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Category Archives: Ephesians

Ephesians 1:9-11

God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.
Ephesians 1:9-11

Dear God, there are times when I doubt that Paul was right. It’s been 2,000 years, and I have a difficult time seeing how you are bringing “everything together under the authority of Christ.” Frankly, I think Paul would be shocked to know 2,000 years have passed and Jesus hasn’t returned in a way that Paul envisioned he would.

With that said, I do believe that you have your “own good plan.” I do believe that you ultimately want us to all be in relationship with you somehow. I believe you want to love us. I believe you want to grow us and even stretch us. I believe you want to make me better. That’s the interesting thing about your plan. It appears to be macro and micro at the same time. In fact, it actually seems to be more micro than macro—at least from my perspective, which is very limited. What I mean by micro is that you care about me individually and while you are not necessarily about my comfort and luxury, you are about growth. You are about refining me. I prayed the other day that I wanted you to break me, melt me, mold me and fill me. It’s the breaking, melting, and molding that are hard. And to do it you need the hammer, the fire, and the rough power of the potter’s hands. But when my vessel is ready, you can fill me. In fact, you find a way to fill me even when you haven’t completed me yet.

Father, those words are from a praise chorus called “Spirit of the Living God.” I pray that song now: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Break me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2021 in Ephesians

 

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Ephesians 2:8-10

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:8-10

Dear God, “masterpiece?” That’s a little generous of the NLT translators. The NASB calls us your workmanship. The NIV says handiwork. The translation must be difficult to find a direct correlation in English. But let’s at least say that we are a particular pet project for you, you paid close attention to what you were doing when you formed and engaged with us, and you do good work. In this case, your plan for redeeming us and creating us new and in Jesus’s image is good so we should maybe consider it an honor to be let of it and take up the responsibility that comes with being the subject of your affection and redemption.

I’ve been fairly disengaged from you this last week. Not totally. It’s been hit and miss. But you certainly have not been my first love. I have not loved you with all of my soul, heart, and strength.

Father, I embrace the idea that what you have done for me through Jesus is a masterpiece. I take no credit for it or anything good in my life. You are my God. I and yours. I will worship you, follow you, and submit my own gain for yours.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 4:29-32

29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Dear God, I’m back from vacation, and I’m having trouble revving back up to speed. Tomorrow is work, but today is housekeeping items that need to be handled. Frankly, it’s (theoretically) a nice way to ease back into things, but I’m not wanting to. I just want to stay disengaged. Being disengaged, spending money indiscriminately on vacation without worrying about where it comes from, and living for myself each day can be pretty addictive, although I know it leads to emptiness. One, the money will obviously run out at some point, but, beyond the obvious, it’s just important that I die to myself and live for you. There is nothing but emptiness at the bottom of my own life if that is all I pursue.

I guess I’m putting all of this beside this passage (which came from Bible Gateway’s “Verse of the Day”) because 1.) it’s what’s on my heart, but 2.) because this is about how I engage with the world. What kind of ambassador am I for you? What will I do on your behalf to be a blessing to others? What kind of home will I provide in my heart to the Holy Spirit? Will I grieve you.

Father, I want to end this prayer by simply worshipping you. That’s where it all starts. Hallowed be your name. You are my God. You are the God who demands I drop all of my other gods for you, and that starts with the god of myself. I worship you as my savior. My hope. My redemption. My purpose. My master. I worship you as the creator of the universe, the author of good things in this earth, and the lover of my soul. Thank you for loving me. I am so sorry for failing to love you in the ways you deserve.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 2:11-22

Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:11-22

Dear God, I’ve read this passage countless times, but I don’t think I’ve every really appreciated how anti-racist Paul was in his message. He was taking this to Gentiles. All Gentiles.

A couple of days ago, my wife and I were talking about how the great Babylonian exile among the Israelites ultimately marked the end of idol worship for them. They were always falling into idol worship with the surrounding nations, but they stopped after that. That terrible exile seems to have purged it from them. I asked her this morning if it was because the nations that conquered them (Babylon, Rome, etc.) didn’t worship idols, but instead worshiped the men in charge as their god and maybe that was just a step too far for them. Maybe it was.

I bring all of that up here because after I read this passage this morning I all of a sudden juxtaposed Paul’s message of the welcoming all other nationalities into Christianity and even watering down some of the requirements like unclean food and circumcision to accomplish it, and the Old Testaments’ warnings of getting too close to and intermingling with foreigners. What Jesus brought was truly paradigm shifting. It was your love built for the whole world.

Father, thank you for building a bridge between you and me through Jesus. Thank you for giving me something better than an idol or a man to worship. I am sorry for the idols I set up in my life. I’m sorry for worshipping money and what I perceive as financial security. I’m sorry for worshiping what I think my children’s lives should be or what paths they should take. I’m sorry for worshiping the destiny I want for myself and putting that before my worship of you. I’m sorry for my selfishness. I’m sorry for sinning against you. Please forgive me, and thank you.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Solomon: What Went Wrong?

Dear God, I’m preaching tomorrow at the local Presbyterian church and I will be using the verses that I’ve been journaling on over the last week from 1 Kings 3, Ephesians 5, and John 6. Certainly a pattern emerged (I’m sure those who chose these passages for the Presbyterian Church intended for there to be some synergy between them). I suppose I could say the executive summary is that a scared young man who was overwhelmed by his situation (which was orchestrated by his mother, Bathsheba, on his behalf against David’s oldest remaining son) had a vision from you and he showed some real insight by asking you for wisdom. But in reading what happened next, one almost has to wonder if you did the right thing by giving it to him because the wisdom made him very successful, but it also led him away from you.

I think there were two main things that were Solomon’s downfall: power and women.

Power: Quite simply, he got to where he didn’t need you and his priority eventually became amassing more and more wealth and power. He forced those from previously conquered peoples to be slaves (1 Kings 9:15-21) and he made the Israelite men his military and government officials (1 Kings 9:22-23). He forgot about the 1,000 years since your promise to Abraham and everything that had been done by you and through the faithfulness of others to you over the generations. He forgot about your command to stay loyal to you and not worship other gods (1 Kings 9:6-9). Simply put, he got fat and happy.

Women: This one is complicated, and I have a feeling it involves what he learned from his dad, to some extent. After all, I’m sure he knew the whole story about how his mother came to be David’s wife. He knew how his father abused his power as king to rape his mother, kill her husband, and eventually add her to his haram. He knew how his half brother raped his half sister and David did nothing about it. Eventually, he ended up with 700 wives and 300 concubines (the only difference I can see between them is that the wives were of royal birth and the concubines weren’t). And going back to the power angle, because the wives were from the surrounding nations that God warned them about, it appears as if he married many of the 700 wives (the wives of royal birth, or princesses) to form alliances and consolidate his power so he would not have to devote resources to military, but instead focus them on his personal gain and ease of life.

So eventually, Solomon turned his heart from you, Father. He let the ease of life lull him wandering away. He let the excitement of these relationships with the myriad of women dilute his faith in you. He was joining with them in body and instead of insisting that they leave their idols and worship you, he joined many of them in their worship of other things.

So that’s Solomon. Now, what about Ephesians 5 and John 6? How do they fit into this? Well, obviously Paul is talking about wisdom in Ephesians Paul gives us a pretty basic instruction in Ephesians 5:15-20: Make the most of every opportunity. Act thoughtfully/intentionally, seeking what you want me to do. Avoid things that promote escaping reality like wine/drugs, but be filled with the Holy Spirit. Sing to you by myself and with others. Thank you for everything.

Then there’s Jesus in John 6. True bread from you is Jesus and what he gave us through his life (teaching), death, and resurrection. Jesus is the bread, and he also instructed us to ask you for our daily bread–our daily dose of Jesus. Our provision for our physical needs, but also our continual dependence upon you for our emotional stability and purposeful growth and actions.

So what do we do to make sure we are pursuing our daily bread being filled by the Holy Spirit and avoiding the things that encourage us to escape reality and numb ourselves to the needs around us and what you are calling us to do? Well, I think that can be different for everyone to some extent. The general things are there. Daily time in prayer and scripture of some sort. Daily time worshiping you. Surrounding ourselves with a community of people who are like-minded in their worship of you. That’s not to say all of my friends have to be Christians, but certainly the ones I lean on the most should be. It’s looking for the opportunities you call us to to serve others.

Father, help me to not only take all of this and put it into a format that communicates effectively in the morning. Help me to live it out as well. Help me to live it out before you. Help me to live it out in my marriage and my family. Help me to live it out in my work and in my service to others. Help me to not focus on protecting what I have, but instead using what I have to help others. Do all of this so that my life would be part of your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2021 in 1 Kings, Ephesians, John

 

Ephesians 5:15-20

Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:15-20

Dear God, I just can’t live an effective life when I have shame. That’s what I thought after I read this passage and then I went back and read the verses before this about darkness and the evil things being brought to light. There have been times in my life when I’ve been ashamed of my actions. I’ve felt the weight of that shame. I’ve felt the need to hide my deed and hope no one finds out. In fact, I still think about something I did when I was 18 that no one know about but you. I’m grateful you know. I’m grateful you forgive me.

It’s interesting he mentions alcohol here. I actually have a few different friends right now (four or five) who are in the middle of separations and divorce proceedings because of one spouse’s alcohol addiction. Isn’t it funny how nearly every story I hear about someone getting their life back together starts with, “I got sober/clean”? But there are certainly other things we can use to escape reality and avoid the responsibilities of life you’ve given us. TV. Religion/church. Meditation. I was talking with a provider in our clinic about a patient who is an absolute mess both physically and emotionally. She talks about you all of the time, but it’s like she’s invoking your name to just solve everything. In the line between living by faith and living in denial, she is way over the line into denial. Then I heard a story last night of a woman who’s obviously mentally ill. She had an accident going 120 mph through a red light without holding onto the wheel. She had her 11-yr-old with her. She told the officer she was testing her faith in you and she didn’t seem to have any regrets. Yes, mentally, she has crossed way over into the denial of reality and her responsibility in life.

Father, help me to identify anything that gets in the way of being truly filled by the Spirit and then doing the things the Spirit asks me to do. Help me to easily see the times when I cross the line between living by faith and living in denial. Just help me to be the man you need me to be, and forgive me for when I fail because I do fail, and I am sorry.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

In Jesu

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 3:20

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20

Dear God, when I read this verse this morning my first thought was, “So I wonder what I’m failing to ask for.”

I heard recently that Warren Buffett has a rule of 5/25. Basically, the idea is to list your top 25 lite goals, narrow it down to the top 5 priorities for you, and then forget about the other 20. I’m probably screwing that up, but it’s the basic idea. The theory is that you probably only have time to really accomplish five significant things in life, so don’t be distracted by the things that are less important to you and focus on those top five. I haven’t done this exercise since I read about it, but it seemed like an interesting idea. I guess I would caution anyone to develop their 5/25 list with a lot of care, examining it through the lens of the two great commandments (love you with all our soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourself), starting each item with the question, “Is this about my glory or God’s?”

Father, I have an early meeting today in which I will be working with others to start the process of visioning and planning for the future for our nonprofit. Guide us in this. Show us what we are failing to see. Holy Spirit, inspire us to tap fully into you and give us your vision for the needs you want us to meet. Help us to give our utmost for your highest.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 6:1-4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4

Dear God, I just had a thought I probably shouldn’t have had: “Sorry, Paul, but I don’t take parenting advice from people with no children.” I mean, what he’s saying is correct and important, but the people who seem to think parenting is easy are the ones with no children. I certainly thought it was easier before I had children. And I thought I would be better at it.

What’s interesting for me now is that parenting has humbled me in ways that probably nothing else could. Now, I’m the last person to give parenting advice to someone, and I’m the first one to be an understanding ear when a parent needs to talk about their frustrations. And I was telling a friend just yesterday about the period of time when I was really disappointed in you and what I perceived was a lack of support on your part. I did all of the things I knew to do, including following Paul’s counsel in this passage, but things did not turn out like I hoped. I knew I wouldn’t be the perfect parent, and I knew my children wouldn’t be perfect people, but I thought there would be a baseline of protection that my prayers, pursuit of you, and deep involvement in loving them would provide. But that’s not the way it worked out.

Father, the last 25 years of parenting have taught me more about faith and believing in things I cannot see than anything else could have. And I’ve started to see some movement. I’ve started to see some signs that this is the road that leads to your kingdom coming and your will being done in my life, my children’s lives, my wife’s life, and the world as it is in heaven. Thank you for breaking me down and building me back up in this way. Thank you for what you are doing that I can see and that I cannot see. Please help me to do exactly what you need me to do as a parent of two young adults so that I won’t get in the way of what you are trying to teach them. I’m willing to sacrifice anything fir their good, no matter what it might cost me personally.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 3:8-19

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored. When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 3:8-19

Dear God, this is another of those passages where the translators and publishers put in section breaks that obscure greater depth in the passage’s meaning. I want to spend some time with these verses this morning and link Paul’s thoughts together as one as opposed to the two sections the publishers of the New Living Translation (NLT) divided them into.

He graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.

So let me start here. What are the endless treasures? How would I describe them? I suppose they would have to start with the cutting of the cord between me and the shame of my sin. That’s what the mercy you offer through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection gives us. Then, when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, the most precious one to me is peace. Of course, the other fruits are just as important: love, joy, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, self control. Those are treasures beyond compare. Then there’s one thing that is incredibly powerful that I just realized is not considered to be a fruit of the Spirit. I think it’s just a fact of something we have in you: hope. My faith brings me hope. Hope that there is something happening beyond what I can see with my physical eyes. Hope that I can count on an ultimate existence in your presence for eternity. Hope that there is something happening in your plan that is bigger than what might benefit me or play out the way I think it should play out. No, the treasures aren’t earthly treasures of wealth, comfort, or pleasure (notice pleasure is NOT a fruit of the Spirit). It’s so much more than that.

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

Okay, I do not remember seeing this before. Your plan for us as your church is to show the unseen rulers in heavenly places your wisdom? I wanted to see this in some different translations. Here is what The Message said: Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gather in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! The New American Standard was pretty close to the NLT: …so that the multifaceted wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. So there is something to this. We are part of your display to all of your creation, both what we can see with our human eyes, and what we cannot see. How is this working for you? Are we, as a church, making you look foolish? When we lose our first love, do you put your figurative head in your hands and think, “What have I done?”

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Paul was very in tune with the Holy Spirit and his role in our lives. Jesus left us the Holy Spirit to be our counselor and comforter–to be his presence with us–and Paul always remembered this. It always seems to lead me back to the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I’m so glad we have that list from him. But the roots are only developed if they are nurtured, the soil is tended and weeded, and we remain in your presence.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love it. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes fromod.

Father, it starts and ends with these amazing treasures made available to me through Jesus. And this ultimate treasure is the ability to get a glimpse of your love for me and draw closer to you through giving your roots the environment they need to grow in my heart. Your love brings me so many wonderful things. And your relationship with us is so interesting because it seems to bring you something as well. You are a wondrous, marvelous God, and I am grateful for the opportunity to get to worship and know you. Help me to remember and be motivated to take the treasures that are of you and give them to others.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2021 in Ephesians

 

Ephesians 5:21-27

Out of your reverence for Christ, be supportive of each other in love. For wives, this means being devoted to your husbands like you are tenderly devoted to our Lord, for the husband provides leadership for the wife, just as Christ provides leadership for his church, as the Savior and Reviver of the body. In the same way, the church is devoted to Christ, let wives be devoted to their husband in everything.

And to husband, you are to demonstrate love for your wives with the same tender devotion that Christ demonstrated to us, his bride. For he died for us, sacrificing himself to make us holly and pure, cleansing us through the showering of the pure water of the Word of God. All that he does in us is designed to make us a mature church for his pleasure, until we become a source of praise to him–glorious and radiant, beautiful and holy, without fault or flaw.

Ephesians 5:21-27 (Passion Translation)

Dear God, I’ll be reading these verses in front of those gathered on Saturday to see my niece marry her fiancé. On the one hand, these are incredibly beautiful verses about the love between a husband and a wife as well as our love relationship with you. On the other, those who are paranoid can see this as dangerous, un-woke propaganda.

The part about husbands leading wives can be very controversial. What is often missed by those people, however, is the commands for the husbands. It’s a tall ask.

  • Live up to the standard of Jesus himself.
  • Sacrifice yourself completely to make your wife holy and pure.
  • Cleanse her through showering her with your Word.

If I can live up to that, there is probably not much my wife wouldn’t want to do for me. But it has to be done in humility as well. Done in a showy or demonstrative way will only serve to make her feel condemned and inferior. The opposite of what Jesus did was make those who loved him feel condemned.

Father, even this evening, help me to be exactly what you need me to be for my wife. Each couple who brings their marriage before you gets to figure out how they will live out these verses. For me, I think what you keep getting me to learn just a little more each day is that my life as a husband and as a father is more about what my wife needs from her husband and my children need from their father than about what I need from them. I’m still not there. There are still things I tend to think I deserve from the relationships I have with them, but there is nothing I deserve. You have already given me more than I deserve. I just pray that my actions will lead those I love into closer relationship with you regardless of what it costs me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2021 in Ephesians