Ephesians 6:18-24

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18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Final Greetings

21 Tychicus, the dear brother and faithful servant in the Lord, will tell you everything, so that you also may know how I am and what I am doing. 22 I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage you.

23 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.

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My Thoughts

This letter was written to give the church information about Paul’s situation and to encourage them.  The words that Paul leaves the church are peace, grace, faith and love of the Father and of Jesus.  The church is encouraged to pray in the Spirit on all occasions speaking to God about all sorts of things.  What I want us to hold onto at the end of this letter is that God is a relational God, He made the way possible for us to come before Him freely and boldly knowing that in Christ we are in right standing with Him.  Everything has always been about us being in a relationship with God.  We have been given the Holy Spirit to be with us all the time, to guide us to strengthen us and to help us communicate with God. 

Gods plan has always been quite simple He wants us to trust Him, speak with Him, love Him and let Him give us the life He had in mind for us when He created all things.  Our plans on the other hand can be quite complicated; we have so many different voices expecting so many different things from us. Do we listen to the voice that shouts the loudest or run after the need that seems most pressing?  We could start talking to God and listening to His voice…in all sorts of situations not just before bed or at a church service. The point of life is not to get from A to B but to live moment by moment enjoying the gift of being reconciled with God.  This is our peace that we receive from His grace because He loves us. Thank you Father 

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Ephesians 6:10-17

armor

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

faith in action

My Thoughts

How many times have you had this armor prayed onto you? I like the concept of wearing armor, being protected and strong in the battle against evil but sometimes I think that we can be quite passive in our application.  We stand in front of a mirror and picture ourselves putting on these protective garments before we leave the house. However, when a flaming arrow of doubt is fired at us, do we stand or do we fall down?
The way I see it is that faith is not some shield that you can put on your arm before you walk out of the house in the morning.  Faith is a conviction so strong that it changes the way you live, the Apostles believed that Christ is the Messiah and they followed him to the grave. Our faith should transform the way we live because we know the truth. The truth is a lot more difficult to discern with so many years and too many well meaning authors trying to explain what that truth is. We become passive about the truth when we try to get it from people and not from the Spirit of truth within us. In our busy lives we want a quick fix to everything so if some author can explain the truth to us in a book why do we need to spend time discerning what God is saying to us on a personal level. The whole point of creation and salvation is to restore your relationship with God…not with men who have a relationship with God. If we are too busy to be in an  intimate relationship with God then we have put on the wrong armor. We are so busy protecting the arrow that we have lost the purpose of life. After the Israelites returned from the exile they started rebuilding the life they were exiled from. They pictured a Jerusalem that was safe and secure with walls around it to keep out the unclean people of the world. I wonder if anybody stopped to challenge this, if anybody considered that maybe what they did the last time was wrong. Is this not why they went into exile in the first place. There was a prophet who questioned these things… Zechariah  who was killed for his message… This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”  This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.
The truth is accessed from within, it allows us to trust in the salvation and righteousness of Christ. The truth sets us free from our need to fight, win and be right…it allows us to live at peace with each other, with God and with His creation.

Ephesians 6:1-9

freedom

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with him.

My Thoughts

I have read this passage often and heard people preach on it.   I tend to skip past it quite quickly because I feel convicted by the children honour your parent’s part and mostly I feel confused about the slaves and masters part.  So I have spent some time this morning trying to get into the story and understand what is going on here. The first thing I remember is that most of the letter to the Ephesian Church talks about who Christ is.  We learn about how we have been set free from the system of this world and have been called to live a different life.  We have been called to live in unity as a new creation in Christ.  There is so much good theology in the letter but then it gets applied to these seemingly obvious or trivial issues…why?

Clearly these issues about husbands and wives, slaves and masters and parent child relationships needed to be addressed in the Ephesian church.  However, instead of writing a letter saying stop your nonsense and start living like a Christian –  which is A, B and C.  Paul approaches the church by showing them God, reminding them about Jesus and the wonderful salvation that they received.  He then points out areas of human relationships that this gospel message needs to be applied to.  If we were living in Ephesus in this time we would have laughed at Paul for suggesting that slavery needs to be abolished and that men and women should be treated with equality.  These were just not done; slavery had been the norm for thousands of years…and was common practice for a thousand years after this letter.  What I see now and believe is that Paul has called this church to a better way by showing them Christ…he then honours their right to follow Christ and allow those details to work themselves out.

So for us here and now we need look at the areas of life that are our common practices…accepted by the church but are not really the picture of who Christ is and what He calls us to. If I had to look at a few they would be; the we spend our money, what our measure of success is, the inequality of service provision, education, transport and access to health care.  I imagine people reading about our church a thousand years from now and being confused by the fact that people in the same church did not have the same access to health care or education as other members in the same body…and why did the leaders stand against it.  These are the heart issues that Paul is dealing with.  What we believe about Christ and what he has done should match the way we live from day to day.

I would like to be part of a church that strives for that…who is with me?

Ephesians 5: 21 -33

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21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

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My Thoughts

At this point the letter to the Ephesian church starts to challenge our 21st century culture.  So let’s put it into its proper context. This scripture calls us to respond to each other out of reverence for Christ.  We are not called to revere a person, a husband or a wife.  We are called to treat each other out of a place of devotion to Jesus.  When we can keep Jesus central to our lives then the out working of that should be good.  In John 15 Jesus says remain in Him (the vine) and then we will produce good fruit.  I think that when people read this passage of Ephesians we try to work out what submitting to your husband looks like…we focus on the fruit, the behaviour required rather than on remaining in Christ.

The second consideration is for us to remember the context of the time this was written.  In this time women and children were possessions.  The husband’s role was one of provision to keep your “possessions” in good condition.  Here Paul brings a correction to a husband wife relationship, husbands love your wives the way Christ loved the church…Christ died for the church.  In the same way wives submit to your husbands the way you do to Christ…wives you have a choice, nobody forces submission to Christ.  We choose to submit because we trust, we have faith…because we have been loved.

The last thought I have for now is that all of these instruction are towards choices that you are empowered to make.  Wives are not to try change the husband and husbands not to change the wives.  We go through life trying to change the people around us or feeling powerless to change the situation we are in because the people around us won’t change.  The only person we can actually control is ourselves though.  We have a life to live, decisions to make let’s make them.  We are so powerful when it comes to the choices before us if we understand that we can only control what we do.  Our choices will be fruitful if they come out of a place of reverence for Christ.  Thank you Lord for the freedom and power you give us today and every day.

Ephesians 4:8-20

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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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My Thoughts

The starting point for me is to remember that God is loving, gracious and so worthy of our thanks and praise.  When I approach any scripture with that absolute premise then I see words of a loving Father speaking life and freedom.  If we approach any scripture with a feeling of condemnation or judgement then that is what we will find.

What I read here is that we have been rescued from darkness from slavery and given a good life as an adopted child of God.  The instruction here is for us to embrace that change and live fully as a child of God.  It makes me think of those prison movies, when a person finishes their prison sentence and they leave as a free person.  They walk out and are determined to live a good life but then the bad elements from their previous life start to suck them back into a life of crime.

If I could speak to the character in the film I would say don’t do it, don’t go back there. Look at the possibilities ahead of you.  This scripture is reminding the Ephesian church of their salvation and encouraging them to live accordingly…the same is true for us today.

Our Response

If you have a song or a poem or a psalm that is worth sharing let’s do it here.  Make a comment and share it with all… speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit

Ephesians 5:1-7

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Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.Therefore do not be partners with them.Image

My Thoughts

I am not sure that I fully understand what is going on here.  Verse 1 starts off so wonderfully – walk in the way of love as dearly loved children of God, but then it seems to become very legalistic.  When I think about walking in the way of love I think about that mushy feeling of being loved or being in love.  I think it comes down to love languages, God shows us His love by forgiving us through Christ Jesus (Ehp 4).  Walking in the way of love seems to be how we respond to God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. How we respond to Gods love is by appreciating what we have been given, taking it seriously.  These instruction are to help us get rid of the things that breakdown, they break us down, they break our relationships down and basically rob us of the life we have been given.  If I gave my boy a new bicycle for his birthday and he was openly happy about his new gift but insisted on using his old bike instead of his new one I may start to think that he did not appreciate the gift as much as I thought.  To make the new bike more appealing I would probably ask him to get rid of the old bike.  That is sort of how I make sense of this; the inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ is eternal…now and forever.  If we don’t choose to live in our freedom now then we are not really taking hold of the inheritance.

This is probably more complex than my simple analogy… so what are your thoughts?

Ephesians 4:17-32

power of words

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, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ 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 your neighbour, 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 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

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.

zip your lip

My Thoughts

I can’t help noticing how similar this piece of scripture is to Romans 12.  It talks about not conforming to the corrupt ways of the world (Gentiles) but being transformed (new attitude of mind).  Paul then goes on to give a set of practical ways in which we can be made new in our minds…these involve the way we treat those around us.  When I read a list like this it can seem over whelming.  So much to do…so much change needed however, in the list one instruction really stands out.  “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”

I think that our culture has taught us to be careless with our speech, what we say about people.  What we talk about, the things we find amusing.  I wonder how much of my speech is used for building others up.  This is an area that we can focus on, we can start to make our minds new, stop breaking down with our words and start building.  In some ways we can treat it like a fast… a discipline of learning to do without something that comes so natural to us and replacing it with something better. Is anybody up for the challenge?