Monday, September 11, 2006

Ephesians 5 - Love and Fly Right

Read the passage from The Message: Ephesians 5
Read the passage from the New International Version: Ephesians 5

I have obviously never spent enough time reading Ephesians. Since Chapter 5 has generally been used as a weapon to beat wives into submission, I guess that I decided early on to simply ignore this. And I missed some powerful teaching. I am going to reiterate how joyful it is to read Eugene Peterson's "The Message" when studying these passages.

The first 2 verses are amazing:
"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that."

Love like that! Love like that! Extravagant, risk-taking love. Love that takes Jesus to the cross. Love that is an offering to God. Love like that!

And the rest of the paragraph... "Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love." Now, John tells us in his first letter (4:16) "God is love". Paul encourages us to keep company with God and learn to love. I was a good kid as a child. Other parents liked having their kids hang out with me. I guess they hoped I'd be a positive influence. And, I hope I was. But, I managed to make a lot of friends with marginal kids that way. One of my boyfriends made my parents crazy. He was into drugs and had no motivation at all. My parents would fight with each other all of the time about Brian. I would hide and hope that they wouldn't come after me, but I loved him and didn't want to leave him. I suppose I also hoped that he would finally grow up. Dad was concerned that Brian would influence me, and mom knew that I was influencing Brian. Honestly, to this day, I have never smoked marijuana and I had ready access to it daily with Brian. It just never happened. In those few months we were together, I hope that I was the postive influence in the relationship.

Now, however, in my marriage, I have managed to allow my husband's slothful habits to overtake me. I was always highly organized when living alone. Everything had it's place and everything was always in it's place. Even the junk drawer had spaces for every piece of junk. If you removed something, you could see where it should fit so that you could return it to it's exact spot. Then, I married Max and complete chaos came into my world. I look around my home right now - and there is nothing that seems 'highly organized'. I have to fight with him to put the wooden utensils in the correct crock. It simply doesn't occur to him to observe that if a crock has all wooden utensils in it - putting the metal spatula there makes no sense.

When it comes to love and righteous behavior where does the influence exist and who is doing it. I am basically an optimistic person (unless stress and pain are overwhelming me). I have friends that know they are basically negative and have told me over and over how different it is to see a different perspective. What kind of influence are you? Are you the stronger person with a positive attitude? Are you a weaker person with a positive attitude that allows others to bring you down? Are you a person with a negative attitude?

The good news? There is none stronger than God and His positive influence will prevail. If we draw close to Him and try to imitate Him, we will allow that attitude of love to influence us in our lives.

Paul spends time in the next verses telling us how to live so that we become more like God. He's pretty specific and some of it actually hits me in my face. You don't get to guess which of the items applies to me, you get to figure out which apply to you!

No sexual immorality or impurity.
No greed.
No obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.

Goodness, but these have a lot of impact on our society today. How much sexual immorality or impurity do we simply allow. With young people, with each other. We want people to be happy and believe that by allowing them the freedom to explore life sexually, they will be happy.

No greed. When eeping up with the Jones' becomes more than just mowing a lawn regularly, we are in trouble. When we worry about wearing clothes to impress, or driving a nice car because we want to be seen in it, or having the bnewest and best technology, etc., etc. we aren't allowing the hand of God to be at work in our lives. We allow the world to define our lives for us.

No obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking. One of my downfalls. We like to entertain people and be the center of attention. And foul jokes ARE funny! How do we stop being susceptible to this influence of the world?

Darkness to Light
I've always read verse 8 incorrectly. I read "For you were once in darkness, but now you are in light in the Lord." But, there is a little word that needs to be removed from that sentence. More than being 'in' darkness, Paul says that I WAS darkness. Darkness pervades every aspect of me when I live outside the light of the Lord. I can't provide the light that brings goodness, righteousness and truth. Only God can provide that light. Everything else is simply a reflection of God's light.

Paul calls us to exorbitant, lavish love. He calls us to live a life filled with purity. In verse 15, he reminds us why. The days are evil. We are living in an evil world. Make choices about how you live in this world. Is it easy to become a part of the world, to live a life that fits in with what we are a part of? Don't let it be easy. Walk away from those things.

Speak, sing and make music, always giving thanks for everything. God has shown His love to us in an outrageous, unrestrained way. Can we do no less in showing our love for Him?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Ephesians 4, Pt. 2. How does He love a filthy me?

Here we are ... all grown up, or at least Paul has just told us that is where we need to be. What does this mean? Well, if we're going to be all grown up, it's time to act like it.

I remember my severe case of senioritis. Mom had HAD it with me. We were having one of our major meltdowns in the middle of the living room. Dad wasn't home from work yet and I'm sure that Carol and Jamie had run for the hills. I finally told mom that I needed space and why couldn't she treat me like a grownup (at my age now, I understand that every single high school senior and their parent faces this). She simply told me that when I began acting like a grownup, I'd be treated as one. That pretty much shut me down, because I immediately recognized that the tantrum I was throwing was definitely not the mark of an adult.

These 'Gentiles' that Paul speaks of in verses 17-19 are not simply 'non-Jews'. These are people who have no connection to God, either through their heritage (and the law) or through Jesus Christ. They are separated from God because of choices that they've made. And verse 19 says that they've lost all sensitivity and have given themselves over to sensuality, indulging in every impurity with a continual lust for more.

Read those words again. "They've lost all sensitivity and have given themselves over to sensuality, indulging in every impurity, with a continual lust for more." (vs. 19)

I have participated in conversations and listened to people complain about our society and how it is continually declining. Children! Kids! Young People! They have no discipline, they can't focus, they don't play outside enough, they are overweight, they don't read books, they play videogames incessantly, they spend too much time watching television, they spend too much time on the computer. The list is enormous! Kids these days!

More kids than ever are on Ritalin just to make it through a single school day without being destroyed by a frustrated teacher, the number of kids that are autistic is jumping up by leaps and bounds, kids are dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome while they are trying to grow up, suicide, rampant sex, everything is public, everything is huge. No one seems to be safe anymore.

What kind of world are we living in? We are living in a world just like that which Paul is talking about. And though our kids are suffering from it, none of these things are their fault. As adults we are more interested in making a lot of money and taking time for ourselves. We eat out more than we ever have, or when time is too tight, pizza is brought in, shoved down and we are off to the next event in our day.

Have we lost all sensitivity? Oh, I can exclaim that I have lost a lot of it! I love to watch television, and I love to search around the internet. My house is rarely quiet anymore, I have so much going on all the time. I don't even have children in my life. I can't imagine what I would have done to them by now. If I want to have a bowl of m&ms in the kitchen, I do. If I want to eat Chinese, I just call and order. Whatever I want, I seem to find a way to make it happen. And it all works out just fine!

But, stop it! Just because I can have everything that I want, is that good for me? When do I stop an dtake the time to just be equiet and listen to God? When do I leave the comfort of my couch, my lovable dog, my cute cats, my television, my internet, my cell phone (so I can stay in contact with my friends and do something for someone who needs it. I can easily justify my 'work for the Lord' because I spend innumerable hours doing things for the church, playing for rehearsals, singing in the worship band, directing choirs, typesetting newsletters and bulletins. All of that is great, but my goodness, I need to be taking care of people who need me. And I can't because I'm too busy doing 'stuff for the Lord' and when I'm not busy doing that, I'm exhausted beyond belief.

I am indulging in everything and I lust for more. It might not be pornography, or gambling, or alcohol ... but, my need for activity and insanity is great

Paul reminds me in verse 20 that I didn't come to know Christ that way. I didn't learn this from him. When Jesus came into my life, he taught me to get rid of the old stuff and become new. I'm supposed to be like God when it comes to righteousness and holiness.

Then ... Paul gets a little personal - a little too personal for me.

No more lying. So, when I don't want to go out in the evening, or I don't want to do anything other than hide in my house, I have to just say that? I can't tell people that I don't feel good? Yikes.

No more sinful anger. Ok ... I'm not supposed to let the sun go down on my anger because it will give the devil a foothold in my life. Poor Max. He's not used to anger (aww heck, what am I saying, we've been married for over 12 years - what's his problem?). I got so mad at him once, I didn't talk to him for 4 days. The poor guy had to finally email me and beg forgiveness for something he wasn't even sure he had done. Was that fair of me? Absolutely not. Had I justified my anger? Absolutely.

No more stealing, but work hard. How many days do I find myself doing nothing while at work. I throw away precious time that I should be finishing projects, and doing the work that I've been given.

No more foul mouth. I grew up in a minister's family and foul language really didn't exist in my life. I was also a terrible goody-two-shoes. I moved to a new town between my 6th and 7th grade year in school. Ah ha!!! I was going to become someone new. I remember deliberately beginning to use foul language when I was around these new kids - because I was going to be cool. It is now 35 years later and I still have to curb my tongue. What a filthy habit I picked up.

I have to get rid of the bitterness (in other words, I need to learn to forgive), rage (oh for heaven's sake - sometimes this is what makes my blood pressure rise)

I can't fight with people. I really haven't done too much of that in my adult life. It's much easier to get through the day if there isn't a war involved.

I can't say mean things about them. I don't know about you - but gossip is one of those other hideous habits, along with a foul mouth that seems to be a part of many of my conversations! I walk away from those conversations and feel so guilty and so dirty, but I'll do it again the next time I hang out with my friends.

I have to get rid of every malicious thing that I do. I need to be kind and compassionate and learn to forgive. Because as annoyed as I am with the people that I do these things to ... I have to forgive them. I have done much worse to Christ and He went to the cross for me.

What's next? I'll be back with Chapter 5 to explore what it is that God wants us to be ... it looks like I'm going to be going a lot deeper with these same issues.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ephesians 4 - Traveling and Gifts, Babies and Whiners

As I am reading Eugene Peterson's "The Message", he really emphasizes traveling along a road during the early portion of this chapter.

1-3 In light of all this, here's what I want you to do. While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

4-6 You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
(Eph 4:1-6)

I started to giggle a little by the time I got to verse 4. "We were called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together." I grew up in a pastor's family and consequently, we seemed to be always going somewhere with a group of people from the church and we were always driving in tandem. That was an exercise in insanity! Every single time. Several years in a row we traveled to Canada with a group of adults. Dad knew where he was going and he would take the lead with 3 or 4 other vans and cars following behind us. He would set his cruise control and go. When we next pulled off the road, there was invariably one man leaping out of his van and yelling at Dad that he was going too fast and it was impossible to keep up! Hmm ... that was a bit weird. So, the next leg, I drove. I set the cruise and took off and sure enough, I got even more harrassment. I still have no idea how this all worked, either our speedometer was way off (by at least 10 mph according to the slackers following us), or they simply didn't want to drive the speed limit.

But it was difficult to travel together. And it's difficult to travel together as Christians. We are so different, each of us and when it comes to acquiescing to others, it takes willpower. Sometimes more than I have. I really do try to remind myself when I'm sitting in church on a Sunday morning, that I'm there to worship. So, when a particularly annoying person walks past me, or better yet, right up to me and I start to mumble bad things under my breath, I have to concentrate on praying for that person, rather than saying those bad things. It isn't easy! Especially when I know that they are about to bombard me with really stupid things while I'm trying to prepare my heart for worship. And guess who just failed in that preparation? Me! I seem to recall another verse about removing the log in my eye before worrying about the speck in another's eye.

Paul declares that there are gifts that Jesus gave to us as he ascended on high (from Psalm 68:18). Jesus wants us to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Not all at once, but these are the major gifts that He hands to His people. What is your gift? And where are you using it in the kingdom of God? If you aren't, why not?

Why are these gifts given? Oh, Paul is pretty clear about that. We are to use them to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in faith. (vs. 12-13). So, if you aren't using the gifts that God has given you to build up the body of Christ, what does that say about your relationship with God? What does that say about your relationship with His people! Verse 13 continues on that we are to become mature. If you aren't using your gifts, is one of the reasons that you want to continue on in the church as a child?

There is probably nothing more disgusting to a pastor than to hear his people say that they aren't being 'fed' by sermons or worship or anything happening within the church. My father left one of his churches to move on. We had been there for 9 years and had seen an enormous outpouring of the Holy Spirit and exciting movement by God. The people in the church were turned on! They were evangelizing and were growing. But, we started getting calls during the months following our move. They were complaining about the new pastor and how they weren't getting fed on Sunday mornings. His sermons were boring and he didn't challenge them like Dad did. Whether or not that was true, Dad was furious. After all of the time that he had spent with them, teaching them, guiding them, leading them and now they were acting like children needing to be carried along and spoon fed. He told them, in essence, to pick up the spoon and feed themselves!

Are you using your spiritual gifts to bring others to Christ or are you still waiting for the church to spoon feed you on Sunday morning. Is it really that easy to complain about how things aren't great at church and ignore your responsibility to the people around you? I suppose it is. We tend to be a negative, whiny bunch of Christians and when things are not fed to us one spoonful at a time and made easy for us, we move away from the church we are in and look for simpler, greener pastures. Do you think God approves of that behavior? Really?

Those gifts that Jesus gave to us aren't 'sitting in the pew on Sunday morning and complaining' gifts. They are challenging. Read the list again: (definitions from

Apostles - generally a person carrying the message of Jesus to the world
Prophets - a person chosen to speak for God
Evangelists - an itinerant preacher of the Gospel
Pastors - a person having spiritual care of a number of persons
Teachers - a person who teachers or instructs

Nowhere does it say 'pew-sitter' or whiner. It doesn't give any options for hiding in your home when things are happening. No, those are active leadership gifts. Those are "Go Do It" items.

This section of Ephesians 4 ends with Paul telling us to stop being like babies - tossed back and forth - blown here and there by every wind of teaching.

We are to GROW UP! into him who is the Head - Christ. Just as He is the cornerstone of the temple that God is constructing, he is the Head - and will hold the entire body together.

And as Paul iterates over and over - all of this is done in love - as each part does its work.

In love, Christ sacrificed himself for us. In love, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell among us. In love, we are to be the body of Christ on earth.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ephesians 3

Read the passage from The Message: Ephesians 3
Read the passage from the New International Version: Ephesians 3

I find it absolutely amazing that Paul, once the lead persecutor of Christians, is now imprisoned for the sake of Gentiles. He tells us that he is revealing the mysteries of God to the Gentiles and Jews alike. Things that weren't known to older generations, but were actually revealed by apostles and prophets.

What is that mystery? That Gentiles and Jews alike are heirs of the Kingdom of God because of the promise of Jesus Christ. It's not something deep and dark, it's simply that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. THIS is the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ.

Paul's humility in verses 7-8 is noble, but a little bit misplaced. He was a Pharisee. He studied under one of the leading teachers of the day, Gamaliel (Acts 5:34). He was an absolutely brilliant man, as seen in his New Testament writings. Until the day that he was walking to Damascus, he was well on his way to being quite a Jewish leader. Jesus did bring him to his knees and made him realize what his worth was. In comparison with the Creator God and Savior Jesus Christ ... he was worth nothing.

God used Paul's talents when it came to preaching and teaching. He would have had a very strong grasp of the scriptures. When he taught, he knew all that he was talking about. Not only did he have knowledge of the Jewish scriptures, but he had a personal experience with the living Christ. This gave him everything that he needed to be able to talk to Jews and to Gentiles about the Messiah.

In verse 10, we find that God's intent was that through the church His wisdom would "be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms." Eugene Peterson words it this way: "Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!"

Wow! That gives new meaning to gathering as a community on Sunday mornings! And to my leading worship! When we gather, we are making known the plan of God, so much so that the angels are talking about it! How amazing!

What is this plan? To make known to the world the incredible riches of Jesus, the eternal plan to draw men unto Himself for eternity, and the freedom that was given to each of us to approach God through our faith in Jesus. This is the plan that Paul is talking about. This is the reason that we meet for worship on Sunday mornings. We aren't just there to meet our friends and to make plans for the next potluck or meeting, we are there to identify ourselves with the Messiah, the Savior, the one who laid down His life so that all men could come to the Father.

Paul ends this part of His letter by telling the Ephesians about time spent on his knees for them. He doesn't want them preaching to their neighbors, or judging their co workers, or finding new ways to enforce their Christian laws on people. He very specifically states that he prays for them to be 'rooted and established in love'. To start all things, to greet all people, after being grounded in love. And one of my favorite verses (vs. 18), "... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge ..."

It's all about love. Christ's sacrifice was based on love. It's all about love.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You are the Temple of God

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's spirit lives in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16)

I've been thinking a lot this last week about the passage from Ephesians 2:20-22.
"...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

What exactly does this mean to me? I suppose that I've been really thrilled with the possibilities that this passage raises.

I have always heard (known, assumed) that the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt. This would signify the return of the Messiah to earth and be the beginning of the end of the world. There are rumors out there that Priests are being trained to serve in the Temple and that they have found Moses' staff and other articles to be returned to the Temple. The rumors continue that they are looking for a red heifer to sacrifice and consecrate the temple when it is built. (for more on this, you can find a bunch of links at This amazing feat would be the most glorious thing that ever happened on earth.

But, as I read the passage from Ephesians, I questioned the veracity of those statements and rumors. Do I really believe that God is planning to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem?

That temple was built 2 different times, those buildings were restored after exiles and prior to the original temple, the tabernacle was the home for the Lord God. What is the difference now? Why might God not rebuild that temple again in Jerusalem? As a Christian, the answer seems obvious. We are under a new covenant with Jesus Christ. (Luke 22:20 - "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.")

Moses established the original covenant with God on Mount Sinai. As the people camped in front of the mountain, Moses went up to meet with God. He received the Ten Commandments, the laws for God's people and commands for festivals. At this point, God gave Moses the instructions for the Tabernacle and it's furnishings. By the end of the book of Exodus, the tabernacle was erected, Moses finished the work and "the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (Exodus 40:34).

This Tent of Meeting with God was portable, because God's people were still nomads. It existed under Joshua's leadership and through the time of the Judges. By the time David was king, the materials had probably worn out and had been retired. The people were living in the Promised Land and the time of the Kings was just beginning. David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and it was placed inside the tent that David had pitched for it. (2 Samuel 6:17).

When David came to the end of his life, he wanted to build a Temple to honor God. A permanent residence for God. He began gathering the provisions for this temple. However, because he was a man of war and had shed much blood, God did not allow him to build the temple. His son, Solomon, a man of peace, would be given that honor and responsibility. (I Chronicles 22). David commended his son to be king, gave him the plans for the temple and then donated great amounts of his personal wealth to be used to building the temple. (I Chr. 28)

The 2nd Temple was built by Zerubabbel (completed in 515 B.C.) and existed through the time of Christ until 70 A.D when it was destroyed by the Romans. Jesus spoke of this destruction in Matthew, Chapter 24: 2. '"Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."'

At various times throughout history, there have been attempts to rebuild the Temple. It has never happened. What does this mean? I'm not sure, and I'm definitely not a temple scholar. But, I do believe that God means to restore His Temple. Whether it be brick and mortar or in the hearts of His people, it will come about.

If you spend any time at all on the website you will see a lot of information about the Third Temple. There are many organizations that are involved with the planning and creation of this Temple. Orthodox Jews feel that it is imperative that a Temple be restored. As long as there is no place to honor God with sacrifice, they feel that they are being criminally negligent in their worship of Him.

Many different types of Evangelical Christians are encouraging and supplying funds to these groups to restore the Temple. They fully believe that the rebuilt Temple signifies the end of the age and until that happens, we won't see Jesus return to earth. (I find it a little disgusting that they justify their actions here, when in essence, they are trying to force God into Armageddon - who in the world do they think they are? And why in the world do they believe that God needs them to complete His actions on earth?)

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and eliminated the need for this Temple. That's why I also believe that Paul was telling us more about the spiritual temple than an actual, physical temple.

I Peter 2:4-5: "As you come to him, the living Stone - rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious to him - you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

We are the living stones, the rocks that have been cut by the master stonecutter. We are building the walls of the temple with our lives!

Acts 17:24. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands."

Now while we are the stones, and we are being assembled into God's dwelling place, we are not the construction foreman, or even the architect. We are simply stones. It is being done for us by Christ Jesus, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and by the plan of God which was laid down before the beginning of time.

2 Corinthians 6:16. "...For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said:'I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.'"

A temple of the Living God. When we see God inhabiting the tabernacle and the first temple, (and the early days of the second temple), we see Him as a living God. The cloud, the fire, all of this was so great that the people could not approach the tabernacle. He was fully alive (as we perceive it) in their presence.

We are those living stones. With the sacrifice of Jesus, the elimination of the Temple in Jerusalem and the acceptance of Gentiles into the kingdom of God, we have been given a great responsibility. We are the vessels of the one, true God. When He settles on us, do others see a cloud or a pillar of fire? Do we move when He lifts up from us so that we always stay in His presence? Do we settle when He commands us to stop? How can we be the tabernacle (dwelling place) of God when we are no more than chipped clay pots?

God is calling us to be living stones. To be strong, knowing that our cornerstone is Jesus Christ, to know that we are inhabited by His living, Holy Spirit. To know that when His kingdom comes on earth, we are part of the living temple.

In the book of Revelation, we see the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. We do NOT see a new temple. In fact, John was very clear (Rev. 21:22) in that he didn't see a temple. Because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

We do not need to build a Third Temple on earth. While we are on earth, we are the representation of the Temple. We are the stones that are cut by a Master Craftsman to be the support of the Temple. The sacrifices that are done at the altar, have been taken care of by the blood of one man, Jesus Christ. WE are the temple. We are the home of the Living God.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ephesians 2

Read the passage from The Message: Ephesians 2
Read the passage from the New International Version: Ephesians 2

Please take a moment to read through the scripture passage above in The Message. It's simply amazing! I do love the way Eugene Peterson has made this so real to us, in language that makes so much sense. I read through Chapter 2 in the NIV 3 times and now I see a few more things that are really exciting.

I let the world - which has no idea how to live - tell me what living is all about. It occurs to me that is like my sister telling me how to fix a computer when she has absolutely no idea how to do most things on the computer. We all believe that we are experts in the field of life, when we have absolutely no idea how to live our own lives.

Paul tells us over and over again how much God loves us. He has spent time drawing us to Himself ... even when we drive Him crazy. He could easily choose to destroy us, but in His great mercy He chose instead to love us.

Like many others, I memorized verse 8 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith - and this not from yoursleves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that non one can boast.

I took Evangelism Explosion training in the 70s, and memorized scripture while trying to learn how to tell people about my faith. I understood this passage, but I never fully applied it to my own life. But, it makes so much sense. If I had been involved at all with God's process of creation and His saving grace, I would spend time boasting about it. If not out loud, at least in my own mind I would believe that I was so much better than anyone else. Fortunately for me, God took that away from me. He did all of the work. He created me ... He created me to be in Jesus Christ ... and He saved me ... He saved me simply by giving me a gift. The gift of grace.

Paul admonishes us to not take any of this for granted. Now, while he was talking to the people of the day and using examples that they understood - it translates quite easily for us today. We tend to get so arrogant when we think about our relationship with God. We are so much better than anyone else. The Gentiles that were circumcised versus the Jews. Their changed lives made them believe better about themselves.

There is nothing worse than a person whose life changes through things that they have done - they have lost weight, or stopped drinking or smoking, or began a strong exercise regimen, etc., etc. Nothing worse! All of a sudden they are a spokesperson for that particular issue and consider themselves an expert. Every conversation revolves around it, and they no longer have compassion for others struggling with the same issue.

This is why it is all about God causing the changes in our lives. We can't boast in what we have done. We can only boast in the Lord. And we can't separate ourselves from anyone else because it is God that has caused these changes in us. Verse 14 says that Jesus is our peace, he destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. As long as we (humans) are in charge, we build walls. Jesus Christ died on the cross to tear apart those walls.

Jesus preached peace to those of us who draw near to God easily and to those who are far away from God. (vs. 17). Through Jesus, everyone has access to God the Father. Hmmm ... this kind of changes the way I look at this verse and the verse in John (14:6) - I am the way, the truth and the life - no one comes to the Father but by me. Many use this as a threat to the rest of the world. Unless you believe in Jesus Christ - you can't get to heaven. But, Paul says something quite different here. It's more of a positive aspect - "Through Jesus we both (Gentiles / Jews, or Christians / non-Christians) have access to the father by one Spirit."

Rather than beating it over people's heads and believing that we are so much better because we already know Jesus Christ and live with the Holy Spirit in our presence, we need to be fully aware that God is offering the gift of access to Him through Jesus Christ by the Spirit.

Wow ... read verse 21-22 a couple of times! That temple that was destroyed in Jerusalem? Where they no longer offer sacrifices on the brazen altar? Where the curtain was torn in two and God no longer resides?

He's building that temple again, but this time he is using us as part of the building process. He has already set the foundation with the apostles and the prophets. Christ Jesus is the cornerstone - in him the building joins together and becomes a holy temple. This is the dwelling where God lives by His Spirit.

Well, that's just too cool!!! Three temples were built during the Old Testament / New Testament times. The Temple of Solomon, The Second Temple (Ezra), Herod's Temple. At one point or other, these became simply buildings. God's presence left them. Now, however, God is building the temple, piece by piece through his people. The building of this temple has continued over the centuries. Each person that is a part of this temple is more precious than any of the stones that went into the building of the original temple. David spent years gathering the the materials so that Solomon could build the temple. Yet it was temporal. God has spent eons preparing us as the material for His eternal temple.

When Jesus Christ anchored the foundation of the present temple, I believe this was the final temple. We are in the process of building God's temple on earth. His sacrifice was the last one necessary to bring God's Spirit into our midst. He is our peace. (vs. 21) In Him the whole building is joined together.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Ephesians 1 -

Read the passage from The Message: Ephesians 1
Read the passage from the New International Version: Ephesians 1

I was messing with the html on this blog to add the scripture links - and it dropped the bottom half of the blog off. I guess that all things ARE ephemeral, especially words when they are typed into the internet. So, I've re-written this post. I'm not inspired like I was last night - but, I am inspired like I am tonight!

I decided that I would study Ephesians using "The Message". I know this isn't a tried and true translation, but I've read these passages so many times in the NIV, I felt it was time to read them a little differently. This is definitely different. But, Peterson's use of language causes me to rethink how I have perceived these words. That's fun for me.

Verse 1 tells us that Paul is writing this letter to the faithful Christians in Ephesus. He identifies himself as an apostle, as a special agent of Christ Jesus.

A special agent of Christ Jesus! That certainly puts a new spin on things for me. As a girl (I know, I'm too old to be simply a girl anymore, but indulge me, please) that loves spy movies and deep intrigue, it occurs to me that I am sometimes a secret agent for Christ. I am actually hiding here on and not posting these blogs on myspace because I am afraid of what my obvious preaching and teaching from the Word will do to some of my regular readers and friends there. I'm not ashamed of being a Christian, by any means, but I also don't want to be the type of Christian that flings my beliefs in front of people's faces and forces them to accept my words. So, I'm here - expressing myself ... as a secret agent of Christ.

Though, Paul does say that he is a special agent - not a secret agent. He wasn't afraid of offending his audiences, he was desperately passionate about telling the world that He had been changed because of the life and death of one man. He wanted everyone to know that the way to living a life filled with worth and meaning was to follow that one man, Jesus Christ.

In verse 3, Paul begins an amazing doxology, a hymn of praise to the Trinity. God ... is the father of Jesus, our Master. Before time began, God had us in mind. He wanted us to complete. He wanted us to be holy. He wanted us to be a part of His family and He made that possible by adoption through Jesus. God planned all of this! It's all about me! He did everything so that I would be a part of His kingdom. That really takes me aback!

Jesus Christ - the Messiah. God's plan for us is centered in Christ - in the sacrifice of His son. Not on a brazen altar in the temple, but on a cross - far from the temple. However, at the moment of Christ's death, the one symbol that showed our separation from God the Father, the curtain leading to the holy of holies was torn in two. God no longer was restrained to one location. He could now reside in people's hearts.

When I think of the centuries that God had spent trying to draw his people to him, I am in awe. He did everything to cause them to draw close. And they continually put blocks up between him and them. Now, His plaln finally came to fruition - Jesus Christ - God embodied in humanity - sacrificed himself for our sins. I can hardly think of this without stopping to spend time in prayer - just saying 'thank you'.

The Holy Spirit - this is the promise that Jesus gave to us before He left. This is the seal, the mark by which we are known. This is what guarantees that we have an eternal future with God. Oh my goodness ... the teacher, the comforter, the very Spirit of God now resides in each of us.

This letter of Paul to the Ephesians is one of such encouragement. His prayer for them is that they are discerning - that they are able to recognize the hope of God. This is for us! We should recognize the hope - the riches of God's inheritance. This temporal life that we live is such a short period of time before we come into the treasure of Heaven. I, for one, can't wait!

God has set His son to rule over everything - all of the powers on earth, the heavens, all that exists. The small sentence fragment that has struck me so hard is found in verse 21: Christ rules ... 'not only in the present age but also in the one to come'. I can do nothing to separate Christ from me. Right now, He is in charge - tomorrow He will be in control and 10 years from now, Christ will still remain as rule of everything. No matter what I do ... that won't change. His rule is eternal. That's a huge relief for me.

This weekend I will participate in leading worship. I think I have a new perspective on how this will affect me. You see, worship is about the church. Christ rules the church. The church is Christ's body - He fills everything with His presence. When I stand in front of the congregation, I am there to remind them of that. Christ is filling that sanctuary with His presence, we are there to lift our voices in praise and worship of Him.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Introduction to me

I am a normal person, living a normal life. I have a desperate desire to share what I have learned over the years with you. I don't believe that I have more information than you do, but I do believe that it's a bit different. Just as each of us are unique and special, the information that resides in our minds is unique and quite special. That means that I am here to learn and to teach.