Category Archives: Ephesians

Joshua 11; Psalm 144; Jeremiah 5; Matthew 19

God instructs Joshua to decimate his enemies: hamstring the horses and strike down every breathing enemy–man, woman and child. It’s a blood bath…  the stuff of nightmares. These pages of the Bible leave me with far more questions about God than answers. Where is the God of grace and mercy that I cling to? But who is God if I disregard these pages? I am made in God’s image, not He in mine.

And what would Joshua think of the sanitized bubble that I live in? Perhaps he would be envious; war and violence are realities on television and far from me. Perhaps he would be appalled at my comfortable, complacent living.

David, also a man of war saw the horrors of war first hand and sings this: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues the people under me… I will sing a new song to you, O God; upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you, the one who gives victory to kings, who rescues his servant David.” Psalm 144:1,2…9,10.

It’s no wonder that the Jews didn’t understand Jesus. They were looking for a warrior king whose hands were dripping with blood and taking revenge. Instead, comes a king who says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” Matthew 19:14  They wanted a kingdom that they could see, a kingdom where they would be in power.

Who is this God we serve? He can wipe nations from the face of the earth and yet calls the youngest and weakest to draw near to him. Are we are in a spiritual war that is just as deadly and God spares us the horrors of seeing all that is going on around us? Paul says as much and repeats the message God spoke to Joshua and the people of Israel: “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12.

Dear Lord, keep me from being complacent and naive in thinking that what I see is all that is going on. May I be ready and not deceived by the evil one. Heal me from distraction and chasing from false idols so that I may be your woman and follow hard after you. 

Kathy

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Num. 25; Ps. 68; Isa. 15; 1 Pet. 3

Would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives… Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3

In lieu of the current-day statistics on marriage, the good news is there’s a 100% chance of success in marriage! A rather bold statement in light of how marriage is portrayed today in the world. I know that 100% sounds extreme, but it is possible! How? Because our God made marriage and He never makes or designs anything to fail! Nor does He make anyone to fail. God speaks to us throughout His word in various forms, but nowhere more clearly and direct, than in 1 Peter 3, which speaks to both men and women about His perfect plan for covenant relationship. And, just like in Ephesians 5, men and women are given specific instructions to submit to one another in the fear of God, then continues with specific instructions to each on their responsibility.

So, if the “manual” tells us what to do, why do so many Christian men and a women fail to fulfill their God-given calling as husband and wife? Why is the divorce rate of Christians and non-Christians virtually the same? The answer is simple… 18”! The distance between the head and the heart… it’s the distance between the knowing and the doing, as many Christians have chosen to ignore or reject God’s perfect plan for marriage into their hearts. Head knowledge offers a mental perspective of God’s plan, however it is in the heart where true relationship with God resides and actions have the best chance of survival.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Other factors are at work, as well, which threaten God’s plan for marriage… contemporary attitudes towards marriage have distorted God’s architecture of mutual submission to mean something negative, using descriptors such as dominated, oppressed, and dictatorial instead of the divine expression of God’s love and understanding for His children and how they innately function in the context of relationship.

Jimmy Evans, in his book “Marriage on the Rock,” stated that of the scriptures related to relationship, couples love Ephesians 5 because of what it says about their partners responsibility to relationship, not their own! Perhaps the answer to living according to God’s plan lies in considering what scripture says about ourselves first, and inviting God into the process of holding us accountable to our roles, and let Him handle the rest. Man… Woman… God… three strands… not easily broken!

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

God, who made us, understands completely that the innate need of a woman is security and to be loved, and for a man, to be respected and honored… both 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5 speak to this directly. Interestingly, women are not commanded to love their husbands, rather to submit to their husbands… to understand and support them, as that is the language that speaks to men! Men? 1 Peter and Ephesians 5 use different language on what you’re to do… the command for men is to love their wives, as Christ loved the church, who gave Himself up for her… to live with her in an understanding way. Different approach… different language… same origin… SACRIFICE for each other, using the language of your partner! Isn’t He amazing? God knew what He was doing and His design is perfect! God’s plan isn’t meant to harm us… QUITE the contrary. God’s plan, at its foundation, is to protect us… it’s the instructions on how to penetrate brokenness and speak deep within our partner’s heart.

Perhaps, if things aren’t going so well relationally, prayers aren’t being answered, it might be worth considering a different approach… How about God’s plan for marriage… so that our prayers may not be hindered.

So… a quick question… (answer honestly!)…

If you were accused of “acting like a Christian _____ (husband/wife)”, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty as charged?

Father, in our humanness, we often forget that You designed us… and who better than You to guide us how best to live as husband and wife. Lord, soften our hearts to adopt Your way as the only way to live this life in relationship as husbands and wives, so that our actions towards one another are a tangible expression of You living within us. Amen!

Greg (gstefanelli)

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Exodus 34; John 13; Proverbs 10; Ephesians 3

I looked to the past for the key. But because of the estrangement and the years, I had no answer. How many generations did it go back? One. Two. Three? More?

“Yahweh! The Lord!
    The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger
    and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
    I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
    I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
    even children in the third and fourth generations.” Exodus 34:6b-7, NLT

I wanted something different for my children. I told them of a better way. I told them of the woes to come if they continued on a path. They saw my struggle. How could I impress upon them the power of love when my own heart was guarded? The question haunted me.

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35, NLT

God breaks strongholds. He takes impossible situations and he brings good out of them. I sat at my sister’s hospital bedside days ago. I spoke encouragement to her, told her she is a fighter. In a moment of clarity, she said to me, “God is always fighting for us, and he lets us think we’re the warriors!”

Her words are treasure. I laughed and cried with joy at her insight. Oh, God, you are mighty. Dear God, you are good.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.

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. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT.

The power of love, at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus, through all generations. Forever and ever. Amen.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

I may be a bit morbid, but I think a lot about the living and the dead. On one level I am asking the ageless questions about who lives and who dies and why. These questions pave the path of pain that leaves a jagged swatch of loss I cannot conceal. If you know me well, you have sat with me during those times of grief. On a deeper level I am wrestling with existential crisis questions such as the meaning and purpose in this life. These thoughts are universal.

In John 12:1 we read, “Then, six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.” How fitting that Jesus would be in the house of the man who had tasted death and returned to life after three days!” Perhaps Jesus thought of His own imminent physical death by crucifixion. Can you imagine how that memory of seeing Lazarus walk from the cave into the light and now sitting next to him impacted Christ? Was this inspiration for Jesus to prophecy His own death?  Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain,” (John 12:23). The souls saved through the miracle of raising Lazarus would pale in numbers to the generations of souls saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So what did Lazarus do to deserve life after death (the first time)? Can we add to a lifespan, or is the numbering of our days unlikely to change? My curiosity was piqued after reading this interesting passage in Proverbs 9:10-11. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you,” (my emphasis.) Can it be that life is extended through the wisdom and word of God?

Of course, my next thought is an automatic negative one that says, “Yea, but what if I have molded the golden calf?”

Sometimes the New Testament Jesus is preached as if Christ brought love to a world which had only known the wrath of the God of the Old Testament. I’ve come to believe that this line of thinking may be an example of how our ways are not like His. For in Exodus 33:18, 19 when Moses had asked for a demonstration of God’s favor (remember this is after the Israelites’ faithless worship of their man-made golden calf). God said, “I shall make all My goodness pass before you, and I shall call out with the Name Hashem (Mercy) before you; I shall show favor when I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose to show mercy.” God was about to show Moses the 13 Attributes of Mercy (see Exodus 34,) that Moses was to teach His people. God wanted them and us to invoke these attributes of mercy in prayers.

Mercy is for the living. Ephesians 2:1,4, and10 declares, “And you He made alive…God who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

My prayer: God, give me revelation and understanding. Without Your mercy, I have nothing. And like Moses, I say that without Your Presence, I will not move. Even though I have done nothing to deserve Your favor, I seek Your goodness through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Savior. Praise You for however many days to come, continually living in Your presence.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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2 Samuel 13-14; Acts 28

David’s life appears to be a cautionary tale. The man who is known and loved by God as “a man after His own heart” transitions from relentlessly steadfast to tempted and fallen. As a father, he lacks discipline and is intimidated by his children. His family is the picture of dysfunction and discord. How did he get to this point? I want to believe that love for God translates into godly children and a wonderful family life. David’s life tells a different tale. But the story of God at work in the lives of ordinary humans doesn’t end there.

God’s story is not about our ability to get it right and follow Him as He deserves. It’s not about producing nice and tidy lives. The Bible is the story of God’s righteousness at work in selfish, vulnerable lives. When we believe that Jesus died so that we may assume his status as perfect before God, the transforming power of the his Holy Spirit is released in us. Sometimes we don’t realize that God is at work. Other times we fall to our knees in awareness of His presence. His redemptive work in not only us, but in all of history is like a river. It carves through the mountains of our lives so that when we look back at the landscape of our lives, there is no denying the undeniable force of His presence.

Fast forward to Paul. Historians would describe him as a fanatic…one minute persecuting believers, the next minute preaching the very Gospel he despised and sought to exterminate. How does one explain such a turn around? Insanity? No, it’s all because of the magnificence of what Christ has done. This week I have been reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians over and over again, as if it was written directly to me. I get a taste of God’s redemptive, untamed love. It defies imagination and Paul describes it better than anyone I know.

No wonder this man Paul couldn’t help himself; he risked everything to travel and tell others of Jesus and the love that changes everything. “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Acts 28:31And today, his words continue to invite us into to life with Christ and all its richness. I pray that we are like Paul, captivated by the unrestrained, unimaginable wonder of God’s love so that we are transformed and made whole.

Amen

 

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Exodus 22-24; Psalm 109; Ephesians 6

See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you. Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions…But if you are careful to obey him, following all my instructions, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will oppose those who oppose you. For my angel will go before you. And I will destroy them completely.” Exodus 23:20-23 NLT

I am thankful to have a Father who goes before me and is always with me. Even when I mess up, He gives me grace.

Oh God, whom I praise, don’t stand silent and aloof while the wicked slander me and tell lies about me. They surround me with hateful words and fight against me for no reason. I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations even as I am praying for them! They say, “Get an evil person to turn against him. Send an accuser to bring him to trial…But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me, because you are so faithful and good. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is full of pain. Help me, O Lord my God! Save me because of your unfailing love. Let them see that this is your doing, that you yourself have done it Lord.” Psalm 109 NLT

I can relate to David’s struggle. Am I fighting for my myself and my own reputation? Or am I asking God to fight for me? When I try and do it on my own, I am tired and weary. But, when I give it to God, He gets the glory in my life. Sometimes fear creeps in and the person I am battling with is myself.

My defenses come down and I am vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. I forget my identity in Christ. And the devil tries his best to render me ineffective for the kingdom. I read this from A Divine Encounter-”What Satan wants from me this Year….He wants me to live defeated and feel like I have nothing to offer in the world.”

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT

Dear Father, Thank you that in You, I already have the victory. Help me to live in that victory today and everyday. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Exodus 13-15; Psalm 114; Ephesians 3

Sometimes an enemy is right in front of you. Sometimes an enemy is in the heavenly places. But either way, God’s got this.

I heard a prayer over the weekend, how things might not look or go how we want them to, but that God’s got this and we can trust in him. He works things out in ways we don’t understand–for his glory.

“I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” Exodus 14:4b, NLT.

I’m sure the Israelites never expected freedom to look like an army behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. I feel their panic. I hear their questions–a flooded brook of doubt, worry and regret emptying into an impossible sea.

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14, NLT.

Just yesterday, I cracked the spine of Red Sea Rules by Robert J. Morgan. And today, God meets me at the shore; he makes a way of safe passage; he tells me he will fight for me.

“With your unfailing love you lead
    the people you have redeemed.
In your might, you guide them
    to your sacred home.” Exodus 15:13, NLT

He takes bitter waters and makes them clean.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:25b-26, NLT.

He leans in and tells me to listen carefully to his voice. He finishes and says he will heal me.

Ephesians 3, I read.

10 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. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:10-12, NLT.

My week began with a prayer that God’s got this. And today, Paul’s prayer covers me too.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.

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. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21, NLT

Father, I’m grateful that I can approach you, come confidently into your presence. You are the God who catches my tears. You are the God who quiets my fears. You heal me. You love me. You fill me with fullness of life. Your mighty power is at work within me to accomplish infinitely more than I can ask or think. I praise you for who you are. You’ve got this. You’ve got me. My life and my heart are safe in your hands. There is no place I’d rather be.

Courtney (66books365)

(No compensation for mentioning Robert Morgan’s book Red Sea Rules.)

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