are some of the most misunderstood verses in scripture. They have been misused and abused throughout the years by those who were power hungry controllers, or by those who didn’t know any better. But today we want to look at what this passage says, and doesn’t say.


Maybe we should start with what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say, men are better than women. It doesn’t say that men can treat women anyway they want and walk all over them. It doesn’t say we have to be weak women, giving up all our dreams and desires to only follow those of our husbands.  


This idea of submission tends to raise some hackles by the world’s definition. But when we look at this godly perspective found in Ephesians 5, we find one of the greatest blessings as we see our God is one of order, not chaos. God is not a sexist, but He did create male and female different, for distinct purposes. As a God of order, He formed creation giving out authority and responsibility in a way that not only keeps order, but in the process reveals His glory.


One thing God’s word makes perfectly clear is that each one of us, male and female are equal in His love and grace. Equal in our position in Christ. Equal in worth and adequacy. We see in Galatians 3:28-29 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” 


Equal in God’s eyes, but not given the same responsibilities and authority. He made us different for different functions. Unique and each with their own struggles to achieve, on our own.


Lest we forget, the frame of reference for anything we do goes back to Ephesians 5:18, in which we’re told that we are to always and only be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Every action and reaction should be from the well-spring of Christ’s Spirit living in us. His fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, and when we are submitting to Him that is what will be produced in us. Oh, what a different world it would be, how different our households would be, if we submitted to Him each moment. It’s time that we as women walk in the dignity and power He has placed within us.


Well, let’s look at these verses. Verse 22 begins that as wives we are to place our own husbands as the authority over our lives just as we do the Lord. The word subject isn’t used in verse 22, though it is implied (and stated in verse 24) so verse 22 reads, “Wives to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  Just as we submit to Christ’s authority over our life, we are to be subject to our husband’s authority. The word subject is so’menoi a strong military word describing the response of a subordinate to a commanding officer.


Just as any commander, or leader, the husband has a much greater responsibility to go along with that authority. Verse 23 shows the husband to be the head of the wife, head over the family. But his headship is based on the example of Christ over the Church. He is to love the wife as Christ loved the Church, and that was with a self-sacrificial love that keeps on giving regardless of the response, always seeking and doing what is the best for her. He is to nourish and cherish his wife, as Christ does the Church. And he must do so as a man no longer clinging to his own father and mother (think of the marriages that could have been saved had the husband obeyed this command and not compared his wife to his mother but instead made her his life, cherishing her and nourishing her soul.)  


The husband and wife are to be one before the Lord. United in purpose, to serve God in the roles that have been given, with the gifts they’ve been given. In most marriages the distinction of personalities is strong, and often we see the personalities may be opposite but when joined together they balance the other, support the other, shore up an area that was lacking. Creating a working unit of one that brings glory to God by the sheer fact that they find a way to work together rather than apart.


The sad truth is, in today’s world, we see more marriages where it’s two people living separate lives than two people working as one. It’s easy to fall into that trap since we often are so opposite. But that is not God’s idea of marriage, we are to work at (by submitting to the Spirit) becoming one, fulfilling the roles God gave us with all the resurrection power that we have been blessed to be indwelled by.


For those single gals out there, when you choose a husband, don’t choose one who promises you the moon. Choose a man that is submitting to the Lord, and in that submission is willing to fulfill his role as the head. If he’s submitting to God then he will love you the right way, and as you respond to that love by submitting to him (as you do to Christ) your marriage will be what God intended it to be. Don’t shrink away from submission, it’s the way God wants to bless you.


Along with that submission we are to respect our husbands. The word is “phobe`tai – it’s a wholesome dread of displeasing him. There’s no terror involved here, just a desire to please the man God gave you. If the husband is self-sacrificially loving you then this will be easier to do, though even then, we must willingly set self aside, sometimes we are our own worst enemy! And don't usurp his authority when he fails to take the lead. A marriage is no place for the “if I want it done, I better do it myself” motto. Instead, be his helper to fulfill his role as the head. We do that as we walk by the Spirit, attentive to His leading.


Tied up in this discourse of husband and wife responsibility, is a profound mystery, that is Christ and the church. God designed this incredible plan that we would be one, yet distinct. As we, the Church, are in Christ, we are to walk in submission to His authority in our life, for He has a much higher rank than we do, and He is also held to a much higher responsibility than us. Likewise, this is the picture He uses to describe the relationship of the husband and wife.


Submitting and respecting our husband. A tall order some days. God didn’t say living for Him would be easy, only that with Him all things are possible. And, He never calls us to do something that He hasn’t provided the grace to accomplish. 


It’s time that we as women walk in the dignity and power He has placed within us to be the wives He’s called us to be. It will take grit and determination, and a whole lot of grace! But God… with Him all things are possible!


Father, this plan of Yours, we don’t understand it all, but we can walk in the simplicity of what You’ve called us to be and do, if You help us. Help us to walk by Your Spirit, and not our own flesh. Help us to be the women You’ve designed us to be. Praise You that Your plan is always out of Your love for us and accomplished by the grace You give us.  We trust You to know better than us. And Lord, I pray for our husbands, too. Help them to be the men and leaders You designed. Help us both to walk in submission to You and then gladly fulfill the roles You’ve put before us. In Christ I ask, Amen.

 

Ephesians 6:1-4

Children obey your parents. Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise – “That it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth.” Well, that makes some good sense there, because as a child, if I’m obeying, then life is going to go along pretty smoothly in our household.


I didn’t always obey though. I was a bit rebellious as a child, to the point that I knew I was a sinner that needed saving at the age of five, but I told my parents that there were some things I wanted to do first. My parents should have been very afraid, but they weren’t, they just kept training me up in the Lord, and praying. Lots of praying.


I’m very thankful that the Lord kept me on a pretty short leash, never letting me wander too far off.


Paul explains the principle that when we do things the right way, they will turn out the right way. Note: I said that’s a principle, not a promise. The promise is that it would be well with the child, and he would live longer. Under Jewish law (the man-made portion) children who were continuously rebellious were to be stoned to death. Disobedience was not tolerated.


Obey your parents for this is right. Period. Honor your father and mother. Period. It’s just the right thing to do!


To honor means to value, revere, assist, give high status to. This is a command that we are to keep on honoring our father and mother. Remember God’s plan of order. He has placed authority over us from day one, and it teaches us to submit to Him, too.



Fathers aren’t to provoke their children to anger. Instead, they are to bring them up in discipline and instruction of the Lord. Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful, yet to those who have been trained by it, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Discipline is worth the result, but provoking your child is never right.


The family unit is an interesting dynamic – A parent’s instruction manual (the Bible) says we are to instruct and discipline. It does not say to be their best friend. It doesn't say to give them what they want to keep them happy. Our job is to train up our children in the Lord. To know Him and to know His instructions (the Bible), and not to provoke them.


Provoke is parogizete – we are commanded to keep on not making them angry or resentful. Don’t be the cause. Naturally they will be angry with any form of discipline, or not getting their own way. But often, dads antagonize rather than train up. They may threaten about it, teasing them. Frankly, some dads are just bullies! Paul says, dads aren’t to be like that. Their number one job is to train them up to know the Lord. To be the example of how to submit to God’s authority in their life.


And, while we are to honor our fathers and mothers, let’s not forget the admonition in chapter five to leave them and cleave to your spouse. You can give honor to them without taking their side in every issue, or putting them above your spouse. A fine line to walk, but doable when you go back to Ephesians 5:18 and let the Spirit control you. He will show you how to honor them best. Respect them. Revere them. But you say, my parents don’t deserve honor and respect, they were terrible parents. God doesn’t have Option B listed there for you, you are still to show them honor and respect, because, this exhortation is not merely about them, but about your attitude, your demeanor. Your submission to the authority of God in every area of your life. And God always provides the grace needed to accomplish what He asks.


As with the other verses we have seen in the letter to the church in Ephesus, it’s a training manual for walking by the Spirit, in fellowship with God. Whether it’s instruction to us individually, or as a family member, God’s purpose is to teach us how to submit to Him. Our earthly relationships are the training ground. His word is the instruction manual. Family life is important to God, let's make it important to us as well. 


Father, the family unit is far from how you designed it, because we are far from the followers You called us to be. Even in the most loving, god-fearing homes, children still grow up and go astray. Our own lusts get in the way of how You desired us to live. Rebellion starts small and grows into a monster when not quelled and shaped. Each one makes their choices, Lord. So, help us to make choice after choice to follow You. To walk by Your Spirit, and not our own desires. Help us to parent as you would have us do. Help us to pray for other parents as they train their children up in You. Help us to know how to honor and revere our own parents without overstepping boundaries, or shirking responsibility. Lord, have Your way in each of us, I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen

Ephesians 6:5-9

It seems Paul has left the hardest relationship to address last. He has built up to this point in the instructions we’ve already seen, and now we look at the relationship of the slave and master. I’m pretty sure there are those out there who feel a slave to their employer, but the relationship of slave and master, we have a hard time assimilating into our own lives having never experienced it. However, let’s not lose the point of Paul’s words.


Slaves, be obedient to your masters – not because they are your master (though that would be a good enough reason) – not because they are good masters (we’ll get to that one in a bit) – not according to the flesh (self-will can only take us as so far) but Paul says obey (the word reveals a listening, an attentiveness and then doing what they were told) with fear (a reverence) and trembling (a dread, Paul emphasizes the type of great reverence they are to have toward their master, remembering the power they have over you.)


But Paul doesn’t finish there. Obey with fear and trembling from a sincere heart, and here’s the clincher – “as to Christ.” We are to serve our master as if he is Jesus, Himself (though he may act like the devil).


Obey, not by way of eyeservice as men-pleasers (don’t serve well just to make yourself look better, or gain approval of men), but as slaves of Christ. He has bought you after all, with His own blood as the payment. You belong to Him (I’m speaking to believers here.) Thankfully, He is the most gracious Master there ever will be. He provides all we need to serve in the way we should, and as we do, we will be doing the will of God from the heart. When our heart is right with God, the rest of our relationships will be as they should, for then we will love as He loves, we will serve from the greatest power source available, and we will have peace regardless of our circumstance.


With good will we are to render service as to the Lord and not to men. And what can we know? Whatever good thing we do (remember good is a relative term – only the works that God prepared for us to walk in are ultimately good) we will receive back from the Lord (whether our earthly master ever repays our service, God will, and He pays dividends!)

This instruction applies to both slave and free. There will always be others that we are under authority to. Listen and follow instruction. It requires that humility Paul has already written to us about, doesn’t it?


But, in case you are on the master side of things – Paul gives you some instruction too. Do the SAME to those under you. Don’t master in a threatening manner, you likewise are to fulfill your role as unto the Lord. Serving Him. Knowing that God doesn’t show partiality to the rich, the ruler, or to those in authority (in fact, it only brings more responsibility and consequence).


Praise God, all men are equal in His sight. He loves and gives grace to all alike. So, Bosses, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought, for you are under the authority of Christ Himself, and you serve Him in the role of master. Keep your priorities straight, and have grace at the ready.


Whether free man or slave – We are to Do All as Unto the Lord, for He alone is our Master to serve.


Father, being humble and subservient really doesn’t come naturally to us. You know this, and I thank You that Your grace provides for us, that Your Spirit is our helper, and that we can do all things in You! Help us to always be mindful of the fact that You are our head, and that we are to please You alone, but in doing that, help us to listen to those in authority over us, and then respond as if we were responding to You. Keep our priorities straight, and thank You for Your grace to serve You in all ways. In Christ I serve and pray, amen.

Ephesians 6:10-24

I’ve been sitting on this last 14 verses for the past week. Ruminating. Doing word studies. And thinking on the ramifications of these truths. Here are the final thoughts from the final verses of the book of Ephesians. Let them soak in to your mind and heart as you read through.


“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”


In - not out of, nor on our own, but IN the Lord. Our position in Christ comes into light again as it’s in His strength that we can be strong. Since we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is God, we know that He is all powerful (omnipotent). With Him anything is possible. Being placed into Christ at salvation, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and are indwelled by the very strength that was able to raise Him from the dead.


Then why do we often times feel so impotent and weak? Dare I say, it’s because we rely on ourselves? From the time we are small we are found saying, “me do it!” How foolish we are to try to battle this on our own.


Here’s what God says we are to do to have His strength:

Verse 11 - Put on the full armor of God. The word put is a repetitive aorist, meaning we participate with His Holy Spirit to repeatedly (at this point in time, and the next point in time, and the next point in time, and the… you get the idea) to keep on repetitively put on the armor of God.


Wouldn’t it be great if once we were in Christ that His armor was placed on us and stayed there in position ready for any battle? God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t convert us to robots at salvation, He converts us to followers. In His divine plan, He created us with free will. We must choose to put on Christ every moment. We must choose to be filled (saturated to the point of control) by His Spirit, every moment of the day. It’s all a choice. But don’t you find that we are often our own worst enemy as we try to do battle daily on our own, as a petulant two year old, demanding “me do it”?


Of course, there are times we are willing to put on a piece of armor here and there, if it seems comfortable to us. But the instruction is to put on the full armor of God. We have to be intentional in this because it doesn’t come natural to us in our flesh. In fact, Paul’s words in verse 12 makes the distinction that our fight isn’t against flesh and blood. There are rulers in this world that are spiritual in nature, forces of darkness, wicked, and they want to destroy you. If we are going to be able to stand firm against the devil’s schemes then we are going to have to have something more than our flesh to protect us. And who knows the spiritual world better than God? He knows exactly what we need to stand firm against spiritual attacks.


Here’s a list of the things that we are to put on, as we are under the control of the Holy Spirit:

V. 14 – Girded your loins with truth. There is only one truth in this world, and it is God’s word. Gird means to wrap around, or shore up. In biblical days, men and women wore long robes. When they needed to move fast, or be at work, they would pull the back of the robe up through their legs and tuck it into their front sash, effectively creating a pair of pants for easier movement, being prepared for action. The loins are where our reproduction takes place, and there’s a metaphor to be brought out here. Will we reproduce truth, or the lies of this world? To gird our loins with the truth of God’s word means that we will be prepared to stand firm in that truth and resist the lies produced by the world. Lies that get us into trouble every time. Lies that distract us from fulfilling God’s will in our lives. So, gird up, be ready with the truth, and then stand firm in it!  


V. 14 - Put on the breastplate of righteousness. This armor covers vital organs in our body, the heart, the lungs, etc... Righteousness is defined by Strongs as “doing what is right before God.” It’s a building term that means, “built according to the specifications of the blueprint.” God has a specific design for your life, and as you walk following that plan you will please Him and fulfill His plan in your life. Let this covering of righteousness strengthen our heart, protecting it. The doing of “good” is always a safeguard, whereas doing wrong destroys. Let it be the protection for the air that we breathe so that we can follow what God has for us.


V. 15 – Having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel. How do you approach sharing Christ with others? Jesus is the gospel message, the good news as Paul described Him being the peacemaker, making us one in Him. Jesus gave us access to the Father by His Spirit. We are to share this good news with those around us. So, be ready, as it says in 2 Timothy 4:2. As we are walking in that righteous plan God designed for us, there will be people in our path that He wants us to share the good news with. Strap on those shoes and be willing to walk ready!


In addition, Paul says, in V. 16 – Take up the shield of faith. You believe! Hold that faith up in front of you! Keep it ever before you. 1) it will show others; 2) it will protect from those flaming arrows of doubt, depression, and disfunction and evil sent our way. Our faith is built on who God is, what He has done, and so if that is always out in front of us, we will be able to stand firm because He is firm! He is our strength, and our faith reveals it! There will be plenty of flaming arrows shot our direction. Arrows meant to destroy that faith. But when we know (by His truth) who our God is, and what He is capable of, those arrows will be deflected every time. Our faith gives us strength to resist the evil in this world.


V. 17 – Take up the helmet of salvation. Our minds, the source of comprehension, need to be covered in the knowledge of our salvation. Remembering that it is IN CHRIST that we are saved. At salvation we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, we are indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We have been redeemed, restored, regenerated. All because we are in Christ. Let His mind be our covering. That covering for our mind, our very soul, is available by salvation.


V. 17 – Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. His word is our lifeline to understanding and knowing God, to knowing the battle plan, and how to implement it. His sword does the slicing away of any untruth, and it pierces the enemy where it hurts. We don’t have to stand firm and take the blows of the enemy unarmed. But as followers we tend to be pretty shabby soldiers, ill-prepared, and not knowing the very thing that could make us warriors rather than punching bags. Jesus, when He was confronted by Satan in the wilderness, always rebutted with the truth of God’s word. He knew it. He used it. And He won! If we are going to win the spiritual battles and skirmishes in our lives, we must be prepared by knowing the word of God. It’s the sword He has provided to slay the enemies’ attacks. Take it up. Read it. Learn it. It’s so much better to have a sharp sword in the heat of battle.


Paul goes on in the letter by asking these believers to pray at all times in the Spirit. Another reminder of what we saw back in 5:18 of being filled with Him. We must be in fellowship with the Spirit, and then as we pray in Him, we can know we are praying in alignment with God’s will because He and the Father are one, to be in fellowship with the Spirit is to be in fellowship with the Father and the Son.


Paul specifies that we are to pray for all the saints, all the time. How often do you pray for your brothers and sisters in the Lord? Here’s our reminder. We all have our battles. We all have our struggles. Let’s pray for one another. Pray for me. I will pray for you. Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition.


Each one of us are ambassadors of Christ. Soldiers in His army. We need to suit up in the armor He provides. When we do, there is nothing that can stop up, for nothing is impossible with God. Our faith will help us stand firm, it’s based on truth to firmly plant us.


Paul closes out the letter with reference to Tychicus, the “beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.” Oh, that we would be recognized as such, beloved and faithful ministers of what God has called us to do and be.

“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” You’ll note that love is in italics, meaning it’s not in the original text, but the translators put it in for flow.


Incorruptible is aphtharsia – one dictionary defined it as “a continuous state or process with the implication that the state or process in question is not interrupted by death – it’s unceasing, always eternally, undying, imperishable”. Another said, “rendered as ‘with undying love”.  Eternal love. That is how we are to love the Lord Jesus Christ. Incorruptible, allowing nothing to destroy or distract from it.


Our eternal life is based on God’s love for us. Salvation is steeped in love, and provided for by love – Because God is love. So, love Him back. Love is the word agaponton – we initiate the action to keep on, continuously, love Him. It’s a principle we need to live by moment by moment, for though the day may seem sunny, we walk into a world of darkness. We are in a spiritual battle. We are much more attuned to the physical, so the spiritual can sneak up on us. But if we are daily putting on the armor of God, and taking up the shield of faith, with sword of the Spirit, we will be ready for whatever he throws our way.


Walk on, Sister, in incorruptible love of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s got you covered! Step out in faith, and walk in the strength of His might!