Tag Archives: ephesians

Together (Ephesians 2)

I’m doing a devotional right now about peace, and Ephesians 2:10 was used in one of the devotional entries:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Paul was talking to the Gentiles in Ephesians in this chapter.  Encouraging them because they felt like outsiders.  But that Christ’s blood has unified them with the God of the Jews, giving them hope, making them heirs to the promises and covenants of God.

But as I kept reading, this verse jumped out to me:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-15

And my heart breaks. 

In this particular passage, Paul is talking about the Gentiles and the Jews, but even today, our world is still split into us and them.  Anger and vitriol are spewed across social media feeds.  Fear feeds into a need for control, and conversations warp into misunderstandings and hurt feelings, continuing a cycle of fear.

Being a type 9, I hate conflict and confrontation, and honestly, I have to be really intentional with my online interactions, especially right now with stress levels already high because of the pandemic.  I have to filter my news intake and watch my stress levels, do copious amounts of self-care like meditation, exercise, eating well, and getting healthy amounts of sleep before I even think about engaging the world right now.

But there is hope.  Christ knows we are a split world.  His sacrifice was a catalyst for unification, not division.  He is a beacon of justice, redemption, and forgiveness.  He is a model of balance, peace, and faith.  Even though the world feels like it’s ending, Christ is there to remind me that the chaos is just a distraction from our calling to love one another. 

So, take a deep breath.  Breathe in Love God.  Breathe out Love Others.  And remember Jesus is coming soon, morning, night, or noon.  He is in control, and he will bring ultimate peace.

Summer Study: Ephesians 6

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We’ve come to the end of the Ephesians study.  Chapter 6 has some pretty memorable and quoted verses.  I remember learning the different parts of the Armor of God when I was a kid.  I also remember using “Father’s don’t exasperate your children” as a teenager with my dad.  But as I was reading the chapter as a whole, I realized a neat transition that I hadn’t noticed before in this verse.

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If I could re-chapter the book of Ephesians, I would start with 5:21 and go through 6:12.  Paul was talking about relationships – wives and husbands, children and parents, even masters and slaves.  And in verse 12, this is why we should submit to one another, why children should obey and fathers shouldn’t exasperate, why masters and slaves should serve wholeheartedly and remember who the true Master is.

We are at war.

And we are still at war.

Marriages are under attack.  Abuse is prevalent in our families, our relationships, our work environments.  There is so much in-fighting that we forget we have a much bigger battle to fight.

I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but someone recently was talking about the series, how there were these five families that keep fighting over this throne, fighting and killing one another, and all the while winter is coming.  There is a bigger force that is just beyond the wall.  And they need to work together to defeat this coming assault, but they haven’t been able to rise above the infighting.  And because of this, it’s quite possible that they will all fail.

The difference between that story and our story is that this war has already been won.  Jesus defeated the darkness by dying on the cross and rising again that third day.  In the end, we win.  But that doesn’t mean evil isn’t active in our world today.  We are just so caught up in our own customized need to be right that we forget the havoc that is right over that wall, headed our way.

When you face your demons, whether that’s addiction or loss or cancer or something you don’t even see coming, you gotta have your community.  We weren’t meant to fight these things alone, no matter how the other side tries to convince us we are isolated, God brings it to light that we are not.

At the end of the chapter, Paul names the tools our community can put on for protection against the evil that will come – truth, salvation, faith, the gospel of peace, righteousness. And the only offensive tool in our arsenal is the sword of the Spirit.  We allow the Spirit to fight these battles.  We pray in the Spirit “on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”.

We keep our head up.  Be alert.  Stop fighting each other and start protecting each other, especially those you don’t completely agree with.  Bring forth a solidarity that can only come through the Spirit of God.  Start fighting the evil in this world that longs to make us feel less than and alone.

Don’t be Jonah, waiting on the side of the mountain for God to smite the heathens.  Be the one in the streets, spreading love and mercy to those who are aching to listen.

Summer Study: Ephesians 5

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The chapter starts out with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for the people of Ephesus.  Don’t have a hint of sexual immorality or impurity.  Don’t engage in obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.  Don’t get drunk on wine.  Do speak with Thanksgiving.  Do make the most of every opportunity.  Live wisely.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Speak to others with psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart.

Don’t get distracted by the darkness.  Instead, live as a child of the light.

I struggle with the feeling of being left out.  It’s actually its own acronym now – FOMO, fear of missing out.  I want to be engaged in what’s going on around me.  I want to be reading the books, watching the movies, listening to the podcasts or music that are popular.  I want to know every word to every song that plays on the radio because I love to sing along.

And this FOMO can get me distracted by the darkness.  I’m not saying that every TV show, song, book or podcast is coming from the devil.  I actually think it is a balance for each person to decide on their own.  And if I trust the Holy Spirit is working within me, then I can trust that the Holy Spirit is working in others to help make that discernment.  This is not a place of judgment, but an opportunity to tap into the gift that is the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where your distraction may be.

Because we are supposed to live differently than who we were before.

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Can I trust God to give me a life that is fulfilled?  Or do I try to find that fulfillment on my own?

And then, the chapter turns to submission.  I’ve heard preachers in the past say that while it does say that wives submit to their husbands, it also talks about husbands laying down their lives for their wives.  And the verse right before all of that says that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  So the question that comes to me there is…

Can I trust God with my relationships?  Or do I try to control them so I don’t get hurt?  Can I depend on God enough that I don’t depend on others too much?  We are made for relationship with each other, but God needs to be the center, the fulcrum of that relationship.

Jesus was fully present in the lives of the people around him.  He had deep relationships, healthy relationships with his friends and followers.  He is the example of a good friend.  And yet, his relationships weren’t perfect.  His closest friend, Peter, denied him when he needed him most.  But Jesus trusted God with all things, even his relationships, and after he resurrected, he was able to redeem that relationship.

Trusting God doesn’t mean that we will never miss out on opportunities or that we will have perfect relationships.  But it does mean that His promises to us will be fulfilled.  It means that we don’t have to navigate this world or this life alone.  It means that He won’t forsake us and that He will guide us every step of the way.

Summer Study: Ephesians 4

I’m studying the book of Ephesians this summer.  Click here for Chapter 1Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

 

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I try not to get too political on my blog.  There are definitely things I feel strongly about when it comes to politics, but I also feel like in this climate, not much is heard clearly and too much is being said.

This chapter in Ephesians talked about unity, something we desperately need in the church, maybe even in our country, but I want to focus on the church because that’s what Paul is talking about.  Starting in verse 14, he says:

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.  Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

I’ve seen people talk about the truth without love, and I’ve seen people talk about love without truth.  It makes me realize that this is a time for discerning, not in some legalistic way, but in a way that speaks towards growing up in Christ.  If I’m not becoming like Christ more each day, then I’m just chasing after the latest blog or podcast that makes me feel something, letting my emotions guide me instead of the Spirit.

I’m not saying that you can’t be led by the Spirit through a blog article or a podcast, but I’m saying that even these good things can become an idol.

In this same line of thought, Paul talks about the things these Ephesians needed to let go of in order to be in Christ, to “be made new in the attitude of your minds.”

The two things that stood out to me the most were the “in your anger do not sin” and “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.”  So I want to unpack that a bit.

He mentions anger twice in this chapter.  First, in verse 26 and 27 and then also in verse 31.  He doesn’t say that anger is a sin.  Anger is a response to injustice.  It is very much needed in our world.  But allowing anger to take hold of you, to root down deep and grow into bitterness, rage, even brawling and slander, that’s where it gets dangerous.

When I lost my daughters, I was never angry at God, but I was angry.  I have been angry at a society that doesn’t recognize the pain that pregnancy loss brings.  I have been angry at the thoughtlessness of other people’s comments or actions that heap coals on already suffering women.  And when I don’t let go of that anger, bitterness roots in deep and vomits out of my mouth in slews of judgment and pettiness.  It’s not pretty, folks.  And that kind of anger can divide.  I know why Paul mentions it twice.

Then he talked about the unwholesome talk, which I always thought was about profanity, but the second half of that verse talks about something different:

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.

This isn’t about profanity.  This is about being critical without kindness, gossiping and venting to other people, talking without the expectation to listen.  It’s helping others according to their needs, not yours.  It’s a humble way of having a conversation. It isn’t about how right you are, it’s about helping a person who is already ready to listen. How many times have we seen on social media the back and forth vitriol that never seems to amount to anything more than an unfollow or unfriend?

And also, just as a side note, sharing the crazy to talk about how crazy it is to friends who already know that it’s crazy doesn’t seem to be helpful or building up anyone in particular.  It just seems to be meant to tear everyone down, and again, divide us into groups who are yelling into the ether with no real desire to listen to one another at all.

This chapter really convicted me this week, and for this week, I’m going to use the last verse as my mantra wherever I go.  I hope you will do this with me.  I have it in the picture below that you can print off and tape to your mirror, which is what I’m going to do.  Let’s be people of unity, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness this week so we can grow more into the image of our big brother, Jesus.

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Summer Study: Ephesians 3

I’m studying the book of Ephesians this summer.  Click here for Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

Ephesians 3

I felt like this chapter was a transitional chapter.  Up to this point, Paul has been telling the church how rich God’s grace is.  In the first half of chapter 3, he continues this topic, but then ends the chapter with a prayer of unity for Ephesus, that they experience the riches of grace from God and the love of Christ within their church.

I can’t imagine what the Gentiles of the early church must have felt when they heard Paul say things like, “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.”  That, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

On one side, there were Jews telling them that they had a bunch of hoops to jump through, and on the other, the gods of the pagans were unreachable.  Here, Paul is telling them that they can have a closeness, an acceptance from a God through faith in a man who conquered death, without strings attached.  That this relationship was foretold by prophets and apostles.

They were being introduced to the love of God through the faith in Jesus Christ by the words of the apostle Paul. This love sparked a religious and cultural revolution, that spread to the far reaches of the earth, that eventually landed among my ancestors and was passed down from generation to generation through the church to the glory of Christ.  And Paul speaks into that at the end of this chapter.

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And that’s just simply beautiful to me.

Summer Study: Ephesians 1

This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection.  But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.

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Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome.  One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone.  In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes.  In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy.  In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him.  And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas.  Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.

The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:

In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1: 7-8a

That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it.  As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word.  Lavish is such a luxurious word.  I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else.  But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek.  The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.

It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over.  Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin.  It surpasses it.  And then I got giddy.  Because you know what that means?

I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God.  The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt.  His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.

Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2).  We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin.  We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin.  But God did purchase us in our sin.  In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession.  And that seal is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.

Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me.  You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier.  But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14).  The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.

And that really sticks it to the Devil.  No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God.  In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.

The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions.  We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).

How cool is that?

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