Ephesians 4

ep4.jpgGreetings!

Unity in the Body of Christ

4     As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Unity is such an important theme and such a big challenge.  The key is to ensure we’re unified on the essentials of the faith – the deity of Christ, the  Trinity, the physical resurrection, the exclusivity of Jesus (i.e., He is the only way to salvation), etc.  We don’t have to agree on every minor point.  And we should be humble and gentle with each other when disagreeing.  I’m convicted by that as I write this!

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.”

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

This is an area in the U.S. churches where so many have derailed.  They didn’t do the hard work of study and so they believe all sorts of the enemies lies — including the false idea that we can’t know what is true.  False teachers who say that the Bible supports abortion and oxymoronic “same sex marriage,” among other things.  People who teach the fake prosperity gospel.  And so many others.

Living as Children of Light

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Anger can become sin and give Satan an entry into our lives.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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Ephesians 3

ep3.jpgGreetings!

Paul the Preacher to the Gentiles

3     For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

This was radical news for the many Jews but it should not have been.  There are many references in Isaiah and other portions of the Old Testament describing how salvation would come through the Jews for all people with faith in the true God.

Paul makes a clear claim that his words and teachings were divinely inpsired. 

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. 13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

It is a radical concept that we can approach our creator, the Lord of the universe, with freedom and confidence.  We should do so in a grateful way, of course.  His power is so overwhelming that it is hard to believe that He tells us to approach him this way.

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

What a unique prayer, that we would know the enormity of God’s love – a love that surpasses knowledge – and that we may be filled with the fulness of God.  These promises are so huge it is hard to comprehend them.

Ephesians 2

ep2.jpgGreetings!

Made Alive in Christ

2     As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians is so rich in meaning.  Verses 8-9 are worth committing to memory at a minimum.  In the seemingly endless debates about faith vs. works, this passage stands tall in clarity and importance, especially when you consider v. 10 as well.

We aren’t saved by our good works, we are saved in spite of our bad deeds (v. 1-3).  Even the “good” we did before salvation wasn’t that good, because it was for our glory, not God’s. 

God gives us the faith and the grace for our salvation.  We shouldn’t be proud about it, we should just rejoice. 

One in Christ

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Jesus brought us nes and destroyed the barrier between us and God.  We come to the Father through him.  It wasn’t by anything we did. 

It is amazing to think of how He took us from being enemies worthy of an eternity in Hell to being adopted as children with full rights in his household.  His grace didn’t just take away the punishment for our sins, it gives us so much that we didn’t deserve. 

God’s Spirit lives in us as believers, but too often we quench and grieve the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 1

ep1.jpgGreetings!

Ephesians

1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

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

It is easy to skip over the opening and closing statements, but I find it interesting to read them carefully sometimes.  Paul claims to be an Apostle, someone who encountered Christ directly and was chosen by him as a leader.  He refers to all believers as saints.

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

It is powerful to know that God chose Christians before the world was even created.  He has adopted us and is our Father.  He redeemed us — that is, he bought us back at a price — through the blood of Jesus.  He lavished his forgiveness on us.  He didn’t give it reluctantly. 

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

God is sovereign.  He has a plan and He is executing it.  We have been given the Holy Spirit and our inheritance as his children is guaranteed.  And all this brings him glory!

Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

I pray, too, that we may know him better each day and that we will be filled with the hope he has called us to.  We often chase worldly riches but God has already given us eternal riches.  May we focus on the eternal and not the temporary.

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Introduction to Ephesians

ep.jpgGreetings!

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus follows a similar format to many of his letters: First theology, then application.

This includes many passages referencing the concept of predestination.  There is no question that the Bible teaches the concept of predestination, but Christians are divided on whether it is God choosing us ahead of time or God knowing we’ll choose him.  I enjoy hearing from experts on both sides of the debate and see merits of both views.  There seems to be a natural tension here.  God is definitely sovereign and many passages, especially those in Ephesians, seem to me to support the unconditional election view (that God chooses us).  But I can’t ignore passages which speak of us making choices and my own experience of at least feeling like I was choosing (or was it an irresistable force?).

Either way, you can get so much out of Ephesians.  There are so many promises and reminders of all the good things we have in Christ and how He brought us back from the dead spiritually. 

Paul gives great advice on marriage and parenting.  Read it carefully! 

He closes with the classic passage about putting on the armor of God as we live our Christian lives.

Read it, be encouraged and put it into practice.

Proverbs 24

pr24.gifGreetings!  I always enjoy coming back to the Proverbs.

24     Do not envy wicked men,

do not desire their company;

2 for their hearts plot violence,

and their lips talk about making trouble.

 How many times do we envy those who mock God?  We shouldn’t envy anyone, let alone people who are unsaved. 

3 By wisdom a house is built,

and through understanding it is established;

4 through knowledge its rooms are filled

with rare and beautiful treasures.

5 A wise man has great power,

and a man of knowledge increases strength;

6 for waging war you need guidance,

and for victory many advisers.

I have erred many times by not asking advice from others, probably because I didn’t want to hear what they had to say.  But I would have been better off in the long run by listening to them.

7 Wisdom is too high for a fool;

in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say.

8 He who plots evil

will be known as a schemer.

9 The schemes of folly are sin,

and men detest a mocker.

10 If you falter in times of trouble,

how small is your strength!

11 Rescue those being led away to death;

hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”

does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?

Does not he who guards your life know it?

Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;

honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.

14 Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul;

if you find it, there is a future hope for you,

and your hope will not be cut off.

15 Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house,

do not raid his dwelling place;

16 for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again,

but the wicked are brought down by calamity.

17 Do not gloat when your enemy falls;

when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,

18 or the Lord will see and disapprove

and turn his wrath away from him.

19 Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of the wicked,

20 for the evil man has no future hope,

and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

If we keep an eternal perspective we won’t be as troubled by evil people today.

21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,

and do not join with the rebellious,

22 for those two will send sudden destruction upon them,

and who knows what calamities they can bring?

Further Sayings of the Wise 23 These also are sayings of the wise:

To show partiality in judging is not good:

24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent”—

peoples will curse him and nations denounce him.

25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,

and rich blessing will come upon them.

Sometimes people just think of justice as the innocent being set free, but God also loves when justice is done to those who are guilty.

26 An honest answer

is like a kiss on the lips.

Sometimes we are tempted to tell friends what they want to hear instead of the truth, but the honest answers always work out best. 

27 Finish your outdoor work

and get your fields ready;

after that, build your house.

28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause,

or use your lips to deceive.

29 Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me;

I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”

30 I went past the field of the sluggard,

past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;

31 thorns had come up everywhere,

the ground was covered with weeds,

and the stone wall was in ruins.

32 I applied my heart to what I observed

and learned a lesson from what I saw:

33 A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit

and scarcity like an armed man.

Many people are poor through no fault of their own, but many more made bad decisions and are suffering the consequences. 

 The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Psalm 66

ps66.jpgGreetings!  Praising God is a great start to putting our minds in proper perspective.  When we don’t acknowledge who He is and what He has done then it is hard to have everything else in line.

This does convict me though in that I’m a poor singer and am not the most demonstrative in church.  I do want to focus my attitude more on joyful worship of him.

Verse 18 points out that if we cherish sin in our hearts that God may not hear our prayers. 

Psalm 66

For the director of music. A song. A psalm.

1 Shout with joy to God, all the earth!

2 Sing the glory of his name;

make his praise glorious!

3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!

So great is your power

that your enemies cringe before you.

4 All the earth bows down to you;

they sing praise to you,

they sing praise to your name.” Selah

5 Come and see what God has done,

how awesome his works in man’s behalf!

6 He turned the sea into dry land,

they passed through the waters on foot—

come, let us rejoice in him.

7 He rules forever by his power,

his eyes watch the nations—

let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah

8 Praise our God, O peoples,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

9 he has preserved our lives

and kept our feet from slipping.

10 For you, O God, tested us;

you refined us like silver.

11 You brought us into prison

and laid burdens on our backs.

12 You let men ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water,

but you brought us to a place of abundance.

13 I will come to your temple with burnt offerings

and fulfill my vows to you—

14 vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke

when I was in trouble.

15 I will sacrifice fat animals to you

and an offering of rams;

I will offer bulls and goats. Selah

16 Come and listen, all you who fear God;

let me tell you what he has done for me.

17 I cried out to him with my mouth;

his praise was on my tongue.

18 If I had cherished sin in my heart,

the Lord would not have listened;

19 but God has surely listened

and heard my voice in prayer.

20 Praise be to God,

who has not rejected my prayer

or withheld his love from me!

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.