Monday, September 28, 2020

ALL that God Has - Examining Ephesians – September 28 Readings: Ephesians 6:10-17


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 


Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 6:10-17


10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation 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.

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah66, 2 Corinthians 12–13, Psalm 109:1–5, Proverbs 23:34–35

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional: ALL that God Has  


I am not good at bargaining. On our way back from the villages, we always stop for a day in Ziguinchor, Senegal, and we go to the Artisan compound to do a little bit of souvenir shopping. Our guide, Alioune, is a master at haggling down the price. He won't settle until he gets the lowest possible price. I tend to give in and pay way too much. I settle.

Paul warns us, in Ephesians 6, not to settle for less than all that God has for us. We can't afford to settle. That is not some kind of motivational-guru, "be-all-you-can-be" call to reach your full potential. Paul is warning us that the days are evil and the enemy is powerful. You and I cannot afford to go into battle poorly armed and shoddily prepared. It's foolish. It's spiritual self-destruction.

The enemy is always ready, always prepared, always going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. The Christian who goes out without the full armor is destined to fail in his battles with the principalities and powers.

Each of those pieces of armor represents two things - they represent Christ and they represent the power of the Word. You need to walk daily in the fullness of the Spirit, as chapter 5 commanded, but you also need to be in the word so that the power of Christ will be fully revealed in you. Your head, your heart, your feet, all of you need to be immersed in the word of God so that the power and presence of Christ will be seen through you.

Don't settle for anything less than the full armor of God. 

Father, clothe me today in the full armor of your Son!

Think and Pray:

Are you settling for less than the full armor of God, or are you putting on all the resources God has given you, and walking in the full armor of God?



Sunday, September 27, 2020

Paul and Slavery - Examining Ephesians – September 27 Readings: Ephesians 6:5-9


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 

Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 6:5-9



Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as you would Christ. [6] Don't work only while being watched, as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, do God's will from your heart. [7] Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to people, [8] knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. [9] And masters, treat your slaves the same way, without threatening them, because you know that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. 

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah64-65, 2 Corinthians 11:16–33, Psalm 108:6–13, Proverbs 23:31–33 

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional: Paul's Teaching on Slavery 


In our racially charged world, with the social unrest that is going on today and the sad history of racism, slavery,  and the brutalization of minority communities by White Americans with the approval of White churches,  few passages could be more uncomfortable to read than Ephesians 6:5-9. 

This text has been used as cover by those who would say that the Bible authorizes slavery and that seeking social justice is contrary to God's word. That is not the point of this passage and the American slavery system was a despicable abomination.  Our years of segregation, dehumanization, and oppression of minorities will gain no support from a proper reading of this text. Permit me a few points. 

1. There is a significant difference between the slavery practiced in biblical days and American slavery. The slaves referred to in this passage generally were conquered enemies or often those who had fallen into debt. Slavery was more economic than racial. 

American slavery was the devaluing of human beings, people made in the image of God, based on the color of their skin. Black families were broken apart, there were lynching, false imprisonments, and all kinds of injustice.  Blacks, Natives, Asians, Hispanics,  now Arabs, are treated as if they matter less, as if their lives hold less value. 

This is an insult to the God who made us all, who sent his Son to die for us all, and who is working to redeem one worshipping people from every language and tribe on earth. Our slavery offended God and racism today does the same.

2. This passage is about spirit-filled behavior and doesn't focus on social issues. The prophets, Jesus himself, and several of the epistles tell us that our faith must be expressed in caring for the poor and oppressed. 

A Christianity that fails to stand with victims of racism, that is not moved by the plight of the refugees and social outcasts is a malformed Christianity,  not pleasing to the Savior.  

3. The admonition to Masters to care about how they treat those under them is stunning.  Slaves and servants being told to have good attitudes would have been the norm. Masters being told to honor Christ in treatment of slaves would have been a new thing. 

4. Some apply these teachings to employees and employers. That is fine, but must be done with care. Employees have rights slaves do not. A Christian employee has freedoms that a slave did not. Still, the principles can be applied. 

This passage must be handled with care. It speaks God's truth but only if it applied properly. 

Think and Pray:

Consider your behavior both in relationships when you have power and when you do not. 
Are you careful to value people who are different? 



Friday, September 25, 2020

Stable Home, Strong Societies - Examining Ephesians – September 26 Readings: Ephesians 6:1-4


Note: I am hospitalized with COVID pneumonia. I am going to set these next several to post, and will add my devotional if I am able. 

Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 


Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 6:1-4


Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise, 3 so that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. 4 Fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah62-63, 2 Corinthians 11:1–15, Psalm 108:1–5, Proverbs 23:29–30

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional:  Stable Homes, Strong Society 


In all the commands of the Bible,  this one stands alone as a fundamental building block of culture. When verse 3 tells us this command, to honor our parents, is the key to a good and long life, it is directed nationally at Israel. 

Yes, obedience tends to make our lives better, but what this passage tells us is that it is how strong societies are built. Loving parents raising obedient children.  

Somehow, the concept of discipline has fallen into disrepute but not in God's kingdom. 

As far as stirring up wrath in children,  there seem to be several ways to do that.

*Harsh, unloving discipline causes wrath. 
*Belittling words cause wrath. Discipline is action, not badgering.  
*Permissiveness without standards communicates a lack of concern. 
*A failure to be consistent causes anger. 

We need to discipline in love- that is the key. 

Father, help us to build homes that glorify you. 

Think and Pray:

Examine your relationship to parents and children in light of this passage 



Biblical Marriage - Examining Ephesians – September 25 Readings: Ephesians 5:22-33


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 

Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 5:22-33


22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of his body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. 32 This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah 60-61, 2 Corinthians 10, Psalm 107:36–43,Proverbs 23:26–28 

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional:  Biblical Marriage   


This will be short today. I received my positive COVID test today and my fever returned tonight. I lack the energy to dig into this difficult passage of Scripture. I would make some simple observations. 

1. This is an outflow of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Tremendous damage is done when people (yes, especially men) try to operate "Biblical Manhood" in the power of the flesh. Godly leadership becomes fleshly domination and submission turns to subservience. Do NOT try this at home without the fullness of the Holy Spirit. 

2. While verse 21 does call for us to be submissive to one another, there is no way to study this passage and avoid the concept that men and women have different roles in a marriage. Paul commands women to submit and commands men to sacrificially love their wives. 

3. The command to submit is middle-voice and is directed to the women. This is key. Literally, it says, "Wives, submit yourselves..." There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that gives me the right to demand, coerce, or force my wife to submit. It does not say, "Husband, bring your wife under submission." Many husbands seem to think their job is to assert their authority and "bring their wives under authority." The Scripture commands my wife to submit, but it NEVER authorizes me to cause her to submit. 

For her to submit is obedience. For me to cause or coerce her submission is a form of abuse. 

4. My job is to love my wife as Christ loved the church - which means I am to put her needs ahead of mine. Husbands, don't complain about your wife's "lack of submission" until you've answered the question of whether you have represented Jesus Christ in your marriage. 

Chances that you've done a better job of being Christlike than she has of submitting are slim, right? 

5. The doctrine we advocate is called "complementarianism" which means "we work together to make each other better." The whole idea of much of the teaching today about "manhood and womanhood" is about how to keep women in their place, not about how to be partners in making our homes better. 

6. This passage focuses on Jesus, his Lordship and greatness. He is the model for marriage. 

7. For each of us, the key is to focus on ourselves and our failings, not on others and their issues. If I read this passage and think about what my wife is doing wrong, I am in the wrong. If she reads it thinking about my failings, she is doing it wrong. Each of us needs to examine ourselves first. 

This passage can be emotional and can elicit defensiveness and anger, but it is God's word and it is divine truth. 

(Okay, this turned out not to be so short)

Father, help me to be the husband you've called me to be. 

Think and Pray:

Consider your marriage and how it matches up to Christ and this passage. 



Thursday, September 24, 2020

Filling Your Tank - Examining Ephesians – September 24 Readings: Ephesians 5:18-21


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 

Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 5:18-21


18 And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit: 19 speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah58-59, 2 Corinthians 8:16–9:15, Psalm 107:29–35, Proverbs 23:24–25

This familiar passage commands us to walk in the full

Devotional:  Filling Your Tank 


What happens when you continue to run your car without filling the tank? This question makes a point that is both heavy-handed and flawed, but still a needed point. Automobiles do not run without fuel. Our bodies need nutrition to function properly. Electronics need power – we live our lives today at the mercy of cords and batteries. In the same way, a Christian needs the sustaining power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to function properly, to walk in holiness, and to serve in power. Of course, the Holy Spirit isn’t some external substance we seek, like gas or food or electricity; he is the indwelling presence of God, the third person of the Trinity, Still, his filling in the believer is as essential as gas is to a car or electricity is to a phone. As we study the great works of God in the book of Acts, we see that they were consistently carried out by men filled by the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus, the perfect Son of God, walked in the fullness of the Holy Spirit during his earthly ministry, according to Luke 4:2.

New Testament believers live in the great in-between, in what some have described as the “already-not yet.” We have already been given every spiritual blessing in Christ and have the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in us. We have eternal life and the guarantee of God’s great work in us. We also walk daily experiencing the reality of the not-yet. I may have the fullness of God in Christ and may have received all the blessings of Christ, but I have not inculcated these into my daily life. In Christ, I have many “great and precious promises” which I am still seeking to make a reality in the way I live my life. My relationship to the Holy Spirit is an already/not-yet phenomenon. I already have the Spirit and his power dwelling in me, but I need to seek his fullness and his power every day. The fuel for my Christian walk dwells in me at all times – I already have all I need. I have not yet accessed all of that power and need to learn to walk in the power I already have. The essence of the Christian life is seeking to experience daily what is already mine eternally.

Do you walk too often in the valley, feeling as though your tank is nearly empty, your soul is parched, your battery indicator is flashing critical? Do you read Bible stories and see God using average folks in extraordinary ways and wonder why there’s so little of the display of the power of God on a daily basis? Do you long for more, for a filling and empowering by the Spirit of God who dwells within you? That is also what God wants for you! He desires to fill you and use for his kingdom purposes in this world. No Christian was meant to wander in spiritual impotence or to live life without fruit. God saved us to use us in his great battle against the forces of darkness. The fact is that there is more than most of us have lived. We are studying the filling of the Holy Spirit in hopes that you will find what it means to be filled and experience all that God has for you.


Father fill us and use us. 


Think and Pray:

Are you walking daily in the fullness of the Holy Spirit? 



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

In Evil Days - Examining Ephesians – September 23 Readings: Ephesians 5:15-17


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 

Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 5:15-17

15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah56-57, 2 Corinthians 8:1–15, Psalm 107:22–28, Proverbs 23:22–23
 

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional:  In Evil Days    


Would you agree that the days are evil? Natural disasters, pandemics, political intrigue, economic uncertainty - the days we live in certainly qualify as the kind of days that Paul discussed. In such evil days, we have to live carefully and not let our guard down. 

Does it ever feel that life is relentless pressure, criticism, unending demands, and too often, little reward? The more life is like that, the harder, more difficult life is, the more important it is to make sure you are walking in obedience to God, living life on God's agenda, and making the most of the time he has given you. 

You never know when those days can be cut short, when it could all be over. Our duty is to make the most, in God's power of whatever opportunities he gives. 

Father, help me to make the most of the opportunities you have given me 

Think and Pray:

In these evil days, are you making the most of your opportunities? 



Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Walk in the Light - Examining Ephesians – September 22 Readings: Ephesians 5:6-14


Ephesians: A Worthy Walk 

Background: For the next month, we will be studying the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote while he was in jail in Rome, awaiting his first trial. Ephesus was one of his best churches, and he spent a lot of time there on his missionary journeys. The church likely planted the other churches of Asia Minor that Jesus referenced in Revelation 2-3. 

Ephesians is easily outlined. Chapters 1-3 speak of the great salvation we have in Christ, which comes by grace through faith alone. Then, 4:1 is the turning point, where Paul admonishes them to "walk worthy of the calling you have received." We cannot be worthy of Christ's salvation - it is a gift of grace. But having received it, we can then, by the Spirit's power, WALK worthy. Chapters 4-6 describe the worthy walk. This is a favorite template for Paul. He develops a doctrine then applies it practically. 

As often as time allows, the reader is encouraged to read the entire book - it will not take more than a few minutes. Each day we will work our way through the book passage by passage. 

Today's Reading:  Ephesians 1-6    Focus Passage - Ephesians 5:6-14


6 Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for God’s wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things. 7 Therefore, do not become their partners. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light— 9 for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth— 10 testing what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Don’t participate in the fruitless works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what is done by them in secret. 13 Everything exposed by the light is made visible, 14 for what makes everything visible is light. Therefore it is said:       
Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,                                                                             and Christ will shine on you.

Through the Bible Readings: Isaiah 54-55, 2 Corinthians 6–7, Psalm107:15–21, Proverbs 23:19–21 

If you wish to read through the Bible in a year, follow these readings. 

Devotional:  Walk in the Light    


Wait a minute. That can't be right. I must have read it wrong. Let me check it. No, that's what it said. "God's wrath is coming on the disobedient because of these things." Paul just finished a diatribe about sexual immorality and impurity and is about to expand that to a discussion of walking in the light of Christ instead of the darkness which once marked the lives of unredeemed. In a phrase that echoes his call to walk worthy, Paul tells us to walk as children of the light, because we have been made light in Christ. 

His words in verses 11-14 are particularly direct and shocking, especially since they are directed at Christians and at churches. We ought not to participate in the pointless deeds of darkness that bear no spiritual fruit. Note that Paul does not say it is impossible that such should happen, but it is totally inappropriate. In fact, those sinful deeds are even shameful to mention. Paul is likely using hyperbole here to show just how careful we ought to be about our Christian walk. 

Then, he gives an admonition - Wake up! Too many Christians sleepwalk through life as if spiritual things did not exist or did not matter. Paul calls us to awaken to the reality of holiness, of careful spiritual living. Enough of the careless, sloppy living we have become accustomed to and comfortable with in American Christianity. 

Father, help me to walk in the light of Christ, fully awakened to your power and glory every day. 

NOTE: I hope to keep these devotionals up, but the next few days might be a bit of a challenge. When I woke up Monday, I realized I had no sense of smell and very little sense of taste. As you probably know, those are symptoms of COVID. Who knows? It's now Monday night and I feel pretty awful. I'm going in for testing on Tuesday. 

At the very least, I will post Scriptures for you to read. 

Think and Pray:

Are you walking in the light of Christ?